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Main | Program | Press Release

I Believe! I know! We can!

This was the motto under which the Ukrainian Youth Association of Australia celebrated 80 years since its formation in Ukraine, 55 years since its formation in Australia, and 40 years since its first National Gathering in Australia. All this came together on the weekend of June 11-12, 2005 in Sydney with the celebration of the XI National UYA Gathering in Australia.

The program brought together 7 UYA branches from around Australia. These included Adelaide, under the patronage of Taras Shevchenko (president Halyna Danylko); Geelong, under the patronage of Stepan Bandera (president Stepan Tkaczuk); Canberra-Queanbeyan, under the patronage of Col. Yevhen Konovalets (president Michael Olijnyk); Melbourne, under the patronage of Hetman Ivan Mazepa (president Juliana Moravski); Newcastle, under the patronage of Simon Petlura (president George Boyko); Perth, under the patronage of the heroes of the battle at Kruty (president Irka Kondarewych); and Sydney, under the patronage of Lieut. Gen. Taras Chuprynka (president Diahanna Senko). Over 300 young CYMivtsi came together over the weekend – truly rekindling the words of the song of the Orange Revolution – “Together we are many, we will not be overcome!”.

Meetings, Displays, and Bonfires

The gathering began on the evening of Friday 10 June, with rehearsals of all dancing groups and choirs taking place in the Ukrainian Youth Hall in Lidcombe. These continued until lunchtime on Saturday June 11, when a meeting of the National CYMnet Committee was held with all the branch webmasters, who are responsible for the various branch websites of the UYA in Australia.

The hall was set up with photos of the last 55 years of the UYA, from all the different branches, and CYMnet had on display approximately 100 badges, also from the beginning of the UYA in Australia – to show the current status of its Badges Project. It was interesting to note that the very first badges were handmade!

A roundtable of all druzhynnyky (full members, from 18-50 years) was also held to discuss and plan the ongoing work of druzhynnyky for the following year. The president of the World Executive of the UYA, Myrosia Pidhirna, outlined in her welcoming speech the important role of druzhynnyky in the organisation, and thus the aims of the roundtable – “Druzhynnyky are the core of our organisation. Your enthusiasm, your knowledge, your thoughts, along with this years UYA slogan “Believe, Know, We can!”, guarantees our future work”. It was agreed to organise a National Gathering of Druzhynnyky in Melbourne in 2006, during the Commonwealth Games, and also to organise a National Cycling Camp along the Great Ocean Road, beginning in Geelong and ending in Warrnambool, in Victoria.

A family festival, games, and trivia were also held throughout the afternoon.

At night, all participants gathered around a bonfire (albeit a fake one, as it was indoors) which was lit by the president of the World Executive, Myrosia Pidhirna, and a group of the youngest members of the UYA, known as “sumenyata”. Every UYA branch then had the opportunity to present a sketch to all the participants.

The Ukrainian Youth Hall resonated with the sounds of patriotic songs and poems. Peter Kobryn moved everyone as he recited his version of the song “Together we are many”:

Together we are many, we will not be overcome!...
We are CYMivtsi, from all around Australia –
We all came together, here in SYDNEY!!!
Melbourne – Yes! Geelong – Yes!
Adelaide – Yes! Perth – Yes!
Canberra – Yes! Newcastle – Yes!
We’re all CYMivtsi – Yes, Yes Yes!!!

Together we are many, together we are many…
We will not be overcome!

God and Ukraine – God and Ukraine,
That’s our motto – it will never die
We believe – Yes! We love – Yes!
We’re all CYMivtsi – Yes, Yes, Yes…
Glory to Ukraine – Ready to defend!
Glory to Ukraine – Ready to defend!

Together we are many, together we are many…
We will not be overcome!

There were also many sketches which left us all in hysterics with their originality and humour. There was the children’s orchestra – sumenyata from Melbourne; the “orchestra from Perth”; the “new immigrants from Ukraine who went fishing” (by Wasyl Senko and Wasyl Opryshko); then there was “Victor and Sasha” (Andrew Duma and Andrew Bodnaruk) who entertained everyone with their dances and opera singing; the list could go on forever. Music and happiness filled the hall that evening, which was concluded with the traditional prayer “The night is ending… God is with us”.

