Article by Khrystyna Khodakivska
Easter is a very special time of the year, one of the most important religious festivals, which has its roots in the ancient rituals celebrating the rite of spring. Easter traditions vary from country to country, but the common themes are rebirth, renewal and everlasting life. Ukrainians explore these subjects by decorating Easter eggs called pysanky, from the word ‘pysaty’, which means ‘to write’. These eggs carry messages, written in the language of our ancestors, which were used in rituals to communicate with pagan deities. Many believe that pysanky originated in Trypillian culture, a late Neolithic culture that existed on the territory of modern Ukraine from ca. 5400 to 2750 BC.
This Easter, Londoners were treated to a series of Pysanky Masterclasses, organised by Khrystyna Khodakivska, Natalya Szkral and Maria Stashko as part of the #ExperienceUkraine initiative.
Supplies for the workshop were provided by a talented young Ukrainian folk artist from Volyn’, Andriy Bondaruk. Andriy holds Masterclasses and promotes pysanka techniques in Ukraine, while also raising money for Ukrainian families in need. He also designed the ‘pysachok’, a tool used in making pysanky and published pysanka instruction books, both of which were available at the workshops.
The first masterclass on the 22nd of March at Bankside Community Space, brought together over 70 people and was a huge success. It was followed by two smaller private workshops and then, on Easter Sunday (Ukrainian Palm Sunday) Prosperity Ukrainian Restaurant based in Twickenham hosted a further community workshop.
The magic of ‘pysanka’ was revealed in Khrystyna McPeake’s presentation on the meanings and history of this ancient art, while Natalia demonstrated the intricate patterns of Hutsul pysanky.
Most of the attendees had never done a pysanka before. Luba Shepherd, who attended the workshop in Prosperity Restaurant, said “I did not expect to make any, I came simply to watch others, but I have discovered that I can do pysanky too and I made four! I loved every minute of it.”
Rob O’Connor enjoyed the first workshop so much that he brought along his wife Billie to the next one; both are now equipped with a fine pysanky making kit and are producing stunning designs at home. “It was like a little piece of Ukraine had come to London for the day!” – said Rob.
Many of the new pysanky creators commented on how therapeutic they found the process of making pysanky, which was reflected in the friendly and cosy atmosphere at each workshop.
Khrystyna and Natalia concluded the series with an authentic Ukrainian Easter celebration at the Bushy Park Allotments, where guests tasted traditional homemade Paska, saluted Christ’s Resurrection with krashanky and received gifts of beautiful pysanky made by Natalia.
Although the main purpose of the events was to promote Ukrainian culture in London, they also served a charitable mission of raising funds for Ukrainian families who have lost their loved ones in the conflict in the East of Ukraine. Over £900 was collected during the workshops.
Thus, pysanky played a huge part in this beautiful, authentic and eternal festival of spring, giving joy to many in London and, a much-needed support to those in Ukraine. The organisers would like to thank everyone who helped run the events, and those who took part in the workshops and donated generously towards this cause.
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