Mom's Ukrainian Easter Eggs


     When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, my Ukrainian mother had always been interested in arts and crafts. Through the years she tried her hand at needlepoint, bead art, and even hook rugs. Her work was hung proudly on the walls of our meticulously-vacuumed home.

     The daughter of first-generation Ukrainian immigrants, as a child Dorothy lived above and worked in the Brooklyn deli her folks ran. But she rarely spoke of her family or childhood. Then one year, after her macrame and decoupage days had run their course, she turned to “pysanky,” the art of Ukrainian egg decorating.

     My sisters and I would always laugh when we watched the first part of the pysanky process. Mom would poke small holes in each end of the egg, scramble the yolk with a nail, then practically turn blue as she forced the contents out through the pinhole on the opposite side. Then she would carefully draw an intricate pattern on the hollowed egg with a hot beeswax needle and dip the egg in colored dye. This was repeated for each color. When the layers of dark wax were slowly removed, her beautiful work was revealed.

     She got quite good at it, started making them as Christmas ornaments, and gave them away as gifts. Each year our tree was adorned with increasingly artistic and complex pieces, and within a few years we had dozens of them.

     When she passed away, my sisters and I split up the eggs, and they remain a special reminder of one of the great things that made her “Mom.”

     I haven’t thought much about my Ukrainian roots, until recently. The news coming out of Ukraine each day weighs heavily. The joy and relief of the waning pandemic, finally getting busy with work again, reconnecting with friends, and living a fortunate life in San Diego are dulled by this unfolding tragedy, leaving me with a sense of disconnect.

     So, I’ll take this post for what it is. An opportunity to remember Mom, count my blessings, and wish for better Easters ahead for the people of Ukraine.

     I’ve just learned that there is site called “Pysanky For Peace,” raising money to provide humanitarian war relief to Ukraine.

J.T. MacMillan is a long-time San Diego-based photographer who got his start in metro-newspaper work and has been providing editorial, commercial, portrait and event photography services to some of San Diego’s most recognized public and private agencies for 28 years. To learn more and see other samples of our work click on the links below:

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