Oksana Tepp wore a traditional Ukrainian dress and put a wreath of flowers on her head for her role as the ambassador of Ukraine during Saturday’s Unity in the Community event in Riverfront Park.
She told people who stopped by her booth in the Cultural Village that the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag represent the blue sky and wheat. She talked about traditional dresses like hers being worn on holidays and special occasions. She dispelled the myth that Ukraine is part of Russia and pointed out her home country on the map.
She has lived in Spokane for 10 years. On a recent trip to her home country, she picked up several cultural items that she put on display at the booth, including two intricately carved wooden pipes. It’s her second year at the event and she said she likes teaching children that people are the same no matter what country they come from.
“I saw the interest from people,” she said. “It’s an event for children to learn about cultures. For me it’s important.”
Children in grades K-8 could visit booths in the Cultural Village to get their passports stamped and learn about countries like Finland, Sweden, Germany, Norway and Thailand. Some people who stopped by Tepp’s booth took the time to ask questions about the artifacts on display. “We’re trying to teach a little bit about history, about culture, to make sure they can find Ukraine on the map,” Tepp said.
The 20th annual event also featured cultural entertainment and booths offering information on higher education, jobs and health care. The bright green bags filled with school supplies given to children who collected passport stamps from all the countries were a major draw.
“This is great,” said Robyn Eddy as her two children clutched their bags of new supplies. “There’s a lot that they have to get. It definitely helps.”
Eddy, visiting the event for the first time, was impressed by the Cultural Village. “This is a really wonderful way for kids to learn more,” she said.
This year, Unity in the Community organizers collected enough donated school supplies to create 1,100 bags. The contents of each bag were determined by the grade-level lists of needed supplies put out by Spokane Public Schools. More than two dozen volunteers spent about eight hours assembling the bags, said Marianne McCormack of STCU. The credit union donated the bags to hold the supplies and provided employees to hand them out.