The annual Slovak picnic in Ottawa this year brought out the usual happy gang, but also provided a place for some out-of-towners to meet and enjoy Slovak life here.
Take Julia Najibova. She has been in Canada for more than 20 years, in Montreal, Vancouver and then Ottawa as a translator with our Foreign Affairs Department. She is of the southern Slovak Hungarian origin. Her languages are French, English, Russian, Hungarian, Arabic and Slovak. And by accident she discovered we have a Slovak picnic and an active community. Julia said she was delighted that at last, she could come and meet so many people of her background, and enjoy talking the language she grew up with. It brought back many memories of her young history before she married a Moroccan and lived there and brought up Arab-speaking children.
From not quite so far away or so exotic – unless you think Oakville, Ontario is more exotic than most of us do – the picnic welcomed Lorraine and Robert Fedurco. They've been to Ottawa before to visit their son Ryan, who is a prominent student at Carleton University. But they also had no contact until Ryan himself became a Slovak activist here.
At Carleton, he is with a student group that works to make students familiar with the cultures of all countries in the world. He realized most of them hardly knew Slovakia. So he contacted the Slovak Embassy and arranged a comprehensive visit for the group to discover us. That got HIM in close touch with our Ottawa Slovaks, and now his parents are as well.
The picnic has been sponsored for longer than most people can remember by the Belloni family, at their farm and forest an hour's drive from Ottawa. The Belloni farm is out in a forested natural area, a great setting for good Slovak food and discussion. Children find all sorts of interesting things in the woods - like big sticks - to invent sports for themselves. And CSL president Mary Ann Doucette makes sure everyone knows this is a natural Slovak picnic, but also very Canadian. To work off the Slovak food and discussions, many adults find volleyball the thing to do.
Hyacintha (Jacka) Belloni remains the chief cook and the hostess She gets help from her sons and from community members who contribute prominent Slovak food. And help with the work of putting the picnic on, and cleaning it up.
The cost is covered entirely by voluntary contributions. Any profits go to Slovak enterprises, including Kanadsky Slovak.
Text and Photos: Jan George Frajkor