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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Ukraine turns into a dreamland

At least once a year
7 July, 2009 - 00:00

Ethnic festivals are very popular all over the world — they always attract a huge number of music lovers. Ukraine is no exception. But in our country they also have a political subtext. For, unfortunately, there are very few places where Ukrainians can feel their national identity.

Kyiv’s Independence Square (the Maidan) used to be this kind of place, but now, after years of dramatic disillusions, it has given way to the Dreamland fest. You can drop all restraints here and show (and see) what free people can do in a free country! For what you can see winding as far as the Cave Monastery walls is not just the Alley of Masters: it shows the variety of our talents, creativity, resourcefulness, originality, and, finally, competitiveness. We, Ukrainians, were and still are like this! Just let us show our knack!

The festival attracts increasing numbers of people with each passing year. Everybody is in raptures over the event. But very few of them become Oleh Skrypka’s partners. Little wonder, therefore, that the festival lasted only one day this year. Did anybody help the Vopli Vidopliasova (VV) front man make Dreamland last three days, as usual?

This year’s festival was held under the slogan “Dreamland is clean land.” There were such novelties as an eco-lesson from Ukrainian stars and literature of Ukraine’s ethnic communities, as well as the already traditional master classes, the best embroidered shirt competition, a book fair, and many other things.

The festival father Oleh Skrypka did not patronize the festival this time. The VV front man took part in Russia’s largest ethic festival in Kazan, but this did not prevent Dreamland from succeeding. You could begin to feel elated and energized once you walked down the road from Glory Park towards Spivoche pole (Singing Field).

The book fair was No. 1 on Dream Country’s agenda, which seems to be somewhat symbolic. This year visitors to the fair had an opportunity to enrich their libraries with modern-day Ukrainian literature at reasonable prices. Besides, the “citizens” of the Dreamland festival were in for all kinds of entertainment. On that sweltering day people were taught a lot of quaint things, such as making paper from a mulberry tree, took lessons in Ukrainian calligraphy, and saw artists show little would-be painters how to illustrate books. Also on the program was fortune-telling on books and other ancient, but still interesting, curiosities.

The Literary Stage, which, incidentally, also operated on June 28, saw the launching of books by well-known authors, various master classes, ethnic readings, and poetry recitals. The Stage also included the first-ever ethno-slam with Artem Poliezhaka and Young Literature Day.

The Alley of Masters was crowded. The long lines of people along the path that led down to the Dnipro were studded with wreaths and embroidered shirts, and children’s laughter crowned the entire fairy-tale-like ambiance. Now The Day comes to a children’s glade. Marichka Burmaka, Foma, Ivan Andrusiak, Lesia Voronina, and Sashko Lirnyk read out environment-friendly tales to the little ones.

This year’s fest drew a lot of foreign guests who not only evinced interest in Ukrainian culture but were also prepared to show their own. For example, Japan was represented for a third time by the Ukrainian-Japanese Center. The Day’s Summer School of Journalism trainees took part in a tea ceremony, and The Day was given a note of dedication written in calligraphic Japanese on rice paper.

The dance studio taught people medieval Ukrainian and Lithuanian dances. The age range was surprisingly broad: the young and the old would come together in a friendly dance to the fiery accompaniment of musicians.

The festival included a competition of embroidered shirts (vyshyvanky) for the second time. As it is a point of honor for every Dreamland visitor to wear an embroidered shirt, this event has gained tremendous popularity and become a good tradition. This year 300 original vyshyvanky took part in the competition. To compete, one was to have a photo taken in a vyshyvanka next to a symbolic man-high Coca Cola bottle adorned in a folk style. The winners, Inna Goncharova and Olha Hryhorenko, received prizes of honor from Coca Cola. Incidentally, Ms. Inna had bought her vyshyvanka on the eve of the event in London.

The Evening Stage is undoubtedly the most emotional part of the Dreamland fest. No wonder: more and more people begin to develop an interest in ethnic music. Ukraine was represented by the MAD HEADS XL UKRAIN’SKA group, which is quite an unusual format for the performers. Yet they were up to the mark. Also attending the festival were the foreign musical groups Zalvarinis (Lithuania), Fanfara avale (Romania), and Valkyrien All Stars (Norway).

Dmytro KAPRANOV, organizer of Dreamland’s Ukrainian book fair:

“This year Dreamland hosted for the first time a literary festival of Ukraine’s ethnic communities. Whoever reads newspapers or watches television might well think that only Ukrainians and Russians live here, which is wrong. We are a multiethnic and multicultural country, and some ethnic groups that reside in Ukraine are unique. They have no statehood of their own and live in this country only. These are, first of all, Crimean Tatars and Gagauzes.

“The most important thing is that it is not the state that organized the fair (although there is a governmental committee in charge of ethnicities) — we, ordinary Ukrainians, did it to make it clear to everybody that we live in a multiethnic country. This is only the beginning. Starting from the next year, more of these minorities will be represented here. The Ukrainians should regard themselves as a gravity center for the smaller peoples that live together with us. Unfortunately, our country comes closer to being a dreamland just a few times a year, at this very place. What created a really lasting impression was the situation on the eve of the event, when a torrential rain and a gale-force wind blew the tents away and no one knew what tomorrow would bring. All we knew was that Dreamland would be held under any circumstances.”

