Vyshyvanka Day: Ukrainians wear traditional clothing in the shade of the Russians

An employee of the Ukrainian National Police grabbed a flower in Kiev on Thursday in an embroidered shirt, marking Valentine's Day.
An employee of the Ukrainian National Police grabbed a flower in Kiev on Thursday in an embroidered shirt, marking Valentine’s Day. (Kasia Strek / Panos Pictures / FTWP)

KYIV, Ukraine – There was a time when Ukraine’s traditional clothing, known for its intricate embroidery, was so specialized that most villages had their own designs. People can identify what they are wearing and where they come from.

Now the Russian aggression is evoking unique patterns and a new interest in history that is literally a part of the fabric of Ukraine.

On Thursday, Ukrainians celebrated the annual celebration of the country’s traditional dress, an emotional Vaishnavism Day, amid the ongoing war.

Centuries-old techniques are involved in the artistic creation of clothing – for example, threads were dyed with natural dyes, from aldberry, buckthorn, oak bark.

Leading Ukrainian designers are reviving the tradition, inspired by those who have kept time-worn practices alive, especially in rural areas.

“For me, in Ukraine, we have such a rich cultural heritage, and much of it has been hidden or neglected for decades,” said Artem Klimchuk, 35, a Kiev designer who embroidered a shirt worn by Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska. . “My goal is to teach people about it and I do it through my work.”

Designs are often intricate and bright colors. They represent views from the diverse geography of Ukraine, which extends through forests and steppes, prairies and river gorges.

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Many keepers of Ukraine’s traditional dress system are older women who receive little support or income for their embroidery. Olena Skripka, 60, collects and researches traditional clothing at her home on the outskirts of Kiev.

‚ÄúThere was a collection from the late 19th century. This is the first time I’ve seen white-yarn-on-white-fabric embroidery. I was amazed, “he said.” The painting of the Mona Lisa didn’t impress me much.

That white-on-white pattern was common in the clothing of people who could not afford dye. In the northern Chernihiv region of Ukraine, people adopted winter patterns with white color.

“Our tradition means no two shirts are one,” said Olha Kostyuchenko, a member of the National Union of Folk Masters, who is from the region. “When I close my eyes, I see an old shirt. It comes from Chernihiv, white-on-white, which we call the frost pattern. The name comes from the winter glass pattern. That’s love, and that’s it. “

Many Ukrainians see Russia as a colonial power that has for centuries tried to suppress Ukrainian identity and integrate it into mainstream Russian culture. The term “vyshyvanka” is controversial here – to the Ukrainians it suggests a flattening of different styles of Soviet-era country, and many have tried to change the name of the celebration. On Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelensky called it Embroidery Shirt Day.

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In the shadow of the war, Ukrainians are also reviving and reviving the country’s art, music and language.

Gala Privalova, 56, an architect and interior designer, has opened up a wide collection of her Ukrainian art to visitors, including embroidered clothing.

“I have a responsibility to show what tomorrow may be like and what we are fighting for,” he said. “Our art and our culture are part of it.”

Culture is something that Ukrainians are fighting for, but it also helps someone go through war.

Halina Khalchenia, 65, was trapped in her home as Russian troops marched through the town of Borodianka outside Kiev. The bombs fell; Her son’s house was destroyed.

Eight members of the family have moved into his small apartment.

“Whenever I was stressed or hesitant, I would embroider,” he said. “When my kids were little, I would put them to bed, and I would embroider until I was so tired that I would put a needle in my finger.”

Maria Kavitka and Serhiy Margunov contributed to this report.

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