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Ukrainian heritage and traditions persevere at Dekker Centre

A year after the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war in February 2022, the Dekker Centre welcomed The Poltava Ensemble from Regina to celebrate the cultural dances still thriving in Canada.

On March 25, The Poltava Ensemble of Song, Music and Dance brought their Ukrainian traditions and culture to the Dekker Centre, a year after the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war. 

"... settlers from Ukraine, along with thousands of immigrants who followed, have enriched our province. We pay tribute to those immigrants, and more importantly, we pay tribute to the organizations, churches and volunteers who have assisted and continue to assist all immigrants that settle in pride in Saskatchewan," Dave Wilson, MC for the event, said at the start of the show.

"As we pass the one-year mark of the war in Ukraine, the organization of the Poltava Ensemble remains steadfast in our support for a free and independent Ukraine and the continued hope for the end of the tragedy of war," Wilson said to applause.

Due in part to Saskatchewan's rich Ukrainian heritage, hundreds of immigrants fleeing war have settled in the province since 2022, according to the government of Saskatchewan, and their cultural dances and traditions, are still strong.

The organization started in 1922 and adopted the name Poltava in the 1960s. 

"The name Poltava was chosen from a list of suggestions given to us by a past instructor," Wilson said, adding that the Poltava region of Ukraine is similar to Saskatchewan, but also that " ... the existing name, the Regina Ukrainian Dancers of the Association of the United Ukrainian Canadians, was just too much to say," Wilson joked.

The Poltava Ensemble has also had the chance to travel provincially, nationally and internationally, performing in Florida, Portugal and Ukraine. Wilson added that in the summer of 2023, the ensemble will return to Portugal, representing Ukraine and Canada at international festivals.

The Poltava Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Vlad Tsymbal also played individual pieces separate from the dancers during the show. Tsymbal, who has been living in Canada for 15 years and has recently celebrated his one-year anniversary with his wife, who is also a member of the orchestra, spoke briefly about his family and experience with music.

"I still have my grampa back in Ukraine," Tsymbal said.

"For 15 years, he's been telling us that he's too scared to fly, but this year he changed his mind, and he's going to come this June. We're very excited to host him for three weeks," Tsymbal added, noting that he will finally be able to show his grampa the ensemble when he visits.

"He's only seen these guys on video, so it's very exciting from him."

When asked by Wilson if he has a favourite musician in the orchestra, Tsymbal noted he indeed does have a favourite.

"I like this one a lot," Tsymbal said as his wife, sitting in front of him with an accordion, held up her hand to show off her wedding ring.

Before the final dance, Wilson thanked the dancers, the orchestra, the behind-the-scenes stage managers, the costume manufacturers living in Ukraine under the duress of war, sponsors of the event, including OSAC, Kali Weber, and other staff and volunteers and the Battlefords and the patrons of the Dekker Centre for supporting the event.

"Thanks so much for coming out, everybody," Wilson said before the final dance ended in a standing ovation.

The Poltava Ensemble has upcoming events both in Weyburn on April 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cugnet Centre and Estevan on May 7 at 2 p.m. They will also be taking part in the returning Mosaic: A Festival of Cultures on June 1, 2 and 3 in Regina. 

For more information about upcoming events, visit their Facebook page at: