In 2006, a student at Chernivtsi University in south west Ukraine, Lesia Voroniuk, founded the first Vyshyvanka Day to preserve Ukrainian folk traditions of wearing embroidered clothing.
Today, as Russia continues to wage its war on Ukraine, Vyshyvanka Day has become a symbol of the resilience of Ukrainian culture and the pride of its people in the beauty and antiquity of their traditions.
Vyshyvanka, Ukrainian artisanal embroidery, is emblematic to specific regions and in some instances villages across Ukraine. It is linked to historical, religious and family milestones from the cradle to the grave. Homes, churches, buildings incorporate “Vyshyvanka” motives in their structures and embellishments. From the 5th century BC to the present day battlefields, our Vyshyvanka holds a cultural and spiritual significance.
To Australian Ukrainians, a Vyshyvanka from home, especially from their mamas or babusias, was a treasure always included in their “suitcase” when they were forcibly displaced or migrated from Ukraine. Their Vyshyvanka, blouses, shirts, runners took on an almost sacred significance, a treasured possession to be passed on from generation to generation.
Most who arrived in Australia post WW2 wore their Vyshyvanka on special occasions. In the Displaced Persons (DP) camps the art of Ukrainian embroidery was passed on within the community, and also shared with Australian embroiderers, especially the Country Women’s Associations (CWA) members.
Over the years, Ukrainian dancing ensembles, choirs, community schools, artists, Ukrainian Women’s Association members and groups promoted Vyshyvanka at numerous performances, festivals and commemorations across Australia (for example at the opening of the Sydney Opera House in 1973).
Since February 24 2022, vyshyvanka’s importance has increased. Ukrainians and their supporters have worn vyshyvanka to numerous prayer vigils, rallies and special events dedicated to supporting Ukraine against Russia’s brutal invasion.
We will wear our vyshyvanka with pride today. We encourage the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to don the vyshyvanka gifted to him on his July 2022 visit to Kyiv and Bucha.
Happy Vyshyvanka Day Ukraine!
Image Sources: EU Neighbours East (main), Kasia Strek for The Washington Post (thumbnail)