Young Ukrainians come to Korea to dance and dream
At 3:30 p.m. Monday at Incheon International Airport, the faces of young people wearing yellow and blue T-shirts were full of smiles.
They were members of a young Ukrainian folk dance group called Mriya. They had made it to Korea against many odds.
They boarded a bus bound for Jeonju City and the World Cultural Dance Festival.
The name of the group relates directly to the Russian-Ukraine war.
When Russia's missiles poured into Kyiv in late February, the Mriya, a cargo aircraft, was under repair at an airport near Hostomel, northwest of the capital city. The airport was destroyed, and the airplane could not be moved.
Mriya, meaning “the dream” in Ukrainian, was the world’s largest cargo aircraft. It was developed by the Soviet Union in the late 1980s for the transportation of rockets. It couldn’t avoid the shelling and crumbled.
The destruction of the Mriya came as a great shock to Ukrainian refugees who fled their homes. It was a symbol of their entire existences collapsing.
"I was merely a foreigner who didn't speak German in Germany," said Veronica, a 23-year-old university student who fled to Germany. "Time seemed to have stopped. Like Mriya, I was afraid my dreams will disappear."
That's when Joshua Lee, 51, reached out to the Ukrainians. The Korean-German missionary in Germany created a non-profit organization named Ich halte Dich in April with about 10 volunteers helping refugees. Ich halte Dich, which is German for "I will hold you," was started to restore the aspirations of young Ukrainians.
The Mriya Project took off after more than 40 Ukrainian young people gathered from all over Germany. At an event where the members were talking about their dreams, one Ukrainian university student came up with the idea of participating in the World Cultural Dance Festival in Korea. The Mriya dance team was born with the goal to show that Ukraine is alive on the international stage.
After overcoming various obstacles over passports and airplane tickets, Mriya made their way to Korea and will perform at the dance festival in Jeonju, North Jeolla, on Thursday.
In traditional Ukrainian clothes, the dance team will perform traditional dances of their home country in three acts — starting with a depiction of their country at peace, then thrust into war, and finally at peace again. It is the dance team's wish that the performance will make people around the world see the spirit of Ukraine is still alive.
“Although Mriya (the airplane) is destroyed, our Mriya (dream) is not over,” said Roman, the leader of the team, at Incheon International Airport. “We’re not going to lose but keep going on. Please keep an eye on us.”
BY SHIM SEOK-YONG [email@example.com]