Simply Slavic, one of Youngstown’s signature cultural celebrations, held its sixth event on Federal Street on June 17.
This annual event was founded by Dave Slanina, Aundrea Cika-Heschmeyer and Ken Shirilla in 2011 to commemorate the similarities and differences of the Slavic cultures in the Mahoning Valley.
Someone who is considered Slavic is someone who is from or has ancestors that came from Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovin, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and the Carpatho-Rusyn areas.
Before the first Simply Slavic in 2011, many Slavic clubs in the area would have their own events, but would not celebrate their Slavic heritage together. Polish people would celebrate with the Polish, Cerbian with the Cerbian and so on.
Simply Slavic was the first and only gathering of all of the Slavic heritages, which Shirilla says, have a larger presence in Youngstown than many think.
Food, t-shirts, Slavic beer and food are all available at the event. There is also entertainment provided by an array of musical guests. Attendees can also put their delicacy making skills to the test in a baking contest or showcase their traditional dance moves to a variety of polka beats.
The event’s popularity has only grown with time and garnered more attention.
2017’s Simply Slavic festival brought a special guest, Mayor Jan Volny of Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia.
Volny came to celebrate the 25th year of sisterhood between his home of Spisska Nova Ves and Youngstown. The two cities have been working together for a quarter of a century, promoting well-being and cultural connection.
To honor this partnership, Volny presented Mayor John McNally with two handcrafted wooden plaques bearing the image of the seals of Youngstown and Spisska Nova Ves. There is a similar pair of carvings on display in Slovakia.
According to Shirilla, many of the people who call Youngstown home have roots in Spisska Nova Ves.
But Simply Slavic isn’t just for those of Slavic descent.
“Each year, we have a map set up at the festival where attendees can place a pin on the location of their ancestors,” Shirilla said. “As expected, many people who attend the festival pin not only the Slavic nations, but also Italy, Hungary, Romania, Germany, Austria and many other countries. This is what makes the Youngstown area… so special.”