Celebrating culture: Ukrainian Borscht Festival hosted in McKeller Park

Many people stand in a church hall as they watch someone speak on a stage.
Over 500 people attended a Ukrainian Borsht Festival held in McKellar Park on April 30. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Mykyta Budnyk

The Ukrainian Borscht Festival was held in the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Ottawa on April 30. 

During the event, Ukrainian volunteers cooked more than 27 varieties of Ukrainian national Borscht soup following unique family recipes from each region of Ukraine, including the temporarily occupied Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions.

The event was open to the public who had a chance to get acquainted with Ukrainian national cuisine. Organiser Olena Stetskevych said the main goal of the event was to thank Canadians for their support and to honour Ukrainian culture together with the local community.

“The Ukrainian Borscht Festival is a great opportunity to introduce the community to our rich Ukrainian culture, and thank Canada for helping Ukraine,” said Stetskevych. “We have been organising these festivals since 2012. Last time we raised money to support sick children in the orphanage of Kryvyi Rih, which was evacuated due to hostilities after the start of the Russian invasion.”

More than 500 people participated in the festival, including Ukrainian families, representatives of the Canadian community, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 

Olga, a Ukrainian who came to the event with her family, said the preparation of borscht is a longtime Ukrainian tradition that is passed down through generations.

“For me, Ukrainian Borscht is a tradition that our grandmothers passed on to their parents,” she said. “Today I want to pass on this tradition to my children. The festival of Ukrainian cuisine is an amazing opportunity to make new friends and show great gratitude to Canadians and the government for their help to the Ukrainian community.”

Ukrainian native Iryna, who attended the event with her children, said borscht reminds her of home and is an important part of Ukrainian culture, which was attacked during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The Festival of Borscht in Ottawa reminds me of my homeland and the influence Ukrainian culture has abroad,” she said. “All my Canadian neighbours know popular Ukrainian dishes such as pirogi or borscht.”

The Ukrainian Festival of National Cuisine gathered many Ukrainian volunteers who cooked Ukrainian borscht according to family recipes, which reflected the uniqueness of the national cuisine of each of the regions of Ukraine.

Alan McKay, who has been supporting the community and attending Ukrainian events, said Canadians understand the importance of supporting Ukraine and the threat Russia poses to the whole world.

“Canada is home to millions of Canadians and Ukrainians with close ties to their homeland. My grandfather was of Ukrainian origin, and it is important for me to support Ukraine, the country my cousins are fighting for,” he said.

Since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, millions of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes. On March 3, 2022, the Government of Canada announced the CUAET program for emergency entry of Ukrainians into the country, temporary financial assistance, and access to numerous settlement and adaptation services.

The Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization is the fastest, safest, and most cost-effective way for Ukrainians to come to Canada by simplifying current visa and travel requirements. On March 23, the Government of Canada announced that it will extend the Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Permit (CUAET) for Ukrainians abroad until July 15, 2023.

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