Ukrainian holiday celebrated in Edmonton, offering newcomers a piece of home

Ukrainian newcomers in Edmonton displaced by the Russian invasion were treated to a popular holiday celebration to help remind them of home.

Several local organizations hosted events Saturday to commemorate St. Nicholas Day, a major Christian holiday celebrating the namesake’s nature as a bringer of gifts and kindness.

“This is the special day that all kids know about,” explained Nataliia Bodnirchuk, who moved to Edmonton in June.

She had not expected to celebrate the festival but was pleasantly surprised that Edmontonians with Ukrainian heritage had planned ways to ensure newcomers could still enjoy that tradition.

“We feel here like in Ukraine,” Bodnirchuk said.

She was at the Free Store for Ukrainian Newcomers, who organized a special screening of The Polar Express, a visit with St. Nick and gifts.

“They were just in awe that the authentic St. Nicholas is here,” said Jorgia Moore, the store’s co-founder.

Moore was proud that much of the organization for the festivities was spearheaded by many newcomers themselves.

At St. George Ukrainian Catholic Parish, a day of Christmas carolling, music, and gift-giving was also planned for 400 people.

The Ridna Shkola Saturday school had 157 children perform different poems, songs and nursery rhymes. Fifty-two of them are newcomers from Ukraine.

“They can feel a little bit like home,” said Olia Myc, school principal. “So children can hear the Ukrainian language, communicate and find new friends.”

Bishop David Motiuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Alberta said for those who fled Ukraine when the Russian invasion began, this will be their first holiday season away from home.

“It’s hard,” Motiuk said. “They’ve left so much behind.”

“Here, we can provide a little bit of family and a little bit of love” he added. “Provide them with a little home here in our home.”

Olena Zaliavska moved to Edmonton from Ukraine this summer with her husband and five-year-old daughter.

“My daughter is very active,” Zaliavska said. “She likes people.”

“Edmonton has a very strong Ukrainian community,” she added. “My daughter needed that… She was missing the Ukrainian language, traditions.”

“We got it here.” 

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