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A Ukrainian “Rainbow” Celebrates Sixty Years in the East Village

The original Veselka storefront
The original Veselka storefront

Veselka, an East Village institution, is celebrating its 60th anniversary and invites the community for free perogies and other Ukrainian comfort foods and beverages this Monday from 6pm to 11pm. Bring your party hats, a hungry appetite and come celebrate this village treasure!

A Brief History

In the wake of World War Two, Wolodymyr Darmochwal and his wife Olha emigrated from the Ukraine to the U.S. and settled in the East Village, home to one of the largest Ukrainian communities in the world at that time. Mr. Darmochwal became involved with community efforts from the start, including playing an active role in the Ukrainian Youth Organization.

Following his dream to run his own business, Mr. Darmochwal opened a small newsstand and candy store in 1954, on 144 Second Avenue, naming it “Veselka”, meaning “rainbow” in Ukrainian. Veselka remained a candy store well into the sixties, but Mr. Darmochwal also asked several local Ukrainian women to come into the store and cook dishes for his friends and added a separate dining room, known as the “Blue Room”. As it was expanded further east into the building, Veselka quickly became a neighborhood institution, a haven for local artists, beatniks and eastern European immigrants. By 1990 Veselka became a 24-hour restaurant. The current owner, Tom Birchard, Darmochwal’s son-in-law, came on board in 1967 and has been with Veselka ever since.

Some of the many Ukranian dishes served at Veselka today.
Some of the many Ukrainian dishes served at Veselka today.

Today, the family-run restaurant produces an estimated 3,000 perogies a day, over 2,500 potato pancakes a week, and 5,000 gallons of borscht per year.

Sixty years later, Veselka continues to uphold its tradition of commitment to East Village community efforts.

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