Thirty-five sponsors and 15 performing organizations, all from the Philadelphia region, came together on Sept. 9 to help celebrate life and spread Russian culture with the fourth-annual
Russian Mosaic Festival at Penn’s Landing.
Hosted by the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, its president Marina Kats said that since the first time RACC presented the Russian Mosaic Festival, “it just gets better every year. We have more vendors, more supporters and more acts.”
Kats, a Temple alumna, said that about 3,000 to 4,000 people show up to the event each year and hopes that the numbers will grow.
“It’s a great feeling looking out at the crowd,” she said.
Among those in the crowd were several political candidates. They spent their Saturday afternoon with constituents, sharing their thoughts on the diversity of Philadelphia.
“It’s always wonderful to see different communities come together and celebrate themselves,” Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz said, “and enjoy the ethnicity that we all share.”
“All of us, in our own way, contribute to make this nation the great nation that it is, and Philadelphia the great city that it is,” said Jonathan Saidel, former city controller. “You [Russians] are just as American as somebody who came here on the Mayflower.”
The seven-hour event was free and welcomed everyone.
Andre Curtis, an African American in law enforcement, stopped by Penn’s Landing after attending church services to have lunch with his two children. He said it was nice of Philadelphia to hold an event that was spreading culture.
Andrew Moneno, a 21-year-old Villanova University student agreed with Curtis.
“It’s a great opportunity for the local communities to come out and express themselves,”he said.
There were many vendors, each one displaying a different aspect of Russian culture and influence. Casablanca Restaurant gave Philadelphians a taste of Eastern European and Georgian cuisines, whereas Sergey Lukianov and his students displayed some of their paintings.
Young children were given the opportunity to express their artistic abilities as they made spin arts and painted wooden cut-outs. Soon enough, their bodies became canvases, covered with animal tattoos.
What had most of the spectator’s attention was the stage.
With dancers, singers, and clowns taking equal turns on the stage, each had a message to deliver.
Thirteen-year-old Isabelle Gevorkyan sang in three languages at the Russian Mosaic Festival. She sang in English, Hebrew, and of course, Russian.
“I wanted to sing a song that related to the crowd,” she said, “[The Russian song] was about being yourself, and even though things don’t happen at once it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen at all. You just have to wait a while.”
“Every dance has its own story and history,” said 14-year-old dancer, Salome Gogoladze. “I am proud to be Georgian. I am happy to be dancing because I want to share with everybody what being Georgian means and what Georgian dance is.”
While it is clear that the Russian community is given a chance to reach out to the community, there is another advantage of the event.
“The people who benefit the most are the people of Philadelphia who were born and spent their whole lives here, and not necessarily have learned about their city,” said 23-year-old Gene Brion, a history major and member of Villanova’s Russian Club. “This gives them a chance to get an idea of different people who live in this great city.”
Ballerinas also took part of the stage. One performance illustrated what it would have been like if Helen Keller was a ballet dancer.
“It relates to the fact that we are different,” said RACC’s president, Kats. “What makes America so special is that we could celebrate our own differences.”
As the character graced the stage, she came across an emphasizing moment:
“We all have challenges. We are all different, aren’t we? And in reality, the best and most beautiful things in the world can not be seen, or even touched, but just felt in the heart.”
Anne Ha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.