PEARL RIVER, N.Y. – On the evening of February 9, here at the elegant Hilton Pearl River Hotel, well over 500 members of the Ukrainian American community welcomed into society seven young ladies from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and the Hudson Valley at the Chervona Kalyna Cotillion Ball.
The ball, known as “Vechornytsi,” is a tradition established in 1951 in New York City by members of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen and military veterans, who upon emigrating to the U.S. revived the Lviv society balls of the 1920s and 1930s. Today, one of the main attractions of the ball is the presentation of debutantes, a custom that began with an impromptu introduction of young ladies in 1959.
This year’s debutantes were a group of exceptional high school juniors and seniors. They distinguish themselves academically and athletically, participate in many extracurricular activities and give their time as volunteers and leaders in their respective communities.
The “chervona kalyna” (viburnum opulus), as a symbol of the pride and memory of heroes, reminded the younger guests of the struggle for Ukraine’s liberation, which continues today. As selected by this year’s debutantes, a portion of the proceeds from the evening’s event benefited the Ukrainian American Veterans’ Wounded Ukrainian Soldier Project.
Among the honored guests of the evening were the Rev. Dr. Ivan Kaszczak, who began the formal program with an arrangement of the prayer “Otche Nash” (Our Father) sung by Ukrainian scouts, or “plastuny.”
The debutante presentation, consisting of individual introductions and curtsies, a group dance to Pachelbel’s Canon in D and waltz to Johann Strauss, Jr.’s “Blue Danube,” was choreographed by the inestimable Ania Bohachevsky Lonkevych. As per custom, fathers – or in some cases male relatives or godfathers – of the debutantes danced part of the waltz with their daughters, while escorts, single red rose in hand, invited the mothers of the debutantes to dance.
The formal program was followed by a banquet and “zabava” (dancing), accompanied by two bands: Zvook and Hrim. Both ensembles provided favorite standards and new music throughout the night, which culminated with the seemingly never-ending and always fun “Kolomyika” that had everyone on their feet.
Next year’s date for the cotillion is February 8, also at the Hilton Pearl River. For more information visit www.kalynadeb.org.