JAMESTOWN, R.I. – Much of America’s greatness is exemplified by its grassroots responses to global crises and events of world import. Since Russia launched its full-scale war on Ukraine in February, many local events in support of Ukraine have helped to raise awareness about the country and those affected by this invasion. One such event took place in the smallest state of the Union.
The Sunflower Family Festival, organized by the Jamestown Ukraine Relief Project, took place on August 27 on the grounds of Lawn Avenue School in Jamestown, R.I.
The festival drew an exceptionally large attendance. Besides attendees from Conanicut and Aquidneck Islands, the festival attracted parishioners from the area Ukrainian churches, among them St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Fall River, Mass., and St. Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church and St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church, both in Woonsocket, R.I. There was food, fun and music for all.
The food tent featured delicious barbeque with a variety of fixings, all generously donated by Keane’s Wood Fired Catering of Cranston, R.I. For the sweets-inclined, Sofia Kaczor provided puffy pampushky with a choice of fruit fillings. In the cultural tent, Viktoria Pinchuk and Olia Konarieva – both having arrived from Ukraine since February – displayed Ukrainian books and offered embroideries, pysanky, sunflower pins and plaited ribbons in gold and indigo. Christine Teper Charest demonstrated the art of pysanka making. In the children’s tent, face painting featured smiling children, their faces bedecked with sunflowers, Ukrainian tridents and flags, all in colors of blue and yellow.
The highlight of the afternoon was the music program that ran throughout the festival. It opened with the choir of St. Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the direction of Donna Eichorn. The group closed its performance with Mykola Lysen-ko’s “Prayer for Ukraine.” They were followed by the South County Rounders, a long-time Rhode Island bluegrass band featuring James-towners Matt and Judy Bolles, together with Phil Smith and Chris Heinzmann.
The Ukrainian music featured Alina Kuzma in a solo performance on bandura. Her set included the upbeat Irish dance tune “The Star of the County Down” and ended with “Malanochka.”
With the stage reset, the Korinya Folk Band – originally formed in New York’s Hudson Valley – took the stage. Featuring Sana Shepko on violin, Ms. Kuzma on percussion and vocals, Zoya Shepko on accordion and Nick Hladio on bass, the band has a worldwide following for their performance of traditional Ukrainian folk music and songs. Korinya has released two albums, and, among many other venues, has performed in Lviv and Toronto. In early August, they opened for the famed Ukrainian trio Dakha Brakha.
They began with the song “Hirki Slyozy Maty Lyiye,” and the tempos did not let up. In the middle of their set, it was “Ukrainian Dance School 101” with Ms. Kuzma teaching basic dance steps to an enthusiastic audience.
The area in front of the stage was soon filled with eager students, young and adult, stepping to the lively tunes played by Korinya. Following the performance, several dancers remained and danced through to the end of the concert; during the “Verkhovyna” medley, the group coalesced for an impromptu “Arkan.”
The funds raised by the festival have been slated for Razom for Ukraine and will support Ukraine-based work by several international humanitarian organizations. The Jamestown Ukraine Relief Project is also coordinating with statewide efforts to support Ukrainians who have recently arrived in Rhode Island.