Singers from New Britain church cheer the homebound

Published on Sunday, 14 January 2018 22:12
Written by Erica Schmitt

Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN - Pauline Dememtro mouthed the words to “Nebo I Zemelia” as youth members of her church sang them to her Sunday at Arbor Rose.

The city resident called the group’s visit to the assisted and independent living facility “a pleasant surprise” and “a beautiful thing,” since she hasn’t been able to attend services at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in a couple of years.

“To me it seems like a century ago,” said Dememtro, who hugged the Rev. Andrii Pokotylo before the group left for its next surprise visit.

Nine church youth, Pokotylo and several volunteer-parents visited homebound parishioners in New Britain, Plainville, Berlin and Newington to deliver traditional Ukrainian Christmas carols.

The group left its Winter Street church after the morning’s services, eager to drop in on people they hadn’t seen in varying lengths of time.

“We brought church to you,” Pokotylo told Dememtro.

“You’re not alone,” he continued. “We’re with you all the time and we pray for you.”

She smiled, pointing out that the children had grown since they visited a year ago.

“Half of these faces I don’t even recognize, because you’ve all grown up so much. It’s been a long time. I miss going to church, I really do.”

Sisters Stephanie and Anya Melnyk were the oldest, ages 18 and 16. Their mother, Chris Melynk, tagged along with the group.

“It’s a nice way for the kids to give back to people who can’t be at church,” she said.

Stephanie was home from college over the weekend, and she was happy to be a part of the day.

“They all love it,” she said. “Their reactions are the best part.”

“We’ve done it for so many years now it’s a tradition,” Anya added. “It’s nice to be able to bring some joy to people we don’t get to see in church.”

After leaving Arbor Rose, the group traveled to Plainville, where members performed several carols for homebound parishioner Robert Yawin.

In total, they visited five places and six people.

“They are all professionals,” said Pokotylo of the young people. “This is not their first year singing.”

St. Mary’s youth choir rehearses after Sunday school each week. Pokotylo started the caroling tradition when he came to the church many years ago.

“In Ukrainian culture, when we celebrate Christmas, we do caroling not only in church and at home, but we spread the joy and excitement to as many people as we can,” he said.

One of the youngest participants, and the only boy in the group, was Vlad Dyrbavka, who lives in Bristol.

“I was born in Ukraine,” said Dyrbavka, holding a handmade, star-shaped sign of the Virgin Mary giving birth to Baby Jesus in a cave.

“It’s nice to be here,” he added.

Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or

Posted in New Britain Herald, , New Britain on Sunday, 14 January 2018 22:12. Updated: Sunday, 14 January 2018 22:14.