The Block

Ukraine’s state emblem, the trident, is one of three central images depicted in this block, stitched by Jeanne Pawluk. Tridents were once applied as decorative elements on ceramics, weapons, rings, medallions, seals and manuscripts and are now used officially by state organizations on documents, passports, and coins. Sprigs of wheat gently cradle the trident and are reminiscent of a time when Ukraine was known as ‘the breadbasket of Europe’ because of the quantity and quality of grain produced.

Cornflowers (symbolizing fertility and fragile beauty) and poppies (symbolizing beauty and love) represent the many flowers that grow wild throughout the countryside. The repeated Ukrainian symbol completing the inner design was created in the traditional red/black combination used in embroidery in certain regions of the country. The black and white border reflects the style of single-thread stitching that is practiced extensively throughout middle Europe. This typical Ukrainian pattern is often found on tablecloths, napkins, and rushnyks. Rushnyks are ritual towels important at funerals, as icon drapery at weddings, and in the home to protect it and insure the prosperity and fertility of those who live there.

Rapid Trident 2014 03
Traditional costume
Каравай, подарований Дмитру Гнатюку до 90-річчя
Loaf of bread
Embroidered eggs by inna forostiuk
Embroidered Easter eggs
Rushnyk Ukraine embroidered decorative towels
Хата з села Великий Кучурів 04
Rugs and painted chests
Chernivtsi 600 Years
Straw art

Cultural Profile

Much of Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe, is covered by vast plains and plateaus. The country is famous for its breads and pastries, including the special wedding bread called korovai, braided Easter loaves, and kolach, a Christmas bread given to members of the household during the traditional meal. The population is comprised mainly of Ukrainians and Russians, and the official language is Ukrainian, a musical and poetic language similar to Russian and influenced by Polish.

Ukrainian culture draws from both Eastern and Western European traditions, with some of these traditions shared with Poland, Russia, Slavic countries and Turkic people. Christmas, with its 12 course dinner, and Easter, with its pysanky (painted Easter eggs) and elaborate breads, are the two main celebrations during the year. Other celebrations dating back to pagan times include the Maslyantsya, the celebration of the end of winter, and Ivan Kupala night, the summer solstice. Ukrainians are known for forming strong friendships and hospitality is regarded as a sacred duty. An example of that is the vechornytsi, social gatherings taking place in the fall and winter during which folk songs are sung, jokes told and food served to visitors.

Their folk art is rich and colourful and Ukrainians love decorating their clothing with intricate red and black embroidery. Carpet weaving, straw weaving, and woodcarving are also important forms of Ukrainian art. Music plays a large role in Ukrainian culture with many people belonging to singing or folk dance groups. The country also has a strong tradition of opera and classical ballet––the Kyiv Ballet is one of the best in the world.

Ukrainians settled in Canada in three main waves of migration. The first of these was set off by Ivan Pylypiw and Wasyl Eleniak in 1891. These two men were pioneers of the Ukrainian Canadian community, which, as the fifth largest ethnic group in Canada, numbers over 1,250,000. Early settlers were instrumental in opening up and settling the Canadian west, and it is estimated that Ukrainians pioneered 40 percent of this country’s wheat land and helped Canada become the ‘Granary of the World.’ They established many churches, community halls, and organizations like the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada, and have had a profound influence in many areas of Canadian life including literature, sports and academics. Ukrainian Canadians introduced the concept of multiculturalism, which has been the official policy of the Canadian government since 1971. A number of Ukrainian foods such as beet soup, perogies, cabbage rolls and bagels are consumed on a daily basis in this country, and many annual festivals, such as Manitoba’s national Ukrainian Festival, preserve the history and heritage of Ukrainians in Canada.

Sponsor: Ukrainian Canadian Congress (St. Catharines Branch) | Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons