Monday, July 19, 2010

Zabava (Dance)

Nearly a hundred people gathered at our cultural center on Friday, July 16, 2010 for our first ever zabava.   The evening featured Rusyn music, dance, and plenty of food.  Happily it also attracted an unusually large number of "under twenty-somethings."

Mayors Pavel Hagyari and Raymond Bodnar
We were fortunate in having not one, but three honored guests:  Mr. Raymond Bodnar,  Mayor of Munhall, PA; Mr. Pavel Hagyari, Mayor of Presov, Slovakia; and Mr. Joe Senko,  Honorary Consul of the Slovak Republic in Pennsylvania.  Of course, since it was a dance, we suspect they were brought by their wives. 
Welcoming Senkos with bread and salt

Rus'kyj Muzikanty with Jerry Jumba

Rus'kyj Muzikanty ( provided lively music throughout the evening.  This folk group, which specializes in authentic Rusyn melodies, includes Jerry Jumba on accordion, Bob Bartko on acoustic guitar, Mike Liberatore on electric guitar, Dana Leasure on violin (fiddle to you Charlie Daniels fans), Brian Bartko on cymbali, and a guest appearance by a percussionist whose name I would be happy to mention had he given it to me.   Dean Poloka set up the sound system and stepped in with his mandolin whenever he wasn't dancing.

Dean leading our guests in a karichka
Mr. and Mrs. Hagyari waltzing
Dean, choreographer in residence of Slavjane, taught  Rusyn dance steps to those of our guests who were brave enough to try them on.  They burned up the floor with czardashes, karichkas, chapashs, and polkas.  Later on, in a throw-back to old Austria-Hungary, the band played a waltz for Mayor Hagyari and his wife as they took the floor.

Mayor Bodnar presenting Indian pin
What event featuring prominent politicians would be complete without some heart-felt speeches?  The evening had its share.  Mayor Bodnar presented his counterpart with a Indian pin symbolic of the Munhall mascot.  Maryann Sivak, Chairman of the Cultural Center Committee, presented a wood-burned plaque showing the building's facade to Mayor Hagyari.  Mayor Hagyari then addressed the crowd saying that his great uncle had emigrated to the States and he had many relatives here.  Since Presov is a sister city to Pittsburgh, he had spent a week in the area.  This evening's zabava was his last event before returning home.  He was very pleased that  Rusyn culture is prospering in America. 

Mary Huzinec and Alexandra

Christy Slifkey and Alexandra
Keri Poloka
Beth Poloka Liberatore
The evening was a great success, due in large part, as always, to the efforts of our volunteers.  The previous day, Christy Slifkey and her daughter Alexandra, Mary Huzinec and her daughter, also Alexandra, and Ann Swanson, with no daughter named Alexandra,  helped prepare the building for the dance.  John Righetti, C-RS President, correctly pointed out that our people require more than cheese and crackers to really have a party.  He prepared a roaster full of kolbassi and saurkraut and provided the buns to go with them.  Keri Poloka  and Beth Poloka Liberatore managed the food and drink tables.  Kerri's children Nick and Mickayla did whatever she told them to, both selling kolbassi (Jack would have been proud)  and helping with clean-up afterward.  John Schweich cheerfully collected everybody's money as they entered. 

Mike Vasilchek and John Schweich
Thank you all for coming.  Remember to mark your calendars for Saturday, October 16th.   This will be an all-day event featuring Rusyn Fest III, our annual meeting, and a spirited zabava to conclude the evening.

Written by:  Maryann Sivak (

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