Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 29, 1999
Hooked on psyanky
Retirement allows local man to return to roots of Ukrainian Easter eggs
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Chester Kuc likes eggs. Not scrambled, sunnyside up or over easy. He likes them painted.
The 68-year-old retiree has spent the past year recreating 640 Ukrainian Easter eggs in the simple patterns and designs dating back more than a century. And he's not done yet.
"You finish one and you think, there's another one you haven't done, so you keep going. It's addictive."
Kuc's collection of handpainted eggs or pysanky as they are called, were on display at the Ukrainian National Federation Hall, March 19-21.
As a teenager Kuc began painting the traditional folkart design synonymous with most Ukrainian decorated eggs today. Kuc refers to such designs as a Canadianized version of the original pysanky.
It was a 1991 visit to a museum in Ukraine that inspired Kuc to return to the simplicity of the designs so common during the country's pagan era. However, that inspiration didn't take flight for another seven years.
"When we were at the museum in Lviv, they had these (pysanky) in storage," Kuc said. "We took photos of them and brought them home. They were sitting around in our house all that time."
Kuc said no two eggs are exactly the same, but many designs are unique to the Ukrainian regions and villages from where they came. Some regions have ornate eggs, while others used just two colours such as red and white, or yellow and green.
Circles are common designs, as is the 40-triangle pattern, which, in the Christian era, has represented the 40 days of Lent. In pre-Christian times, each triangle was assigned a specific magical meaning.
"If you look at it, it's very simple," Kuc said of the designs. "It's not something intricate with lots of details. But it's something that's enjoyable to look at."
While admiring Kuc's display, Joanna Szabo couldn't help but wonder if perhaps she too could learn the art of egg writing as it is called.
"There are so many that only use two colours," said Szabo, a University of Alberta fine arts student. "If you're a painter, they look easy enough.
"But they're so small, that's where the difficulty would be. My hands would not have the patience for a project like this."