On the festival’s web page, he posted this message: “Dear Dreamers! More and more often we are hearing that what’s happening in Ukraine, and the entire world, is not just an intensification of old social and political problems, not simply the aggression of one state against another. What we are seeing right now is the collapse of an old world order and movement away from a no longer viable model of society. To get through these turbulent times we need to find a new model, to propose new ideas, to create an ideology that can inspire many. So I invite everybody, right now, to creative and social cooperation.”
Tons of people showed up, even though the festival was moved to the Feofania Park on the outskirts of the city, and not easy to get to. Driving there with friends, the city center was clear of traffic, but the road leading into the park was jam packed with cars, mini-buses, and pedestrians.
Musicians, artisans, writers, chefs, story-tellers, and vendors from all over Ukraine and beyond, filled the well-tended, picturesque, sprawling park. There was a literary Dreamland, an ethno-fashion zone, a children’s area full of hands-on activities like making traditional toys from straw, a Cossack entertainment zone, a Crimean Tatar stage, master classes of seemingly everything, local beer and kefir tastings, a zone of free creativity, and much more.
Strolling down the main alley I saw Soviet-era dissident turned politician turned diplomat turned writer Lev Lukianenko. Humbly standing in an embroidered shirt, he was selling his books. These days, almost everyone is wearing an embroidered shirt. He wore his decades ago, well before it was trendy.
Sounds of drums attracted my attention. I followed the sounds down the hill and discovered the entho-drumming sun rhythms circle. Under a tent people were sitting on the grass, on cushions, stools, and turned towards a few musicians playing the traditional hutsul drymba, mini-trembita, and bells. African drums lay all around for anyone to pick up and join in. So I did.
Looking to rejoin my friends I came across a burly blacksmith showing off his skills, a little girl posing on a straw horse, heard a man telling traditional tales, saw a woman painting a ceramic bird, watched people dancing to the sounds from the Folklore stage.
When I found my friends we sat down for a bite to eat, I saw Skrypka casually walking past. I jumped up to thank him for the festival, and noticed that he was carrying a small plastic bag. “What’s in the bag?” I asked. He reached in, pulled something out and handed it to me, “It’s a turnip,” he said. “Enjoy!” It was delicious.
On the eve of World War II, Winston Churchill had said, “The arts are essential to any complete national life.” As Ukrainians fight to withstand the undeclared war that is being waged against them by Russia, artists like Oleh Skrypka are fighting with positivity. While some are calling for a boycott of Russian goods and artists, he’s suggesting a different approach.
“Let’s buy Ukrainian products, listen to Ukrainian music. Let’s protect ourselves, support one another, fight to protect our rights, our country. We need to know who we are and build our country anew, in an active and constructive way.