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Hoverla Performed at Ukrainian Festival in Poland

A group of 23 dancers and musicians of Derby based Hoverla Ukrainian Dance Ensemble were invited to participate during the weekend of June 26th-28th at a Ukrainian Children's International Folklore Festival of Ethnic Minorities in the town of Wegorzewo, North Poland based on the shores of Lake Mazury. It is first time in the history of the Festival that a group from the UK has participated.

Hoverla based at The Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Charnwood Street went with the blessing of Derby City Council who kindly donated gifts from the Mayor's Parlour to pass onto the Burgomeister & Council members of Wegorzewo and to the Director of this famous festival now in its 14th year Mr. Volodymyr Deneka. The Ensemble is also very grateful to the £ 500 arts grant award received from Derby City Council towards travelling costs and was very honoured and proud to represent The City of Derby at this International Folklore Festival.

The Ensemble flew out early Friday morning June 26th from Luton to Warsaw where a coach awaited us to continue the 175 mile journey north to the town of Wegorzewo. A timetable of events included the official opening and presentations of groups, official parade, performances on the streets of Wengorzewo, concerts at Wolnosc Square culminating with a Gala Concert in the town centre before the official festival closure late Sunday night. Other events included disco, dance, tour of the town & district & meeting with festival organiser & town council representatives.

Friday June 26th :

In the early hours of Friday morning families were picked up by the coach taking the dancers & musicians to Luton airport. First pick up was at 1am and by the time the final two families were picked up the coach was heading for the M1 at 2:30am. The coach arrived at Luton Airport at 4.45am giving us a full hour to book in and register our suitcases/instruments/costume bags etc. It was surprisingly busy at this early hour of the day but everyone was booked through smoothly. The flight for Warsaw set off on time at 6:35am and arrived in Warsaw at 9:55am a flight time of just over 2 1/4 hours. By the time all of us got through passport control and picked up our luggage we were met by the bus chaffuer/driver holding a banner with the words Hoverla - leader Josyf Kupranec at 10.30am. The driver was called Yarik but we called him Brian owing to his amazing resemblance to the young and famous Brian Clough (Derby County Manager from 1968 to 1974).

By the time the coach came round to pick us up and load all the suitcases/instruments/costume bags etc. it was 11.30am before we were on the road travelling through the capital city Warsaw. It was a 175 mile journey north which would take us a total of 5 hours plus breaks. We arrived in Wegorzewo just before 5pm and were met by our young female guide called Barbara who told us to get ready for the Parade which was scheduled to commence at 6pm. We were then taken to a restaurant building for something to eat. After we took the short journey to our chalets based on Lake Mazury a spot where everyone quickly got changed into their costumes for the Parade and then presentations of the groups on the stage as part of the official opening of the 14th International Folklore Children's' Festival. In total there were over a dozen groups participating including 4 from Ukraine, 2 from Poland, 2 from Serbia, a Belarus group, a Lithuanian group, a group from Dagestan, a unique group from Sri Lanka and Hoverla from England. Each group performed one item as a taster and Hoverla decided to perform Hopak. The crowd greeted us with a rapturous ovation once we finished our item.

After the official opening concert all groups had supper and then were invited to a bonfire (vatra) and BBQ (barbeque) by Lake Mazury with background disco music adding to the atmosphere. Smoked sausages, steaks and do-nuts were cooked on the vatra and all the children mingled dancing and singing to the disco music. The smells from the bonfire made sure everyone had something to eat and it was really nice to see our children mingling with others and toasting the food on the barbeque fire. A great night was had by all because we were singing Ukrainian folk songs outside the bar and other Ukrainians from Poland & Ukraine joined us thinking we were a choir ! One even played an accordion so that we all jointly sat around together singing more songs. Then Joe Kupranec took the accordion and asked the children to give an impromptu dance and everyone got up dancing Kolomeyka, Cossack Routines and finishing with the Hopak. It was Cossack dancing in its true sense. Everyone dancing for fun and local Ukrainians joined in. A great night was had by all and one that will be specially remembered by Hoverla's kerivnyk.

Saturday June 27th :

After breakfast all the groups were to perform in the streets of Wegorzewo to their allotted times in the programme during the morning period. At lunchtime each group leader and 2/3 representatives in costume attended a meeting in the Town Council Chamber at the invitation of the Berger Meister & Festival Director. Joe Kupranec with Nadia Surma, Tanya Moroz & Vlodko Surma went along with Basha (our guide’s nickname) to the Town Council building. Each leader then presented him/herself and introduced where the group came from and handed gifts to the Berger Meister. We presented gifts from Derby City Council Mayoral Office where a crystal trinket box, tie, pen all with Derby City logo/emblem embodied on them together with a colourful book about the City of Derby were handed over to the council delegation. After the official meeting a power-point presentation on the town & surrounding areas of Wegorzewo was given by the Berger Meister and an opportunity for a photograph session with the council delegation.

