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."