Diasporic Postcards: VYSHYVANKY
The only article of clothing that I have from my youth is an embroidered Ukrainian blouse my mother made for me when I was a teenager. Despite my neglectful storage, it has somehow withstood most of the ravages of time.
My mother created beautiful vyshyvanky and the house was filled with it, including embroidered drapes, table napkins, and small and expansive table cloths. She had gifted me many pieces on the occasion of my marriage, and she even embroidered my wedding dress.
Over the years, I divested my home of the cross-stitch embroidery items as they didn’t reflect my ‘modern’ Western ‘design aesthetic.’ Unfortunately, ridding my household of the vyshanky treasures cannot be reversed, and it’s a decision I profoundly regret, especially at this time. However, I did not dispose of the embroidered wedding dress, even though the marriage ended 35 years ago. But, due to living in a very small footprint, my younger brother is kindly storing it at his home. I keep thinking that if I hold onto the simple gown long enough, it might be deemed worthy of being accepted into a museum collection, such as that of the Textile Museum of Canada. Or perhaps, given the destruction being caused by a Scorched Earth policy in the war against Ukraine and the consequential ruin of museums and their contents, perhaps the Ukrainian-Canadian community will establish a Ukrainian-centric textile museum.
So much attention in the last few weeks has been given to Ukraine’s importance as a repository of natural resources, as if that is what seems to validate a country’s significance on the world stage. But when we see the pictures and footage of devastation in Ukraine, including of museums, some of us are weeping waterfalls over the loss of art and artifacts, and historical folk arts and crafts.
Ukraine’s history is expansive with settlements dating back to 32,000 BC and its culture is vibrant, rich, and imbued with colour, music, spirit, beauty, and skill. So, I will be holding onto my embroidered blouse and wedding dress. They hold my mother’s heart and the country’s soul.