Slavs come together at Robson Square

Tensions are running high between Ukrainians and Russians in Toronto, but relations aren’t nearly as strained in Vancouver, according to Andrew Ahachinsky of the Russian Theatre Palme.

In an interview at the Georgia Straight office, Ahachinsky said that there is a "lot of grief" in the Ukrainian diaspora—including those of Russian ancestry—about the political situation in Ukraine.

"People are saddened by what's happening there," he said.

But he noted that there are no signs of conflict within the community in Greater Vancouver.

Instead of hosting its annual Russia Day event, his theatre group, has decided to put on a free Slavic Day celebration on Saturday (June 14) beginning at noon at Robson Square.

There will be Slavic folk performers, children’s games, and costumes on display from Serbia, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic.

“We don’t want to differentiate Russians from Ukrainians,” Ahachinsky said. “We are the brother countries and we should hold together and represent our culture.”

He noted that the different Slavic countries have many things in common, including similar food, folk dancing, religious views, and languages.

But he also acknowledged differences both within and between countries.

For instance in Bulgaria, where he taught acting classes last year, there's a "different energy" in the north than in the south.

As for Slavic Day in Vancouver, he described it as "one big ornament where we're all going to be coming together".

"It's all going to be well mixed so people will get all the flavours of the Slavic culture," Ahachinsky said. "I think it's actually the first kind of festival like this."

