Eastern European Festival celebrates cultural diversity with fashion, music and more

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Music, food and plenty of cultural pride dominated the Eastern European festival on Sunday in the Cathedral of Learning.

Pitt’s Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies organized the festival, which brought together vendors, educators and advocates with roots in nearly every country in Eastern Europe. About 100 people attended the event.

Vendors presented traditional Eastern European fashion, and each intricately detailed dress and shirt expressed something about the country it came from. An example is a cream-colored Romanian shirt with small black patches on the collar that looked simple from a distance but had lots of detail up close.

Live music also entertained attendees during the festival. Gipsy Stringz, an acoustic quartet that plays Eastern European music with traditional instruments, was the first act. Later in the day, singers Kathleen Manukyan and Zuly Inirio entertained the crowd with a few songs while Robert Frankenberry played the piano.

The children were seated doing arts and crafts. Some made paper snowflakes, a tradition in Poland, while others enthusiastically colored the outlines of various Eastern European countries.

Gypsy Stringz performs at the Eastern European Festival in the Cathedral of Learning on Sunday.
(Pamela Smith | Visual Editor)

Larry Kozlowski, a popular artist who ran the paper snowflake station, told of the importance of passing on traditions. He said people should learn about their own heritage, especially when they get older and find themselves alone.

“It teaches us who we are, where we come from and where we are going,” Kozlowski said.

“Once your parents are dead… It’s the only connection you have with the past, which unlocks the future.”

He said people need to learn about culture outside of the classroom, which many Americans struggle with because they’ve lost touch with their family’s culture over time. He added that people can come into contact with different cultures to broaden their view of the world.

“We are all one but many… anyone has as much culture as anyone else,” Kozlowski said.

Areti Papanastasiou, a teacher of Modern Greek, said contact with cultures other than your own allows for a better understanding of your own culture. She pointed out that many English words have Greek origins, including words like philosophy, chaos and math.

“Once you learn another culture, you will understand the nuances of your own,” Papanastasiou said. “About 25% of words in English have Greek roots.”

The vendors also shared their culture with the attendees by selling various items from their home countries. Lesya Jurgovsky stood behind a table with a variety of Ukrainian cultural clothing for sale. Jurgovsky runs a charity to help Ukrainians suffering as a result of the Russian invasion earlier this year.

“I run a Ukrainian charity for war victims 一 orphans and other people who have been displaced and cannot leave Ukraine,” Jurgovsky said. “That’s why I’m here today 一 to support the people of Ukraine.”

Despite their diverse backgrounds, each individual present had a deep appreciation for their own culture and for the blending of cultures. Whether they came to pass on old traditions, share their love of a language, raise money for charity, or share ethnic cuisine, they all did so out of appreciation.

“We’re all different, but we’re all similar when it comes to laughing and crying and everything else,” Kozlowski said. “A family is no longer what it used to be, but love has no language. It is a language of your heart that you speak.

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