Ukrainian culture and pride on display at Auburn festival

09.06.2015, 12:03

People did not mind waiting in long lines to taste some of the delicious homemade Ukrainian food served by willing and hospitable volunteers at the Ukrainian-American Heritage Festival Sunday in Auburn.

The event put on by SS. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church required a lot of advance time in the kitchen.

The church’s pastor, Father Vasile Colopelnic said, “We started making all of the food on Wednesday, and have been cooking right up until today,” said the Rev. Vasile Colopelnic, the church's pastor.

Among the many dishes were holubtsi (stuffed cabbage rolls), pierogi, kielbasa with sauerkraut, as well as an array of American favorites such as hot dogs and hamburgers.

Two of the older parishioners, brother and sister Peter and Barbara Murinka, discussed how wonderful the food was as they enjoyed their holubtsi.

“We have been members of the church since we were born, and that means we have been here for about 83 years,” Barbara said. 

They make a point to come to the festival, and enjoy everything from the food to the Ukrainian music and dances. Peter said,

“We usually spend a few hours here," Peter said of the festival that ran from noon to 6 p.m.

Both noted the perfect day, as well. Along with the food, and the great outdoor space, children had plenty to do with coin tosses, paper roll tosses and other games.

The festival was originally started to support the parish's school, it had to close the school in 2013. Colopelnic decided it was still important to keep up the festival and the Ukrainian traditions in his 200-family parish.

But he and his parishioners decided they needed to have a cause to keep the festival going.

“This year’s festival is important for our community here in Auburn because we support the democratic choice of the Ukrainian people and their struggles demonstrated last year during the EuroMaidan in Kyiv,” the pastor said. 

To that end, he asked the Rochester group ROC Maidan, which is raising money for the Ukraine, to be part of the festival. The group brought down many pieces of art work by Ukrainian artists, and all proceeds are going to be sent directly to aid wounded military, widows, orphans, refugees, and to provide medical supplies. The church has already sent several donations to the Ukraine in the form of clothing and monetary aid.

Not only did the group bring artistic work, but they brought singers and dancers, as well. Yuliya Pavlyuk provided the festival with traditional songs that she learned growing up in western Ukraine. Local musicians, Bob Piorun and the Swing Kats, provided the sounds of the 50s and 60s as the American part of the festival. Dancers came from the Ukrainian Arts Foundation of Greater Rochester and entertained the crowds with many traditional dances.

Besides making sure the festival continues being a big part of the Auburn community, Colopelnic emphasized the importance of celebrating Ukrainian heritage.

“I feel keeping up the traditions are very important because our fourth and fifth generations want to keep alive the traditions they have learned from their parents and grandparents. We hope they will continue to hand on this cultural and religious richness to future generations as well.

"Finally, one of the little known facts is SS. Peter and Paul is the only Ukrainian Catholic church between Syracuse and Rochester; that in itself is a reason to make the area aware of the church and what we are doing. Festivals like this and other outreach can only help our parish flourish.”

Marie P. Hughes

7 June 2015 The Citizen