Folklorama Focuses on Positivity, Prohibiting Fundraising and Political Views at Pavilions


In February, cultural organizations in Winnipeg began gathering supplies and raising awareness in response to the war in Ukraine.

Folklorama, Manitoba’s largest multicultural festival, is a popular source for cultural learning, but pavilion coordinators say focusing on the war is prohibited.

Yury Kruk, co-coordinator for the Ukraine-Kyiv Pavilion, said Folklorama has strict policies against politicizing the festival. Kruk said he understands why a festival involving so many cultures needs to focus on positivity, not historical conflicts.

The pavilion had considered closing as a response to the war, Kruk said.

Some pavilion staff were concerned about moving resources away from fundraising or staying apolitical while others feared staying silent would disrespect those fighting in Ukraine, he said.

“People also felt that what’s happening in Ukraine is very much a conflict made to eradicate a culture,” Kruk said.

Kruk said the pavilion would not participate if it couldn’t accurately represent its members. The decision to stay open focused on promoting the strength, diversity, and individuality of Ukraine.

“People are going there to find out ‘Why are people dying in the street?’” Kruk said. “It’s about our dance, it’s about our song.”

Kruk said the pavilion is also important for a community bombarded with images of destruction and death, especially during pandemic isolation.

“To be able to get together and feel like they’re a part of a community, it would almost be a better sense of healing,” Kruk said.

Joan Lewandosky, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Manitoba Provincial Council, displays a Folklorama anniversary plaque at the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada’s Winnipeg office on April 1. The UCC sponsors the Ukraine-Kyiv Pavilion and is responsible for coordinating many fundraisers and rallies in Manitoba./SERGIY VOLOTOVSKYY

Joanna Cabacungan, a Hotel and Restaurant Management student at Red River College Polytechnic, said pavilions should prioritize creating a positive environment.

“I just think they should focus more on the diversity of the city,” Cabacungan said. “Talking about negatives within the event, that’s going to ruin the mood.”

Scott Gordon, co-ordinator for the Spirit of Ukraine Pavilion and treasurer of Zoloto Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and Company, said his pavilion is not changing its programming.

“History should never be forgotten, but it’s not going to be the focus,” Gordon said.

While pavilions cannot share fundraising information at shows, Gordon said they can connect visitors with dance companies and other cultural organizations.

He said Zoloto is using its popularity to fundraise through events like Stand with Ukraine, which has been shared by pavilions and Folklorama.

Festivals like Folklorama allow people, especially youth who can’t donate, to celebrate and help in their own way, Kruk said.

“How else would they want to showcase their cultural identity?” Kruk said. “The best way that they know how is through either dance or song.”

Gordon and Kruk invite students interested in volunteering or learning more to contact Folklorama or their respective pavilions.