To celebrate the introduction of the youth members of the Ukrainian Youth Association in Australia (UYA) and the Ukrainian Scouting Organisation “Plast” into the community, a longstanding tradition of the Ukrainian Community in Sydney has been to hold a Debutante Ball. This ball is a forum for the presentation of young ladies who, reaching their 16th year of age, enter into a new stage of their lives. The UYA family presents these young ladies, and their partners, with the aim that they will become counsellors and educators in their respective youth organisations and, as young, intelligent women, will take on leadership roles within the Ukrainian community.
On Saturday, 28 April this year, seven young ladies – six members of the UYA group “Sunflowers” (with Christina Parasyn and Nadia Garan as their counsellors) – made their debut in the Ukrainian Youth Hall: Laressa Berehowyj, with partner Orest Danylak; Iryna Gorpynyak, with partner Andrew Rybak; Tanya Ilkiw, with partner Jacob Stawiski; Lesia Rohozynsky, with partner Nicholas Stawiski; Kristen Spyrdz, partnered by Andrew Huzij; Elisa Jakymin, with partner Andrew Markewycz; and member of the “Plast” group “Kangaroos”: Alexandra Suchowerska, with partner Adrian Sarakula.
The hall was magnificently, and fittingly, decorated with sunflowers, in addition to the endless sea of flowers on the tables, the stage was alight with candles, and pillars emblazoned with pink, white and red lights adding a romantic feeling to the evening. The formal entrance of the debutantes and their partners stirs a multitude of emotions not only in their parents, but in all those present. The debutantes wore long white dresses (all looking beautiful) holding bouquets of flowers. The presentation of the debutantes and their partners included the announcement of their academic, sporting and other achievements, and also their involvement in youth and other organisations, during which the hearts of all those present filled with joy and pride of the youth of our community.
This year’s parade was slightly different to the previous one. I believe it was a superb idea to have a guard of honour – brothers Ivan and Joseph Rohozynsky (this whole time that I have been in Sydney I never knew that they were twins). They entered into the hall to the tune of a Cossack march, in traditional Cossack uniforms with swords at their sides and, after bowing to those present, marched onto the stage where they raised their swords and made a guard for the debutantes – this was extremely touching.
It seems that if I wanted to convey in words the feelings and emotions running through the heart and soul of their grandmother, Mrs. Rohozynsky, when her three grandchildren were on stage together (Lesia, the Cossacks’ sister, was debuting), I would not be able to find such words! How proud she must be to have such lovely grandchildren, all active UYA members!
Dressed in Poltavski outfits, presenting flowers to the debutantes, were two of the youngest UYA members – Larysa Trotnar and Liam Bognar…
The debutantes were presented to the Chairman of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (and former President of the National Executive of the UYA), Mr. Stefan Romaniw OAM. Whilst addressing the debutantes he mentioned how talented the youth of today was (as noticed in the biographies, read out by the Masters of Ceremony of the evening – Andrew Mencinsky and Nadia Mencinsky-O’Keefe)…
The honorary presidium of the evening included: Fr. Simon Ckuj, who held a mass for the debutantes and their partners prior to the evening; President of the National Executive of the UYA, Mr. Wasyl Senko and his wife Mrs. Diahanna Senko, President of the Sydney branch of the UYA and coordinator of the ball; Presidents of UYA branches: Paul Kaminskyj - Geelong, Juliana Moravski - Melbourne, Danny Kozak - Canberra-Queanbeyan, Irka Kondarewycz - Perth; Chairman of the Ukrainian Council of NSW, Mr. Peter Lutak; Sisters of St. Basil the Great – Sr. Constantine and Sr. Dorothy; President of the Sydney branch of the Ukrainian Scouting Organisation “Plast”, Mr. Jurij Suchowerskyj and his wife Natalie.
The debutantes were greeted with bread and salt, and a welcoming dance performed by the previous debutantes. The bread and salt was accepted by Tanya Ilkiw on behalf of all the debutantes.
A toast to the debutantes was given by Diahanna Senko who said:
…"The young people before you are the spring flowers of our community. During the preparation of your debut, you realised and understood that you are taking upon yourselves the responsibility of attaining the best that you possibly can for your overall good and well-being, as well as for your family, your church and your community… Go forth with pride, and with God’s blessing, into a new chapter of your lives."
There were many speeches given by the members of the honorary presidium, and also by the counsellors of the debutantes of UYA group “Sunflowers” who have taught them throughout their UYA lives for 13 years, Christina Parasyn and Nadia Garan, who wished the young ladies and their partners the very best, especially whilst continuing the hard work of their grandfathers and grandmothers within the church and wider community. We pray that they do continue this work! Thanks were also given to all those who had an input to make the night a success. The debutantes thanked their parents, partners, - the young men thanked the young ladies, the organising committee, and to those who organised and lead the transitional course, Justin Senko for designing the programs and posters, and to all those who ensured the night would be a success. It was good that everyone kept to their time limit as most gave both Ukrainian and English speeches! We were also informed that this was the 45th year since the first Debutante Ball has taken place in Sydney. How quickly time goes!
Following the speeches were the dances of the debutantes and their partners – an elegant waltz and the “Torero”, accompanied by Spanish music (the dances were organised by Larissa Flunt, of the UYA dance ensemble “Zahrava”)… the young ladies then danced with their fathers, whilst the partners with their mothers.
After the presentation of the debutantes, Myron Pastuch and his band played familiar tunes to the early hours of the morning. Once everyone had finished eating their dinner, all the guests danced and partied, especially during the traditional “Hopak” or “Kolomyjka”. This was proof that the Ukrainian youth in Sydney continues to enjoy national dances and hence why there are two Ukrainian dance ensembles “Weselka” and “Zahrava”.
We wish all pairs who took part in the ball the very best in their further studies, and pray that they will remember the words spoken on the night – that they will continue the work of our pioneers in the community!