YAVORIV, Ukraine – Soldiers from the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment of the Tennessee National Guard visited the local orphanage for children with special needs to celebrate and participate in a traditional Ukrainian holiday, Vechornytsi, or St. Andrews Eve, on Wednesday.
The children performed on stage for the troops and explained the history of the traditional holiday through skit, song and dance. They wore traditional clothes such as the "Vyshyvanka," which is an embroidered outfit worn historically to protect them from harm. Now, the "Vyshyvanka" is worn to honor the culture of Ukrainian people.
This holiday dates back to the 19th century and is still celebrated throughout the country. Because of its heritage, part of this tradition also included fortune telling, in which the children learned of their future employment or their future marriage. Nowadays, they still partake in the tradition to honor their ancestors and their history.
"Ukraine's history is incredibly rich and diverse in culture with influences from all over Europe," said 1st Lt. Geoff Coleman. "I think it is a beautiful thing that they still hold on to traditions and customs, which date back centuries ago and it was an honor to be a part of it today."
The event concluded with a dinner that included dumplings and sugar doughnuts, which the children made from the supplies they gathered from the harvest. The troops sang and ate alongside the children and learned more about their history.
This is the fifth visit to the orphanage for many of the troops and several have grown close with the children.
"It's always a heartfelt pleasure to spend some time with the children and yesterday was such a blessing," stated Sgt. 1st Class John Bryant. "I cherish the times we are able to spend with them and truly enjoy learning more about them and their culture."
The 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment is deployed to Ukraine as a part of a joint, multinational group in support of developing their combat training center.