After the bonfire, the National Executive invited all UYA and community representatives to a get together with the president of the World Executive, Myrosia Pidhirna. Diahanna Senko introduced Mrs. Pidhirna to all the representatives, among whom were the Chairman of the AFUO - Stefan Romaniw OAM, Chairman of the Ukrainian Community in Victoria – Michael Moravski, Fr. Zhdan Kolomyec (all of whom are former presidents of the National Executive of the UYA in Australia), Chairman of the Ukrainian Council of NSW – Jaroslav Duma, President of the Sydney branch of the Ukrainian Scouting Association “Plast” – Greg Huzij, and others.


The second day of the gathering – Sunday 11 June began in St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic Church with a mass and a service for the deceased. All present prayed for the members of the UYA who have passed away, for those who built the Ukrainian Youth Hall which brought all UYA members together on this glorious weekend… Fr. Zhdan Kolomyjec, a long time member of the UYA and an ex-president of the National Executive, and Deacon Michael Szyjan said mass that morning.

An “apel” was held in the Ukrainian Youth Hall, with all participants in their full UYA uniforms. The president of the National Executive, Wasyl Senko welcomed the president of the World Executive – Myroslava Pidhirna. He also handed out participatory awards to all branch presidents to hand out to their members, and Andrew Duma handed out medallions on behalf of the youth committee of the St. Andrew’s Catholic Church.

The climax of the gathering was the concert, which took about 4.5 hours, in which all the UYA dancing and choral groups took part. It began with the official march of all branch presidents with their respective branch flags, and also the Ukrainain and Australian flags, and the flag of the inaugural National UYA Gathering (carried by former National Executive presidents – Stefan Romaniw, Michael Moravski, and also Tetyana Zachariak who was in place of the late Oles Chubatyj – the first National president, and also Wasyl Senko – the current National president). The flag bearers marched to the melody of the song “In the hills, the trembity played”…

Wasyl Senko opened the concert with a speech which remembered the founders of the UYA in Ukraine, and how a lot of work has been put into our organisation to bring up the Ukrainian youth in Australia as good Christians, and patriots of Ukraine. He mentioned how proud he was for everyone’s achievements, and believes the concert will be a colourful display of the cultural work of the UYA.

The concert began with a “Pryvit” – a welcome dance – performed by “Zahrava” from Sydney. The rest of the concert saw 9 different dances performed, 6 songs - performed by “Cheremosh”, a mixed choir from Melbourne (conductor: Prof. W. Holovko; soloists: J. Polatajko, A Dackiw, E. Stefyn, T. Selemba); “Sokoly”, a quartet from Sydney, and a trio (Irene and Wasyl Opryshko, J. Oleksyn, R. Huzij, and A. Dechnicz); and a fortepiano solo by Oksana Opryshko.

All performers gave their all in all the performances, and were all congratulated by massive waves of applause by the audience. A mention must go to the youngest performers, from the Melbourne dance group “Verchovyna”, comprising of 4 -5 year olds who performed the dance “Chicken Dance”…

I personally enjoyed the dance “Cossacks” performed by the boys of the older group of “Verchovyna” from Melbourne. A great improvement was seen in this, and in all groups, since the last gathering some four years ago.

The second part of the concert, which had a similar program as the first, began with the dance “Zaporizhkyj Hopak”, performed by the younger members of the group “Zachidni Zvizdy” (or “Western Stars”) from Perth. These young members travelled thousands of kilometres to impress all their interstate friends with their performance... and that they did! They even impressed everyone at the bonfire the night before with their sketch “the Orchestra”.

Also in the second part of the concert there were 9 dances, “Lehenda” from Sydney (conductor: Wasyl Opryshko) sang 4 songs, the Bandura players from Adelaide – M. Danylko and D. Marynczak, and Wasyl Pawliw performed a humorous short play about how he used to romance…

This latter part of the concert requires the separate naming of a few groups whose performances were outstanding! The girls of the older group of “Verchovyna” from Melbourne, who performed “Rukodilnyci” (or “Needlework”, a ribbon dance), the Sydney group “Zahrava” with their “Hopak”, “Lastivka” from Geelong with their “Boyko Dance”, and the middle group of “Verchovyna” with “Zayonci”…

It is truly impossible to name every single dance and song performed… The dancers in their various outfits jumping higher and higher. It was very pleasant to see though, that all really enjoyed Ukrainian dancing.

