Ukrainians descend on Glasgow for Ukraine-Scotland soccer match

Articles, Ukrainian Weekly


Published in the Ukrainian Weekly. Download the PDF of this article (starts on page 1).

By Christina Maria Paschyn
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2007

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – Kilts may still be the hot thing to wear in Scotland, but last weekend a new fashion craze hit the streets of Glasgow: red boots and embroidered shirts.

More than 300 Ukrainians from Europe and North America descended on the city on Oct. 13th to watch the Ukrainian national soccer team play against Scotland.

Although Scotland won the match 3-1, the Ukraine fans still managed to stun the crowds at Hampden Park stadium.

Dressed in bright yellow Ukraine soccer shirts and traditional costumes, the small group stood out amidst the 52,000 kilt-wearing Scots surrounding them.

Throughout the match the Diaspora members waved massive blue and yellow flags and sporadically broke into song, belting Chervony Ruty at the top of their lungs.

Keeping the group’s rhythm was Volodymyr Hnatiw, 41, from Coventry, England.

Known as something of a legend in the Ukrainian-European community, Hnatiw marched into the stadium dressed in a full Kozak outfit with blue sharavary and a wool Taras Bulba-like hat.

Volodymyr Hnatiw, 41, from Coventry, England, keeps the beat for Ukraine fans. Photo by Christina Paschyn, Scotland, 2007.

And with a Ukrainian flag draped over his shoulders, Mr. Baraban – as he is nicknamed by adoring Ukraine fans throughout the continent – also had his famous drum in tow.

Hnatiw led the group in chants and cheers, including their favorite tune of the day, “We’re Not Russian, We’re Ukrainian.”  And whenever a lull hit the Ukrainian section, his loud drumming renewed their passion.

“The main reason I do it is to promote Ukraine…to leave a little mark of Ukrainian culture,” Hnatiw said, explaining what first motivated him to become Mr. Baraban.

“I had seen drums in the World Cups…Brazil, Spain, Scotland – they all had them. And I thought that one day Ukraine will be in the World Cup and I’ll bring the drum.”

The poor performance by Captain Andriy Shevchenko and his team, whose sloppy defense allowed Scotland to score two goals within the first 13 minutes of the match, didn’t seem to bother much of the Ukrainian Diaspora.

Indeed, at times they seemed more content to show off their shiny red and black sharavary to inquiring Scotsmen than to watch Ukraine miss yet another goal.

“I just love the atmosphere and the community here, but Ukraine as usual has let us down,” said Chrystyna Chymera, a third-generation Ukrainian-Brit from London, who wore a vinok and a red-embroidered blouse under a blue sardak.

“They [the team] have the skill and talent, but they’re lacking national pride and the desire to do it for their country.”

Still, 23-year-old Chymera hopes the Diaspora presence at the game has inspired the team – and the fans – to give it their all the next time around.

Chrystyna Chymera, 23, from London, and friend wowed the Scots with their traditional costumes. Photo by Christina Paschyn, Scotland, 2007.

“When you go to Ukraine to watch a game, there are no songs, it’s all male dominated and nobody wears costumes,” she explained.  “But I think we’ve opened the eyes of the actual Ukraine fans.”

Larissa Paschyn from Cleveland could attest to that.  The 22-year-old said she got so much attention from supporters from Ukraine that she struggled to make it to her stadium seat on time.

“All these Ukrainians from Kiev wanted to stop and take pictures with me,” said Paschyn, who paired a Burberry plaid kilt with red Ukrainian dancing boots.  “I think they were really impressed at how we were all dressed.  It’s like they had never seen anything like it before.”

But the match had a slightly different appeal for Taras Jaworsky, 47, who is no newcomer to Ukrainian soccer.  The Chicago resident has organized annual international soccer trips for Ukrainian Americans since 1999.

And for the 13 Ukes he brought this year, Jaworsky knew that one ‘sight’ would be an easy sell:

“When I entice someone to come on a trip with us, I always bring up the fact that you should see the Scottish-Ukrainians because of the kilts – it’s a landmark.”

Meet the Scukes

 It’s a comment that Alex Demianczuk never gets tired of hearing.

“It’s true, a lot of people say they just never knew there were Ukrainians in Scotland,” he said smiling with pride.

This second-generation Scottish Ukrainian – or Scuke, as they were dubbed by the Scottish media in the days leading up to the match – could well be considered the face of the Edinburgh Diaspora.

Scottish Ukrainian Alex Demianczuk from Edinburgh, cheers on Ukraine in his Ukrainian jersey and kilt. Photo by Christina Paschyn, Scotland, 2007.

At age 27, Demianczuk has followed the Ukraine national team from Kiev to Copenhagen.  And in 2005 and 2006 respectively, he and several other Ukrainian-Brits traveled to America and Australia to partake in international Ukrainian-Diaspora soccer tournaments.

Throughout his travels, Demianczuk has promoted his unique heritage by wearing a blue and yellow plaid kilt that he had specially made for Ukrainian functions.

