ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS IN WALTHAM CROSS

25.06.17


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The Ukrainian community in North London, Hertfordshire and Essex commemorated the 70th anniversary of the establishment in 1947 of the Waltham Cross Branch of the Association of Ukrainians in GB (AUGB) and the 50th anniversary of the acquisition of its Branch premises.

The milestone anniversary was celebrated yesterday with a garden concert attended by the Mayor of Broxbourne - Carol Crump, Leader of Broxbourne Council - Mark Mills Bishop, AUGB National Deputy Chair - Iryna Terlecky, former Broxbourne Mayor Councillor - Bren Perryman, ward representative - Paul Seeby, UK-Aid Felsted Chernobyl charity representatives - Alan Hillier and Margaret Byrne and, of course, members of the Ukrainian community.

Most of the founding community members are no longer with us, but all attending felt the warmth of their spirits as guests were entertained with friendship, fun, and pride.

The festivities included songs from the women’s organisation OUZh, CYM youth choir and the Pasicznyk sisters with songs about their native land, cranes nesting and beloved cranberry flowers. Dancers from the Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM) performed a Hutsul Carpathian “Running Winds” dance, Cossack Zaporozhets sword dance and orchestral rendition of Circle of Brothers.

Mayor Carol Crump opened a new memory garden at the cultural centre and planted an apple tree with the help of younger members. The festivities continued with guests enjoying a buffet of varenyky, holobtsi and honey cakes, followed by a dance to the sounds of Zhnyva Dance Band who entertained guests with polkas, waltzes and kolomykas.

The thriving community in Waltham Cross formed at the end of WW2 from displaced persons housed in Newgate Street Village work camp. Unable to return to their homeland, AUGB Waltham Cross Branch was founded to bring together cultural patriotic organisations, churches, a school, veterans and youth groups in promoting Ukrainian heritage, freedom and peace. 

The first Chairman of the Branch was Wasyl Deba who initially ran committee meetings in members’ houses, functions in the Conservative Club, and the early Ukrainian school in St. Joseph’s premises. In 1967 Ivan Pasika and Ilko Lozynskyj secured the purchase of the community cultural centre in Flamstead End Road.  

Over the past 70 years, members of AUGB Waltham Cross Branch have done a remarkable job, working with other national organisations to support Ukraine’s struggle for freedom from the USSR and uniting generations in maintaining their heritage and language. 

Cathy Zugaj, Head of the Womens Organisation (OUZh), recalled:

“As a child I was at the centre all the time attending at school, dance practices, zabava dances or just “hanging out” with friends.  It bought us together with a bond no one can break. Our fathers came to these shores with nothing and we are so thankful for the better life that they created for us. Few had family in England, so the community became their family.  They helped each other, offering a roof over heads, money for home deposits, etc..  

“Over time they married, but always remembered their roots and were thankful for their friends. From these families came another generation, who took on the heritage and culture and became passionate about their background.  There was laughter, fun and a sense of bonding.   

“Now we see our children and grandchildren come to the Centre.  We hope and pray that they find here what we found  and that they will look after it after we are gone.  The next generation have already formed a strong bond and I am sure our parents are very proud of how things have turned out. I did have a tear in my eye remembering what went on at the centre and all the people that had contributed to shaping our future”.

Today the Waltham Cross Branch of the Association of Ukrainians in GB remains a uniting force in sponsoring public activities such as the Spirit of Ukraine festival at Forty Hall, fundraising and commemorating national bard Taras Shevchenko, Mother’s Day Easter egg (Pysanky) painting, the Feast of St. Nicholas and solemn events such as the “Chornobyl” disaster and “Holodomor” famine. 

The number of pupils in the Saturday school and Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM) continues to grow, with regular orchestral and dance performances at multi-cultural events. This year CYM Waltham Cross Branch has won first prize placings at various regional festivals, and it is  currently the proud holder of the CYM Branch of the Year flag for the first time in its history.

The WX OUZh and CYM organisations also took the opportunity, with many members of the community present, to collect for Uk-Aid Felsted (www.uk-aid.org) ahead of its forthcoming trip to the Chernihiv Chernobyl Revival centre. Multiple bags of clothing, toys and toiletries, were passed on proving again their commitment to supporting disadvantaged children. 


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