- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2008

Washington’s old guard Russian emigres danced and dined with champagne toasts and balalaikas strumming at the 38th annual Russian New Year’s Ball on Friday night. It was, longtime doyenne Princess Alexis Obolensky noted, the event’s 30th anniversary in the Mayflower Hotel’s appropriately gilded ballroom. (The first eight, she said, were in the “basement.”) Wearing her ivory traditional jeweled kokoshnik and matching sarafan, the princess (Selene to friends) greeted guests in traditional style, which meant vodka flowed and folk dancers leapt, all for the benefit of students attending a special school on the Obolensky family’s former estate in Russia’s Kaluga province.

The news was her recent move back to town after a brief stint in the suburbs. “I can’t live in the country,” she declared with a wave of her hand to a reporter. “I can’t milk a cow.”

OlgaandBob Ryan were among the “mixed marriages” in the crowd, she being of Russian descent, he Irish. Asked how the two groups get along, Mrs. Ryan laughed. “Well, we both love to sing, and drink.” Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov came with his wife, the ever-glamorous Svetlana, who dazzled in a brocade cape trimmed in Russian sable.

Prince David Chavchavadze, a double second cousin of Czar Nicholas II and a stalwart of the old Russian aristocratic set here, made a regal entrance with his wife, Eugenie. Also sighted: former Rep. James W. Symington (“I sing better in Russian than I speak it”) and wife Sylvia, Gertrude d’Amecourt, Raisa Scriabine, Vladimirand Suzanne Tolstoy-Miloslavsky and the ambassadors of Bulgaria and Malta.

Stephanie Mansfield