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Seminarians of St. Sophia Seminary Learn How to Make Traditional Ukrainian Pysanky


Every year before Pascha (Easter), the Seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Bound Brook, NJ attend a workshop on creating traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs, called pysanky.

The current full-time student body attended this workshop, which took place Wednesday evening on March 11, 2015: seminarians Volodymyr Yavorskyi, Ivan Chopko, Yurii Bobko, Taras Kaluznyy, Ihor Protsak, and Tadey Surak. The class was taught by Dobrodiyka Oksana Pasakas, Natalia Hlushko and Mykola Hlushko.

At the beginning of the workshop, the students watched the film “How to Decorate Beautiful Ukrainian Easter Eggs (Pysanky) with Luba”. The film is narrated by pysanka artist Luba Prechyshyn as she demonstrates how to create your own beautiful pysanka. The film was supplemented by teaching materials presented by the instructors—elaborating on the evolution of the pysanka making and its symbolism over the past several centuries, and discussing the different colors and symbols that are present on these pysanky.

Pysanky symbols at first had pagan meanings, but after the baptism of Ukraine in 988, the symbols on the pysanky took on Christian meanings, such as crosses, churches, pussy willows on Palm Sunday, and the tears of the Virgin Mary. The students learned how to apply wax to the pysanky using the traditional wax-resist method, similar to batik; how to properly dye their eggs in the special dyes, carefully preserving the designs hidden below the wax; and then at the end learned how to remove wax by holding the egg to the candle’s flame, revealing the colorful designs on their eggs. Some students wrote only one pysanka, while others were ambitious and made two pysanky. The movie made the process look very simple, but several students expressed that it was not as easy as it looked and the task needed a lot of patience and knowledge of the details.

As a whole, it was a fun and interesting workshop of a nice Ukrainian tradition, one which should be kept alive and passed on from generation to generation.

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