Pysanka, Ukrainian egg decorating, is seeing a wave of popularity as a way of connecting with the news.
Pysanka (pronounced pi-san-kuh) is a Slavic art form dating back at least to the pre-Christian era. The oldest known example was found recently in Lviv and dated to the 15th or 16th century, but common symbology used in the eggs tells anthropologists the practice goes back much farther. It’s simply an unfortunate truth that eggshell is a very fragile medium and does not last the ages.
The artform uses wax-resist technique and vivid dyes to ‘write’ intricate designs in many different colors. Wax is inscribed onto the eggshell with a small heated funnel called a kistka, and the egg is dyed and redyed, more wax applied between each layer. After the last color is added, all of the wax is melted away, revealing the resist or batik pattern.
Under the U.S.S.R., pysanka was banned as a religious practice, but it has seen a resurgence since Ukrainian independence.
At the Church of the Nativity in Indianapolis, Indiana, Dontie Fuller already intended to teach a one-afternoon class on Pysanka in preparation for Easter. The Russian Invasion of Ukraine, only days before her class, prompted her to make it something more.
“Making pysanky [the plural of pysanka] can be used as a form of prayer, and prayer’s powerful and it’s something that can bring us all together. I will be praying intently for the Ukrainian people this Lenten season,” said Helen Byler, who assisted Fuller.
Less religiously, an online Pysanka group held a 30-hour “eggathon,” in which participants decorated as many eggs as they could in that span of time, taking short breaks for meals and naps, with the results sold for funds to donate to humanitarian aid efforts.
Traditionally, pysanky are meant to be gifts. You make them to give away, and the giving is a wish for long life for the giftee.