Lot #219 | Ukrainian Pysanka by Arina Yagodynska
10 Years Old
2023. Kyiv, Ukraine
● 11,8”х15,7” (30х40 cm) Gouache, Cotton Drawing Paper
● This Artwork Comes With a Wall Plaque of the Good Samaritan
● Free Worldwide Shipping
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The History Behind the Ukrainian Tradition of Decorating Pysanky Easter Eggs.
As the war in Ukraine continues once again into the Easter season — with the Catholic and Protestant churches celebrating Easter in 2023 on April 9, and Orthodox Easter, as celebrated by many Ukrainians, falling on April 16—a spotlight is shining on the Ukrainian Easter tradition of decorating Easter eggs known as pysanky. Decorating them has become a gesture of peace, as the war has brought new meaning to an old tradition that dates back to pre-Christian times.
In the first Easter season after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, artists organized fundraisers and sold these eggs to raise money for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. In New York City, for example, the Ukrainian Institute of America invited members of the public to contribute decorated eggs and put these submissions on display.
The name for these Easter eggs—pysanka in the singular and pysanky as plural—is derived from the Ukrainian verb pysaty, which means “to write.” So in this case, the word refers to the writing on the eggs. While many Christians might be familiar with dying Easter eggs with solid colors, Ukrainian Easter eggs often feature complex geometric and floral designs.
Nobody knows when exactly this tradition started, and a number of different origin stories persist, some dating back to before their association with the Easter holiday. One of these stories says that the ritual is meant to represent the return of sunshine after a long winter, and eggs are used because the yellow yolk is thought to resemble the sun, according to Sofika Zielyk, a New York City-based ethnographer and pysanka artist. Another pre-Christian legend tells the story of a monster, the personification of evil, in the Carpathian mountains; in that story, the more pysanky people make, the tighter the chains are wrapped around the monster, keeping it at bay so that it doesn’t destroy the world.
Zielyk, curated the exhibit of pysanky at the Ukrainian Institute of America, said this story of the monster inspired the show: She envisioned Russian President Vladimir Putin as the monster in this case, and the plethora of accumulated pysanky symbolizes reining him in.
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