Manchester’s Ukrainian community came together at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre to celebrate Ukraine’s Independence Day on Wednesday, in a symbolic stand against Putin’s ongoing invasion of their beloved country.
The Centre, named Dnipro after one of Ukraine’s longest rivers, hosted a charity concert with all proceeds from entrance fees going to help humanitarian efforts on the front line of the conflict in Ukraine.
The event, which featured spectacular musical and dance numbers from local Ukrainian solo artists, choirs and performance groups, also boasted plenty of family fun and authentic Ukrainian food to bring a taste of home to many of those in attendance!
Maria Semeniuk, who performed at the concert as a member of a new, Ukrainian speaking choir said,
“Independence Day is celebrated every year, and it’s a very important day for us. So we decided to make a bad situation in to something good.
“There are activities for children, dances, choirs, there’s also a man who’s going to be playing our national anthem on bag-pipes and he’s actually from Hong Kong, so it’s very international!
“I sang in a choir called Mriya, which means dream; we rehearse every Thursday and sing Ukrainian songs both modern and alternative.”
Located in Cheetham Hill, ‘Dnipro’ has been at the heart of the Ukrainian Community in Manchester for over 60 years but in recent months, it has become a lifeline for those in the community needing support in the wake of Putin’s invasion.
Maria, who left her home in Kyiv in March to come to the UK under the governments ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme explained:
“The hardest was to say goodbye to everyone and everything I left there. It felt like I was betraying my family and friends.
“When I came to Manchester, I tried to find somewhere to go because I needed people and activities to relax and keep un-stressed and this centre lets me feel a little bit at home, I can come here and speak Ukrainian, it’s always very warm and friendly and I found their message about the Ukrainian choir and decided to try that.
“We have a great community of Ukrainians, lots of them were born here, but they still learn about Ukrainian culture and this centre helps them to do it.”
As well as providing a base for local groups and organising events to mark important occasions on the Ukrainian calendar, the Centre offers different activities for children, including a Ukrainian Saturday school, where children can learn Ukrainian and hear about their culture.
Inna Ruzheva, one of the organisers of the event and conductor of Mriya choir said:
“I’m really proud of my choir, it was very emotional, because this is my profession, my work and it’s a very important day for Ukrainians, a very important moment- 31 years ago today our country was formed.
“Not just Ukrainians, but I think every woman and man in the world understands the importance of Independence for everyone, for every nation, for all people.
“For Ukrainians it’s very difficult at the moment, so it’s very important to stand up for freedom and independence when our people are fighting every day, fighting every moment, fighting for our freedom, for our independence.
It’s difficult to say if it’s happy or sad. It’s very sad because war is happening right now, at this moment our people are dying, people are being killed by the Russian aggressor, yet it’s a very happy day, because we have a will, we have a life, we have freedom.”