Dr. Marek Pienkowski displays an elaborate Ukrainian cake that was a door prize at the gala.
It was an extraordinary evening recently at the Knoxville Botanical Garden with moving music and a delicious — and unique — dinner. But the most special thing of all was the purpose. It was a fundraiser organized by Dr. Marek Pienkowski to benefit Doctors Without Borders’ work in war-ravaged Ukraine.
The gala evening raised more than $26,000 for the effort and featured music and food from the Ukrainian nation. Also on tap: an auction of works by artists of the region.
Ukraine’s official colors — blue and yellow — and its trademark sunflowers in the centerpieces made it hard to forget the purpose of the gathering. Musicians — several from the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra — were conducted by James Fellenbaum, director of operas at the University of Tennessee and resident conductor of the Knoxville Symphony. Food was by Rosa’s Catering which put together the meal using special advice from Olena Korotych, an award-winning scientist and instructor at the University of Tennessee who hails from Ukraine.
Blue and yellow, Ukraine’s colors, were the hues of the evening.
The centerpieces were appropriate.
Victor Ashe, former Knoxville mayor and U.S. ambassador to Poland, with Ellen Adcock.
My favorite person to see! Joan Ashe, who surprised us with bottles of pinot grigio for our table. She knows my favorite wine is “ABC,” which stands for “Anything But Chardonnay,” the only white wine they were serving! (I owe you, friend!)
Lauren and Matt Shears. He’s getting rave reviews these days as head of the Knox County Democratic Party.
Bo and Jackie Williams. Bo, of WATE, helped with emceeing duties.
Amy and Tim Williams.
Alan Carmichael, left, and Richard Ford.
Dawn Ford with Dr. Marek Pienkowski.
Linda and Culver Schmid.
Donna and Craig Griffith.
Ellen Adcock and Gregory Kaplan. He’s a candidate for the Tennessee House seat currently occupied by State Rep. Eddie Mannis, who is not seeking re-election.
Len de Rohan, left, and Susan Seymour.
Appetizers were potato pancakes with sour cream, deviled eggs and beet salad.
Maestro Fellenbaum introduced the Ukrainian National Anthem.
KSO musicians Mary Ann Fee Fennell and Sean Claire.
Katharine Pearson Criss enjoying the tunes.
Dinner was Chicken Kyiv (natch!), aromatic spice-rubbed pork loin, dilled new potatoes and baked cauliflower with cheese. Garnish was a dill pickle.
Here’s Olena Korotych, the mastermind behind the menu.
Desserts were honey cake and apricots and prunes with almonds in chocolate.
Miroslav Hristov, left, the former associate concertmaster of the Knoxville Symphony, left, with Maestro James Fellenbaum after dinner.
“Letters” by Nataliya Pinchuk was one of several pieces up for bid.
This is “Calla Lilies” by Myroslav Duzinkevych.
Another peek on the patio during a one-of-a-kind event. Great job, everybody!
A little taste of the music: