Culture News, 16/01/2019

Vertep Fest: From East to West

For the third successive year, Kharkiv hosted a stunning Vertep Fest on January 12-13, which is traditionally timed to the winter holiday celebrations.

On this occasion, the festival brought together about 1,500 participants, including 100 diverse ethnic groups from various Ukrainian regions.

According to National Police, about 5,000 people took part in a traditional nativity parade, which ran from Maidan Konstytutsii along Sumska Street to Maidan Svobody where participants joined an international action of simultaneous singing of the most famous Christmas Ukrainian Carol “Nova Radist Stala” (New Joy Came).

This year, the all-Ukrainian action was not only on a much larger scale but also went beyond the country’s borders. Overall, 30 Ukrainian cities towns and villages together with six countries – the UK, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic and Germany – all joined the event.

After the action, ethnic groups from Kharkiv, Luhansk, Poltava, Khmelnytsky, Donetsk, Sumy, Kyiv, Dnipro, Rivne, Chernivtsi, Lviv and Mykolaiv regions gathered in Kharkiv to light up the city with their colorful performances and gave Kharkivites and city guests the opportunity to witness traditional authentic Ukrainian celebrations.

Shows were held in more than 40 city locations – central squares, hospitals, theaters, supermarkets, shopping malls and in the city parks. Performers also went carol singing to metro stations, spreading the spirit of winter holidays to city residents. Each group members contributed to the festivity atmosphere, presenting cultural traditions of their own region.

The final event, Ethno-parties, took place at the festival for the first time on January 13 at Mekhanika Art Factory. It attracted about 500 people from all over Ukraine as well as gathering representatives of eight ethnic local communities, including Armenian, Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Tajik, Georgian, Bashkir, German and Greek.

The event started with Kalyna (Cranberry) flash mob. Notably, cranberry is the ethnic and national symbol of Ukraine, which represents beauty, love, motherhood, blood, the immortality of family, fire, life, and love for the homeland.

About 150 participants of various nationalities formed “bunches of cranberries,” holding green ribbons symbolizing tree branches and red circles for berries in their hands and sang a famous Ukrainian song “One Cranberry Bush is Outside My Window.” Thus, the flashmob’s participants illustrated a proverb “There is no Ukraine without Cranberry” and showed their unity.

“This is a new format of folk celebration,” notes Iryna Markevich, the head of the Slobozhansky Ethno-parties event. Usually, folk festivals are dedicated to traditions of one nationality. But Ukraine, particularly the Kharkiv region, is very rich in diverse cultural traditions. So Vertep Fest is a unique opportunity to meet and get to know each other better, to establish connections with people from different regions, cultural traditions, and generations. We emphasize that despite the fact we are of differing origin, we love Ukraine, we develop and protect it together. ”

Mykola Pazych, “Yary” folk-band leader, hosted the event. The musicians brightened the inexpressible festive atmosphere and played the concert while all comers danced to their music.

Ethno-parties united not only various nationalities, but all age groups – everyone had fun, feasted and hanged out like one big family.

Makka Karazhanova, the head of the Kazakh community, hopes that Ethno-parties will become one more outstanding highlight of the event.

According to the festival organizers, Kharkiv with You charitable foundation, the event aims to unite the country, revive ancient Ukrainian traditions and national identity in Eastern Ukraine.

Text: Natalia Ivanova

Photo: Anna Oleksandrova, Andriy Sheynin