New Gateway venue a boon for ‘Slavic Fest’

Find out who’s now presenting the ‘Portland Slavic Festival’, and see which new outer East Portland park seems perfect for the celebration …

From all over the greater Portland metro area, people come to the Gateway Discover Park in the Hazelwood neighborhood to attend the 2019 Portland Slavic Festival.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

After starting out in Lents Park, where the now-demolished gazebo was the focus of attention, the Portland Slavic Festival moved. The first stop was Venture Park.

But this year, the new Gateway Discover Park has become the latest home for the Portland Slavic Festival – and this location seems “just right” for both the volunteers who mount the fair, and the folks who attend.

Nonprofit Slavic Community Center Executive Director Nick Pechenyuk here spends a moment with this year’s organizer, Timur Holove.

Having covered the festival for many years, East Portland News and its readers have become well acquainted with its longtime organizer and hostess, Galina Viktorovna Nekrasova, who has now left her role as organizer. CLICK HERE to see our article about their 2017 festival, in which Galina tells about the event.

“For many years, while Galina was the one who together this wonderful festival, we were in the background – helping, promoting, organizing, and getting people together,” recalled its new organizer Timur Holove, of the Slavic Community Center of the Northwest.

Wearing traditional dress, it’s Claudia Borvanova – and, the “Russian Bear in shades”, ready for sauna, it’s Marina Bittick of the “True Friends Club”.

“After last year, Galina decided to step down and hand the festival over to our organization because, as she said, ‘It’s time to put this in young hands; no other organization has cared about this event like you have,’” recalled Holove.

“It’s important to the Slavic community to have an fair like this, because it brings together the greater Portland Slavic community – which is under-served and under-represented in many ways – in a place where they can meet with representatives from local government bureaus, federal agencies like the US Forest Service, and numerous nonprofit organizations, all to learn more about services available to them,” Holove told East Portland News.

Andrey Georgiyev of Pelmeni Pelmeni gets help from Samuel Kulgavyy, as they make another batch of their very popular Russian dumplings, called “Pelmeni”.

Says it’s important to share their cultures
“Also, it invites all of our neighbors, Americans and people from all other nationalities, to come and experience Slavic culture firsthand,” Holove said.

The organizers were proud of their stage program, Holove added. That included traditional Russian folk dancing, traditional Ukrainian dancing and singing, and cultural dancers from Uzbek and Tajik, in addition to Romanian entertainers.

Just before Nataliya Lushchuk and Anastasiia Burtseva of Nezbudka mount the stage for singing and dancing, they stop for a photo.

“All of these people, whose countries were part once of the Soviet Union, come and share their culture with all of us; that’s important because, under the Soviet Union, their traditional heritages and cultures were suppressed.

“But here in America, people from these countries are experiencing the culture of their ancestors,” Holove clarified. “For me, being born in Tajikistan, I have roots that go back to Ukraine, Russia, Poland. So, growing up in Tajikistan, it was difficult to get exposed to our historic culture.

“Now, 33 years later, I’m able to experience it all – in America, of all places – at our Portland Slavic Festival.  That’s the best part, for me, about this day,” Holove remarked with a smile.

A regular feature at the festival is bird fanciers bringing their pigeons and other feathered friends for display and judging.

Many volunteers help
Putting on a festival of this size took a lot of volunteers, Holove said. “We have amazing volunteers! More than 60 people came out just today, to help set this up, and a core group worked for a year to produce the festival.”

Asked why so many volunteers work so hard, Holove said after a pause, “Because Slavic people are like that. They want to help their community, and now our American community, and want to show their culture and have it noticed.”

Many exhibit booths provide opportunities for festival goers to learn more about available services and products.

He told East Portland News that he beamed with pride when Mayor Ted Wheeler had announced January 7-14 (2019) as the official Slavic and Eastern European Heritage Week – and the city held a festival at IRCO for immigrants of former Soviet Republic. “We hope the City of Portland will remember that there are more than 150,000 from the four former Soviet republics that live in the Portland Metro area,” Holove remarked.

Finally, he asked that all the grants and in-kind donations from the East Portland Action Plan, Portland Parks & Recreation, and Regional Arts & Culture Council be recognized in this story. We’re happy to do so!

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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