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Local Ukrainian dancers pay tribute to Edmonton politician

The recent death of an Edmonton politician’s legacy can be felt across the province, including right here in the Border City. The Lloydminster Malanka Dancers held a moment of silence for Gene Zwozdesky, former Speak of the House in the Alberta Legislative Assembly, who passed on January 6.

The annual Dine and Dance was held by the Lloydminster Ukrainian Cultural Association (LUCA) to celebrate Ukrainian food, culture and Ukrainian New Year’s. President of the LUCA, Amanda Graf, says the dance club is at the forefront of their organization. She says that Zwozdesky was a big advocate for the Ukrainian community since he performed many roles to keep Ukrainian traditions alive.

“He was a performer and music director of Shumka and Cheremosh Ukrainian dance class, and he was also the executive director of the Alberta Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Alberta Ukrainian Centennial Commission. So obviously he was a huge proponent for keep Ukrainian cultural traditions alive in Alberta,” says Graf.

Graf says that on the political side of things, much of Zwozdesky’s work may have gone over the young dancer’s heads. Alberta MLAs like Dr. Richard Starke were in attendance and her 11-year-old daughter asked her what an MLA was. Despite this, Graf says the presence of these figures shows how much Ukrainian culture is part of the community.

“It’s giving our small little club that only has 25 families, and showing the community and our dancers the impact we can have even though we are small. Showing our students someone like that ascended to such a high level in politics, I think it’s a great role model and an opportunity for them to be proud of their heritage, because he was, and we all are.”

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The event kept in line with Ukrainian traditions by offering a complimentary vodka shot at the door. Dancers performed before a traditional Ukrainian dinner was served, followed by a folk band from Edmonton called Millenia. Traditional Ukrainian culture has become a part of the Lloydminster Malanka Dancers meetings, but Graf says you don’t have to be Ukrainian to enjoy the culture.

“We have several family members that have no Ukrainian roots at all, but they just love the dance, and the comradery, and the club, and everything that we offer,” says Graf.

LUCA’s Ukrainian Dancing on the Border Festival will be held April 12, 13 and 14 at the Vic Juba Community Theatre. The event draws over 500 dancers from across Alberta and Saskatchewan. They will also be holding their Heritage Concert in Marwayne, Alta. on May 11. Information about their events can be found on their website or through their Facebook page.

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