Slavic Day draws serious crowd in Federal Way | Nandell Palmer

One virtue that is most lacking in a lot of businesses and organizations today is a servant’s heart. When combined with diplomacy, a big chunk of any executive director or pastor’s work will have lessened by 50 percent.

You don’t have to look long and hard to find parallels. Whether it’s royal one-upmanship in 18th-century Europe or corporate streamlining in the 21st-century global arena, you need to know how to treat people well before you can advance beyond the starting point.

How else do you explain the synergy of a construction worker teaming up with his 220-member church to form one of Federal Way’s largest festivals in just a few years?

On July 9, I dropped by the 4th annual Desna Soccer Cup on the grounds of Saghalie Middle School. I was stunned to see the vast support from the Slavic community. The movers and shakers all seemed to have one thing in common: They oozed with a servant’s heart. And patrons repaid them kindly for their effort.

Don’t be fooled by the soccer tournament. This growing festival is much more than macho guys kicking some ball around the field.

Leo Lisitsyn, formerly of Bryansk, Russia, immigrated to the U.S. 10 years ago. The oldest of seven boys, he wanted to ensure that he was modeling a good path for his brothers to follow. And so, they all immersed themselves into playing soccer.

As a member of the Russian Baptist Church in Auburn, Lisitsyn and his pastor, Rev. Igor Trebushnoy, thought about ways to better serve their community — especially among the youth. That’s how the festival was birthed in 2008, using sports as the big draw. Every year there’s been a slight shift to make it as inclusive as possible for all.

Aside from the annual July 4 gathering at Celebration Park, I have never witnessed a larger outdoor crowd in Federal Way. Event organizers, who estimated the crowd at 2,500, said that the attendance has grown exponentially each year.

What exactly is the essence of this festival? According to Trebushnoy, “To become the light to others, we’ve created this family-friendly outlet from a base of sports. We invite other soccer teams throughout Washington, Oregon and California to compete.”

He went on to say that having a good relationship with people is the first sign that you can engage in dialogue with them.

In a robust election year, I am surprised that political candidates were not there en masse hugging babies and pressing the flesh. Mayor Skip Priest addressed the crowd earlier in the day. A warning to the wise: This voting bloc should not be taken for granted.

Based on the 2010 census, more than 5 million Slavic people live in the U.S. Second-generation citizens like recent UW graduate Igor Maksimenko are armed with college degrees and are making their marks in corporate America.

Several top Russian officials were on hand to celebrate with their fellow expatriates: Deputy Ambassador from Washington, D.C., Yuri Zaitsev and Washington State Consul General Yuri Gerasin.

“I am very pleased to see how organized the event is going,” Gerasim said. “The ultimate aim is to integrate the Russian community with the American community. We welcome our American friends to take part in these ongoing programs.”

Vasiliy Stupin, president of the Association of Slavic Immigrants, USA, explained at length the varied contributions throughout the Slavic diaspora. He has met with two presidents at the White House, and Gov. Christine Gregoire in Olympia.

What festival is complete without food! Andrey Burlakov was putting his finishing touch on a gargantuan pot of Kyrgyzstan rice dish called plov; it feeds 400 people at a time. He was on his fourth pot when I got there as people salivated in line.

There was Slavic and contemporary music piping from the huge stage throughout the day, along with several troupes of dancers. Children cavorted about the grounds, engaging themselves with all manner of games.

The person who anointed Nick Pastuhov as emcee surely struck gold. His rich tenor voice added luster to the event as he sang his way into the hearts of an appreciative audience.

With eight talented soccer teams in the playoffs, the highlight of the evening was Dinamo Seattle trouncing Spartak 2 to nil, and bagging the coveted Desna Cup.

Once I am out of this rarefied air, I’ll wait anxiously to see what’s in store for next year’s jamboree. Hope to see you there!


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