University City

Ukrainian eggs join lineup at UNCC festival

You might think Natalie Kravchuk decorates eggs because she was born on Easter.

Outlining the delicate white shells with wax and then repeatedly dying the eggs in vivid colors is an ancient craft that she began learning from her Ukrainian-born grandfather at age 4.

Her hobby is a matter of family pride. She is conspicuously keeping alive an ethnic tradition that the Soviet regime would have liked to squash as it pushed for a more singular identity before it fell, Kravchuk explained.

This year, Ukrainians are celebrating 20 years of sovereignty as what is now Europe's largest country, only slightly smaller than Texas.

Kravchuk will commemorate the anniversary - and proliferation of the art of Pysanky among Ukrainian descendants internationally - by displaying her eggs Saturday at UNC Charlotte's 36th annual International Festival.

"All of the nations that were under the former Soviet Union were terribly oppressed culturally," the Concord resident said. "It's important for these nations to resurrect these traditions."

Student and community groups will represent more than 55 nations at the festival through exhibits, a marketplace, performances at Halton Arena and more than 30 ethnic-food stands in and outside Barnhardt Student Activity Center.

The free festival celebrates diversity at the university and in the Charlotte region. About 12,000 people are expected throughout the day.

The music and dance of a variety of nations will be presented inside Halton Arena and outdoors.

Many of the organizations will come together for a parade at 2 p.m. at Halton Arena in a showcase of costumes and traditions.

The festival was one of the first local events to draw culture and entertainment from the emergence of an international population in Charlotte.

Today, nearly 13 percent of Mecklenburg County's more than 827,000 residents are foreign-born, according to census data.

The university has helped University City rank among the most racially diverse communities in the metropolitan area, with students and faculty from more than 80 countries.

The festival allows often lesser-known members of the international community to introduce themselves and their customs. Those who attend can get a better sense of the people who now call the area home.

"We hope that it will lead people into a greater appreciation of the diversity within our community, a greater level of comfort," said Marian Beane, UNCC's festival chairperson, "and we hope they will pursue other opportunities to connect and learn more."