It has become a good tradition to celebrate Russian Days in Auckland. This year it was a complete success again! Despite showers and rain all day, there must have been nearly a thousand visitors who braved the weather and flocked to the festival on 9 March this year – that is the ultimate demonstration of a fine tradition going strong for 4 years now!  

In the pouring rain, people were queuing up at the numerous food stalls offering a staggering choice of tempting goodies and delicacies. Even with a continuous stream of visitors throughout the day, there were enough treats for all, including the free pancakes baked by volunteers! The novelty of this year’s festival was the Uzbek and Kazakh stalls with the famous Uzbek pilaf, pies and Asian delicacies. Nobody left empty-handed. I also have to mention Alik and Mary Grigoryan who bring Armenian flavours to nearly all Russian-speaking community events. Their signature kebabs are always a winner! Seeing another regular, the Singing Nations Choir directed by Alexander Radchenko and performing on stage in Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian costumes, one can confidently say that the festival turned out to be truly international!

There was a lot of action on stage. Hosted by Margarita Fomina with the assistance of young talents from the Hit Pump rock band, the concert featured a diversity of music, dance and variety acts. Throughout the day, the audience was entertained by children’s and adult vocal and dance groups, professional solo performances by Olga Tarasenko and the wonderful songwriter Marina Bloom; there was poetry, science experiments and juggling stunts involving balls, plates and even knives. The only Russian rock band in New Zealand Hit Pump “hit” the stage with energy and enthusiasm and won a few fans in the audience that day.  

Speaking about the scope of the festival, I believe there were more than forty businesses represented. It was a real pleasure to see some of the officials showing interest in the event. Second secretary Sergey Glagolev of the Russian Embassy and the leader of the New Zealand Act Party David Seymour were among the attendees.  For the first time this year, the event received local media attention from the Maori TV channel. The TV crew were busy taking photos of the stalls with traditional arts and crafts, recording performances on stage and interviewing the visitors. 

The event organiser, Natalia Dudko, gathered a great team of young and enthusiastic people who dedicated many hours to make the Russian Days 2019 an absolute success.  

                                                 by Rimma Shkrabina,

                                                 translated by Elena Naumova