On October 17, the Canadian Slovak League Branch 23 of Welland, held their annual banquet. However, 2015 has significant meaning for the members of this branch. This year they celebrated their 75th year as a Branch of the Canadian Slovak League and as a Slovak community in Welland.
Branch 23 was organized on October 6, 1940. It was through traditions, heritage, language and friendship that brought this group together. Over the years the Branch grew in numbers and became very active as a Slovak community in the City of Welland.
To honor and commemorate this momentous milestone, they celebrated, along with honorary dignitaries and special performances. Upon arrival, Branch 23's Kraska, Kiersten Atamanyk and her sister Brooke, dressed in Slovak costumes, offered bread and salt to everyone - a Slovak tradition for welcoming guests. Pictures from the past, bringing back memories, were provided by Christine Hawker. Pictures of the event were taken by Mike Dinga.
Held at St. Anthony's Church on River Road in Welland, members welcomed Reverend Latislav Kozak from the Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Paul of Toronto and also from St. Matthew's Lutheran Church of Smithville; NDP Member of Parliament of Canada, Malcolm Allen; Member of the Provincial Parliament of Ontario, Cindy Forster; City of Welland Councillor, Pat Chiocchio; National President of the Canadian Slovak League, Mary Ann Doucette; Executive Director of the Welland Heritage and Multicultural Center of Welland, Claire Masswohl; and President of the Welland Heritage and Multicultural Center of Welland, Anne Semeniuk. Greetings were also received from Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper; Premier of the Province of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne; and Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to Canada, Andrej Droba. Throughout the evening, entertainment was provided by the Vychodna Dancers of Mississauga. Through hard work, dedication and passion for Slovak dance, they have been able to exist and grow for 31 years. Branch 23 has always been proud and pleased to help support Vychodna over the years, for having them attend and perform at many of its banquets and open houses in the past, and for giving us the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate this part of our heritage. We were also honored to have a special guest, Livia Vartovnikova, from Spiš Slovakia who sang several songs for us. Livia has been singing professionally for many years, has her own CD's, teaches singing and dancing and also has her own dance group in Slovakia. The Fujara, known as the shepherd's flute, is a traditional instrument to Slovakia which produces rich mellow sounds and is held vertically to play. The talented Reverend Latislav Kozak played several interesting melodies on this unique instrument. The evening ended with dance music provided by Miro Letko. Everyone had a wonderful time, with delicious food prepared by the caterers of St. Anthony's, the wonderful entertainment and a musical ending to the evening. The event was a success.
Through the dedication and hard work of all its members over the 75 years, CSL Branch 23 is very proud of everything they have accomplished. Traditions, heritage and friendship have kept us united.
Christine Dzugan, President