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Trail Blazers: The art of pysanky

Trail Blazers is a weekly feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives
Brian and Mrs. Shankaruk painting Easter eggs during the 1972 International Folk Society/Multicultural Society Spring Weekend at Selkirk College. Louise Grieser and Society President Ria Dorgelo are in the background. Photo: Trail Historical Society

For Easter weekend, Trail Blazers is highlighting the Ukrainian tradition of decorating Easter eggs known as “pysanky.”

Pysanky, from the Ukrainian word pysaty (to write), dates back to ancient times when the egg was considered a symbol of a new season, new life and re-birth.

The pysanka, a wax-resist type egg, is one of Ukraine’s national symbols and is known throughout the world. Historically, the eggs were left intact and allowed to dry out over time as there was belief of magic within the egg itself.

In modern times, these eggs are meant to be decorative objects of art, rather than magical amulets, and the egg yolk and white are usually removed by blowing them out through a small hole in the egg.

Other more regional techniques include a “scratch” technique, where dye is applied to an egg and then patterns scratched onto the shell; painted eggs, where the shells are painted using a brush; and various versions of appliqué, where materials like straw, paper, beads, and sequins are glued to the shell of an egg.

This photo, circa 1972, shows members from the International Folk Society decorating pysanky.

The International Folk Society was founded in 1968 and disbanded 25 years later, with a membership vote last held in 1996.

“After 25 years, they continued to support and work for the Trail Multicultural Society,” notes Addison Oberg, Trail archivist. “Members participated in parades and community events throughout their tenure in the city.

“The main goal of the organization was to highlight Trail’s diversity and cultures and create a welcoming environment for all.”

A major portion of the society’s collection was donated to the Trail Museum and Archives in 2018, which includes valuable images of parades and events.

“It is a lovely collection,” Oberg adds.

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Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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