Today i want to talk about two particular embroidery designs that have come from outside Ukraine but have become very important in Ukrainian Culture. This is the first one.
The image on the left is a photograph of my grandmother taken in 1935, about the time that she embroidered this piece. She is the one on the right. This photograph was taken in the city of Lviw, during an event that was called a "Folk Costume Fashion Show". Many photographs exist of this event. I admit to wishing fervently that i could go back and visit it with a high-resolution color digital camera. The image on the left shows my grandparent's flat in the 1950's. The admittedly cheap couch is covered with a cloth woven in crosswise stripes and many embroidered pillows. I always remember her house and that of all of her friends being full of embroidery in this manner. That is my mother sitting on the couch. This image was remastered from an old slide, which explains the scratches. On the wall is one of my grandfather's paintings and a woven shoulder bag from Ukraine.
"Art And Poetry Of Ukrainian Women
Political Prisoners In The U.S.S.R."
Smoloskyp Publishers, 1977
This book published poetry and photographs of embroidery created by women who were being held in Soviet camps for political prisoners. These women were standing up to the Soviet government, asking for basic human rights, and for their speech, writings, and participation in demonstrations were locked up for years in concentration camps. These embroideries were made by these women while in camps in the Mordovian Autonomous Republic.
It was then that the source of this design became clear. If you compare this design to the ones in my previous blogs on Mari and Udmurt embroidery and costume, it is clear that it is from the same basic tradition. The biggest difference is the replacement of the slant stitch with cross stitch. One of these women must have picked up the design, or the idea for the design from the local Mordvin women. Once it was published, many Ukrainian women copied the design as a sign of solidarity with their sisters suffering in the concentration camps in the Soviet Union. So this foreign design has now become an integral part of Ukrainian Culture and history. I wish to stress that the imprisonment was the work of the Soviet Government, and has no reflection on the Mordovian People. The Soviets made a habit of transporting political prisoners out of their homelands to hold them among people foreign to them. [I also apologize to any Moksha or Erzya who might read this for use of the term Mordovian, i do know better, and i will do a posting on this issue in the future, but it is simpler for the sake of the item under discussion.]
For a fuller explanation of this book, and its contents see this website.
These two small glimpses into history show how art and design become part of the fabric of our lives,
and how they can have very strong significance to a nation and to individuals.
As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your input, and corrections.
Feel free to contact me with requests for research. I hope to eventually cover all of Europe and the Former Russian Empire/Soviet Union. I also gratefully accept tips on source materials which i may not have. I also accept commissions to research/design, sew, and/or embroider costumes or other items for groups or individuals. I also choreograph and teach folk dance.