Who was the best? I don’t believe it’s fair to judge all the choirs and dance ensembles as everyone put their heart and soul into the whole concert, and the public responded positively! I constantly feel for the singers, choirs, who perform on our not very acoustic stage, and have great respect for all those who attend rehearsals and give their time to practice the beautiful songs which they perform.

A young man, Ihor, who recently came to Australia from Ukraine said that he was taken back, that people of all ages work so hard to uphold the traditions and culture of Ukraine, even in Australia… so far away from Ukraine! It was such a shame for him to note that his fellow countrymen back in Ukraine, living in the smaller towns do not even show the same amount of love for their country, as those who live so far away in the diaspora… he will forever remember the concert, and especially the youngest “chickens” from the first half of the concert.

May these words be remembered by all participants of the gathering!

The concert ended with the song by A. Kushnirenka, “Ukraine, I pray for you!” – performed by “Lehenda” from Sydney (soloist Peter Lutak from Canberra).

The whole stage then filled with the majority of the 250 performers from 20 different choral and dancing groups – as not all could have fit onto the stage!

The whole audience erupted with applause for all those who took part in the concert… the chickens, Cossacks, zaporozhci, hutsuls, singers, pianists, bandura players, and everyone else… Oleh Ostrowsky was the MC.

One of the closing speeches was delivered by the ambassador to Ukraine, Dr. Oleksandyr Mischenko, who thanked all participants of the concert, all instructors of the various groups for the wonderful display of Ukraine’s culture, 15,000 km away. The “Palace” of Ukraine in Australia… the UYA has shown itself to be an organisation which brings together Ukrainian youth, and instils in it a Ukrainian spirit, ready to defend the independence of Ukraine, as was seen during the Orange revolution, where the Ukrainian youth in Australia supported all the people at Independence Square in Kyiv in spirit, and some even had the opportunity to be observers during the elections.

Myroslava Pidhirna – the president of the World Executive of the UYA, stated that there was a general motto of the gathering, which the World Executive chose as their motto for 2005 – “I believe! I know! We can!” – the same motto used by the Ukrainian nation during its democratic victory at the end of 2004. She stated that the UYA had produced many community leaders in the USA, Canada, Australia, and all over Europe. She greeted all on behalf of the World Executive and congratulated Australia on the work of the Ukrainian community in Australia.

Wasyl Senko, on behalf of the National Executive, presented all branch presidents with memorial trophies from the XI Gathering. He thanked the Sydney branch for preparing their hall, and welcoming all the participants from around Australia, and especially its president – Darka Senko, who put a lot of her time and effort to ensure the smooth running of the gathering.

Members of the Ukrainian Brotherhood of Free Cossacks – Fr. Zhdan Kolomyjec, Wolodymyr Karen, and Wasyl Yanchuk – on behalf of the Koshovyj Otaman Yurij Denysenko, presented the Chairman of the AFUO, Stefan Romaniw, and the National president of the UYA, Wasyl Senko, with silver crosses of Cossack Honour – 2nd level, for their endless work with youth.

All on stage, and the whole audience, then stood to sing the Ukrainian National Anthem.

That evening, the youngest members of the gathering kept dancing to various styles of music in the hall, while the “older” participants continued their singing in the Ukrainian Cultural and Social Club, with such voices that surely made the conductors Prof. W. Holovko and Wasyl Opryshko envious.

This song and dance continued to all hours of the morning, when all had to depart to their various home cities… Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Geelong, Canberra, and Newcastle.

And now we all wait until the next such gathering, for which we have to wait 4 years! But the words of the song will remain with us forever, and they were shown to be so true this weekend: “Together we are many, and we will not be overcome! Not in Ukraine, nor in Australia!”

Marichka Halaburda-Czyhryn

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