Marichka Galadza, left, and a workshop participant prepare pysanky, the colourful Ukrainian Easter eggs that are a tradition among Ukraine’s Catholics. Photo courtesy of Marichka Galadza

Ukrainian tradition helps out good causes

By 
  • April 20, 2014

TORONTO - For the local artisans who belong to Kosa Kolektiv, making pysanky — Ukrainian Easter eggs — is a way to share the skills passed down from generation to generation of Ukrainians.

“But we also use it as a platform to do some charitable work or fundraising for different causes,” said Marichka Galadza, a founding member of the arts collective.

For the fourth year in a row, Kosa Kolektiv has held pysanky workshops across the city in spaces such as St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church and St. Vladimir Institute during the Lenten season.

This year, the organization they’re supporting is Dzherelo centres for people living with disabilities in Lviv, Ukraine.

“They run therapy and they also have places for people to hang out that are accessible because in Ukraine accessibility is still not as much of a priority as it is in Canada,” said Galadza.

And in light of the recent fire at St. Elias the Prophet Ukrainian Catholic Church in Brampton, Kosa Kolektiv held an impromptu workshop on April 13 as a fundraiser for the rebuilding of the church, said Galadza.

Fr. Archpriest Roman Galadza, pastor of the church, which was destroyed in the April 5 blaze, is her uncle.

“I’m very moved and hopeful by the response of the parishioners and my uncle,” said Galadza.

Her father is also a Ukrainian Catholic priest, and “my grandfather was a cantor… and they really grew up with the Church as a major force in their lives.”

While the pysanky workshops are open to all, the practice is very tied to the Lenten tradition for many Ukrainian Catholics, she said.

“Lent is a time of reflection and meditation and it’s really a beautiful meditative practice. It’s very quiet and very focused.”

And when the eggs are complete, they don’t just go in a display case — they are placed in an Easter basket that’s blessed at Easter, she said.

“At Easter, Ukrainians put all the things they were supposed to not partake in during Lent in that basket and then it gets blessed after the Easter service. Then they eat that as their meal to break the Lenten fast.”

The pysanky are created with a “resist dying” technique using wax.

Once a design is drawn on the eggs with pencil, wax is applied with a pen-like tool called a stylus. After the eggs are submerged in dyes, the wax is melted off.

“Then you can empty it out because it is made from a regular raw egg. We don’t hard boil it… Or you can leave it full.”

Some of the designs incorporate religious symbolism, such as the cross, the fish — which represents Christianity — and the ladder, which is representative of prayer, among others, she said.

“During communism, writing pysanky was prohibited,” said Galadza. “It was looked at as a subversive religious practice. So after 1991 when the Soviet Union disbanded in Ukraine, there was a revitalization of the art form.”

(Santilli is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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