Thousands gathered in Horsham Sunday for the annual Ukrainian Folk Festival, celebrating Ukrainian independence and culture, despite the ongoing war with Russia.
Organizers dubbed this year’s festival a “celebration of liberty and unity,” one they said focused on the relationship between Ukraine and the United States. Firstly, through cultural connections, as more than a million Americans report being of Ukrainian descent, according to U.S. Census data. And secondly, for the support from the United States during the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Festival emcee Eugene Luciw said unity is necessary in the face of oppression.
“There is a very strong partnership because the Ukrainians — with American support — are fighting to defend the entire Western world,” Luciw said. “Every dictator in the world is watching the results. So in order to preserve peace, democracy, and the liberal spirit that all Americans and all people deserve to have, we have to watch Ukraine. And we have to deliver a victory there.”
Iryna Mazur, the Honorary Consul of Ukraine to Philadelphia, thanked the U.S. for supporting Ukraine during the war. She also thanked Ukrainian veterans in attendance, as well as the soldiers currently fighting against Russian forces.
“Just remember, your sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Mazur said. “You did something which is unbelievable. The price that you paid will never be forgotten. It is an honor to meet you, to stay next to you and to serve you. Slava Ukraini. God bless America.”
Festival attendees were treated to authentic facets of Ukrainian culture through song and dance, and cuisine.
Oleksander Ersta made food, along with members of the St. Michael’s Church. He said providing meals felt like giving back to the United States and provided a cultural outlet.
“You’re not going to see much of this around the United States, or anywhere in the world,” Ersta said. “This way we can actually bring our culture, make United States culture much richer, more interesting. This also allows us, in a way, to maintain our heritage.”
On Thursday, hundreds of Ukrainian Americans gathered at Philadelphia’s City Hall to raise the Ukrainian flag in celebration of its 32nd year of independence.
The total number of Ukrainian and Russian troops killed or wounded since the war began is nearing 500,000, according to the New York Times. Russia’s military casualties are estimated to be approaching 300,000, while Ukraine’s are close to 70,000. Russians outnumber Ukrainians on the battlefield almost three to one.
Proceeds from Sunday’s festival will go towards the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee to provide humanitarian efforts for Ukrainians affected by the war.