Cyprus held the largest event that everyone here was waiting for and preparing for all year round — the Cyprus Carnival with the final grand parade in Limassol. This year, the Ukrainian column took part in the carnival for the first time in its more than one-hundred-year history.
Why did we need it? Someone will say that it is not on time, but the carnival is one of the largest events in Cyprus and all the people’s attention is drawn to the columns. For us, Ukrainian activists in Cyprus, it was an opportune moment to remind about Ukraine, thank the Cypriots for their hospitality, and encourage them to show solidarity.
Cyprus is a country that is considered an important investor into the Ukrainian economy, but in fact it is a place where Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs of different political views en masse withdraw their profits, avoiding taxation and other sanctions. Some Cypriots are still loyal to the Russians — in their understanding of Russia’s war against Ukraine, «everything is still not so clear».
Carnival positions itself «beyond politics», but we still found an opportunity to push our agenda here. The participants of the Ukrainian column came out with posters «Ukrainians thank Cyprus». Our strategy worked: on national television, our column was called very heartwarming, and the official Instagram channel of the Limassol Carnival-2023 wrote in Ukrainian «Thank you, Ukraine!» on its page.
Celebrations were not held here for the past three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and thousands of guests and participants were preparing for this event this year and flooded the streets on February 26.
Like most European carnivals, Limassol takes its origins in the Middle Ages, during the French and Venetian periods. The word «carnival» is of Latin origin and means «farewell to meat» (Carne Vale!). It is held on the eve of Lent, begins on the so-called «Smoky Thursday» (the name is related to the smell of fried meat) and lasts for 2 weeks — meat, when guests are treated to souvlaki (Cypriot traditional dish) and cheese, when preference is given to cheese and dairy dishes.
In its modern version, the carnival has been taking place since 1890. This tradition was brought by the British, and in 1928, 25 platforms of miners from Amiantos took part in the carnival, which marked the beginning of overcoming social inequality — since then, the poor and the rich gathered in the streets to celebrate the carnival.
During this period, people can behave as they please, regardless of age and gender. Carnival is a time when you feel the atmosphere of a holiday — people live, rejoice, invite their friends from other cities, leaving life’s problems aside.
In many European countries, politicians are ridiculed at Carnival. Putin was ridiculed at many European carnivals this year. But not in Cyprus, political slogans are not welcome here at all.
Therefore, we had to adapt our agenda to the carnival as much as possible. The main leader of this process was the volunteer of the Ukrainian-Cypriot Friendship Society Ksenia Mukhortova. She took over all organizational aspects and communication with the organizers of the Carnival.
Within a month, Ukrainian refugee women made 60 costumes. The process was managed by Zoya Kernasovska, a designer and artist of historical costumes from Odesa. Zoya organized a workshop right at the Pierre Ann refugee hotel.
The queen on the Ukrainian platform was an activist of the Ukrainian-Cypriot Friendship Society, Lyolya Filimonova, who on 24 August 2022 organised a large festival in Ayia Napa in honour of Ukraine’s Independence Day.
From the platform, she thanked the guests of the carnival in English and Greek, as well as Ukrainians, for whom the appearance of the Ukrainian column was a pleasant surprise.
The Ukrainian column really impressed everyone — Cyprus has not seen such a variety of costumes for a long time.The majority of carnival costumes are nowadays bought in supermarkets and are not original.
The Ukrainian column was drowning in waves of support, foreigners shouted
«Slava Ukraini”, «Glory to Ukraine», hundreds of guests took photos and videos with the participants of the column, foreign photojournalists stopped our column to film our images.
We sold some of our carnival costumes at a charity auction to raise money for the Armed Forces.
We did not expect that so many people would respond to our images and the idea of the march — gratitude to Cyprus and faith in Victory. After all, the poster «Light will win over darkness» became another slogan of the festival.
We saw tears in the eyes of Ukrainians, pride that even in the darkest times we find the strength to carry the beauty to the world. According to unofficial information, the Russian column was absent this year, and it is not surprising — what can they show other than terror, pain and ugliness? There were only two provocations on the part of the Russians: an attempt to spray alcohol solution into the eyes of the participants and a situation that gave rise to the following anecdote:
After the carnival, two Russian women are talking:
— Did you see that Ukrainian column? They go and smile, kind of peaceful, and there our boys are being killed on the battlefield.
— But what kind of peaceful they are, the one from the column said me f..ck off.
— What, that’s what she said?
— Yes, that’s what she said: «Go yourself.»
Lyolya Filimonova, Ukrainian Volunteer