NEW BRITAIN - Pauline Dememtro mouthed the words to â€śNebo I Zemeliaâ€ť as youth members of her church sang them to her Sunday at Arbor Rose.
The New Britain resident called the groupâ€™s visit to the assisted and independent living facility â€śa pleasant surpriseâ€ť and â€śa beautiful thing,â€ť since she hasnâ€™t been able to attend services at St. Maryâ€™s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in a couple of years.
â€śTo me it seems like a century ago,â€ť 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, Newington, Plainville and Berlin to deliver traditional Ukrainian Christmas carols.
The group left its Winter Street church after the morningâ€™s services, eager to drop in on people they hadnâ€™t seen in varying lengths of time.
â€śWe brought church to you,â€ť Pokotylo told Dememtro.
â€śYouâ€™re not alone,â€ť he continued. â€śWeâ€™re with you all the time and we pray for you.â€ť
She smiled, pointing out that the children had grown since they visited a year ago.
â€śHalf of these faces I donâ€™t even recognize, because youâ€™ve all grown up so much. Itâ€™s been a long time. I miss going to church, I really do,â€ť she said.
Sisters Stephanie and Anya Melnyk were the oldest, ages 18 and 16. Their mother, Chris Melynk, tagged along with the group.
â€śItâ€™s a nice way for the kids to give back to people who canâ€™t be at church,â€ť she said.
Stephanie was home from college over the weekend, and she was happy to be a part of the day.
â€śThey all love it,â€ť she said. â€śTheir reactions are the best part.â€ť
â€śWeâ€™ve done it for so many years now itâ€™s a tradition,â€ť Anya added. â€śItâ€™s nice to be able to bring some joy to people we donâ€™t get to see in church.â€ť
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.
â€śThey are all professionals,â€ť Pokotylo said of the young people. â€śThis is not their first year singing.â€ť
St. Maryâ€™s youth choir rehearses after Sunday school each week. Pokotylo started the caroling tradition when he came to the church many years ago.
â€śIn 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,â€ť he said.
One of the youngest participants, and the only boy in the group, was Vlad Dyrbavka, who lives in Bristol.
â€śI was born in Ukraine,â€ť said Dyrbavka, holding a handmade, star-shaped sign of the Virgin Mary giving birth to Baby Jesus in a cave.
â€śItâ€™s nice to be here,â€ť he added.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.