Ivan ANDRUSIAK, writer:

“It is so sad that Kyiv becomes a true, lovely and really Ukrainian city on the Dreamland days only. I think it should be like this all the time. Every Dreamland festival creates something that stands a chance to take on. For example, the Literary Stage appeared last year for the first time, but this year it was quite a longtime event: it has caught on because it is really needed. It seems to me the eco-lesson also has a fair chance to take on because what is done in good faith will produce good results.”

Foma, front man, Mandry:

“To tell the truth, I read fairy tales long ago. I used to have a children’s radio program. This was about 14 years ago. Now I have happily recalled the way it all was. I love Dreamland. In my view, it is the most important festival in Ukraine. It popularizes our beautiful traditions and songs among the Ukrainians and, in general, keeps our spirits high. This also helps us discover the rich culture of the outside world.”

Lesia VORONINA, writer:

“Whenever Oleh Skrypka begins to program something, he attracts new and interesting people. For example, the eco-lesson is an important and creative aspect of this year’s fest. Then idea is to show very small children that reading can be real fun.

“Ivan Andrusiak and I intended to tell a literary fairy tale and did our best to explain to the child that all things virtual are less interesting than the apparently simple but in fact very special things that surround you. This may be a signal for them to break free from the world that was given to them as a ready-made model in which you must exist.

“One more thing. Look at the faces of the little ones who are sitting here. There is nothing artificial here: the people who came here really have something to say, it is important for them to see what is going on here. Just take a look: some are singing, some are modeling little clay horses, while others are making vytynanky (decorative paper cutting—Ed.). This is the festival’s most important sign—it is deep in human hearts.”

Vasyl VIKHRENKO, music teacher, sopilka-maker:

“Thanks to the people who invite us to such extravaganzas as Dreamland, our art becomes increasingly popular (sopilka is a flute-type folk wind instrument—Ed.). Our products are not properly appreciated in small towns. But when we are invited to big cities, including Kyiv, this boosts our energy: we improve our mastery and hand it down to the younger generation, our children… This is great, for we must know our culture, traditions, art, and rites.”

Iryna ZAKHAROVA, festival visitor:

“My family comes to the festival every year. Our elder son and younger daughter are very fond of it. It is wonderful having the Ukrainian spirit and mood around. Such festivals do so much good to the younger generation. They remind us of our roots. Look at how many people are wearing vyshyvanky, how many children are playing with Ukrainian toys sold on the Alley of Masters — they are genuine and have an old tradition. This is very important.

“Our country is becoming a dreamland very slowly, at a snail’s pace, but it is striving to be one. A snail will cross a field in a day — we, too, will lose very much time, but we are sure to become a dreamland — green, fertile and happy.”

Andrii PISHCHIUR, potter:

“I am taking part in the festival for the fourth time. I am very pleased that I have been invited more than once. Dreamland is gaining pace very rapidly and is visited by very intellectual people who sincerely love their homeland. What is more, they do it by way of concrete deeds, not just talk. Many young people flock to the festival; there are even toddlers here. If the saying ‘children are our future’ is anything to go by, Dreamland sows the seed of love for their own things in them, when they are still young.”

Vadym KRASNOOKY, front man, MAD HEADS XL:

“We have long been toying with the idea of making a big program consisting of folk songs in our arrangement. This is a very old idea, but we did not have enough time to get down to it seriously. I think there really should be purely ethnic projects and that we must preserve the ability of ethnic singing and reproduce ancient ethnic instruments. But we are modern-day musicians, we are rock musicians, and this is what we can do very well. It is very important that the folk song be sung in the context of modern megalopolis life. The point is that Ukrainians are being urbanized very fast; they are breaking away from their roots, their soil, and their aura.”

Marichka BURMAKA, singer:

“Some are complaining that the festival did not last for three days. Believe me, everybody is sorry about this. But it is good that it was held in one full day — from dawn to dusk. Besides, it was filled with more events than each of the three days in the previous years.

“At this festival, everybody seemed to be really in a dreamland. It does not matter what your ethnicity is. This is an ideal country, where everybody considers themselves Ukrainian, a part of Ukraine. Indeed, there are no divisions along ethnic lines: ours is a multiethnic country.

“We are thankful to Oleh Skrypka and the Coca Cola Company, which sponsors this festival every year and organizes a vyshyvanka competition. Especially now, during the crisis, when one can say: ‘You know, we are cash-strapped’ (I think everybody has some difficulties now), these people and this big company are supporting our culture in Ukraine. We are deeply grateful to them.”

By Viktoria PRASOL, Anna SLIESARIEVA, and Anna SHKILNA, The Day’s Summer School of Journalism. Photo by Kostiantyn HRYSHYN, The Day