Stephanie Hryckowian first remembers sitting at her family’s kitchen table with her mother, brothers, and sisters making pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs, when she was four or five years old. Before settling in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Ms. Hryckowian’s father was a member of the Ukranian underground fighting against the Nazi regime. Her mother spent time in German concentration camps and worked as a sharecropper for eight years in Mississippi. “My mother instilled these traditions into us,” says Ms. Hryckowian. “It’s what she held onto of her brief childhood, what she held dear.” In New York, her family remained active in Ukranian American and American politics. “All that time, I would always make pysanky,” she says.
Pysanky—a tradition dating back thousands of years and reflecting ancient pre-Christian symbolism of spring and rebirth, adapted and given new meaning in association with Christianity. For many generations, Ukrainian people made and exchanged pysanky at Easter. But during the Soviet occupation of the country, pysanky (like other folk arts) were forbidden by the regime, and the tradition was nearly forgotten. Ukrainian immigrants carried the art forward, developing new styles, and later, reinvigorated the tradition in Ukraine after Ukrainian independence in 1991, when it was again possible to practice folk traditions.
Ms Hryckowian specializes in goose eggs, which give her a larger surface to decorate. She paints them using a wax dye-resist method, combining traditional patterns and her own designs. Ms. Hyrckowian colors each egg from lightest color to darkest, blocking out each section before dying the next. Since the 1970s, Ms. Hryckowian has taught pysanky-making widely throughout the region.
She participated in PFP’s 2012 Community Supported Art (CSA program), making 50 unique pysanky.