This beautiful city in western Ukraine, situated on the upper part of the River Prut, and part of the historical region and capital of Bukovina.

We settled into Chernivtsi just in time for Malanka. Perfect timing to
experience the village of Вашківці (Vashkivtsi) where the Malanka traditions are abundant and wild. The essence of this holiday is similar to carnivals in Rio-De-Janeiro and Venice yet differs because it is celebrated not before Lent but at the New Year. Upon entering the village we were stopped by groups of people who demanded a bribe to enter and partake of the festivities, while at the same time being wished a Happy New Year. A handful of wheat thrown into the car for good luck too!

Vashkivtsi is a small village with a population of about 5,000 people, but over Malanka the village expands to almost double. The streets are filled with people dressed as characters such as, Baba’s, Dido’s, Gypsies, clowns and devils. The day is full of food, drinks and celebration. The town streets are lined with vendors, people. A colourful parade winds throughout the towns main streets.

Malanka was almost the end our holiday season. The final celebration in Ukraine, is Vodokhryshchi, blessing of water. Also known as Yordan. A second holy eve similar to Christmas dinner celebrated on January 19 th. We were lucky enough to be invited after a few days of rehearsal, to spend Yordan with a new friend and dancer from the Bukovyna State Ensemble of Song and Dance. Her family welcomed us into their home with open arms, fed us wonderful food, and we carolled the night away.

Chernivtsi, in a few short weeks, has made us feel so welcome. We are finished all the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations and settled. We are back dancing with the Honoured Bukovyna State Ensemble of Song and Dance, under the Artistic Direction of Leonid Sydorchuk. Just two days into rehearsals we were told that we would be performing a dance with the ensemble in their two shows the following week. The first show to commemorate the Centennial of Independence declared in Ukraine on January 22, 1918. The second show, to celebrate an anniversary birthday show for Dari Lastiwka the past Artistic Director who would have been celebrating 90 years of age this month. It was an honour to dance along side the Bukovyna State Ensemble dancers, as well to be able to perform live with the choir and orchestra. A new experience for all of us, and most definitely one we will cherish forever.

Dancing, celebrating and being on TV! We were asked to take part in an interview with Доброго Ранку Буковино/Good Morning Bukovyna, a morning television news program. We were interviewed along with the Artistic director of the ensemble Leonid Sydorchuk. We discussed our time in Ukraine, and our upcoming performances with the group. It was a unique experience for us all to be able to share why Ukraine and this opportunity is so close to our hearts.

January’s end brings us halfway through our amazing journey. Five months have passed in this incredible country. The experiences we have had with new friends, dance families, teachers, our Cobblestone Freeway family as well as each other, has been an incredible adventure. The memories we are making, will be cherished forever.

Cheers to a New Year ! The second half of our journey has now begun and we will be learning and celebrating our Ukrainian Heritage always.

written by – Kaitlyn Kruk