Manchester’s Ukrainians celebrate Independence Day with music, food & fundraising

Today also marked six months since the start of the war in Ukraine, but that did not stop the Ukrainian community from coming together and celebrating.

Manchester’s Ukrainian community were out in force today to celebrate their country’s Independence Day.

Today was especially important for the community as it also marks exactly six months since the start of the war in Ukraine.

The local branch of the Association of Great Britain organised a family fun day at the Cultural Centre Dnipro in Cheetham Hill, with support from Manchester City Council.

The blue and yellow bunting was out for today’s Independence Day celebrations. Credit: Sofia Fedeczko/Manchester World

Kateryna Tyshkul, director of the Ukrainian Saturday school in Manchester, said: “For each person here, it’s a celebration but also with a pinch of salt because everybody wants to be home.

People who have fled the war are just trying to find comfort and company. We need to provide that warm feeling of welcoming them here, literally becoming their family.”

The festivities included Ukrainian music, dancing, children’s entertainers and a busy kitchen supplying the crowds with Ukrainian food, such as borshch (beetroot soup), varenyky (potato dumplings) and grilled meats.

Volunteers serve cups of beetroot soup, called “borshch,” to visitors. Credit: Sofia Fedeczko/Manchester World

Many of the guests were sporting the blue and yellow colours of Ukraine or traditional embroidered blouses called “vyshyvanky,” which were also available to buy at one of several stalls.

Like most of the communities events these days, this family fun day was also an important opportunity to raise funds for the humanitarian effort in Ukraine with collection buckets and charity raffles.

A stall selling Ukrainian embroidered blouses, known as “vyshyvanky,” during the Independence Day celebrations in Manchester. Credit: Sofia Fedeczko/Manchester World

This is the first time the community held Independence Day celebrations on the anniversary. In previous years it was difficult to get people together on a weekday and during the school holidays.

The war in Ukraine has changed that. Now, the community is overflowing with new members who have fled Ukraine during the conflict, as well as British sponsors of refugees and supporters from other communities.

Olena Hryhorets, 35, is one of those new members. She said: “When I came three months ago as a refugee, I didn’t imagine how big the community here is. There is so much support.

“When you come here and hear Ukrainianbeing spoken, and there are good people who love your country – it’s nice. It’s helping me a lot.”

Independence Day celebrations at Manchester Ukrainian Cultural Centre “Dnipro”. Credit: Sofia Fedeczko/Manchester World

Vira Rybak, a 25-year-old graphic designer from Lviv in western Ukraine, said it was “strange”being abroad for Independence Day for the first time, but is also grateful for the support the centre provides.

“This place helps you feel at home, to see some other Ukrainians, it helps you to feel better.

“We are brave and we really want to show that we are an independent country. So this means a lot for us.”

Kateryna Tyshkul arranges a display about the humanitarian aid the community has raised for Ukraine. Credit: Sofia Fedeczko/Manchester World

Many Ukrainians feared that there would be further escalations in Ukraine because of Independence Day.

Kateryna and Olena are both from Kharkiv, in north-eastern Ukraine, where there are constant attacks from Russia.

Olena’s family live just 15km from the frontline. Her mother told her this morning she heard seven rockets fly over her home.

They both said their relatives had been ordered by the authorities to stay indoors under curfew. But even in times of war, Independence Day is a happy and proud occasion.

“Ukrainians cannot not celebrate,” Kateryna said.