This is the English translation of an article which appeared in the September 28, 1997 issue of the Ukrainian language Warsaw newspaper "Nasze Slowo", entitledLemko "Vatra" in Canada, August 2-4, 1997. Translated by Walter Maksimovich.

Lemko "Vatra" in Canada, August 2-4, 1997

The Association of Lemkos in Canada (ALC) owns a nine acre plot of land north-west of Toronto called "Lemkivshchyna". On this site there is an amphitheater where a stage was constructed. Besides a public meeting place, there are also private property lots for members of The Association of Lemkos in Canada. The property owners are organized into an corporation. The area reminds us of our native Carpathian Mountains because of its scenery. There is a river and a small lake, forests nestled on the hillside and in the surrounding valleys, and in autumn one can pick mushrooms - slime covered "masliaky" and "pidpen'ky". This is the place where ALC organizes the annual "Vatra" festival. The 12th Lemko "Vatra" festival was held here from August 2nd to the 4th this year. It was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the infamous Operation "Wisla" and the 36th anniversary of The Association of Lemkos of Canada.

Guests started arriving early Saturday morning. The weather was delightful and while some people started pitching tents in the designated camping area, others headed for the pool. Most of them were meeting their acquaintances for whom this is the only occasion to get together every year. Residents of Toronto, Hamilton, Ontario and other localities, as well as guests from the US, Poland and Ukraine came to the festivities.

At 6 o'clock in the evening the "Vatra" supper got under way. It included open-hearth barbecued piglets prepared by Stepan Baius and friends. At 8 o'clock, the Ukrainian and Canadian anthems were played. In his opening speech the head of ALC, Mr. Andryi Radko said that this years "Vatra" would be memorable because it is taking place on the 50th anniversary of the criminal Operation "Wisla", during which Ukrainians were deported from ethnically Ukrainian areas to so-called "Recovered Territories" [of northern and western Poland]. Then the "starosta" of the "Vatra" came forward, the longtime chairman of ALC, Mr. Ivan Olenich. He is one of the founders of the Lemko organization in Toronto. In his initial remarks, in honor of the opening of the "Vatra", Ivan Olenich referred back to the history of The Association of Lemkos of Canada. He also spoke about the notorious Operation "Wisla".
"Operation "Wisla" obliterated everything that is Ukrainian, in order to erase all traces of our history in our ethnic territories. I greet all the esteemed guests and all present onto this Lemko site, this small plot of land that serves as a substitute for our native, dearest Lemkivshchyna... In three weeks we will commemorate the sixth anniversary of the independence of Ukraine, which was proclaimed on the 24 of August 1991. This is an important event in the life of the Ukrainian people, whose struggle for independence has claimed millions of people. "Vatra" for us is a tradition, which unites the Lemko-Ukrainian community to work jointly for the benefit of our people, but mostly for the good of our native Lemkivshchyna".

He wished all those attending a good time and rest, and a safe return to their homes. Afterwards he lit the "Vatra". The artistic portion followed, including a performance by the trio "Sribny Peredzvin" (Silver Chime) . The event was interrupted by rain. Everyone ran indoors and spontaneously broke into sing, accompanied by an accordion. This unanticipated and improvised concert lasted almost two hours. Then, to the tunes of the "Mosaika" band, guests were entertained into the wee hours of the morning.

On Sunday, at 11:00 o'clock, a High Mass was conducted by father Petro Babei from the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The memorial service for all those who perished, or were murdered during Operation "Wisla", followed. Afterwards a troupe of actors from the Ukrainian drama group "Zahrava" hailing from Toronto, under the direction of Iosip Terletskyi, performed with a program devoted to Operation "Wisla". Performers included Juliana Olenich, Mikola Krivchun, Stepan Lilak, Yaroslav Mazur, a trio of bandurist players from "Sribnyi Peredzvin" which included Olha Noskiv, Yaroslav Stasiv, Marti Sudak, and also the Salamashkiv family. After the concert people returned to their tents. Some headed back home on Sunday, others remained in order to enjoy more of the beautiful scenery, away from the city noise.

Ivan Terefenko
Toronto Canada

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Originally Composed: Thursday November 6th, 1997.
Date last revised: June 11th, 1999.

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