International Vyshyvanka Day was celebrated by southeast Manitoba Ukrainian Immigrants on Thursday.
Daryna Malyukh, the new President of the Ukrainian Association of Steinbach says, the day is very special to people of Ukrainian descent in that it helps keep the heritage and tradition of Ukrainian embroidery alive.
Malyukh explains what a vyshyvanka is.
“It's an embroidered Ukrainian traditional shirt, which is uniquely embroidered to identify the region in Ukraine an individual is from.”
She says a Chernivtsi University student decided one day to wear her embroidered shirt and encouraged other students and teachers on campus to do the same. That was in 2006, and now the third Thursday in May has turned into an international holiday for Ukrainians, no matter where in the world they live.
Malyukh says the embroidered shirts clearly identify someone as Ukrainian, and there was a time it was prohibited, she says, “Ukrainians were fighting for their freedom, for their nationality, and wore the shirts, even though they were forbidden. So for now, we try to keep this tradition as much as possible, no matter where you are, you stay Ukrainian. And now because of Ukrainian immigrants who came here, they still want to save this heritage and so we wear vyshyvanka.”
Malyukh says, just like the pysanka (the painted Ukrainian egg), the stitches, designs and colors on a vyshyvanka represent the region of Ukraine the wearer is from.
“For each region in Ukraine, there is a specific pattern and specific colours. The main colours are always red, black, and white, but other colours are also added to the vyshyvanka and everything is stitched by hand.
She says, “We all have long winter, you in Canada and we back in Ukraine. So, what women in the family were doing, they were doing the vyshyvanka (embroidering shirts) for their kids. They were doing like vyshyvanka towels and special vyshvanka for upcoming weddings and babies."
Malyukh says she owns clothing with this special embroidery, but her goal is, “I promise, I want to do the vyshyvanka for my husband and my two kids. It takes time, maybe longer time for people who are busy, but my grandmother took time to make me this vyshyvanka, and I want to do this for my family.”
She notes that now that there are more than 150 families from Ukraine living in the Steinbach area, one may notice from time to time, these embroidered shirts worn by individuals out and about the community.
“We're not wearing the vyshyvanka only for the holiday, we wear them just like that and especially this year, with the war in Ukraine.”
Malyukh notes there were celebrations and parades in cities and small towns across Canada and around the world on Thursday.
She thanks the many individuals in Steinbach who have asked about the specially embroidered shirts, but to Malyukh it’s more than that.
“Because Canada had such a big movement of Ukrainians back in the early 1900s and even today, they kept our heritage alive. So thank you, Canada, and thank you to everyone, and to all immigrants who brought it here, who kept this, and who share the love. So for me, it's important to keep our Ukrainian traditions such as vyshyanka and pysanka and other traditions, because my kids live here, our son was born here and I want him to know that we are Ukrainians and we are fortunate to live in Canada.”