The 18th “Great Feast”, one of the largest and most beloved cultural events of the Greeks of eastern Ukraine, was held in Mariupol on September 25.
This Pan-Ukrainian Festival of Greek Culture is held every two years under the aegis of the Federation of Greek Associations (OESO), in the Greek villages of the Azov region.
The festival is dedicated to Donat Patritsa, a great son of the Greek national movement in Ukraine – a poet, novelist, translator, composer and inspirational figure.
Hundreds of representatives and crowds of the Greek Diaspora, along with other nationalities, gathered in Mariupol, the cradle of Ukrainian Hellenism. They enjoyed a glamorous spectacle, inspired by the rich linguistic, historical and cultural heritage of the Greeks of Azov.
This year’s festival was particularly more festive and sparkling, due to the 200 years since the Greek war of independence celebrations. It coincided with the 30 years festivities for the Ukraine independence.
The festival program included a great theatrical parade, dedicated to the history of Ukrainian Greeks, and their inseparable connection with Crimea and Greece.
Thousands of representatives from 90 Greek communities, dressed in traditional Greek costumes, gave the audience unforgettable moments. They demonstrated the power of Greek culture and the unwavering love of Ukrainian Greeks for their various mother tongues.
The thematic column of the parade was dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution. The march of the Evzoni was held by students of the State University of Ukraine.
The parade also had Greeks representing members of the “Society of Friends” and other historical figures – heroes of the 1821 war of independence.
The parade was followed by a 6-hour-long concert with the participation of vocal and choreographic groups from artistic groups by Greeks and various other nationalities. The concert reflected the celebration’s optimistic philosophy and its desire for unity, harmony and peace.
Greeks in Ukraine celebrate 200th anniversary of War of Independence
The event also included exhibitions of Greek artists, presentations and tasting of traditional Greek dishes, ethnic products workshops and more.
An integral part of the Festival has always been the popular traditional Greek folk wrestling. “Koures,” sees more than 40 wrestlers from different cities and villages of Ukraine competing vigorously for the traditional prize: a sheep.
Greeks have lived on the territory of modern Ukraine since antiquity and consider themselves an indigenous people. Countless remnants of ancient Greek civilization exist in Ukraine, among them Olbia, Panticapaeum, and Tauric Chersonesus.
Later historical Greek landmarks date from the Middle Ages. Between the 14th and 15th century, even a political state, called the Principality of Theodoro, inhabited by Greek speaking Crimean Goths, existed in Crimea.
As a result, a distinct Greek community formed on the Crimean peninsula. Later they resettled to Mariupol in southern Pryazovia, and since then they have been known as Mariupolitan Greeks.
Today the descendants of these people make up almost 85% of the entire ethnic Greek population in Ukraine. They cherish their unique culture and endangered regional Greek dialects.