If, like me, you’re a believer that history repeats itself, then at least it offers a crumb of comfort, that the cycle of history will again correct itself and victory will again be Ukraine’s. Going to the three-day Festival in the Derbyshire countryside, billed as Krayoviy Zdvyh – Festival of Ukraine – Fundraiser, (Friday, July 1 – Sunday, July 3) in the East Midlands of England, there was a feeling that I’d been there, and seen this beautiful awe-inspiring annual event all before.

Like in past years there was a fleet of coaches and cars, stalls selling Ukrainian wares and trinkets, a long queue for varenyky (dumplings), fabulous dancers, eloquent youngsters reciting poems and choirs singing their hearts out on stage.

But unlike previous years, what shook me up the most was looking at the faces of the newly-arrived temporary visitors from Ukraine, sometimes unfavourably described as refugees.

The young women reminded me of pictures of my mother in her youth, arriving here after the Second World War, the children, me and my brother, though we were born in London, England. I had been to Krayoviy Zdvyh in Tarasivka as a youngster, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, and visited when it became a free and independent country. Now I was here again, with Ukraine under Russian invasion.

My name is Tony Leliw, Kyiv Post’s London-based reporter, and here is my account of events at Tarasivka on Saturday, July 2, 2022.

The British weather had not been great – there had been a slight drizzle on and off as Zenko Finiw, head of the Ukrainian Youth Association (SUM) in Great Britain, stood in a large field, and welcomed everybody to the Fundraising Festival, at Tarasivka Ukrainian Youth Centre.

“Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, SUM has been working together to raise funds for humanitarian aid,” he said, “organised demonstrations, spoke up against the war in the media, and informed people about who we are as Ukrainians. Ukraine was, is and always will be Ukrainian.”

Zenko Finiw, head of the Ukrainian Youth Association (SUM), in Great Britain, in the front middle of the remembrance procession with wreath. (Photo Credit: Tony Leliw)

Flanked by religious and community leaders, Finiw said the Festival was all about showing support and showcasing and celebrating the richness of Ukrainian culture. This year’s Festival had been advertised as raising vital funds for those affected by the ongoing war, with £5 from every £15 entry ticket sold, (covering entrance, parking and the concert) going to British-Ukrainian Aid.

No figures had been provided before we went to press.

After the welcome, the official opening started with a remembrance procession to a nearby monument, where wreaths were laid to all those that gave their lives for the freedom for Ukraine. Among those laying wreaths were Petro Rewko, head of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, and Iryna Terlecky, representing the Association of Ukrainian Women in GB. Among religious leaders present was Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family, who offered prayers.

Once officially open, the crowds dispersed in all directions. Some joined a long queue outside the kitchen to buy varenyky, others mingled by the stalls buying all things Ukrainian, while the rest enjoyed eating fast food and ice cream.


A popular attraction was a rubber effigy of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Young and old who passed by it, either kicked or punched it. Children climbed on its head, twisted its nose and generally abused it to everyone’s delight.

Bishop Nowakowski, had just had a plate of varenyky and was gracious enough to stop and talk. “I am very happy to be here,” he said. “This is like being part of a great Ukrainian family – uniting us from all parts of the United Kingdom. We even have visitors from the continent, so it is wonderful.”

Rob Archer, a history teacher and his wife Sally, from Ashbourne, Derby, had made the short trip to the Festival with their two Ukrainians from Odesa. The couple said they had offered their home to them because of the terrible things they had seen happening in Ukraine on the news. “We value other cultures and we wanted to help,” said Sally.

Their visitor Tetyana said in Ukrainian: “I am so happy to be here,” hugging her hosts. “I had been very anxious the day before yesterday due to the sounds of the rockets in my city. I don’t know how long we will be here, but Ukraine will win.”

From left to right: British couple Sally and Rob Archer took in Tetyana and her son Dmytro. They left Odesa when the Russians started bombing. (Photo Credit: Tony Leliw)

Her husband is a reserve soldier, and they have friends from Odesa who are now living in Poland, the Czech Republic and USA. I asked her 15-year-old son what his name was and he replied “Dima”. His mother quickly corrected him, saying “Dmytro”. Being a French and Spanish language teacher, Sally was curious and Tetyana offered an explanation. “Dima is Russian and Dmytro is Ukrainian.”


Krystyna, a personal trainer, and her 10-year-old son, had travelled down by coach from Doncaster. “We left Crimea after February 24,” she said. “Maxsym’s father was living in Lviv and had joined the Ukrainian territorial forces, which made it dangerous for us to stay in Crimea.” She was happy to be safe, but was waiting for her Fox Terrier Ritchie who was still in quarantine.

A big crowd started spilling outside the large tent and taking the concert by storm was Bohdan Koropisz, 22, doing the dolls dance, where he was dressed in one costume featuring an old man and woman routine, rolling around on stage. “My dad taught me how to do this act,” he said. “He used to do it on cruise ships for 40 years.”

The concert had performers from all over Britain – London, Bradford, Manchester, Coventry, Derby, Nottingham, Stockport, and a lot more – and it was rumoured that Ukrainian pop sensation Tina Karol was at the concert watching her son dance. Due to the war in Ukraine this year’s entertainers were not competing with each other, as they normally would, but raising awareness of Ukrainian culture.

The Boyan Choir from Nottingham sang Засяло Сонце Золоте and За Рідний Край. (Photo Credit: Tony Leliw)

A regular at Tarasivka was Mike Ostapko, a trustee and overseer of the Ukrainian Prisoner of War Chapel in Lockerbie, Scotland, a heritage site, who was chatting to his old mate Mike Kuziw from Stockport.

Good occasion to catch up with some old mates – from left: Mike Ostapko with Mike Kuziw. (Photo Credit: Tony Leliw)

Kuziw said 25 people had come down to Tarasivka for the event, adding: “Our Ukrainian Club has been helping 200 refugees from Ukraine, and another 200 are coming.”

Ostapko said the Ukrainian Club in Scottish capital Edinburgh had recently rented out some rooms to performers of the theatre show Lion King during COVID and in return during two performances they had shaken a bucket outside the Edinburgh Playhouse and raised £5,200 for Ukrainian refugees.

Phil Harrison from Liverpool, whose wife is a British-Ukrainian, said events in Ukraine had inspired his son to take a closer interest in the country and learn the language.

Anna Nepip-Frankis from Rugby was having a picnic and stopped to talk. “We come here every year. We are very busy helping our Ukrainian visitors with translating and settling in. They are from all parts of Ukraine. Some are positive and are getting on with their lives, others are tearful. There are those who speak Russian which I can’t do, but others speak very good English.”

Chris Wujiw said he had that naive optimism that the Russians would not invade. He said: “When it did happen, it felt like the whole world had come crashing down. I have a big family who live near Buchach. Most of my family live in rural areas, have small holdings and want to stay and help the economy.”


His wife Jan showed me a text from one of her relatives from her dad’s side who were on the frontline. It read: “Some of my schoolmates have laid down their lives protecting others. I pray every day for the war to end, for those suffering and the dead. The hospitals are overwhelmed with wounded soldiers and civilians. It is very hard to see people suffering greatly.”

Following the concert, there was more entertainment in the evening provided by a duet called Harmonia, a group called Pan Karpo, the Cov Kozaks from Coventry and DJ Vitamin. The latter runs Radio Kozachok in London.

There was something for everyone who attended on Saturday. It seemed like a healthy turnout of around 4,000 people.

As I walked back to the car and reflected on the day’s events, the remembrance procession, the concert with its singing, poetry and dancing, people eating, drinking and socialising, I imagined someone capturing similar images of emotions after the war on a cine camera in black and white.

History was repeating itself, I thought, and it would have a happy ending after all…




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