‘The world is as fragile as an egg and as beautiful as a pysanka’

A few weeks before Easter, I walked out of the metro near my house and noticed a group of Babushkas crowded around a woman who was demonstrating a new gadget. While they maintained their cool-but-unforgiving ‘tough-guy’ stances (as all babushkas seem to do in public), I would have to say they seemed genuinely interested in what they were looking at, even excited.

Intrigued, I went over to see what the woman was selling. It appeared to be some kind of painted egg or maybe some kind of machine for painting eggs.

I smiled and walked off wondering why a painted egg would cause such excitement.

Zhanna Kobylinska explains why below…

The painted eggs are called pysankas and they are an integral symbol of Easter. They are Ukrainian Easter Eggs.

Pysanka and their lively colours

The word ‘pysanka’ comes from the verb pysaty (to write) because an egg is written with beeswax rather than painted on. The egg is widely used as a symbol of the start of new life, just as new life emerges from an egg when the chick hatches out. Traditionally, an egg is decorated with multicolor Ukrainian folk designs: white is a symbol of purity, birth, light, rejoicing, virginity; yellow says about youth, love, the harvest and perpetuation of the family; orange symbolizes endurance, strength, and ambition; green is the color of fertility, health, and hopefulness; spring, freshness and wealth; red is a symbol of charity, spiritual awakening, the divine love and passion of Christ, hope, passion, blood, fire, and the ministry of the church. Blue says about good health, truth and fidelity. Brown symbolizes Mother Earth and its gifts and generosity.

The Pysanka Festival, Lviv

The Pysanka Festival takes place in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and it decorates the city with these traditional pysankas. The festival also teaches everybody, both Ukrainians and foreign tourists, to master their egg decorating skills and every participant has a unique opportunity to attend master classes to make his or her own pysanka.

At the festival one can see pysankas made from different interesting and unexpected materials such as chocolate, balloons, trees, flowers etc. Thus, during the festival period Lviv is turned into a real Open Air Pysanka Museum. One can plunge into a real whirl of unforgettable emotions, good mood, supply of energy, spiritual refreshment and feeling of starting new life.

The Pysanka Festival in Lviv is usually held in April and if you attend you can share the atmosphere of good, hope, faith, new life and spring!

The Pysanka Museum

The Pysanka Festival in Lviv is one way to discover this Ukrainian symbol of new life, goodness and hope and enrich someone’s spiritual inner world. However, if one wants to learn more about pysanka, the techniques used to paint them and their history, I highly recommended a visit to the only worldwide Pysanka Museum located in Kolomyia (Ivano-Frankivsk region, West Ukraine). Its collection presents unique works of miniature painting whose ornaments keep traditional pagan symbols. The museum’s collection has more than 12 thousand pysankas and the building housing the Pysanka Museum is built in the shape of the largest ornamental egg in the world (14m in height and 10m in diameter) with exposition and exhibition halls inside. I recommend you visit their exposition of decorative eggs from Belarus, Poland, Czech, Slovakia, Romania, France, Denmark, China, India, Argentina, Canada, the USA, Israel, Sri-Lanka, Pakistan and Egypt (some exhibits were made in the 19th-20th). You will find a variety of subject compositions and unique colour combinations that have formed a system of codes to be read each year as they are presented.

Zhanna Kobylinska