Saint Nicholas Day is a favorite holiday among Ukrainian children. On the night of Dec. 18, children go to bed expecting to find gifts from Saint Nicholas under their pillows the next morning. They often write letters, handed over by their parents, asking for certain special gifts. It’s also a time for boys and girls to reflect on whether or not they have been good and deserving. 


In my childhood, Saint Nicholas Day was always my favorite holiday. In the evening before going to sleep, I always looked out of the window in the hope of seeing Mykolay (Nicholas in Ukrainian). But my parents kept telling me: "He will come only when you fall asleep." And he always came…


This year, the war has scattered Ukrainian children all over the world. Amid difficult circumstances, it seems that Mykolay, unfortunately, will no longer be able to come to everyone.



Bringing joy to Ukrainian children across Europe


To preserve the holiday for those now in Europe, the Ukrainian National Academic Choir, named after its founder Hryhoriy Veryovka, created the tour "Ukrainian Saint Nicholas is coming to you." It will pass through four countries: Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Italy.


The Choir is one of the most famous ensembles of Ukraine, comprising choristers, a ballet and an orchestra.


"A Ukrainian song is something wonderful," choir leader Ihor Kuryliv explained to Kyiv Post. "Even Beethoven wrote about our songs.”


Talking about the tour, Kuryliv remarked: "I can't say that everything will turn out exactly as we rehearse it. During the tour, we will look at the reaction of the audience and consider what can be added and where, or what can be removed. We are very flexible in this regard."


He added that the program will likely include songs from their host country.


"Even if we go to China or Korea, we will add works in Chinese or Korean to our program. It’s really difficult, but for a choir at our level, it’s important for the public."



The Choir’s main performance remains the well-known Ukrainian song "Shchedryk" (Bountiful Evening) and known in English as "The Little Swallow." One of the Choir’s singers, Kostyantyn Levytskyi, will adopt the guise of Saint Nicholas. He has been in the Choir for 21 years and performed in this role four times when the ensemble went on a world tour.


"I get very nervous every time before going on stage. And in the role of Saint Nicholas, even more so, because it involves communication with the children after the concert. You need to listen to and understand them, and wish them to be healthy and obedient," Levytskyi told Kyiv Post.


Representatives of the choir approached the office of the President of Ukraine with the idea for their tour, with support from the authorities forthcoming.




Describing the importance of the tour and to help raise funds, the Choir’s Facebook page says: “We used to say about children who left Ukraine that they adapt quickly, and that it's a new experience and with opportunities. But it's also about losing your safe space, in a foreign environment with an unfamiliar language and detached from the native land. And there are those who have lost family members or may have ended up in a hospital far from home.”



To hold a charity tour, over 450,000 euros (equivalent) needs to be raised. The head of the foundation explained that the Choir itself has more than 150 people, each of whom requires costumes and other paraphernalia, making every tour expensive.


The ensemble collects its charitable funds independently. For this tour, and to attract the attention of investors, it is working with the fund "Bucha.Help." Thanks to them, it has possible to collect more than 100,000 euros.


The Choir will begin their trip to Europe on Dec. 9 and will return to Ukraine on Dec. 24.


Further details, including how to donate, can be found on the Choir’s Facebook page (linked above) and in a Ukrainian language YouTube video.

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