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Biographies of remarkable Ukrainian embroiderers
The previous issue of Welcome to Ukraine Magazine carried excerpts from Yevheniya Shudra’s books (Podvyzhnytsi narodnoho mystetstva, Kyiv 2003 and 2005), which contain biographical essays of women enlighteners, ethnographers, embroiderers and folk artists. In this issue we present several more abridged excerpts from Mrs Shudra’s books.
Valentyna Tytarenko (nee Soroka) was born in the village of Velyki Sorochyntsi in the Land of Poltavshchyna on November 26 1948. Her mother, Mariya Soroka, was a professional embroiderer who worked at a factory. She passed on her skills of embroidering to her daughter and taught her various techniques of embroidery: lyshtva; vyrizuvannya; zernovy vyvid and various ways of stitching and quilting.
After finishing high school with honors, Valentyna Tytarenko was further educated at the Natural Sciences Department of the Teachers’ Training University of Poltava. Since 1971 she has been working at this university, teaching Ukrainian traditional folk embroidery. She teaches future school teachers how to embroider decorative towels, shirts and table cloths using various techniques. Tytarenko was instrumental in setting up a museum of embroidery at the department of the university she works at. The Museum of Ukrainian Embroidery which was set up in 1986, has a section where embroidery classes are conducted. Embroidery and other pieces of handiwork created by the students are regularly exhibited at the museum.
Tytarenko often travels abroad to spread knowledge of the Ukrainian decorative arts in general and demonstrate the art of Ukrainian embroidery in particular. She has already been with her lectures and master classes to Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy.
When she visited the Vatican, Tytarenko presented the Roman Pope John Paul II with a gift of a decorative towel with the coat of Poltava embroidered on it.
Valentyna Tytarenko is a member of a science and methodology commission at the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. She has worked out a program for universities that deals with Ukrainian decorative arts. She has published more than a hundred scholarly papers and essays and over a dozen of textbooks.
Valentyna Tytarenko has been awarded the Panas Myrny and Volodymyr Korolenko prizes.
Myroslava Kot (nee Buha) was born in the city of Warsaw, Poland, on May 10 1933.
In 1943, her family moved to the city of Drohobych in the Land of Lvivshchyna, Ukraine. In 1951, she graduated from a local teacher’s training college. Upon graduation, she worked at rural schools and studied by correspondence at the Physics and Mathematics Department of the Teachers’ Training Institute in Drohobych. After earning a degree, she stayed at the Department of Mathematical Analysis to teach students.
Her work and mathematical training went side by side with her studies of Ukrainian culture. She has been doing embroidery since her early childhood. “Not a single day passed without my learning something new about Ukrainian culture, or without me doing some embroidery,” says Myroslava Kot. “I’m convinced that no lifetime is long enough to learn the art of embroidery in all of its complexity, or to absorb all of its enormous decorative and ornamental richness which, incidentally, is worth analyzing by the means of mathematics.”
Kot studied the techniques and patterns of embroidery in the Lands of Kyivshchyna, Poltavshchyna, Podillya, Volyn, Chernihivshchyna and Prykarpattya, giving a particular attention to the embroidery in the Land of Drohobychchyna. What she learns inspires her creativity and on the basis of her vast knowledge she creates her own unique embroideries, using various techniques and styles (nyzynka petelchasta; stebnevy and khrestykove stitches; vykolyuvannya; vyrizuvannya, satin-stitch and others).
Kot has been working at the Teachers’ Training College in Drohobych, teaching embroidery and decorative arts since 1982. In 1991 she was promoted to head the Department of Methodology and History of Ukrainian Decorative and Applied Arts. She has assembled a collection of embroidered decorative towels, shirts and other embroidered items. The collection, Drohobytski samotsvity (Gems of Drohobych) includes items created in recent times and the more distant past.
Myroslava Kot conducts research and creates her works of artistic embroidery, using various techniques, both traditional and newly developed. In addition to embroidery, Kot makes laces. Among her achievements is the revival of the Boykivska embroidery. Her works have been shown at exhibitions held in Ukraine, Canada and the USA, and many of her works have made their way to museums and private collections. Among her disciples are 19 embroiderers who have established themselves as independent masters of embroidery in their own right.
