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Several biographies of remarkable Ukrainian embroiderers


We present to the readers several short excerpts from Yevheniya Shudryas books (Podvyzhnytsi narodnoho mystetstva, Kyiv 2003 and 2005), which contain biographical essays of women enlighteners, ethnographers, embroiderers and folk artists.


Olena Pchilka (penname of Olha Kosach) was born in 1849 in the town of Hadyach of Poltava Huberniya (among her relatives was Mykhailo Drahomanov, a prominent figure of Ukraines culture of the second half of the nineteenth century; Olena Pchilkas daughter, Lesya Ukrayinka, nee Larysa Kosach, 18711913, was one of the major figures in the history of Ukrainian literature).

Olena Pchilka was a writer, public figure, art historian, folklorist, ethnographer; she was elected a corresponding member of the All-Ukraine Academy of Sciences. She and her husband, Petro Kosach, lived for some time in the Land of Volyn, and in 1895 they moved to Kyiv.

The cultural legacy she has left is vast and rich. Among so many other things, she researched the traditional Ukrainian ornament. Olena Pchilka collected samples and designs of Ukrainian traditional dresses, embroideries and patterns of ornament, and in 1876 she published a scholarly book, Ukrayinsky narodny ornament (Ukrainian Folk Ornament); it was the first well-researched study of its kind in Ukraine, and it was well received by the scientific community.

In 1878, the Kosachs went to Paris to see the World Exhibition that was held there; in Paris, several scientific reports dealing with Pchilkas book Ukrayinsky narodny ornament were delivered.

Olena Pchilka also published 5 compilations of patterns of Ukrainian embroideries; she collected and studied decorative folk art of the Land of Volyn, and then decided to publish embroidery patterns for possible use by embroiderers in other places.

In 19051906, Olena Pchilka was vice head of the Organizing Committee of the First Crafts Exhibition in Kyiv; a year later she was elected a member of the Ukrainian Scientific Society in Kyiv. She died in 1930 in Kyiv.


Iryna Senyk, a poetess, human rights activist and embroiderer, was born in Lviv in 1926 in a family with ancient Cossack roots. After school, she studied at the Department of English Philology in University of Lviv. Iryna Senyk was a member of the Ukrainian PLAST Organization and a messenger in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army which, during the Second World War, fought both the Germans and the Soviets. She performed the duties of a messenger for Roman Shukhevych, commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army; she was arrested by the soviet authorities and sentenced to ten years in a concentration camp, five years forfeit of civil rights and exile. As a prisoner, she had to cut timber, quarry rock and do other similar hard labour. She was taken badly ill but survived after several operations. After serving her term, she returned to Ukraine but was not allowed to live in Lviv; she settled down in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk instead.

In 1973, she was arrested again for anti-soviet activities and sentenced to six years of corrective labour in a labour camp and five years of exile to Kazakhstan. In the labour camps of Mordovia she met a number of Ukrainian women serving terms for Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism and anti-soviet activities. In spite of the inhuman conditions, her spirit was not broken.

After her release, she again returned to Ukraine and lived in retirement in the town of Boryslav in the Land of Lvivshchyna. In June 1990 Iryna Senyk was invited to come to Canada by the League of Ukrainian Women and at that time the political situation in the Soviet Union had changed so much that she was allowed to go. In Canada she met a fashion designer to whom she gave her permission to use her designs for decorating dresses. Some of her designs were published in an art album, and her book, Bila aystra lyubovi (White Aster of Love), was published in Canada in 1992.

At an international festival, A Hundred Heroines of the World, which was held in 1998, Iryna Senyk represented Ukraine. In 2003, exhibition of her designs and embroidery patterns was held at the Ethnographic Museum in Lviv.


Oleksandra Telizhenko, a fashion designer and embroiderer, was born in the town of Zvenyhorodka in the land of Cherkashchyna. She was educated at an applied art school in the town of Vyzhnytsya in Bukovyna and at the Art Academy in Lviv. Her major was the traditional Ukrainian dress. Upon graduation, she worked as an artist and fashion designer at an applied and decorative art factory in Cherkasy. She collected samples of embroidery patterns in villages in the land of Cherkashchyna and then set up a museum of traditional embroidery in Cherkasy; in 1993, she founded an applied and decorative art company, Arta.

Among Oleksandra Telizhenkos works are thematic embroidered decorative towels, in which she used threads of white, red and black colours, and designs for dresses to be worn by song and dance ensembles. The artist showed her works at exhibitions in Ukraine and abroad.

Oleksandra Telizhenkos works can be seen at the offices of the Department of Exhibitions of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine in Kyiv, in the Kobzarska svitlytsya section in the Ukrayinsky Dim Culture Centre, also in Kyiv; in the Cherkasy Art Museum; in the Chernobyl National Museum in the town of Slavutych, and in private collections in Australia, Canada, Germany and the USA.


Vira Royik, the founder of the School of Ukrainian traditional embroidery in the Crimea, was born in the town of Lubny, Poltava Oblast, in 1911.

Her parents belonged to the Ukrainian intelligentsia; among their friends were Panas Myrny and Volodymyr Korolenko, prominent writers.

After school, Vira Royik attended a ballet studio in Poltava; she worked as an embroiderer for a small embroidery company in the town of Lubny; years later she studied at an embroidery and fashion design school in Moscow, and graduated from it in 1963.

During the war of 19411945 she suffered a bad shell shock after which she lost the use of her right hand, and did her embroideries with the left hand.

After moving to the Crimea, Vira Royik taught embroidery at applied and decorative art schools. She initiated the establishment of the Crimea Decorative and Applied Art Museum and the Museum of Crimean Amateur Artists. Exhibitions of her work, which were a success, promoted artistic embroidery. The artist conducted master classes of embroidery and ran embroidery hobby groups. She travelled widely in Ukraine, studying local embroidery patterns, on the basis of which she developed her original style of embroidery.

Starting from the early 1950s, Vira Royik had over 400 exhibitions of her works held in Ukraine, Belgium, Italy, France, Croatia, Mongolia, Bulgaria, Poland, Germany, Turkey and the USA. She has been awarded several medals and she is a recipient of many prizes and titles.

Vira Royiks works can be seen in museums of Ukraine and of foreign countries.


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