With Anna Sergeeva, RCWS executive director and gala organizer

With Anna Sergeeva, RCWS executive director and gala organizer

Earlier this month, I was delighted to participate in an event I’d looked forward to attending for many years – the Petroushka Ball at the Plaza in New York City. The evening surpassed my expectations for enjoyment, fellowship and stunning elegance, and I’m so glad my schedule finally allowed me to attend.

The Petroushka Ball was established in 1965, so this year was the gala event’s 50th anniversary. The ball is a fundraiser organized by the Russian Children’s Welfare Society, which helps thousands of children in Russia with medical and scholarship programs and donations to orphanages and homeless shelters that care for children.  I’m impressed with how RCWS targets the real, daily needs of these children and their caregivers, by providing funds for practicalities such as renovation or a new washing machine as well as food and medical care.

The event took place on two floors of the Plaza. Over 350 people enjoyed a black-tie gala reception, dinner, musical entertainment and dancing from 8 to 11 pm. The entire gala was over-the-top exquisite, from the china to the flowers to the menu. On another floor, an additional 450 people – many of them the younger crowd – participated in Russian folk dancing.

I attended the ball with five friends, three of Russian origin and two who were born in the U.S. We attended the gala event and then watched the folk dancing – things got wild in that room! The energy was incredible – non-stop Russian music and dancing from 10 pm to 2 am, often with a single person or group dancing in the middle of a circle of others, laughing, cheering and clapping. “It was like Russian break-dancing,” said my friend Laura Yergesheva (vice president of Compass Lexecon). 

Thinking about the evening afterward, Laura felt a surge of pride “to be a member of the Russian community in the United States,” and she said that it was thrilling to socialize with descendants of “people who had immigrated right after the Russian Revolution, including old czarist families.” Many attend the Petroushka Ball regularly, and some of the people at our own table were attending for the twentieth time. We all made new friends with whom we hope to keep in touch.

The ball was the first Russian-oriented event that our friend Chris Wickham (president and chief pilot of BankNote Aviation Corp.) had ever attended. He commented afterward, “I really had no idea what to expect. The Plaza was spectacular, but the people who attended were even more beautiful! More importantly, everyone was very fun and friendly, and the proceeds went to a great cause. Now that I’ve experienced such an amazing night of Russian culture and camaraderie, I’m really looking forward to the next Chicago Russian Gala.”

Part of the excitement of any gala event is the chance to dress up! Chris said he felt like Prince Charming in his tux, and my women friends and I all enjoyed wearing long gowns. My gown was designed for me by a Ukrainian-born Chicago designer, with satin, French lace, pearl beads and fluffy tulle in a golden color that I really love. During the following week, I was thrilled to see myself on the New York Times Style page!

I felt honored to participate in the Petroushka Ball, both by attending and by donating a gift basket of “ballerina dream” products from Russian Pointe and Growing Through Arts. The ball raised over $120,000, which will go a long way toward helping children in need.

Aleksandra Efimova1 Comment