Comments (57) Add New Comment
anonymous
There will be no sane Ukrainian joining the "festival" It only proves the fact that Ukrainian and Russian are not only different, they are mutually exclusive
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Ukrainian in Vancouver
Ukrainian community in Vancouver is extremely outraged because of Russian aggression in Ukraine, which is of course causes tensions within local ethnic Ukrainian and Russian communities. As part of the global information war between Russia and Ukraine, some individuals, like above mentioned Mr. Ahachinsky, trying to mislead Canadian community spreading Putin inspired propaganda about "brother nations", which the same ridiculous as the concept of Russia as a "Slavic country". Instead of facing the truth and calling out to his Russian compatriots to get out of Ukraine, stop the bloodshed and Nazi-style occupation, Mr. Ahachinsky organizes "friendship festival". Agree that no sane Ukrainian would be part of such hypocritical move. As for the journalists who put together this article - next time pls publish also opinion of the representatives of Ukrainian community, not Russians speaking on behalf of Ukrainians.
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Саша
Unfortunately I cannot agree with author's statement that "there are no signs of conflict within the community in Greater Vancouver." Fortunately the conflict is limited to online "discussions" (although the online "flame wars" full of insults and sometimes even threats can hardly be called "discussions") and few verbal altercations at a protest organized by local Ukrainian community (local Ukrainians protested a visit of a Russian celebrity who endorsed aggression against Ukraine)
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Саша
I also cannot agree that the statement referring to Russia and Ukraine as "“We are the brother countries and we should hold together and represent our culture.” Unfortunately due to Russia's aggression against and Ukraine and support of terrorists operating in Ukraine, Russia and Ukraine have a long way to go before they can be called "brotherly" again
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Slav
Gladly there is more sane people in Vancouver that are joining and supporting various multicultural festivals, thus helping support multiculturalism in Canada. You are not doing yourself or any community a favor by sharing your opinion that is obviously uneducated. As every Canadian, you probably should enjoy what Canada gives us and multiculturalism and tolerance are a few to name. Us as immigrants have an opportunity to find an understanding and support each other as Slavs, we have no reason to fight, we have are not involved in International affairs, but we can do a great deal to preserve our cultures and educate our kids living in peace and not hater.I'm sure you will revise your thinking at one point in your life and will contribute to communities that you serve as a citizen.
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Global Citizen
Slav, why do you think that your comment is more educated than that of other people? Canada is a free country and everyone has a right to speak their mind in a respectful way. Ukrainian community is obviously going through a very difficult time right now and all they asked was for journalists to research the issue better and in a more balanced way so that Canadians can get a better view of the situation.
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Leonid L
Putin is not Russia, and Poroshenko is not Ukraine. Politics and personal ambitions is is one thing, but culture is another. Politicians come and go, culture and people stay. There is absolutely no doubt that Ukrainian and Russian cultures are practically two pieces of the same thing, artificially devided 20 years ago by force. We lived in one country and shared the same culture much longer together, than apart. Thank you, Andrei Ahachinsky! Разом нас багато!
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Kim
What's going on in Ukraine is a very complicated issue and it isn't simply black and white. Andrew is doing the right thing here, promoting friendship. I have ancestors from quite a few Slavic countries, mostly from Russia and Ukraine. I also happen to have a bunch of friends from different parts of these countries, even with different opinions on the situation. And yet we're still friends, capable of having fun and being crazy Slavs, despite everything.
There is no pure truth in this conflict and even if there is, it isn't on the internet or in the news (come on, who are we kidding?). So why waste time fighting for strong opinions that are based on shady information, wasting time and nerves and getting NOTHING but more and more enemies in return? Sounds idiotic, doesn't it...?
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Sergiy
Just curious, why not to continue hosting traditional Russia Day again? Not trendy anymore?
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Vitaliy
Dear Slav, pls save your message of "we have no reason to fight" - to your Russian heavily armed compatriots terrorizing Eastern Ukraine, as for "we are not involved in International affairs" - maybe you are not, but almost every Ukrainian in Vancouver has relatives, friends or loved ones in Ukraine, who are threatened by Russian terrorists - so we are involved on daily basis, trying to help our Motherland. Canadian government is sending strong message of support to all Ukrainians and condemns Russian aggression, so if you are pretending to share Canadian cultural values - pls learn from our Canadian government not to close eyes and cowardly isolate yourself in your happy Vancouver comfort zone, but speak up against bloodshed and try to help victims of Russian aggression.
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Anonymous
As I logged into my Facebook this evening I was outraged by the number of negative comments towards this event that appeared on my newsfeed. Facebook friends of mine could not put aside their political biases and look at this Slavic event as an attempt to shed some light on a tense situation that arose this year. As a Ukrainian I will say that our ethnic roots have been proven on a biological level to have no connection to Slavic nations such as Russia, Belarus, Slovakia, Poland etc.; however, I see many similarities between Ukraine and the Slavic group of nations in our cultural traditions and geographical locations. For example, embroidery is a common art form showcased on our national clothing; many of us decorate eggs (pysanky) on Easter (Croatia, Belarus, Serbia, Czechs, and the Poles all have a form of the 'pysanka' egg) and enjoy baking a type of "kolach". And from personal experience, as someone who not always gets the opportunity to celebrate the holidays at home, I make Christmas dinner with my Serbian friend, and we converse about how similarly AND differently we prepare our traditional meals. The list of these similarities is plentiful and this is because as neighbouring nations we could have not avoided borrowing and sharing certain practices. The way I see this is that if this event was called "Eastern European Day" then there would be less negative attitudes expressed. I understand the agony and worry that Ukrainians feel all over the world- I am one of them, and by no means am I trying to make the events in Ukraine seem less significant. It is extremely difficult to read about how your homeland is being toppled by an aggressor. But friends, let's not take out our anger on people with good intentions in mind. And trust me, the Ukrainian community will not be silenced or overridden, in case anyone was worried.
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Russian in Vancouver
I have to agree with Mr. Ahachinsky. As a Russian in Vancouver, most of my close friends are Ukranians. Although, we understand the political unrest in Ukraine at the moment, we try to preserve our friendship, our cultures, and mutual respect for one another. We evaluate each other one by one, and do not generalize based on the political propaganda coming from both sides. I acknowledge the presence of the so called "activists", both Russian and Ukrainian. They try promote discord pursuing goals of self-interest. We choose to stay above politics. In addition, we show strong support to the families affected by the situation. We don't look for a scapegoat. What unites us is the understanding that politicians will make up, the wars will end, but the people will stay to be. People just like yourself that go to work, raise their kids, and are not motivated by blind hatred. Ukraine/Russia - one spirit forever!
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Myroslav Petriw
Playing out the name game on Vancouver's streets.
Mr. Ahachinsky has now decided to mask his Russian Theater's performance as "Slavic Day". This local bit of obfuscation mirror's that empire's history of name changing. Today's Russian Federation is not a nation-state like most of Europe’s larger countries. Russia is an Empire as it always has been.

Its citizens’ sense of self, their sense of pride and belonging is tied to a mythology of imperial grandeur, expansion and plunder. It was at one time the home of 85 distinct languages and dialects. Many have since disappeared. Where a nation-state is like an organ, an empire is a tumor. It exists to expand and it consumes as it expands. Crimea is but the latest example.

