Vyshyvanka day in Ukraine. Interview with the designer who created the embroidery for Kalush Orchestra

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The ethno-gallery of Roskolyana Shymchuk consists of several thousand items of clothing from all Ukrainian regions, many of them are 100-150 years old.
photo by Ivan Syanislavskyi, Tvoe Misto

photo by Ivan Syanislavskyi, Tvoe Misto

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Today, May 19, Ukraine celebrates the Day of Embroidery, or Vyshyvanka Day. On this occasion, we talked to Lviv designer and collector of embroidered shirts, Roksolyana Shymchuk. Her ethno-gallery consists of several thousand items of clothing from all Ukrainian regions, many of them are 100-150 years old. The woman also has a collection of modern designer embroideries, which she has been collecting for over 30 years.

«Other nations happened to have the flag, coat of arms and anthem as their distinctive features and symbols, while we, except for these, have vyshyvanka [embroidered shirt]. Not only Ukrainians used to embroider, many peoples did this too, but we have such a variety of styles… Each ethnic group is so different from the neighboring one, and we have preserved this culture,» – she says.

Read also: People took vyshyvanka even in exile. How Ukrainians preserved the genetic code

Previously, vyshyvanka was the means of identification: when you met a person you might not have known, you could immediately see her worldview.

«As my grandfather used to say, you can see a noble by his freebies, and what a person breathes – by her clothes. The vyshyvanka is like a language, an identification of our people,» – the designer explains.

Roksolyana Shymchuk says that she bought her first embroidered shirt at «Chervona Ruta» song festival in 1989, when she went on ethnographic expeditions. Many other things also fell into her hands – she carried Easter eggs, household items, etc. Still, the designer focused on the clothes, and today, her collection consists of outfits and accessories from all over Ukraine.

«I wanted to show this diversity and infinity of Ukraine, because there are regional museums, where regional ethnography and regional features are very well presented. And I was interested in showing and collecting all of Ukraine,» she added.

«Once it has touched you – be sure it would settle in the collection. Although you have a lot, you still understand that this is a masterpiece of folk art that must be preserved and preserved. For instance, I have already shown an embroidered shirt, which is identified in the late 19th – early 20th century. It was embroidered on the perimeter [with the lyrics of national anthem] in blue and yellow letters: «Ukraine has not died yet, neither glory nor freedom...» And this embroidered shirt has survived to the present day,» – says the collector, adding that if such a shirt had been found in the Soviet times, it would cost one’s life and the life of his family.

Read also: «It used to be a super nationalist motto.» Singer Ulyana Horbachevska about singing haivky in Lviv

Recently, she also came across a similar children’s embroidered shirt, namely children’s clothing is the highlight of Roksolyana Shymchuk’s collection. At the same time, she has children’s clothes from all over Ukraine, which you wouldn’t even find in some museum collections.

«It’s an incredible job, and it looks very sentimental to me, knowing how much work was put into sewing a children’s shirt, for 2-3 years old. And when you understand that people were looking for canvas, they made threads, wool, and then embroidered. Embroidering such a shirt is a lot of work, sometimes it takes several years,» – says Roksolyana Shymchuk.

She is currently working on the restoration of another shirt, which should become the next masterpiece of folk art.

Earlier, the designer created images for the winners of this year’s song contest «Eurovision-2022» of the band «Kalush Orchestra». The images, she says, could not be radically changed. The brand panama, for instance, was sacred and inviolable, making the band recognizable and outrageous.

Read also: Maye Musk wears Ukrainian dress, shortly after virtually attending Lviv’s IT Arena

«We dressed the guys in copies of the Verkhovyna shirts [area in the Carpathians]. For frontman Oleh Psyuk even several versions of shirts were made, because everything was done in short terms. I had to give authentic keptars [folk waistcoats] from my collection that we never practice, but it was impossible to make worthy replicas in such a short time. In fact, there were three weeks, and entering the Eurovision stage when all eyes of the world were on Ukraine was a great responsibility,» – said Roksolyana Shymchuk.

According to her, the mission was to show the distinctive culture and at the same time – the modern image, as in the band’s song, which has a modern rap and distinctive component of the band. The world, in her opinion, appreciates it now.

Antonina Kostyk, translated by Vitalii Holich

Photo by Ivan Stanislavsky, Tvoe Misto

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