Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blog 5, 2012 – Sorochinskiy Yarmarok

The Sorochinskiy Fair is the Ukrainian version of the PNE or CNE that includes folk festivals and trade expositions. It is a showcase for Ukrainians to celebrate the work of skilled craftsmen, national theatrical performers, as well as Ukrainian works of literature and music. The fair has been going on for centuries and it really immortalizes Ukrainian village life. During the Tsarist times it was held five times a year and during Soviet rule there was a 40-year-moratorium. It now holds the status of Ukraine’s national trade fair. The Russian composer Mussorgsky wrote an opera about the fair.

Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine provided travel funds for young dancers from Molochansk to compete at the fair. This was their first opportunity to go, and probably first time any group from this region was invited to compete. We were invited by Alexander, the dance director, to join them. Translation services were provided by the English teacher at the local Russian school and by the young dancers who had a surprisingly good level of English. 

The fair celebrates all things Ukrainian. It has produce markets, trade shows showing farming equipment, a kid’s midway, and lots of singing by various groups made up mostly of older Ukrainian women. According to our ears Ukrainians sing two types of songs, the cheerful rhythmic songs often starting with a yelp and a whistle. Even though their throats appeared to be pinched, that did not deter their efforts to grasp high notes. The other type of songs appeared to be the low wailing, mournful descriptions of past struggles. Unfortunately they were not as many male voices, however those who participated really showed off the full range and beauty of their voices. Due to the obviously poor hearing of those working the sound system, we regretted having left our earplugs in Molochansk, however the Ukrainians loved it all! 

Our dancers did us proud. They were asked to perform several times over a period of two days, and won two second-place prizes. They certainly put unknown Molochansk on the map. In fact, when we were walking with some of the dancers people would point to them and say “Molochansk”, giving the thumbs up.

We had lots of delightful surprises. Whenever we had coffee or lunch in the many food gardens we would try to sit where we found young people, and start speaking in English. Many vendors could converse in English when describing their wares.

Our biggest surprise was meeting a bandura maker whose English was so good we asked him where he had learned it—from Raleigh, North Carolina! He was born there but has moved to Ukraine to authentically make these beautiful instruments.

The Prime Minister came and addressed a large crowd at our cultural venue. Before he and his entourage arrived, for security purposes they cleared everyone out of our parts of the stands except us two Canadians and our translator, because we were honored guests. The stands were then filled with politicians and their families and other functionaries. We didn’t feel comfortable sitting there but felt that leaving would make too much of a statement which would be very confusing. Our Ukrainian dancers were on the stage with the PM and they felt honored that we were there. The PM, who drew a large, respectful crowd, arrived during a rainstorm and came with a parade of security people all carrying big, black umbrellas. Mussorgsky could have done something with that scene! To ensure that the PM did not get wet, they put up a portable canopy. After he left, the canopy was briskly carried out until it hit the arch of the gate bringing up short the quick steps of the young handlers. Another missed opera scene!

Our drive home was expected to take 7 long hours. However, our yellow bus developed a mysterious ailment that required it to stop every 15 minutes or less. The engine was turned off, necessary adjustments made, and we trundled off for another 15 minutes. These breaks gave ample opportunity for our late-night, call-of-nature posturing—no high beams please! Twelve hours later we finally pulled into Molochansk at 2:30 a.m. In typical Ukrainian style, not a word of complaint from the kids; there were thanks to the bus driver, and thanks to us for coming and enjoying these happy times. And thanks to you, dear friends, for making this trip possible.

Ben and Linda

If you wish to contribute to the work of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine make your Canadian cheques to "Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine" or "FOMCU." Cheques from American donors should be made out to "MFC-FOMCU". All cheques should be mailed to George Dyck, Treasurer, 3675 North Service Rd, Beamsville, Ontario, Canada - L0R 1B1. Check our website at for information on credit card donations.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home