Winston Churchill once famously described Russia saying, “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Note that Winston’s predecessor of the previous century, Benjamin Disraeli, suffered no such confusion. Back in 1876, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli – in a letter to Queen Victoria, proposed “to clear Central Asia of Muscovites and drive them into the Caspian.” He did not call them Russians. He knew them for who they were.
Muscovy is the historic name by which that state was known since the time that the rulers of the Moscow Ulus (province) of the Empire of the Horde (that created by Ghengis Khan)established themselves as rulers of that entire multi-ethnic empire. By that time Rus, the state that had existed on the lands of today's Ukraine had long been divided among its neighbors. However the people of Rus continued to call themselves Rusyny (Ruthenians). It was after expanding Muscovy to encompass much of Rus that Czar Peter renamed Muscovy as the Rossian Empire (using the Greek word for Rus in that title). The inhabitants around Moscow spoke Finnish. Those further east spoke a variety of Turkic languages. The Orthodox church maintained the old Bulgarian of their scriptures and this became the basis of the Muscovite language. Not surprisingly that language is closer to modern Bulgarian than to any other Slavic language.
Not differentiating "Russians from Ukrainians" is akin to not differentiating Iroquois from the English. The costumes in your photograph reflect that of the Turkic nations of Asia now under Moscow's rule. They are not Slavic.
Ukrainian survivors of 50 years of genocide will not submit to this fraud.
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Василий
As far as I know, Andrey and his family are from Lviv, Western Ukraine, so he has the right and the knowledge to speak for Ukranians. I am surprised at the amount of negative comments about this obviously positive and good cultural event. This aggressive behavior is not what Canada is all about! Why not celebrate Slavic cultures? Is there any doubt that Russians, Ukranians, Belorussians share the same or very similar culture? If there is such doubt, then you know nothing about that region. This Slavic celebration is a very Cabadian thing to do! Stay above politics and divisions! Be Canadian!
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Ukranian from Eastern Ukraine
Ukraine is a very divided territory, "country", artificially glued together from Galicia, Malorossiya and Novorossiya by communists. Crimea was a "gift" to Ukranian republic from Russian Republic in 1950-s, against the will of the people who lived there. Word "Ukraine", which means "border/edge/front" both in Polish and Russian, does not represent ANY ethnicity as such. Some comments here show ignorance about the fact that problems in Ukraine are WITHIN Ukraine. The division on Ideological level. East wants to Russia, West to Poland and EU. That is all.

Now, about Andrey Ahachinsky, who happened to be WESTERN Ukranian with Polish roots from Lviv (Western Ukraine). He does a good thing, uniting all slavs in a cultural event. Isn't it great? There is no political agenda here. Why so much aggression? There is no political agenda here, whatsoever. Does anyone doubt that slavs exist? That there are a lot of cultural similarities? Why do you people react so aggressivly to an event that is organized by UKRAINIANS?
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Oleksandr
Guys, what is wrong with you all? A Ukranian dude (Andrei) is organizing a cultural event fro all the slavs. It is great! And what he says is all correct, Russians, Ukranians, Belorussians - there isn't much difference really, we all have the same interests, go to same places, speak the same language (well, most of us), eat the same food... I personally did not stop talking to my friends just because I don't like what Putin, Yanukovich and Obama did to my country. Let's celebrate our cultures, and forget about politics!
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Виктор
Shame on all of you who tries to dirt Russian and Ukranian cultures with your political agenda. Good luck Andrew with this celebration! This is really what Canada is all about: multiculturalism and tolerance!
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Another Ukrainian from Eastern Ukraine
Yes, it is great to organize festivals that celebrate multiculturalism and showcase the cultural heritage of a region. I am all for it..

However, dear brother Slavs, you have to understand that everyone is above politics until your own families and friends start getting killed as a result if it. When your own flesh and blood starts to suffer, you want to do all you can to stop the violence and help in any way you can. I think what Ukrainian people are saying here is that they expect their extended family, their brother Slavs, to stand with them in this very difficult moment. Ukraine really needs help right now. Ukrainian people have appealed to the world for help, and, as was pointed out earlier, Canada already took a stance on this. It would be really great if events like this could be used to send the message that all Slavs are united in their support for Ukraine to put more pressure on the government and other communities. We have to use our privilege of being in Vancouver to help others who cannot speak as freely.

When the war in Ukraine is over, and my friends stop getting killed. I will gladly dance with you all and taste all the different Slavic cuisines. Just ask yourself for a moment: what would I do if MY FAMILY was affected? How would I want the world to react? How would I want my brotherly nations to react?
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Babcia Gandzia
Sorry guys, I am not hater, but I am not indifferent what’s going on in my country, yes, I want to believe that this event has good intention like Anonym wrote, (though I think they need to blend their traditional clothing like sarafan with something more significant, and they need to keep their business on), but will you blame me for my position that I don’t have any interest now to this event at all. I can’t pretend that nothing happened between our country now and before and Russian culture has nothing similar with my native traditions. I am even offended that they called in their menu Ukrainian borscht as Real Russian Borscht.
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Babcia Gandzia
How its happened that " Andrey Ahachinsky, who happened to be WESTERN Ukranian with Polish roots from Lviv (Western Ukraine)." created Russian theater and organize Russian Day in Vancouver - don't see connection with his Lviv's or polish roots.
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