Small Victories: Ukrainian Villages Celebrate One Year of Liberation from Russian Control

The war in Ukraine is far from over, but there are small victories to celebrate for many villages all the same. These towns were under Russian control just one year ago, until Ukrainian forces were able to win back control of the territory.

Volunteers with GreaterGood, Greater Good Charities, and Siobhan’s Trust were lucky enough to be invited to some of these celebrations and had the honor of serving pizza to the people, many of whom are still without regular access to nutritious food and other resources they need due to continuing supply-chain issues.

Photo: GreaterGood/Nina Yevtushenko

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Tsyrkuny, located about 10 km from Kharkiv, is one of the villages that was once occupied by Russia but is now free. Russian forces invaded on February 24th, 2022, and the small town quickly became a stronghold from which the Russians sent out tank and artillery attacks on Kharkiv and the northern Saltivka district. The village was liberated in May of 2022, but it continued to be a dangerous place for several months, with shelling continuing daily until the liberation of Balakeya and Izyum in September.

Our partners have been able to travel to Tsyrkuny to help people in need a few times over the course of the war, so the visit on May 5th, 2023, for their liberation celebration was particularly special. They again cooked pizzas to help cheer the locals. Creative teams performed in national Ukrainian costumes, and children danced with pigeons to signify a peaceful life.

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“This day was about hope for a brighter future!” says Nina Yevtushenko, GreaterGood’s on-the-ground representative in Ukraine. “About faith in the Ukrainian army!”

Novomoskovsk, in the Dnipropetrovsk region, is another city that has been liberated from Russia for one full year. Our teams visited on May 6th, 2023, to watch the performances, take part in the festivities, and distribute pizza to the people gathered there to celebrate. They cooked more than 3,000 pizzas for a long line of people right in the city center and were welcomed into the merrymaking.

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Nina Yevtushenko gave us some insight into the traditional garments, foods, and other elements of the celebration. She says it is customary for Ukrainians to welcome distinguished guests with a decorated bread, symbolizing benevolence, on an embroidered towel. The guest kisses the bread to signify spiritual unity. Eating bread on a towel is now a tradition reserved for solemn occasions and celebrations.

Ukrainian borscht was also prepared for the event, as it is the national dish of Ukraine and a symbol of Ukrainian culinary culture and prosperity.

The national costume of Ukraine for women consists of an embroidered shirt, a red vest, and an embroidered dress. It also includes flowers and ribbons in the hair and jewelry, such as bright necklaces, earrings, crosses, and rings. Men wear weapons, belts, and rings as the accessories to their embroidered outfits. The accessories and embroidered symbols were traditionally believed to be capable of protecting against evil spirits, the elements, and disease.

Photo: GreaterGood/Nina Yevtushenko

“The national costume of Ukrainians is an elegant and refined outfit that has been actively used since ancient times,” says Nina. “Despite the differences in clothing in different regions, its main components are unchanged. The shirt is the oldest element of the Ukrainian national costume, and it was the only type of clothing until almost the beginning of the 20th century.”

What an honor to be able to participate in this traditional celebration and to be welcomed into the time-honored customs of this long-suffering people! We have so much respect for their culture and history.

We at GreaterGood offer our sincere congratulations to the people of Tsyrkuny, Novomoskovsk, and other locations that are celebrating a year of liberation. We can’t wait to celebrate the one-year anniversary of liberation of other locations, such as Balakeya and Izyum, in the coming months, and we hope to eventually celebrate the freedom of the entire nation of Ukraine!

Help us continue to support the Ukrainians in their time of need!

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