Apopka Ukrainian Festival changes from celebration to rally as Russia invades

Rally held Friday, Saturday & Sunday at Apopka Amphitheater

APOPKA, Fla. – A three-day festival planned for this weekend to celebrate Ukrainian culture will now be a rally and demonstration as Russian begins to invade Ukraine’s borders.

Vasyl Boichook is with Ukrainian Project Inc., the organization hosting the Vatra Ukrainian Festival at the Apopka Amphitheater. The space was quiet and empty Thursday, but on Friday it will turn into a gathering place where attendees will call for peace in Ukraine.

“We’re going to bare our souls to everyone who comes there,” Boichook said.

Boichook said the festival is usually a joyous event that celebrates the country’s culture, food and arts, but it will now be a rally.

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“We’re just going to have a rally and demonstration and we’re going to say a few words time to time and sing the Ukrainian anthem and all kinds of Ukrainian patriotic songs and things like that,” Boichook said.

Znon Chaikovsky drove from Cleveland overnight to help with the festival production. He said performers are changing their acts because right now there isn’t anything to celebrate.

“We still want to do it. We still want to show — first of all, we want to show Ukraine that we are here and we are with Ukraine and we will be helping here as much as we can to protect Ukraine and protect western democracy,” Chaikovsky said.

In Seminole County, St. Nina the Enlightener Orthodox Church is hosting a Russian festival on Sunday. Father Andrii Syrkin said their event is changing too in light of the crisis. He said they’re collecting donations to send to churches in Ukraine.

He adds his congregation is made up of people from several eastern European countries, including Russia and Ukraine. He said they’re all standing as one against war and they’re praying for peace.

“We’re really sorry about what’s going on right now and I’m just asking and praying our people to stay together, not to have war between us. To pray for peace, to pray for Ukraine, to pray for Russia, to pray for Belorussia, to pray for our countries and to pray for peace,” Syrkin said.

The Ukrainian festival is located at the Apopka Amphitheatre. It starts at 2 p.m. on Friday and noon on Saturday and Sunday.

The Russian festival is located at the St. Nina the Enlightener Orthodox Church at 1895 Lake Emma Road in Longwood. It starts at 12 p.m. on Sunday.