With a strong connection in its local and world history roots, the Russian Heritage Organization will host a celebration to mark the Russian New Year on Jan. 8 with a gala at the TradeWinds Resort in St. Pete Beach.
Florida’s St. Petersburg has a connection to the former Russian nobleman Pyotr Dementyev, who changed his name to Peter Demens. He brought the Orange Belt Railway to St. Petersburg and named the city after the place where he grew up.
The late Tatiana Vondersaar founded the local Russian Heritage Society in 1995 and her daughter, Margo Vondersaar-Catsimatidis, took up the mantel after Tatiana’s death in 2009. The Eastern European community in Tampa Bay fed the need for the organization and its annual festival, she said.
“The people who came from oppressed nations, be it Venezuela, Cuba, Russia or any of them,” appreciate both their culture and their freedom, she said, “because they love America more than anyone.”
Vondersaar-Catsimatidis, 68, is a former Bolshoi ballerina and grew up in a house with a mother who was a translator for immigrants in the court system. She said she was compelled “to keep Russian culture alive.”
There are an estimated 10,000 to 16,000 Russian speakers in the Tampa Bay region and about 200 members of the Russian Heritage Organization, she said.
The gala at the TradeWinds will have dinner and dancing, the popular meat pie tart “piroshkis” and traditional Russian dancers. Tickets start at $150 at russianheritage.org. The TradeWinds Island Resort is located at 5500 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach. Cocktail hour starts at 5:15 p.m.