The National Rally is the Ukrainian Youth Association’s version of Glastonbury. This year’s rally took place at Tarasivka 7th July. Visitors arrived in raincoats and boots braced for the weather which had hit England over the last two weeks. It was unnecessary and during the first two hours raincoats gave way to t-shirts and sunglasses.
Visitors arrived early, to make sure they found the ideal spot to pitch their tents. By the start of the official part of the concert, the fields of Tarasivka were covered in tents, cars and buses and everyone was ready for the Rally to begin.
During the official part of the rally, visitors gathered to celebrate mass and listen to speeches from key members of the Ukrainian community in Great Britain. Bohdan Pryhidniy, the UYA in Great Britian’s president made a moving speech about the recognition of the Great Famine of Ukraine 1932-33. At the end of the official part of the day members of the Ukrainian Youth Association marched in the branches past the delegation.
At this point the excitement and in some cases maybe a little nervousness was felt by the contestants. A couple of hours remained before the competition was due to start. A frantic rush began to ensure everyone was ready for the concert, sounds checks were made, contestants dressed up in their costumes, instruments were tuned and legs were stretched. Whilst the competitors ran around Tarasivka preparing themselves for a performance they had been preparing for all year, the visitors relaxed. They queued patiently to buy their portion of home made varenyky whilst others went straight to the bar to enjoy a refreshing beer or a shot of vodka or one or more of both in some cases.
Three o’clock finally came, and the marquee was filling up as visitors waited patiently for the concert to begin. After a short delay, (the event wouldn’t be Ukrainian without one) the competition began.The Ukrainian Youth Association is full of talented youngsters, capable of captivating an audience with classical Ukrainian poems, song, dance, music and theatrical performances. Only the best of the best performed at the rally, those who had earned their right by qualifying at the regional rallies.
The Ukrainian Youth Association employs a traditional approach to deciding the winners, no text or telephone voting and no Eurovision style political voting. A fairer system does not exist. The judges were headed by the Ukrainian Youth Associations international vice president, Volodymyr Szlachetko.
The audience watched 35 competition performances in amazement. Every performance was outstanding, making the job of the judges very difficult. Anyone in the audience would be forgiven for thinking they were watching professionals.
Emilia Levytska, from London, one of the youngest performance showed that even the youngest can capture the attention of the audience, with her reciting of the poem "Doroshoyi Nema". Lilia Tymchyshyn, from Bolton showed that the youth not only have the ability to perform well, but also have great musical talent, Liliya played “Hotsulskiy Motyv” which she had written herself. Lara Kuziv also composed the "Yak sonche v liti" sang by her trio from Manchester. The youngsters showed that talent thrives in young Ukrainians, and the slightly older members from Stockport showed it never dies, when the quartet got the audience swaying with “Yak pochuyesh serche zov.” However youth was definitely required to perform some of the acrobatics seen in many of the dances including Manchester’s “Bukovynskiy Tanets” it was truly breathtaking.
After 3 hours, the long awaited results were read out by the head judge. Competitors cheered as the winners were announced. Even though each category could only have one winner, the real winners were the audience, they loved every minute of the concert, and no doubt the coaches that took visitors back to their branches was filled with talk of the concert.
The concert was not the end of the rally, a festival atmosphere continued. Back to the tents it was for something to eat. As the traditional sashlyk cook on the BBQs mouths watered in anticipation.
Once people had freshened themselves up after the concert, it was time to continue partying. The zabava began. The young legs that had earlier performed breathtaking acrobatics on the stage did not show an ounce of tiredness as everyone danced into the early hours of the morning.
The zabava was still not the end. How can you go camping without a camp fire. Those still awake enough gathered round the numerous camp fires across Tarasivka to enjoy the night and even the sunrise. No doubt some would still be partying now if they could if they did need to perform elsewhere on the following day.
What an unforgettable weekend. Who needs Glastonbury for £150 when you can go to the National Rally a get change from £5. If you missed it this year, don’t be a fool and miss it again, write down the date for next’s years Rally in your diary – 5th July 2008. Those who were there don’t need to be told, you know there is no way you’ll ever miss such a festival.