A colorful — and delicate — Ukrainian tradition

10 April 2017, 17:14 | Kaleidoscope-digest | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Barbara Hall

8 April 2017 Washington Post

Jurij Dobczansky is carrying forward an 11th-century practice that is part art, part heritage and steeped in religious tradition.

It begins with a small, funnel-like tube filled with beeswax, brightly colored dyes, a smooth uncooked egg, a steady hand and lots of patience.

And it ends with intricately decorated eggs covered with designs and colors representing Ukrainian identity through the lens of Christianity.

It is the delicate skill of creating pysanka eggs, and Dobczansky, 67, has been sharing it with people in the Washington region for 34 years. Each spring, he teaches the making of pysanky — the plural form — at workshops at the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in the District.

For Dobczansky, who lives in Silver Spring, Md., the classes are about far more than creating beautiful eggs for the Easter holiday. It is about keeping alive his heritage and his faith and sharing it with others.

“I remember first crafting — the correct Ukrainian term is ‘writing’ — pysanka around age 7 or 8,” he said. “I achieved a respectable pysanka — colors, lines — in fourth grade. Then, of course, my mother decided to give my masterpieces away at Easter, and so I was encouraged to make a whole lot more.

“Eventually, I myself began giving away,” he added. “The girls were impressed.”

Archaeologists have unearthed ceramic decorated eggs in Ukraine dating circa 3,000 B.C. For those ancients worshiping the sun god Dazhboh, decorated eggs were an affirmation of spring following a harsh winter. The eggs were also considered protection against illness and other forms of misfortune.

When Ukrainians adopted Christianity in circa 988, the practice of egg decorating continued but with the focus on Easter.

“We decorate these eggs to remind us of new life and the celebration of the resurrection of Christ,” said Father Robert Hitchens, rector of the Ukrainian Holy Family Church.

Hitchens called the passing on of pysanky important because it keeps the culture alive.

Every design has meaning. A circle represents the sun and integrity, also nature’s triumph over evil. Dots stand for the future. A star or “rosetta” is used to convey life itself, the source of light, beauty and perfection. Triangles are air, fire and water. Straight lines indicate eternal life.

Jurij Dobczansky is carrying forward an 11th-century practice that is part art, part heritage and steeped in religious tradition.

It begins with a small, funnel-like tube filled with beeswax, brightly colored dyes, a smooth uncooked egg, a steady hand and lots of patience.

And it ends with intricately decorated eggs covered with designs and colors representing Ukrainian identity through the lens of Christianity.

It is the delicate skill of creating pysanka eggs, and Dobczansky, 67, has been sharing it with people in the Washington region for 34 years. Each spring, he teaches the making of pysanky — the plural form — at workshops at the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in the District.

For Dobczansky, who lives in Silver Spring, Md., the classes are about far more than creating beautiful eggs for the Easter holiday. It is about keeping alive his heritage and his faith and sharing it with others.

“I remember first crafting — the correct Ukrainian term is ‘writing’ — pysanka around age 7 or 8,” he said. “I achieved a respectable pysanka — colors, lines — in fourth grade. Then, of course, my mother decided to give my masterpieces away at Easter, and so I was encouraged to make a whole lot more.

“Eventually, I myself began giving away,” he added. “The girls were impressed.”

Archaeologists have unearthed ceramic decorated eggs in Ukraine dating circa 3,000 B.C. For those ancients worshiping the sun god Dazhboh, decorated eggs were an affirmation of spring following a harsh winter. The eggs were also considered protection against illness and other forms of misfortune.

When Ukrainians adopted Christianity in circa 988, the practice of egg decorating continued but with the focus on Easter.

“We decorate these eggs to remind us of new life and the celebration of the resurrection of Christ,” said Father Robert Hitchens, rector of the Ukrainian Holy Family Church.

Hitchens called the passing on of pysanky important because it keeps the culture alive.

Every design has meaning. A circle represents the sun and integrity, also nature’s triumph over evil. Dots stand for the future. A star or “rosetta” is used to convey life itself, the source of light, beauty and perfection. Triangles are air, fire and water. Straight lines indicate eternal life.

There have been some bows to modernity in today’s pysanky process. Those without a connection to Ukraine are learning the process. Some of the instruments used to create the designs are now electric. And the designs themselves are turning up on everything from Volkswagen exteriors to golf balls.

Dobczansky is philosophical about the changes. “You can’t stop people from doing what they do.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s changing what he does.

“Often, it is asked why we invest so much time and effort into decorating a fragile eggshell,” he said. “Were you to ask the over 800 who’ve participated in our workshops, you would probably hear 800 reasons. But above all, you’d sense an excitement, a joy, in learning this craft and its tradition.

“Yes, it appears the eggshell is indeed fragile. But the legacy of the pysanka is quite strong.”

 

 

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  • Ivan Kaszczak | 11 October 2017, 16:36

    Nomenclature is often problematic. I am in communion with the successor of St. Peter either he be in Rome or elsewhere. I belong to the one, holy, catholic and Apostolic church. Sometimes this church

  • velovs@ukr.net | 11 October 2017, 16:03

    "У Римі молебнем до святого Йосафата на гробі святого Івана Павла ІІ в базиліці святого Петра у Ватикані 11 жовтня 2017 року розпочались урочистості з нагоди вручення Нагороди примирення 2017

  • Andrew Sorokowski | 11 October 2017, 15:37

    I suppose one has to discern what one's interlocutor is really asking. Depending on this, one may honestly reply that one is Catholic, or Orthodox. If one is speaking with an intellectually curious

  • Михаил | 11 October 2017, 02:50

    Дай-то Бог! Ласково просимо!

  • Стефан | 8 October 2017, 00:32

    Беззаконие и произвол воров, грабителей, убийц, мошенников, лжецов и лицемеров длится уже 100 лет. Честные, благородные, справедливые люди, по определению, не могут соответствовать требованиям

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