Saturday, March 30, 2013


Had an interview about pysanky on CBC Manitoba Weekend Morning Show with Ismaila Alfa  (March 30)

If you check this out a few days from now, you'll have to scroll down to this date.

 Five minutes!   I could talk for hours!   Don't they understand?!?!   ;-)

Thanks, Ismaila.    You're so good!

Friday, March 29, 2013


Before I forget, here are some of my articles on pysanky, those gems of Ukrainian folk art.  There are some earlier articles, too, but I still need to extract them from earlier files.

Tracz,  Orysia Paszczak.  “A Pysanka Mystery Almost Solved”  Ukrainian Weekly  April 27, 2008: 7      A discussion of the (unacknowledged) influence of Zenon Elyjiw’s work on Erast Binyashevsky’s book about traditional Ukrainian pysanky.   (part 1)   [still nee to finish the translation of this one!   Oy!]

and more info on pysanky here:

Sunday, March 24, 2013


From The Ukrainian Weekly, April 4, 2010   (If you don't subscribe to it yet -- do so!   )


Orysia Paszczak Tracz

The man ahead of me in line to receive the loza on Kvitna Nedilia (Flower, or Palm Sunday) looked bewildered.  He got the myrovannia (anointing with oil on the forehead), and his fat pussy willow branch, and as he was headed towards the exit, watched the members of the congregation hitting each other (gently, of course) with the branches, and smiling and reciting something.  The people who already received the branches even went back through the pews to gently hit the ones who were still waiting in line.  Then I did it to him, and he was really confused.  He had no idea what was going on!  I explained to him that this was a special ritual for Ukrainian Palm Sunday, and that it meant that Easter and spring were coming, and also meant a wish for health.  He smiled and thanked me for the information, saying that now he understood.  The man was clearly not Ukrainian, but loves the service, the singing, and the rituals, and comes every Sunday.  I’m not sure what he’ll think about people bringing baskets of food to church on Easter.

He is not the first person to be confused and confounded about our old but new ways.  There really is an explanation for all this.  What is admirable and amazing is that these rituals, well modified to suit the present, are still carried out at all.

In the olden days, we had Ukrainians sleeping on the stove/oven – ok, the pich (peech) – an appliance/piece of furniture pretty difficult to explain in English.  Then you have young folks dumping pails of water on each other on the second day of Easter (nowadays, the SuperSoaker works so much better). At Midsummer’s Night (Kupalo to us) they also jump over bonfires, alone or holding hands with a significant other.  On special feast days, rolling around in the early morning dew in your birthday suit was also very common and beneficial.  The jumping over bonfires at Kupalo is no longer birthday-suit-obligatory, as it used to be extremely long ago [that wouldn’t go over too well with the camp uprava, eh?].  Of course, in the weeks after Easter, there will be services, and food and drink in the cemeteries, on the graves of the departed.  This is reminiscent of El Día de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, the honoring of ancestors also from time immemorial.   And I am sure many of us still follow our mother’s ritual of burying the eggshells and other remnants of the Easter breakfast deep in the garden.  With composting being so popular now, we’re really “with it” – but then, we’ve always been, right?
These are all traditions and rituals from our ancient past, from pre-Christian times.  They each had particular reasons, purposes, and symbolism for the actions.  The power of traditions has kept them alive through all the persecution and hardship of our people through the centuries.  The fact that these strange and often not well understood actions are still done so enthusiastically and so willingly by people far-removed by time and place from their ancestral homeland shows how indeed powerful tradition is.  We continue to write our pysanky and bake our paska and babka for Velykden’ [Great Day – a pre-Christian name that survived, and is still the Ukrainian name for Easter].  We sit down to the Easter breakfast and share the slices of the one egg (a symbol of the togetherness of the family) and go to church to watch the hahilky [ritual spring round-dances].  At Christmas, we reverently sit down for the special Sviata Vechera [Holy Supper] of twelve dishes, leaving that empty chair and place setting for our ancestors.  At weddings today, the couple stands on a rushnyk [ritual cloth] and has its hands ceremonially bound with a rushnyk by the priest, and often the “crowns” on the couple’s heads are wreaths of barvinok (periwinkle).  These rituals – and so many more -- are practiced in Canada, the USA, Brazil, the Balkans, other countries in Europe, Australia, the far east of Russia in Zelenyi Klyn, as well as in the homeland itself.  Some of the modifications that have emerged in Ukraine are quaint or even bizarre, but then some of the ones in the other places are pretty strange, too.  But the thought is there, as is the inherent desire to carry out an action that connects us to our distant, very distant ancestors.  We are very rich, indeed.


Dear friends, 
Have been behind with my posts.   A dead computer will do that.   Then to get used to the new laptop, and transfer everything and all that......    Hoping to keep up now.   Have to many projects on the go....   I never learn.
For now, here are some of my articles on Easter [Velykden' in Ukrainian - Great Day] from years ago.  This doesn't change.
Will post more later.   How nice that my "Paska and Babka Forever" article is so popular with my readers.
Wonder where the parishes in Winnipeg who celebrate on the new calendar will be getting their pussy willows for today -- still much snow out there!   And then, for the old calendar, the folks may need to travel far north to find them -- may be too warm here in May?

Monday, March 4, 2013


There is still time to register for this year's specialized tour to Ukraine (August 22-Sept. 8) with me as your "glorious leader" -- as one group named me. 

You can travel on your own (we all become friends and family) or you can bring a friend, relative, or significant other -- or a tribe -- as the Marykuca/Torbiak family did a few years ago.  This is Marvin's travel tale:

please check out, and contact Martha: