Ukrainian Easter eggs for hope, remembrance

Bayville resident Alina Blakesley has been painting Ukrainian eggs at Easter for decades. This year, the parallels between what happens to Ukrainians and their country, and what his parents experienced when Russia invaded their homeland, Poland, weighed on Blakesley’s mind.

“The Polish people suffered under the Russians. My parents were sent to the gulags in Siberia,” Blakesley said. “What we, the Polish people, understand is the struggle for freedom. The legend of pysanky (meaning writing) is about ensuring that evil does not prevail in the world… that darkness does not triumph over light. This war inspired me not to forget this beautiful ritual.

Blakesley learned the art from a Ukrainian she met after moving from England to Maine 42 years ago. Ukrainian egg designs, she explained, are more intricate, bolder in color and use more flowers than Polish Easter eggs. Each choice of a symbol and its color is deliberate. Eggs are organic canvases used to convey messages of hope, courage, strength and love.

“It’s a great way to teach kids, in these times too,” Blakesley said. She used to bring Ukrainian Easter eggs to local schools for this purpose. “You always want new things to develop. The women they are preparing for spring. It’s still cold outside, but there’s this feeling of hope. And when you have a whole country doing (pysanky), that’s pretty powerful, don’t you think? »

Blakesley picks up a goose egg designed for Ukraine: the azure blue and golden yellow represent the country’s flag. The colors of the flag symbolize the blue sky above and the wheat fields below. Ukraine is known as the breadbasket of the world. The threads of the egg symbolize the separation of good from evil; the diamond shapes around the center of the egg bear sinuous lines called Mary’s tears symbolizing the length of the journey to freedom from oppression. Her tears are suffering. And then there are the ladders, short lines moving upward symbolizing ascension to heaven and prayer.

“When I was doing the ladders I thought of the Ukrainian people sacrificing their lives and they were leaving…it reminded me of how Poland fought for freedom and how many died for that freedom. People have to sacrifice their lives for freedom. When you make these eggs you think about what the symbols mean.

After each year’s eggs are finished, they are taken to a priest to be blessed. Blakesley said some are donated, some are buried outside the front door of the family home to ward off evil; some are buried near a headstone for remembrance; and others are being saved for next year’s Easter.

The symbolism of Ukrainian Easter eggs begins with the egg, a universal symbol of hope, rebirth and new beginnings; wheat or grain grounds, a good harvest; endless or winding lines, eternal life; triangles, Holy Trinity (pointed end down) and three periwinkle leaves; pussy willows, coming in the spring; dots, stars in the sky; spirals, divinity and eternal life; the wavy line, water, which symbolizes wealth because without water there would be no harvest; five arched points, grief can come unexpected blessings; Heavenly gates are represented by a line of arrowheads pointing up or down and representing the gates through which newborn souls and departing souls pass. Dots and small circles indicate constellations; rose and five-pointed star, ancient symbols of Christ and signifying rebirth; and ladders, prayers and ascension to heaven.

The bright colors used for the Ukrainian pysanky are also symbolic, but are secondary to the symbols: orange, endurance; green, breaking bondage; spring, hope; black, eternity, darkest time before dawn; brown, earth, harvest; purple, faith, trust; yellow, sun, stars, moon, perpetuation of the family; white, purity, light; and four or more colors on an egg, family happiness, peace and love.

“Easter is a time of hope and the whole world needs it; we are united in our desire to achieve this,” Blakesley said. “I had this inspiration to do something hopeful for Ukrainian people, for their freedom, their country. And every year I will continue to make these eggs.