I can’t decide how I want to start, but I think I will go in chronological order with this post and then continue with some thematic ones a bit later. As I get more photos, I’ll add them, so look for updates to this post. And to be sufficiently vague before I get into it, some details are left out to protect the innocent.
We left Wednesday (3 June) afternoon and got across the Serbian border before we stopped for the night in Palić, a cute lakeside resort. We stayed in an amazing place – the sign out front said two stars, but it most certainly wasn’t. It was brand new, and we had excellent accommodations and an excellent breakfast. So if you’re ever in Palić, Serbia, I’d totally and unequivocally suggest the Villa Lago pension. After breakfast, we walked a bit around the lake (a significant tourist destination, it would seem) and then hit the road for Ruski Kerestur on Thursday morning. The most significant thing about the drive was the rather obvious observation that the Pannonian plain is FLAT. Really flat. Absolutely no hills. You can see for miles and miles and miles.
I was having a BLAST enjoying all the Yugos and Zastavas – classic cars, well-preserved Fiat technology.
When we got to Ruski Kerestur, we knew we had arrived when in the middle of the town we saw a huge Rusyn flag, along with the flags of the EU, Serbia and the autonomous region of Vojvodina.
We registered, sampled the local brandy (amazing), had lunch and went to the pension where we were staying in Kula, about 10km away from Ruski Kerestur. We went back, and went to the Gymnasium Petro Kuzmiak to see the Gallery of Famous Rusyns, which is a project of the World Congress of Rusyns, and then while there was a play being performed by the local Rusyn theatre group, I went with a friend and colleague to the meeting of the World Council of Rusyns as representatives of the World Forum of Rusyn Youth, because we would have no president until the next day – long story, long meeting. Finally we ate dinner, I had some more brandy, and we got back on the bus to go back to Kula.
It was really excellent that we, the youth, were all staying in one place together and we were moving together at the same times, so we were always able to sing, drink, and dance together:
Friday, after the official opening of the Congress, we got ourselves together for the actual proceedings of the World Forum of Rusyn Youth in the afternoon. Overall, not bad, and I think we hashed out most of the issues we needed to in order to reorganize a bit and move forward.
The view from where I was sitting at the Forum.
Stork nest on Rusinska ulica in Ruski Kerestur.
Right around the time of the Forum, my good friend Brian (check out some of his side projects) showed up with two non-Rusyn friends. We were all wondering if/when he was going to show up, and he did and it was great to have a drink with him and catch up. It’s also wonderful to witness non-Rusyns being introduced to the warm craziness of Rusyn activities, because we really make a strong impression, it would seem.
In the early evening on Friday there was a cultural program, which is always one of the highlights of the WCR. The folklore groups in Vojvodina are all really professional and a true pleasure to watch:
After the cultural program, some dinner (with a beer called Jelen Pivo, which means deer beer, which rhymes so nicely in English), discussion, and dancing, we headed back to Kula where the party was a bit less intense than the night before, though included some more drinking and dancing. I talked with a young Romanian Rusyn ethnomusicologist – and was totally impressed by her positive energy and great enthusiasm.
Saturday morning we were up and out around 9 (it goes without saying I didn’t sleep too much the whole weekend) – and our first stop was Kocur. We visited the school, where there was an amazing photographic exhibit, then visited with the mayor, then an ethnographic exhibit in an old house – with a great horse-drawn hearse in the back – and finally we skipped out on visiting the church in favor of an all too-short visit to the (infamous?) MC Pegasus, where a rally was just getting started. It was too cool, and an honor to visit there with the reigning beer-drinking champion of the club.
From Kocur, we went for lunch in Vrbas (the town formerly known as Titov Vrbas, which I was to revisit again in the wee hours of the morning) and then headed to Novi Sad. Our hosts insisted over and over again that Novi Sad is way better than Belgrade, and I’ll believe them. It’s definitely a city I’d like to return to – hell, I can’t wait to go back to all of these places, really.
Panorama of Novi Sad from Petrovaradin Fortress. Yes, that's the Danube.
We also went to the University and Novi Sad Ruska Matka headquarters, where we met even more young Rusyns and it was all totally cool. As a member of the World Council of Rusyn Youth, I got to visit the Parliament of Vojvodina with the other members of the Council -- Parliament there has 6 official languages!!
Leaving out a few details, we got back to Prešov safely on Sunday night.