In the afternoon after lunch we were given free time to explore the area and our guide Basha suggested we visit the Wolf's Lair which was approximately 40km away, one hour's drive on the coach. Wolf's Lair is a wooded area where during the second World War it was Hitler's military headquarters. . This is the place where orders affecting all WWII fronts were given and sent to wherever German officials and soldiers operated. In this area of approximately 8 square kilometres a complex of about 80 objects were built, a few of them bunkers with ceilings up to 8 metres thick. We had the opportunity to see Hitler's own bunker as well as other famous Nazi commanders' bunkers such as Alfred Jodl & Wilhelm Keitel. This was also the place where an attempted assassination plot against Hitler was made as portrayed in the the film “Valkyrie” It was amazing that so much history lay in this forest area only 40km away from where we performed. We departed at approx 5pm for Wegorzewo to prepare for the evening concert in Wolnocs Square where majority of the invited groups from Poland, Ukraine, Serbia, Belarus & ourselves from England took part in a hour spectacular. Hoverla performed the boy's Zaporozets sword dance, the girls Lastivka dance culminating in Boys from Kiev dance. Again the audience were very alert when we performed because our traditional style of Ukrainian dancing is so different to the modern ballet style performed by Ukrainian groups from Ukraine & Poland and it was nice to receive a standing ovation after the final dance Boys from Kiev. As we left the stage all we could feel were our hairs standing high and proud of a great performance.

In the evening after supper the children had free time and the younger ones went to a discothèque and older ones into town. All the adults were invited to a Banquet chaired by the Festival Director Volodymyr Deneka. Again each group leader had the opportunity to present their group in their native language saying a few words and thanking The Director for the invitation by presenting him with a gift. Joe Kupranec thanked him hoping that his group "Cheremosh" & "Hoverla " could maybe work together in the future and presented him with a crystal glass desk clock with Derby City logo embedded - a gift from the Mayor of Derby. It was also a good opportunity for us to mingle with the representatives of the other groups such as “Koleso” from Dnipropretovsk and “ Saulegraza “ from Dniproderzhinsk. Before all the group leaders dispersed a small meeting took place with the Director's wife to agree how many spots and which items Hoverla would perform at the Gala Concert the following day.

Sunday June 27th :

After breakfast we all had the opportunity to relax by the shores of Lake Mazury as the morning was free time. Some of the dancers decided to have a swim in the cold lake, other sunbathed in the hot sunshine and a few of us decided to play beach volleyball against a young Polish team led by Basha our guide who borrowed Vlod Surma one of our dancers to play in their team. The Hoverla members beat them 15-9 ! At 12 noon all the groups were scheduled to participate in a Gala Concert Rehearsal to be held on stage at Wolnocs Square. This was to practice the final item of the Gala Concert where all groups would appear on the stage and sing the proshchalyj song typically named "Festival Festival". The Gala Concert itself commenced at 4pm in the afternoon heat where each group had 3 or 4 items to perform equivalent to between 15-20 minutes worth of performance time. Hoverla were given 4 numbers to perform starting off with the Boys Hutzul Rhapsody dance (item 5), the girls Honiviter (Whirlwind) dance (item 16), the Boys Zaporozets dance (item 27) specifically requested by the festival committee and finishing with Hopak (item 33) where every member would participate (again requested by the festival committee).

Every group leader and two group representatives dressed in national costume were stood on stage for the opening of the Gala Concert. In turn each group name was called out by the Festival Director Volodymyr Deneka in order to receive a certificate, a wooden plaque and a gift for participating in this year’s Festival. Joe Kupranec, accompanied by Julian Surma & Katherine Borys , again personally thanked the Festival Director for Hoverla's invitation and hoped that the relationship with his Ensemble "Cheremosh" and "Hoverla" would flourish and prosper in the future and this would not be the only time we meet.

Once the concert proper started each item went through like clockwork and although there were 39 items to get through the Gala Concert was a wonderful spectacle and did not seem to last over three and a half hours. Once the final item was completed by the host group "Cheremosh", an exciting Hopak routine, all other 12 groups were invited back on stage to stand in their appropriate positions (as per the rehearsals) to sing the final proshchalnij song "Festival Festival" in Polish, Ukrainian & Serbian languages. It was quite an emotional moment with over 150 artists on stage waving their hands, clapping to one another during the song like one big family ! After the song there was an opportunity to take lots of photographs and the Polish group "Dialog”" wanted joint photos taken in front of the stage with Hoverla particularly with our young Cossacks.

We also chatted to the locals and were delighted to come across many locals who were of Ukrainian origin who eagerly asked about friends and relatives in England such as Barbara Demtchuk and the Barsky family and it shows what a small world it is when we could say we knew them well !!

We all went back to eat our final supper before heading back to our chalets to rest & chill out before final packing prior to loading the coach at 12.30 in the morning. The coach departed at 1am for Warsaw airport. Driving during the night most fell asleep and our young 'Brian Clough' driver Yarik drove non-stop taking only 4 hours to arrive at our final destination at the airport. After unloading the coach we took a group photograph with young Brian our chauffer wishing Yarik all the best with a collection we made for him. We had a few hours to relax before we booked onto our flight at 8.20am. The aircraft took off on time at 10.20am and landed in Luton at 11.50 am. Our Premiere Coach was waiting for us at the other end to drive us back to Derby where all the families were dropped off in reverse order. A great albeit tiring 4 days was had by all memories of this trip will stay with us for a long time with photographs & write-up posted onto Hoverla's web-site as a testimony.


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