Pysanka - The Traditional Ukrainian Egg
traditions that are taken for granted by the Ukrainian diaspora in North America
have stagnated or suffered a decline in Ukraine during the period of the Soviet
writing, one of these traditions, was reintroduced this summer to the small
rural village of Lokitka in the Ivano-Frankivska oblast of Ukraine during my
one-month visit with relatives.
reading articles and books, listening to radio programs and from stories from my
relatives, it appeared to me that pysankas in Ukraine are not as wide spread
amongst the population as our collective folk image of Ukraine would lead us to
believe. Many of Ukraine’s pysankas are relegated to museums; those that are
in homes are often carved out of wood or painted.
Ukraine’s independence, the tradition of pysanka writing, using the
traditional batik method utilising molten bees wax and dyes is being revived in
Ukraine by artists of an older generation.
diaspora, Ukrainians have maintained an interest in pysanka writing as a
tangible link to their culture - as a way to maintain the traditions of a
homeland long denied them by political factors.
there is some debate surfacing that diaspora pysankas are wavering away from the
simple traditional symbolic creations that were written by our forefathers and
common folk. The diaspora pysanaks are becoming more and more complex in design
- indeed, elevated to an art form. This has been made possible by the
availability of commercial dyes and extra-fine pointed electric kistkas, the
pysanka’s heated ‘writing’ instrument. There is the natural desire, as one
gains experience, to make designs more intricate.
pysankas of high artistic quality are much in evidence in the diaspora, one
wonders whether diaspora Ukrainians can also recall or interpret the meanings of
the pysanka’s colours and symbols ‘written on the eggs’ - which, after
all, was their original purpose.
my visit to my relatives this summer, I was amazed but disturbed by the absence
of pysankas in the homes that I visited. More disturbing was the discovery that
the day-to-day people that I met had no idea how pysankas are created, much less
as to how to interpret the symbolic meanings of the colours and symbols written
on the eggs.
this in mind, I undertook to teach y Aunt Darusya and Cousin Zoryana this
ancient and revered technique during my stay with them.
and Zoryana quickly absorbed the basics and effortlessly created their first
is only a question of them putting into practice an old army training technique
- ‘See One, Do One, Teach One’!
a life-long master embroiderer, will have no problem creating her own pysankas
and passing on the technique to the neighbours in her village.
winter months, which permit her and Zoryana a rest from the backbreaking work in
the fields, are ideal for the writing of pysankas as a hobby.
have all the materials they require, including documentation to help interpret
the meaning of colours and symbols.
It is my
hope, that on my next visit to my relatives, more than one home in their village
will have a traditional pysanka proudly displayed by newly ‘resurrected’