Ukrainian booth at Edmonton Heritage Festival promotes culture as war continues in Europe

The Ukrainian booth at Edmonton's Heritage Festival saw thousands visit to learn about the country culture as the war with Russia continues.

Organizers say it’s important to keep culture alive while war rages in Ukraine

Children sang in Ukrainian at Heritage Festival in Hawrelak Park. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

With thousands drawn to this year's Heritage Festival in Edmonton, one booth was a particularly emotional attraction for attendees.

The Ukrainian booth saw thousands visit to learn about the country's culture and gave them the opportunity to show support amidst the country's ongoing war.

There were performances by dancers and singers, including by a group of young children singing in Ukrainian. 

Bystanders looked on. Some made sure to make a stop.

"The first thing I wanted to do was go to the Ukrainian pavilion, out of respect for them," said Rick Braun, before becoming emotional. 

Thousands of people dropped by the Ukrainian booth at Edmonton's Heritage Festival. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

Volunteers said celebrating their Ukrainian culture is important to ensure it is preserved even in the midst of an ongoing war.

"Russian invaders, they want to eliminate our culture," said Oleksandr Danyleiko, Consul General of Ukraine in Edmonton.

"They want to eliminate Ukraine… as a nation. They don't want to have and see Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian-led Ukrainian history. We have this thousand years of history."

'Proud Ukrainians'

That history was on display in Hawrelak Park, including information about the war and Ukraine's fight against Russia.

The pavilion had organizers looking to the future with hope as more children spent the day performing in Ukrainian.

"They keep the Ukrainian culture and tradition in their heart," Danyleiko said. 

"They will grow. They will be proud Canadian citizens, but they also will be proud Ukrainians." 

Oleksandr Danyleiko, Consul General of Ukraine in Edmonton, said the festivities will encourage Ukrainian youth to "keep the Ukrainian culture and tradition in their heart." (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

Some of those who came out are newcomers to Canada. Volunteers said newly immigrated Ukranians can find a community at their booth. 

"It's an important thing for them because they can make some new friends here," said Oleksandr Serheiev, a volunteer who moved to Canada from Kyiv two years ago.

"They can try English… they need to practice English, all of this stuff."

The Heritage Festival runs until Monday, featuring the sights, sounds and tastes from 60 countries and cultures across 50 outdoor pavilions.

Organizers of the Ukrainian booth were eager to use it as an opportunity to promote the country's culture to young people as the war with Russia rages on. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)



Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi is a CBC reporter based in Edmonton. She worked in newsrooms in Toronto, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Yellowknife before joining CBC North in 2017.