As a member of Croton’s Rotary Club and its Board of Trustees, I was so proud – but not at all surprised – to see our community rise up for Rotary’s Candlelight Vigil for Ukraine the evening of May 19th at Vassallo Park.
JFK told us “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try”. The Vigil was Croton trying to make that difference for the people of Ukraine. As noted by Rotary President Seaver Wang in his remarks that night, the funds raised by the Vigil are going to vital humanitarian assistance in Ukraine.
The Vigil received great support from Croton’s faith community, including overall guidance from Regina Montana from Holy Name of Mary, a beautiful Invocation by Rev. Jennifer Owens of St. Augustine Episcopal Church, and an uplifting Benediction from Rabbi Jennifer Jaech of Temple Israel of Northern Westchester.
The program was informative and inspirational, lifting the spirits of all who attended. Croton Mayor Brian Pugh discussed why it is so important that Croton stand up for and help Ukraine. Catherine Borgia, Chairwoman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, conveyed the significance of everyone in the County doing what we each can for Ukraine.
The Vigil was moved by superb presentations from representative of the Ukrainian community – Dr. Orest Kozicky, MD, and businessman Andrew Horbachevsky, both of whom have deep family roots in Ukraine and are leaders among the Ukrainian people in Westchester. St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church of Yonkers helped to arrange their participation. In their remarks, they enhanced our understanding of the Ukrainian crisis, thanked us for our efforts, and urged us to continue to take a moral stand for Ukraine.
Croton is grateful to count among our residents Mr. Bohdan Balaban, who was born in Ukraine and fled from there during World War II. Bo graced our Vigil with beautiful renditions of the National Anthem of Ukraine, the protest song “This Is My Song”, and “God Bless America”.
Croton Harmon High School had a major role in the Vigil. Student Audrey Callaway led the Pledge of Allegiance. The CHHS String Quartet, directed by faculty member Sara O’Brien, and including students Grey Freebern, William Sudnik, Falynn Tisinger, and Noah Tsau, performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. Impressive remarks were made on behalf of the CHHS Student Faculty Congress and Model UN by Shoshanna Daly, Molly Levitt, and Hanna Ranis. And the CHHS Chorus, including Gwen Labbate, Olivia Sendlenski, Madison Niki, Khadia Abam-DePass, Isabella Hope, and Joelle Kurie, sang “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks which has special meaning for today’s Ukranian struggle.
Along with President Wang, Rotary leaders including incoming-President Janeen Volante, Cynthia Lippolis, Mark Franzoso Laurie Dean, Dan Delaney, and Barry Werbin, who ended the Vigil with a lovely rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine , were instrumental to the Vigil success.
Croton is a small community that often achieves big. The Rotary Candlelight Vigil for Ukraine was a good example of one of Croton doing just that.
Len Simon, Trustee
Village of Croton on Hudson