Performers from around the country dazzled an audience assembled in the Concert Hall at AUGB Manchester Branch last weekend to mark the 50th anniversary of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC).

AUGB Chair Petro Rewko opened the event by welcoming everyone, and in particular, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant Greater Manchester - Lt Cdr Kevin M Heakin RD DL RNR,  Andriy Marchenko - Minister Counsellor, Embassy of Ukraine, UWC President - Eugene Czolij, Councillor Eddy Newman - The Lord Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham - Mayor of Greater Manchester, Afzal Khan MP and Councillor Naeem Hassan - Manchester City Council. 

The AUGB chair added that the UWC represents over 20 million Ukrainians in 53 countries around the world, that it has observer status at the United Nations and that it works closely with the Ukrainian and other governments to promote Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. 

Andy Burnham, thanked the UWC for choosing Manchester to host such an important event.

“I would like to put on record my congratulations to the Ukrainian World Congress for 50 years of supporting Ukrainian people and their culture throughout the world, including here in Greater Manchester.

“We have one of the longest traditions of welcoming people from Ukraine to the city of Manchester and to the towns of Lancashire which goes back over 100 years.

“For 16 years before becoming Mayor of Manchester I was the Member of Parliament for Leigh, a mining town some 15 miles from here, which welcomed hundreds of Ukrainians after the Second World War to work in our coalmines. They were certainly renowned for working the hardest of all and local legend still has it, that they dug a tunnel between Parsonage and Bickershaw collieries!

“As MP, I also tried to bring the Ukrainian Olympic team to be based in Leigh – unfortunately I didn’t quite succeed despite going to Kyiv to make my case. However, I did make many friends along the way.

“So we celebrate today the longstanding ties between all of the great towns of Manchester and Ukraine.

“We recognize the enormous contribution made by people of Ukrainian background and culture to the building of Manchester over the years and we stand with them today as the country continues to face challenges with the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine that has seen over 10,000 casualties. And of course we stand with them with the situation in the Crimea which continues to be annexed. We support the restoration of the internationally recognized boundaries of Ukraine.

“From a personal point of view, I still cannot understand or accept how the world is going to Russia next year for the 2018 World Cup as if nothing has happened. If we do go we should make the point that those boundaries should be recognized and restored.

“Turning back to today’s celebrations. What a fantastic achievement it has been of building that diaspora around the world – those 20 million people contributing to building such good relations around the world. May I congratulate you all on your first 50 years and on behalf of all of the people of Greater Manchester, here’s to a strong relationship going forward and here’s to another 50 wonderful years for the Ukrainian World Congress!”

During his address, UWC President Eugene Czolij said that Ukraine remains the main focus of the UWC. 

“At a very low political and financial cost, Ukrainians today are not only defending the territorial integrity of Ukraine, they are stopping the appetite of the Russian President from expanding further into the West. This is not just a Russian Ukrainian conflict. If God forbid Ukraine does not hold the Russian Federation at its borders, the Russian President will do what he said a few years ago when he indicated that the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century and that he would reconstruct it. If Ukraine does not hold Russia at its borders, Russia will continue westward and we will either see the end of Nato if its members do not stand up for each other, or we will, unfortunately, end up witnessing the Third World War. This is what is at stake today.

“The UWC continues to seek the support of the world community to ensure that not only Ukrainians, but Europeans and people throughout the world can live in a much safer world.

“We are also facing a massive hybrid war waged by Russia against Ukraine over the past four years. It is not solely military aggression. It also includes state sponsored terrorism, cyber attacks and a massive disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting the Ukrainian state, aimed at convincing the UK and other countries that they are wasting their time and money in providing much-needed technical support, or sending experts to Ukraine to help the Ukrainian army, or to hosting Ukrainian soldiers here. Russia wants the West to believe that Ukraine is a failed state. 

“I would like to reassure everyone, that Ukraine has not only been withstanding tremendous Russian aggression over the past three years, but it has been changing, reforming and modernizing in a way that it hasn’t none since its declaration of independence in 1991.

“I ask you to continue to support the reformers in Ukraine and, in doing so, to encourage local businesses to invest in Ukraine.

“The UWC has historically always defended fundamental freedoms and Human Rights. Today we concentrate on the political prisoners in illegally occupied Crimea and Eastern territories of Ukraine, and in the Russian Federation.  Fortunately we live in a world where the question of Human Rights is not an internal question of any given country. When such rights are violated, it becomes the business of the whole international community. I encourage you, distinguished guests, to continue advocating the respect of Human Rights.”

Mr Czolij concluded by calling on the UK to join other countries in recognising the 1932-33 Holodomor as a genocide against the Ukrainian people.

Minister Counsellor, Andriy Marchenko, extended the greetings of the Embassy of Ukraine to the UWC on its 50th Anniversary and to all attending the Jubilee Concert. He thanked the UWC for the support that it provides to Ukraine and, citing Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, “for being a reliable representative of Ukraine beyond its borders”.

“The UWC is a huge asset to Ukraine and Ukrainians around the world. It advocates our interests with leading politicians of many countries. I am also very pleased that the UWC has its representation here in the UK where we have an excellent working relationship with one the UWC’s founding members, the Association of Ukrainians.”

“The ideal of unity promoted by the founders of the UWC remain as important today as it was 50 years ago. I fully concur with the sentiments expressed by the President of the UWC here today and will add, that we remain open to full cooperation. There are many issues on the horizon which need our joint attention and we will be more that happy to continue our constructive dialogue, coordination and collaboration with you.

“We must all continue to refute Russia’s aggression against Ukraine – in all of its forms - even on the most local of levels.  Stereotypes and disinformation need to be challenged on a daily basis so that the truth about Ukraine prevails.

“It is quite symbolic that today’s event coincides with the feast of the Protection of the Holy Mother of God and that it is also the day upon which tributes are paid to the defenders of Ukrainian Independence. I therefore also greet you all on with these two remembrances and extend our greetings to all those who are today sacrificing their lives for our homeland.”

The two hour long Jubilee Concert of song and dance ended with an special awards ceremony during which the following were merited by the UWC for their various longstanding services to the community: Maria Babych, Lessia Djakowska, Maria Finiw, Zenko Lastowiecki, Gena Mandzij, Rev. Bohdan Matwijczuk, Rev. Mykola Matwijiwskyj, Dr Lubomyr Mazur, Dr Ludmila Pekarska, Iryna Terlecky.


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Ukrayinska Dumka


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