As the horrors of war continue to unfold in Ukraine, the Wenham Museum will help support humanitarian relief efforts by hosting a new traveling exhibit, “Pysanky for Peace” — pysanky being elaborately decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs.
“It is important for the museum to bring awareness to what is happening in Ukraine,” said Jane Bowers, exhibitions curator and manager. “The exhibit will highlight Ukrainian culture and raise funds for humanitarian relief.”
“Pysanky for Peace” will be on view at 132 Main St., Wenham, from April 16 to June 18.
Sarah Bachinger, a fourth-generation Ukrainian-American from the Albany, N.Y., area who created the exhibit, will also host hands-on pysanky workshops at the museum as part of the cultural experience.
“When the war started, I was looking for a way to help,” said Bachinger. “My Ukrainian cultural and family traditions never seemed more significant. My bubbe [grandmother] and mom taught me to make pysanky. I created the exhibit to honor my ancestors, my heritage, and to highlight pysanky, the egg-decorating tradition, that has been part of my family’s Easter for generations. "
Bowers first learned about the “Pysanky for Peace” exhibit in a Facebook group for museum professionals.
“I immediately knew it would fit with our collection and display of charity toys created to raise funds for humanitarian needs during past wars and conflicts going back to World War I,” said Bowers.
This is a very unusual exhibit model, she said. “Traveling exhibits generally charge a fee to cover costs of curating, shipping, and managing the exhibit,” she explained. “In this case, Bachinger is donating her time in an effort to raise money and awareness. In lieu of a fee, the Wenham Museum is donating funds to Razom, a nonprofit organization that provides medical supplies to Ukraine.”
”'Razom’ means ‘together’ in Ukrainian,” said Bachinger, “and we are all are working together to help Ukraine and to share and preserve the beauty of Ukrainian culture.”
“We are more than happy to help support the people of Ukraine,” said Bowers. “The Wenham Museum caters to kids and families. If we even connect one child to the concept of making sacrifices to help others or to extending kindness, that goes a long way.”
The exhibit will feature more than 70 eggs, all beautifully decorated by volunteers. Pysanky eggs are created using the traditional folk art wax-resistance method of dying.
“Wax is applied to the eggshell in intricate patterns; when the egg is dipped in dye the color only appears on the areas that don’t have wax,” explained Bachinger.
Creating pysanky is a centuries-old tradition in Ukraine that is believed to prevent bad things from happening in the world — as long as enough are made.
According to Bowers, a legend among the Hutsul people — Ukrainians who live in the Carpathian Mountains — holds that the fate of the world depends upon the pysanky. Evil, which exists in the shape of a horrible serpent forever chained to a cliff, sends his minions out each year to see how many pysanky have been created. If the number is low, the serpent’s chains are loosened and he is free to wander the earth causing destruction. However, if there are enough pysanky, the chains are tightened and good triumphs over evil for another year.
Museum visitors will have an opportunity to add to the number of pysanky in the world.
On Saturday, April 16, Bachinger will be teaching participants how to decorate psyanky eggs during two workshops. A morning session, appropriate for children ages 5-11, will use cold wax and an afternoon session for adults and children age 12 or-older will utilize hot wax melted using a candle and a special traditional tool called a kitska to apply it.
Preregistration for the “Pysanky for Peace” workshops, is required at www.wenhammuseum.org/event/eggworkshop/. Museum admission for non-members is $10 for adults, $8 for children, $8 for seniors, and there is an additional fee for the workshop.
More information about pysanky and the Ukrainian humanitarian efforts is available www.pysankyforpeace.com.
Linda Greenstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.