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Russian Club hosts annual Maslenitsa festival, expresses support for Ukraine

Kathleen Forrest


Photo by Kathleen Forrest

On Wednesday, March 1, in the Kramer Board Room in Ford Hall, Willamette’s Russian Club held an event to mark the holiday of Maslenitsa. Described by the club as the ‘Slavic Mardi Gras’, Maslenitsa marks the end of winter and the welcoming of spring in the pagan tradition, and the beginning of Lent in the Christian tradition. The club’s event also gave space to recognize and mourn the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

A primary feature of Maslenitsa are Russian crepes called blini, as many give up dairy products for Lent, the crepes mark a last hurrah as well as representing the sun of spring in their shape. The Russian club had a spread of towers of crepes, as well as condiments such as condensed milk, sour cream and jams. There was also an array of pickled vegetables, Slavic sodas and candy.

President of the Russian Club, Christina Clothier (‘23) spoke first, introducing the event and noting the recent invasion of Ukraine. “We can’t really ignore what’s going on, especially given the Slavic holiday,” she said. There were sunflowers – the national flower of Ukraine – at the entrance to the event and QR codes on the table to donate to Ukrainian humanitarian aid and to the Ukraine military.

Professor Sarah Bishop, a professor of Russian studies and advisor to Russian Club, spoke next and read a piece from Ineda Pearl Adesanya, the university chaplain, centered around offering support both for Ukraine and for Slavic peoples during the holiday time.

Alex Dmitrichuck (‘25) spoke as someone who was originally from Ukraine and raised there for roughly ten years of his life. Dmitrichuck shared that he speaks Russian instead of Ukrainian because of the Russification of the country that happened under the Soviet Union. He also expressed sympathy for the Russian people and emphasized that, “there are innocents on both sides of this mess.”

Returning to the celebratory spirit of Maslenitsa, Bishop invited “anyone who has ever spoken a word of Russian on this campus” to come up and sing a traditional song in Russian. Students made effigies of winter out of paper and wooden utensils, decorating them with markers. Outside Ford was a well-stoked fire pit where the effigies of winter were then burned, as a part of the Slavic tradition to welcome spring.

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