Assistant Professor of Russian Shannon Donnally Quinn partnered with Eastminster Presbyterian Church in East Lansing to host a Ukrainian Easter Egg event on March 19, 2022. Around 50 people gathered at the church on a Saturday morning to learn about the art form from Ukraine and raise money to send to the country for relief.
Ukrainian Easter Eggs are a form of folk art that originated in Ukraine thousands of years ago. The Ukrainian word for one of these decorated eggs – писанка (pysanka), comes from a word that means “to write.” Ukrainian Easter Egg making uses a “wax-resist” method, which means that hot beeswax is applied to the eggs using a special stylus called a kistka in order to create the beautiful designs on the eggs. The egg is dyed in layers and the beeswax on the surface of the egg prevents those areas from being dyed in the new color (the wax “resists” the dye). Many of the designs on the eggs symbolize concepts either related to the Christian holiday of Easter or depict animals or other parts of nature.
“When you make the egg, the black beeswax gradually builds up on the egg, and you can’t see the beautiful design that is on the egg,” Quinn said. “At the end of the process, you melt the black wax off, and sometimes you are surprised by the beauty that you find underneath. For some people it can serve as a religious symbol. It can also be a metaphor for new life after a long winter, or the beauty of a culture that we hope will survive the darkness of war.”
Professor Quinn and the Eastminster Presbyterian Church provided all supplies for the event, which means that all the money raised will go to support Ukraine relief through the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance fund.
Dr. Quinn also invites others to learn the art of pysanky through her online lesson that shows the method. “I hope that you will enjoy this art form and also support organizations that are working to preserve the cultural traditions of this country.”