My First Malanka Caroling Party

I have to say that my new year has been nothing but wonderful so far. I know that it’s still early in the game so to speak. I’m not saying that there haven’t been any bumps in the road here or there but I’m an optimist by nature and so it’s my belief that the year will be what I make of it. I’m determined to make it amazing chalked full of new experiences, new people, new places and new memories.

Not only has 2019 been pleasant for me, it has also been extremely busy on the career side but by some sort of miracle I managed to find a few minutes to log into my personal social media to see what was new in that world. As I scrolled through my alert notifications I noticed that I had been invited to attend a Malanka Caroling Party. The invite read: The Ukrainian American Society cordially invites you to a Malanka (Ukrainian New Year’s Eve) Caroling Party. Come join us for an evening of fun Ukranian and English caroling, music, tasty appetizers and beverages! Without thinking twice I maneuvered my mouse over the “interested” button and clicked.

The invite came from my friend and colleague of mine named Igor. Outside of his career in real estate Igor is also the president of the Tucson Ukrainian American Society.

Last Saturday was the official launch of venturing out my comfort zone. As the hour drew closer to the event time a little fear started to set within me so I invited my sister Stephanie to accompany me. She would be my security blanket after all she also made the resolution to try new things.

The party was at a private residence in a beautiful neighborhood with gorgeous views of the golf course and club house as well as the huge hill that nearly got the best of me during a charity 5K I ran last year. I parked my car then sat there a few moments. Before I could give into my fear and leave a smiling Igor waved as he walked over to the car to welcome us. Igor lead us through the front door to a table where we wrote our names on name tags before sticking them to our blouses. We were immediately welcomed warmly by everyone there. It turned out that I did not need my prefabricated ice breaker lines to initiate conversation.

Before we knew it Stephanie and I were chatting with many guests. The conversations were very interesting and it felt natural. I met a beautiful kind woman named Oksana whose son was in New York City scouting an internship. I met a retired choir teacher from New Jersey with whom I struck up a conversation with about choir as I used to be a soprano. I told her the story of how our wonderful choir teacher took us to New York City to perform in Carnegie Hall. To my surprise I was not the only newbie there. A group of Peace Corps volunteers who volunteered in Ukraine saw the event on social media and also decided dropped in.

I was also honored to also meet Dr. Ihor Kunasz, a retired geologist. Dr. Ihor Kunasz took time to tell me about his childhood. He was born in a tiny French village with a population of 10,000.  He came to the United States when he was a boy knowing only the King’s English which made it very difficult to understand the English spoken in the US. He was a wonderful storyteller, his narration was so vivid that as he spoke it played out like a movie in my head. Dr. Ihor Kunasz is a recipient of the AIME Hal Williams Hardinge Award in 1998. “In recognition of his outstanding achievements in the evaluation, development and extraction of Lithium brines and for past contributions and service to the Industrial Minerals Division.

When it was time for the caroling to begin we were all escorted to large music room where we took seats to wait patiently for the sheet music to be distributed. I looked up and to my delight I saw one of the first ladies I met upon my arrival. Juliana was being introduced. Juliana is actually Juliana Osinchuk, World-renowned pianist who played Carnegie Hall at the age of 11. We had the honor of her being our pianist for the evening.  I was giddy, in awe that I would get to hear her play on this night.

I drove home feeling accomplished. I had ventured out of my comfort zone and met an amazing group of people who I would not have the honor of meeting if I had not gone. I soaked it all up.

Everyone has a story to tell and we should listen.

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