Skip to content

Ukrainian Pysanka writing is very different than Easter egg painting – SteinbachOnline.com

With the recent influx of refugees from Ukraine settling in parts of southeastern Manitoba, there came the desire to keep their Ukrainian traditions alive here in Canada. So the Steinbach Ukrainian group has been organizing events to teach their own children as well as the non-Ukrainan, of a culture that has been around for thousands of years.  

One of those traditions is the art of egg writing or Pysanka, which literally means to write, in this case, on an egg.

Daryna Malyukh, from the local Ukrainian community, says “In Ukraine, it was traditionally done during the last week of Lent, Holy Week. In Ukraine, we celebrate Easter by the Julian calendar. The pysanky (egg writing) was done at night when the children were asleep. It was kind of like a tradition. The women in the family gathered together. They said appropriate prayers and went to work. And it was done like in a secret.”

Ukrainian Pysanka writing is very different than Easter egg painting – SteinbachOnline.comCompleted Pysanka-designed eggs created by a master in the art, Yevgeniya Tatarenko.

Malyukh says the patterns and colours were unique to each family, as well as which region of Ukraine they were from.  

“They had their secrets about dyes. They had their secrets about painting, like how they do it, and about the instruments they use. It was very much a family thing.” And she says these traditions continue today.  

Malyukh shares how this beautiful art form began.   

“So, the oldest pysanky (decorated egg) was found in Ukraine and it was older than 500 years. They believe it all started in the pre-Christ period. But it’s hard to know for sure. It was really popular in Ukraine in the western part of Ukraine, like Kolombya, Lviv, Kyiv, Hutsul region, and the whole mountain region. It was done with traditional folk designs. They began mass producing the eggs (pysanky) and taking them to the nearby towns to sell at Easter. After a while, this practice proved profitable and Ukrainian pysanky began to appear in markets throughout western Ukraine and the rest of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including major cities like Vienna and Budapest. It was a huge deal for everyone to write Pysanka.” 

Malyukh notes there was a time in their history when the practice was banned in Ukraine. Because this craft was a big part of the Ukrainian culture but also religion and a symbol of their faith, Russian leaders like Stalin “tried to erase pysanka”. She says during that time, there were still people practicing the craft in secret, “knowing that if they were caught, they’d be killed.”  

Malyukh is very grateful to the Gutsol region of Ukraine and Canada for letting them keep this tradition.  

“Could you imagine that this art was preserved when the first Ukrainians who arrived in Canada, were from the West part of Ukraine and they brought this tradition here? And because it was so deeply rooted in their lives and they believed they just couldn’t live without this, and they not only preserved it here in Canada, but they also developed this art and kept this alive. So, thank you, Canada, for this.” 

Malyukh says the art of Pysanka was around before Christ. “But in 988AD, the Ukrainians accepted Christianity and their pysanky designs reflected this. So, the egg became a symbol of resurrection and the promise of life eternal. So, if you see a cross on a pysanky, it signifies the resurrection and the Saviour. If you see any plant symbols, it’s new life and growth. If it’s a fish, then it’s an ancient symbol for Christ. Dots represent stars in heaven and the tears of Mary and so on and so on. So, it’s not only about pysanka painting but what we put on the egg, because every symbol, every dot means something. That’s why we do it before Easter because now it’s like an addition to our Christian Easter tradition.”

Pysanka Masterclass members at the Pat Porter Active Living CentrePysanka Masterclass members at the Pat Porter Active Living Centre with their teacher, Yevgeniya Tatarenko (front with her son)

This past Saturday afternoon the local Ukrainian Community Group held a special Masterclass at the Pat Porter Active Living Centre in Steinbach. Yevgeniya Tatarenko is a master in the craft of Pysanka.  

Malyukh says that Yevgeniya first started when she was 12 years old. Over the years she has perfected her art form and now has a whole collection of pysanka eggs, tools, wax, and dyes.  

Yevgeniya and her family immigrated to Canada 7 years ago and she lives in the Morden area.

Steps to create a Pysanky: 

Choosing a Pysanka design1. Choose an egg and a design

 

Write design on the egg 2. Write your design on the egg. 

 

Covering all the parts of the egg with wax using a Kistka that you want to stay white3. Cover all the parts of the egg with wax that you want to stay white, using a Kistka.

 

Dipping the eggs in colored dye4. Dip the egg in the lightest color you want on the egg. Most often it’s yellow.

 

Then wax is applied again to any area that needs to stay yellow. 5. Continue until the entire egg is covered in wax and dipped in the final dye, black

 

The brilliant colors which were covered in wax are revealed. 6. The egg is held up to a candle flame and the wax is gently removed to reveal the final design. 
7. Now it's time to treasure your egg designed in the Ukrainian art of Pysanka. 7. Now it’s time to treasure your egg designed in the Ukrainian art of Pysanka.