Opika Performance Group, Perechyn, Ukraine
Perechyn, the small Western Ukrainian town where the Opika Performance Group was founded, lies at the crossroads of traditions from the Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Germany, and Poland, as well as from the local Lemkiv and Roma people. Since its formation in 2000 by Iryna Sydakova, a music teacher at the Perechyn orphanage, Opika has performed, preserved, and celebrated the transnational heritage and traditional music and dances of this diverse region, helping orphaned youths throughout Transcarpathia reconnect with their unique heritages and the greater community through performance. The all-volunteer staff at Opika also works to combat misconceptions about orphaned children in Ukraine and to promote lasting friendships and mutual understanding between youth and the local community. With the support of Peace Corps volunteers, Opika produces original plays designed to educate the community about pressing social concerns. Opika has prepared an original play for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.