Within our Ukrainian American community, there are many milestones that we come together to commemorate or celebrate, ranging from anniversaries of various organizations and historic events to local events like first holy communions and Ukrainian school graduations. One of our most celebrated milestones is the annual presentation of debutantes at gala balls held across the country. A tradition that goes back to the 1950s in this country and to the 1920s and 1930s in Lviv, Ukraine, these balls are truly a community event as we welcome the next generation of young people into our hromada.
Notice that we said young people, not young ladies? Well, that’s because we know full well it’s not only the parents of our lovely girls who are proud to introduce their children (soon to be adults) to society. The parents and families of the escorts also consider these balls to be something special as their handsome young men are introduced alongside the debutantes. Our community is proud of all of them and harbors the collective hope that they will remain active members of our hromada and, eventually, will become its leaders.
This week’s issue contains the special full-color section “Ukrainian Debutante Balls” that spotlights six such special galas held in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. Sixty debutantes, and their 60 escorts, were presented this year to family, friends, community members and special guests who arrived expressly for the occasion. We extend hearty congratulations to all!
In case you’re wondering, we’ve published debutante ball sections since 2001, although before that we, of course, ran separate stories on these events as they arrived at our editorial offices. The decision in 2001 to prepare a special section was welcomed by all – organizers of these balls, families of debutantes and their escorts, and our readers – who were happy to see all the Ukrainian debutante balls presented in a very attractive single section of our newspaper. (By the way, you can check out that first edition by going to our archives online. See https://www.ukrweekly.com/archive/2001/The_Ukrainian_Weekly_2001-17.pdf.)
Judging by the submissions to each succeeding year’s section, our “Ukrainian Debutante Balls” issues really have been a hit. We regularly start fielding inquiries about each year’s issue as the debutante ball season begins, and the results of our cooperation with the community activists involved in all facets of the deb balls are evident. Thank you to all who send in materials for this very popular annual section.
And, lest you think that these balls go unnoticed outside our hromada, our community’s debutante balls have even made it into the Wikipedia entry on “Debutante,” where they are cited in the section on American debutante balls. Here’s what it says:
“Various Ukrainian émigré [sic] organizations in the United States such as the Ukrainian American Medical Association of North America, the Ukrainian Engineers’ Society of America, Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization and the Ukrainian American Youth Association have hosted annual black-tie debutante balls since the Second World War as fund-raisers and [to] introduce young Ukrainian ladies between the ages of 16 and 18 to their local Ukrainian communities. Ukrainian American debutante balls take place in many American cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, Washington, D.C., Detroit and Boston. Besides the traditional waltz of the debutantes, one of the highlights of these balls is the Kolomyika, which usually takes place past midnight, wherein every guest has the opportunity to spontaneously demonstrate their Ukrainian dance skills such as the Hopak or Arkan. Kolomyika dances tend to last upwards of a half-hour of nonstop folk dancing, ultimately returning to the traditional black-tie ball atmosphere.”
With that, dear readers, we leave you to enjoy The Ukrainian Weekly’s 17th annual edition of “Ukrainian Debutante Balls.”