Express & Star

Eastern European community come together for celebratory event

One of the oldest surviving Slavic holidays was celebrated with a day of music and food in the heart of Sandwell

Nine-year-old Nikolai Haynes is pictured with other youngsters in traditional costumes ahead of their performance at the Maslenitsa celebrations

More than 500 people from across the Eastern European community came together at the Phoenix Collegiate in West Bromwich to join in Maslenitsa celebrations.

The tradition of Maslenitsa dates back to pagan times, when Russian people would bid farewell to winter and welcome spring, and has become known as Pancake week in Russia.

It is traditionally celebrated with the eating of pancakes each day of the week with different fillings, with each day celebrating a theme.

Many of the people taking part in the event wore traditional costumes at the Maslenitsa celebration party

The event at Phoenix Collegiate followed the traditions of Maslenitsa with the eating of pancakes, but combined it with a full celebration of Eastern European culture.

It was organised by U Island CIC, who work to help children and families from Eastern European communities with integration and other processes.

Director Irina Oshenye said the event was about celebrating your heritage and bringing all the different Eastern European communities together and spoke about what it meant to be able to put this event on.

Traditional costumes and dances were all part of the fun on the day

She said: "It's really encouraging to put on this type of event because of where we came from as a little group with a couple of children and their parents.

"Now we have so many people coming to our events, and it's very encouraging.

"It's necessary people do want to stick to their roots, keep their heritage and teach their children about it."

Plenty of pancakes were consumed, with a number of different fillings

The event had stalls set up with sweets and books from across Eastern Europe, as well as sweet and savoury baked goods, and a range of activities for children.

There was also a full programme of music, traditional dances and sing-a-longs with folk songs, with Russian folk legends like the three-headed dragon appearing on stage.

Irina spoke about the significance of an event like this in terms of teaching younger generations about their culture.

There was a unique currency for buying food and drink, with U Coins for £1 and 50p

She said: "The significance of the songs and the performances is because our generation came here already grown up, so we have some sort of background.

"We know the songs that our mothers sang, our grandparents sang and we know these things because we grew up in that culture.

"Our kids that were born here and have grown up here have not experienced this, so these events are mainly for our children for our younger generation to know who they are.

Traditional dancing and folk songs formed part of the entertainment on the day

"It's also to show they should not be ashamed with who they are and to be proud of who they are being British and, at the same time, having that amazing background."

Irina also had a message for anyone who was interested in going to the celebrations in 2021.

She said: "I would say to anyone who isn't from this culture and wants to know about it is that it is lots of fun.

"There's lots of interesting cultural facts, lots of very tasty food and lots of people to meet new contacts."