“As you can imagine, I get asked to take a lot of photographs.”

Now as club secretary of the Edinburgh branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB), Demianczuk spent the past six months organizing tickets for visiting fans and planning a zabava to show “Ukrainians around the world that Scottish Ukrainians know how to throw a good party.”

If you ask 41-year-old Cleveland Ukrainian Andriy Futey, the community pulled it off:

“I really have to give a big kudos to Scotland.  They are probably the smallest in numbers and it was a large burden, but they really did a fantastic job.”

Going to the Ceilidh

Thanks to the Edinburgh Ukrainians, the supporters were escorted by bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow, where their first stop was a local Scottish social club hired especially for the day.

The Ukes wasted no time beginning the festivities.  And after hours of mingling and making new friends, they danced an impromptu kolomyka.

“The Scottish fans like to party and so do Ukrainians in general who have been brought up in the zabava culture,” said Demianczuk, who wasn’t surprised at how easily everyone socialized.  “You combine these two nationalities and you get one big party.”

But when they arrived at the stadium, the Scukes had a more difficult time getting into the spirit of the game.

“I just felt weird watching it, not being able to support both teams,” said 30-year-old Lesia Demianczuk, who is Alex’s sister.  The self-described die-hard Scotland fan showed her love for both teams by wearing a green and white plaid kilt with matching ribbons on her vinok.  “When Ukraine scores you’re cheering, but its tough.”

Their internal struggles subsided however when the fans returned to Edinburgh for the night’s zabava.

Featuring the music of a young Ukrainian band from England, Chorna Roza, and performances by the Derby, England Ukrainian dance troupe, Hoverla, the Ukes danced the night away, stopping only for a charity raffle.

The prizes included a Ukraine soccer shirt signed by Shevchenko and soccer balls signed by the national team; the proceeds will be donated to orphanages in Ukraine.

For Chicago Ukrainian, Marianne Diachenko, 44, she couldn’t have asked for a better vacation.

“Scotland makes me feel like I’m back in Chicago,” she said. “I just think it’s the commonality that we’re Ukrainian – it’s the patriotism.”

And she alluded that Jaworsky was right – one thing in the Scotland Diaspora really did stand out for her.  But it wasn’t the kilts:

“There’s nothing sexier than a Ukie-Scottish accent.”

When told about that comment, Alex Demianczuk couldn’t help but blush.

“What can I say,” he said laughing.  “We really do have the best combination.”


The Last of the Ukrainians
BY Christina Maria Paschyn

It’s a crisis facing Ukrainian Diasporas throughout the world: the loss of the Ukrainian identity through assimilation.

While many Ukrainians are able to successfully balance their loyalties both to their Ukrainian heritage and to their home country’s particular culture, some children born into the ethnicity eventually drift away from the community.

For large Diasporas like New York or London, where new wave immigration is flourishing, a few lost Ukes hardly make a dent.

But for the Scottish Diaspora, whose numbers after World War 2 were small to begin with and where new wave immigration is low, the loss of a member can be devastating.

“We think there are about 400 Ukrainian new wave immigrants in Scotland,” says Alex Kuryluk, the former head of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB), Edinburgh branch.

The branch designation is misleading.  While the Scottish Diaspora had a thriving community from the 1950s to early 1970s, their numbers have dwindled so much since then that now the Edinburgh branch is the only branch for the entire country.

New Ukrainian immigration to Scotland is not helping.

“Most of them do not come forward,” Kuryluk says.  “There are only a hundred or so who are active in the community.”

That last figure includes second- and third-generation Scottish Ukrainians, who are few and far between as well.

Only about a handful of children participate in community events, says Edinburgh AUGB cultural events planner Lesia Demianczuk.  And she estimates that there are only about eight to ten young adults her age who are still actively involved.

“In the next 10 to 15 years, it’s hard to say whether the community will still be here or not,” she laments.

It wasn’t always like this.  According to Lesia, the Ukrainian community in Scotland once resembled many of the Diaspora communities in England and America.

They had it all: a Ridna Shkola, a Ukrainian dance troupe and a CYM Club.  But low numbers forced all three to close before Lesia, who was born in 1977, even had a chance to grow up.

“That’s why we’re hoping that this weekend [the Oct. 13th Scotland V Ukraine soccer match] is going to do it,” she says.  “There were people who came for the zabava that we haven’t seen in years.”

That’s partly the reason why Alex Demianczuk, Lesia’s brother, organized last weekend’s festivities.

“We had to organize the tickets and the zabava…so that people wouldn’t call us lazy or start saying that that’s the reason the Edinburgh Ukrainian community is dying down,” Alex asserts.

“There aren’t that many young people in the community, so we need to attract them.  We were hoping that if we could advertise it [game and zabava] in a way that the Ukrainians in Edinburgh we don’t know about or who have departed the scene would hear about it, then we could persuade them to come back and be a part of this again.”

But unfortunately, the Edinburgh Diaspora is at the mercy of that hope.

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