Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Slovakia were just some of the states and countries that were represented at the 8th Annual Vatra sponsored by the Carpatho-Rusyn Chapters of Cleveland and Youngstown-Warren-Sharon in Burton, OH. The Vatra was held at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch.
With a sunny day and great Rusyn food, a crowd of over 300 people attended the Vatra on Saturday, September 15, 2012. Laurel Tombazzi, Rusyn Ambassador from ClevelandPeople.com was the Mistress of Ceremonies this year.
Dean Poloka, Director of Slavjane Folk Ensemble, Pittsburgh, Laurel Tombazzi, Mistress of Ceremonies and Director of Karpato-Rus' Ensemble, Cleveland, Cathy and Tom Katrenich, Directors of Living Traditions Folk Ensemble, Cleveland
She introduced Rusyn Folk Ensembles like Living Traditions (Cleveland, OH) and Slavjane (Pittsburgh, PA) as well as announcing the Byzantine Singers (Lorain, OH).
For Rusyns, a Vatra is a name given for a time when there is an outside bonfire, good food, drink, socializing and singing Rusyn folk songs. Also men are challenged to jump over the fire at a Vatra.
Bonfire at Rusyn Vatra
The annual Vatra always celebrates the Divine Liturgy in memory of the deceased Rusyn ancestors, which is followed by a Panchida (a memorial service for the dead). While attending the Divine Liturgy is optional at the Vatra, about 75% of those in attendance were part of this spiritual celebration. The responses to the Divine Liturgy were sung by the St. Nicholas Byzantine Choir from Barberton, OH under the direction of Rita Benya.
Divine Liturgy at Rusyn Vatra
Jim Basista, Youngstown-Warren-Sharon President of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society is responsible for all the delicious food at the Vatra. Hundreds of volunteer hours go into making the halusky (dumplings with cabbage), studenia (jellied pigs feet), pierogies (large dumplings filled with cheese, potato or prune) or mushroom soup. Bacon is also cooked and served over rye bread along with another favorite Rusyn meat, kolbasz.
Laurel Tombazzi, Mistress of Ceremonies and Drew Marko, Tenor Singer for the Byzantine Singers
Bonnie Burke, Cleveland President of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society, always makes sure there is "something for everyone." The youngest attendee was 3 months old and the oldest attendee was 94!
Pinata fun at the Vatra
Children can do various art activities while some young adults in the evening try to jump over a blazing fire! This year's bonfire size was 8 foot diameter with a 4 foot high flame! To witness these brave people jump over the fire added to the excitement and fireside entertainment that was provided by local and out of town Rusyns. Others sing and/or dance around the bonfire which continues long after the official close of the Vatra.
Mark your calendars now for the 9th Annual Vatra on Saturday, September 21, 2013! Come see what it is like to be Rusyn and learn about this beautiful heritage. Your knowledge about Rusyns will be enhanced while having fun!
Text and photos by Laurel Tombazzi
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