By Leah Dorotiak, (Лія Доротяк), Social Media Manager at Huddersfield Ukrainian Club
It has been over a year since Huddersfield Ukrainian Club closed its doors to members for the first time in over 70 years but our ever-growing community has never felt so connected.
Formed in 1948, the Huddersfield branch acts as a ‘home away from home’ for the 250 Ukrainian exiles who re-settled within the town.
The club quickly developed into the centre for the strong and vibrant Ukrainian community within West Yorkshire, a place where members can truly come together and continue to promote their traditions – whether that be through their love for Ukrainian Borshch or volleyball!
Now into their third and fourth generations, the younger members of the club are taking the helm to ensure these traditions are not forgotten and will be carried forward with future generations.
What we do: At Huddersfield Ukrainian Club, we work in a way to promote community spirit and encourage members, from all generations and backgrounds, to discover more about our vibrant heritage.
In doing so, we welcome new members who are researching, or have already completed, their family history that connects them to Ukraine, and help them reconnect with and learn the culture.
Additionally, we also host numerous traditional and cultural events throughout the year. These include traditional cookery lessons teaching staple Ukrainian dishes, Pysanky Easter Egg writing classes, language lessons, and traditional dancing classes alongside others.
As our social media channels gained momentum, these events enjoyed the presence of not only our community, but also members of the general public, who wanted to discover and connect with a new culture.
Perhaps most popular is our annual Christmas Eve meal, known as Sviat Vechir. This notable occasion marks the birth of Jesus Christ and includes a Holy Meal of 12 traditional Ukrainian dishes. This is attended by the Mayor of Kirklees alongside other dignitaries. Our last meal to take place in 2019 even enjoyed a special feature on Look North.
We are always welcoming new members to our community. Our aim is to keep our culture and traditions alive, whilst promoting and supporting the interests of our Ukrainian Community.
Unprecedented times: Throughout the year, our Events and Social Media Team have been working hard to ensure all our members are up to date with and continue to be involved in our community, adapting to ensure that we can continue promoting as many traditions as possible.
Harnessing the power of social media, we have appealed to numerous new members, who had not previously reached out to the club but were keen to re-connect with their roots.
The greatest surprise of all, is how drastically our membership numbers grew throughout the lockdowns. As local businesses suffered in the unprecedented times, people soon realised the importance of cultural heritage, and the need to support the club.
Subsequently, existing members, those with Ukrainian heritage, and people from within the local Huddersfield community rallied together to help keep our club open, thus joining as members.
To adapt to the current climate of social distancing, our Ukrainian Language Lessons moved to the online platform Zoom.
This allowed us to subsequently expand classes to accommodate the growing interest, helping us connect with people from across the country, including those who may have not had the chance to learn the language due to physical distance to Huddersfield.
Similarly, we adapted our other social events accordingly. As our annual Christmas dinner event could not take place, we encouraged our members to put their own spin on the celebration from home.
We created a five-part blog series focused on Ukrainian Christmas Traditions and encouraged our members to share photos and memories to our private Facebook group.
Most importantly, our community have pulled together to support those most in need. Recently, we donated over 70 Christmas shoeboxes to a children’s orphanage in Ternopil, Ukraine, with the help of Petro Dorotiak and our Ukrainian teacher Lidiia Nicholls.
Looking to the future: Late last year, I conducted a virtual interview with one of our most dedicated committee members, Mr Dumskjy, to commemorate his 50th work anniversary at the club.
His answers encapsulate the true meaning of our Ukrainian Club, as a hub where people can come together to celebrate traditions and create a space in which they could relate closely to home.
Mr Dumskjy’s poignant message to our younger generations encouraged them to “be proud of your Ukrainian name, join the Ukrainian community and help to promote Ukrainian traditions and culture.”
Indeed, despite the recent challenges, the community spirit within our Ukrainian community continues to strengthen and grow.
Although we have remained in touch, we are looking forward to re-opening our doors to both new and existing members.
The cultural events hosted at Huddersfield are not just open to those of Ukrainian descent. Feel free to come and pay us a visit when we re-open and get involved in our bright and vibrant culture. We look forward to welcoming you!
Follow Huddersfield Ukrainian Club’s social media pages to get regular updates about cultural events, sign up to their newsletter and make sure you keep an eye on their website.