In 1986 the Union of Artists of Ukraine awarded her the honorary title of the People’s Master of Decorative and Applied Arts, and in 1995 she was awarded the honorary title of the Merited Master of Folk Crafts of Ukraine.
Olena Hasyuk (nee Dudchak) was born in the village of Dykhtynets in the Land of Bukovyna, Western Ukraine on July 7 1921. Her grandfather Ivan Fedosyuk, a Hutsul, was known among the Hutsuls for his mastery in working wood and metal.
Olena became fascinated by the magic of embroidery at an early age of six when she began doing some embroidery herself. Her talent was first spotted by her teacher in school. The teacher taught the girl the use of various stitches. Olena studied at a Rumanian school in her village, and later she went on to study artistic embroidery and weaving privately.
During the Second World War, Olena lived in Halychyna, earning her living by doing embroideries and clay modeling. After the war she taught embroidery at a school in Vinnytsya.
Olena continued her education at an applied arts school in the town of Vinnytsya and graduated from it in 1952. This school was founded by Vasyl Shkriblyak, a remarkable wood carver. Thanks to him and later generations of teachers, the school became well-known across Bukovyna and outside its borders. In fact, the school continues to be a much-respected center of applied and decorative art teaching. Hasyuk taught art at this school until she retired in 1975. Among the subjects she taught was composition, design and technology of clothes making. For some time she headed a group of embroiderers from the village of Putyla.
Hasyuk learnt various techniques of embroidery and knew over a hundred new kinds of stitches, which she used in doing her embroideries. She passed on her knowledge to students of the school where she taught. Her house in the village of Vyzhnytsya is like a museum of embroidery. In her collection one can see amazing items of embroidery done in combined techniques and stitches (khrestyk; lichylna hlad’; nyzynni shnurky; hobelenny shov; shtapivka; yalynka; steblivka and others). Bright red, yellow and green colors dominate in Hasyuk’s ornamental embroideries; the contours of ornamental shapes in her ornaments are often done in black; such black contours are typical for embroideries created in Bukovyna.
Olena Hasyuk, in co-authorship with Mariya Stepan, a restorer of textiles, wrote and published a textbook of embroidery. Her clothes’ designs are based on traditional folk dress. Hasyuk’s works are well-known in Ukraine, Germany, France, Canada and the USA.
Tetyana Ostrovska (nee Kovalchuk) was born in the city of Kyiv on April 13 1951.
Her father, a blacksmith, was endowed with talents in painting, clay modeling, bandura (traditional Ukrainian instrument) playing, singing and reciting poetry. He read aloud books of Ukrainian classical authors to his children. Ostrovska’s family celebrated all the traditional Ukrainian and religious holidays.
Ostrovska began doing embroidery at the age of thirteen and it became her main occupation. After the Chornobyl nuclear power disaster in 1986, she moved to Bukovyna where she learnt typical Bukovyna techniques of embroidery (lichylna hlad’ among them) and used at least 15 kinds of stitches. Ostrovska studied ancient and traditional Ukrainian culture and she came to the conclusion that the patterns of traditional embroidery contain symbols which can be deciphered: “Further research and studies of traditional folklore and ethnography must be continued in order to decipher those ancient symbols.”
The ornamental patters that Ostrovska uses make it easy to see that there are profound similarities in traditional symbols that are known all across Ukraine. The unity of perception of the world is thus revealed.
For five years Tetyana Ostrovska sang in a choir, Homin, headed by the bandura-player Leopold Yashchenko, and it was during those years that she met a man, Bohdan Ostrovsky, a bandura player and a member of Homin bandura ensemble, who was to become her husband.
At present, Ostrovsky teaches artistic embroidery at embroidery hobby groups. “By studying patterns of traditional embroidery, and using them for embroidering shirts, dresses and decorative towels, we share the riches of traditional Ukrainian embroidery with the world,” says Tetyana Ostrovska.