Ukraine pavilion seeks balance at this year’s Heritage Festival

Bohdan Marfie, with the Ukraine pavilion at the Heritage Festival, said the group this year wanted to remind visitors to be grateful for the safety here in Canada as the war in Ukraine rages on. (CTV News Edmonton)

Volunteers and organizers for the Ukraine pavilion at the Edmonton Heritage Festival are offering visitors a bittersweet experience this year.

Bohdan Marfie has been volunteering with Ukraine's heritage pavilion since he moved to Canada from Ukraine 10 years ago. He said this year’s experience was obviously different, and the group wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to shine a light on what is happening in the war-torn country.

“We have to let people know there is still a war. It’s ugly, it’s brutal. Many people are dying everyday and we’re just here to support them,” Marfie said.

It’s all about balance, Marfie said. The pavilion has to abide by the guidelines from the Heritage Festival Association and make sure it stays family friendly, but they don’t want to gloss over the war and the violence facing those still living in Ukraine under Russian advances.

“We need to protect them, we need to do our best - absolutely best - to help them, to make this war end and to live peaceful lives,” he said.

He adds that organizers are combining some light-hearted fun activities in the pavilion with a more somber photo exhibit showing important sites and artifacts in Ukraine before and after being bombed.

“You do exit with mixed feelings,” Marfie said. “You know the culture, but you also know this culture of Ukraine is in jeopardy right now.”

Everyone that’s visited the pavilion has been incredibly supportive, said Marfie, whether with words of encouragement or with monetary donations. It’s support, he adds, that they appreciate greatly.

“We just see that in their eyes, that they do stand with Ukraine,” he adds.

“We stand only when we are united. And this heritage festival is all about unity.”