PEARL RIVER, N.Y. – On Saturday, January 30, here in the elegantly appointed main ballroom of the Hilton Pearl River Hotel, more than 400 guests gathered for the annual Chervona Kalyna Cotillion Ball. The atmosphere was happy and full of excitement for one of the most anticipated debutante balls of the season.
The Chervona Kalyna Cotillion Ball or “Vechornytsi,” a tradition now in its 65th year, was established in New York City by members of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen and military veterans who, upon emigrating to the U.S., revived their society charity balls of 1920s and 1930s Lviv. Today, one of the main attractions of the Vechornytsi is the presentation of debutantes, a custom begun with an impromptu introduction of young ladies in 1959.
And so it was this year, nearly six decades later, that the Ukrainian American community welcomed into its society 13 debutantes from Hempstead, Yonkers and Manhattan, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn. All of them serve as dedicated youth group leaders and parish volunteers in their local communities, and distinguish themselves academically and athletically in their high schools.
It is worth noting that two of this year’s debutantes have strong familial ties to early organizers of the ball. Julianna Chernyk of Bedford Corners, N.Y., is the great-granddaughter of Hanya Dmyterko-Ratycz, a member of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen and one of the founders of the New York-based Vechornytsi. Among the guests observing the debut of her granddaughter Terenia Hankewycz of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., was Ivanna Hankewycz, a debutante organizer and presenter from 1972-1984. Her presence at this year’s event delighted all those who had the great pleasure of working with her in the past.
The escorts this year hailed from New York, Yonkers, Hartford, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and Toronto. The ever-appealing debutante presentation and curtsey, group dance and waltz were choreographed by Anya Bohachevsky Lonkevych.
Among the honored guests of the evening were the Rev. Dr. Ivan Kaszczak, who led those gathered in the arrangement of “Otche Nash” (Our Father) sung by Ukrainian Plast scouts, and Ukrainian Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev, with his wife, Nataliya. As in years past, Ambassador Sergeyev warmly greeted the debutantes and their families. He has just completed an eight-year term as the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, where he patriotically served the national interests of his country, especially during the Revolution of Dignity.
The Chervona Kalyna Cotillion Organizing Committee’s chair emeritus, Ihor Sochan, thanked Ambassador Sergeyev for his longtime participation in the Vechornytsi, his gracious annual greetings to the debutantes and his courageous representation of Ukraine at the U.N. On behalf of the guests, Mr. Sochan wished the ambassador well in his diplomatic career, after which all sang a chorus of “Mnohaya Lita.”
The formal presentation of the debutantes was followed by a banquet and zabava (dance) to music by the bands Fata Morgana and Svitanok. While they provided wonderful music throughout the night, the bands’ skills shone toward the end of the evening with a 35-minute-long “Kolomyika” that had young and old on the dance floor.
This was the second year that the Chervona Kalyna Cotillion Ball was organized jointly by its long-time organizer, the Plast fraternity Chervona Kalyna, and the Khmelnychenky Plast fraternity. The Organizing Committee chaired by Roman Sawycky was glad to invest time and effort into planning such an important and memorable event for the debutantes, their families and guests.
The organizers cordially invite all to attend next year’s Vechornytsi at the Hilton Pearl River Hotel on Saturday, February 11, 2017. (For information: www.kalynadeb.org.)