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Ukrainian newcomer artists showcase work at ‘Pysanky for Peace’ exhibit

For the third year, a giant display of intricately decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs is set up at Kingsway Mall in central Edmonton.

“Ukrainians, they grow up with a lot of creativity in school and a lot of them carry that into their lives,” said Borys Tarasenko, gallery assistant with the Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts (ACUA).

Natalia Stativa-Zharko is one of 13 artists part of the Pysanky for Peace project — an artistic reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

Since then, Edmonton has become home to around 6,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war. Due to the influx, the gallery at ACUA has grown to represent 200 artists.

“There’s lots of symbolism with the flowers, love harmony, protection and also I’m depicting a nest, which for me means family, and is sort of an ideal situation of family together,” said Stativa-Zharko. “

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I wanted to paint nice colours so people have nice feelings when they look at the art, and maybe takes their mind off all the troubles that are happening today — not just the war in Ukraine, but other places as well.”

For many artists, decorating Ukrainian Easter eggs is a tradition passed down through generations.

“I was born in Ukraine, in the village of Petrykivka in Dnipropetrovsk where this style of painting originated, and it’s called Petrykivka painting because it originated in that village,” said Stativa-Zharko, who’s been painting since she was a child, and learned the skill from her uncle F.S. Panko, an honored master of folk art in Ukraine.

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She explained this type of painting is recognized by UNESCO as a cultural resource that needs to be protected.

Natalia Stativa-Zharko paints alongside her daughter. She teaches her the traditional Ukrainian folk art. Global News

Now, she passes this technique on to her daughter, who is helping paint her giant six-foot masterpiece during live painting sessions at the mall.

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“My first teacher was my mom,” said Yaroslava Naumeno, one of 13 artists part of the project.

Naumeno’s mother is a restorer at the Museum of Icons in Lutsk City. She grew up learning about the ancient patterns but the design she chose for her egg is far from traditional.

An Ukrainian easter egg painted by Yaroslava Naumeno. Global News

“It was painted in modern style to show the variety and possibilities of pysanka,” said Yaroslava.

Most of all, the art brings these artists back home.

“Every day I think of my country… when I can visit it,” said Yaroslava.

An egg painted by Viktoriia Baranik, one of 13 artists part of Pysanky for Peace. Global News

“Sunflowers and blue skies, it’s Ukraine’s style,” said Viktoriia Baranik. “I know people look for this painting and feel Ukraine”

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The exhibit is open in Kingsway Garden Mall until April 15th. The eggs will then be auctioned off, with proceeds going to ACUA to support more newcomer programming.

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