The feast of St. Melania, one of the early saints of the Christian church, is observed Jan. 13, the last day of the “old year,” according to the Julian calendar.

For years, that day was marked by various social activities in addition to the low-key religious services, the most popular was the “Malanka (Ukrainian version of the saint’s name) Evening.”

At the age of 15, during the German occupation of Ukraine during World War II, one of my cousins invited me to accompany her to Malanka Evening in our native village Yakubova Volya (Jacob’s Freedom) in Ukraine. The reason for her invitation was the scarcity of young men, because most were either in the other fighting armies, in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army known by the initials UPA, arrested or dead.

The evening was without music, because in the conservative interpretation of religious customs, it was still period when music and dancing was not allowed. Attendees sang carols and other songs, engaged in romantic exchanges and all seemed to have a good time.

Now, the times have changed. The Ukrainian-American communities throughout the country have Malanka evenings with dinners, musk, and dancing.

Our North Port and Southwest Florida community will have a Malanka Evening with festive dinner, music by Syzonenko Brothers Band, and dancing from 8 p.m.-midnight Saturday, Jan. 12 at Ukrainian Catholic Parish Center, 1078 N. Biscayne Drive, North Port.

Tickets are $35 per person and must be purchased in advance; there will be none at the door.

• • •

The North Port Branch No. 56 of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America — UNWLA, known as “Soyuz Ukrayinok” (Union of Ukrainian Ladies), headed by Lesya Popel will have its annual meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Ukrainian Catholic Parish Center, 1078 N. Biscayne Drive.

The meeting will be devoted to annual reports of activities of Branch 56 and of all sections and committees. There will be no election of officers, because the term of current officers will not expire until January 2020.

• • •

His Beatitude Epiphaniy, primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, received the Tomos of Autocephaly from His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholemew, Archbishop of Constantinople, in Istanbul, Turkey, during the Divine Liturgy concelebrated by both last Saturday, Jan. 6.

The Liturgy and presentation of Tomos was attended by many Ukrainian officials, including President Petro Poroshenko, former President Viktor Yushchenko, and many Ukrainians who paid their own way to be able to witness this historic event.

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine became the 15th administrative jurisdiction within the One Orthodox Church, equal to all the others.

This is an epochal event for all Ukrainians of all faiths and confessions. His Beatitude Epiphaniy received congratulatory greetings from the heads of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Ukrainian Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church in Ukraine, Ukrainian Muslims and others. A new chapter of History of Ukraine was written Jan. 6, 2019.

Atanas Kobryn covers the Ukrainian community for the North Port Sun. He can be emailed at atanask@aol.com.

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