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Festival of Nations provides a glimpse of cultures across the globe

Luba Kushnir said she and fellow Ukrainians have a little extra pride when it comes to taking part in events like the Festival of Nations.

When the Ukraine was under Communist rule, Kushnir said, its citizens sacrificed their culture. They were forced to speak Russian and denied religious and other basic freedoms.

Kushnir's own parents experienced the oppression of Communism before immigrating to the United States. It was here, thousands of miles from their homeland, that they dedicated themselves to making sure their heritage lived on. Kushnir proudly reports that her nieces, who are 13 and 16, are both fluent in Ukrainian.

Kushnir is part of the Ukrainian National Women's League, which will sponsor the Ukrainian booth at this year's Festival of Nations, set for Sunday, Nov. 1, at Empire State Plaza.

We need to promote our culture here in the U.S., Kushnir said.

That could be the slogan for the festival, which will feature 26 countries this year. Festival chairman Manoj Amera said there are two new countries: Bangladesh and Russia, which actually returns after being absent for a few years.

"You can have a glimpse of the world in such a short time at such a small cost," Amera said.

That glimpse of the world will include native dances, music, ethnic foods, crafts and entertainment. There's also a Miss Festival of Nations competition.

Amy Borowiec, a 16-year-old junior at Niskayuna High School, is one of the contestants in the pageant and stressed that it's not a typical beauty pageant. She had to write a biographical essay and go throguh an interview with a panel of judges who asked her, for example, about the intricate costume she wears while dancing.

Borowiec should know plenty about the costume; she has been a Polish dancer since she was a kid, performing the past four years with St. Adalbert's Polkabration Dancers.

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