Postcard from Ukraine : Sepia

One of my favorite museums in Kyiv is a collection of Ukrainian folk art founded by the sculptor Ivan Honchar. It contains masterpieces of embroidery, painting, wood carving and iconography gathered from different regions of Ukraine. One of my favorite expositions features photography, mostly shots taken by itinerant photographers who set up an early 20th century version of a pop-up shop complete with painted decorations. Sitters rarely look comfortable in these photographs, standing stiff and tense in their finery, but you can still glean their personalities and little quirks.

ivan honchar museum

Ivan Honchar Museum is located on Ivana Mazepy 29, Kyiv. Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • AndreaR: Visiting the Ivan Honchar museum was one of the highlights of our trip to Ukraine several years ago. The display of regional costumes took my breath away. Ivan Honchar and his family did an amazing job of preserving and cataloguing Ukrainian folk arts and culture. June 29, 2016 at 10:05am Reply

    • Victoria: They have an impressive collection, and I love all of the embroideries from different parts of Ukraine. Ivan Honchar indeed contributed a lot to preserving the local arts. June 30, 2016 at 3:37am Reply

  • zephyr: These old photographs have always fascinated me; how different the subjects’ lives must have been in comparison to ours.

    Hope you are doing well, Victoria! June 29, 2016 at 10:06am Reply

    • Victoria: And also how similar our concerns are deep down. I completely agree with you. June 30, 2016 at 3:38am Reply

  • zephyr: Forgot to add – the costumes are so beautiful! I realize they weren’t everyday wear and were for special occasions. Thankfully these photos were preserved and we have a glimpse of the costumes, their differences, and their wearers. June 29, 2016 at 10:12am Reply

    • Victoria: For everyday wear, people wore plainer outfits, usually in white or off white homespun linen. Children also would be wearing identical costumes, also in white.
      Some of the people in those photos are clearly well off, which you can judge by the finesse of their clothing and jewelry. June 30, 2016 at 3:40am Reply

  • Lifestyle Lodestar: Looks like a fascinating exhibit. Snapshots this far back into the past are very moving. Love taking time to appreciate them… June 29, 2016 at 11:22am Reply

    • Victoria: I just love old photographs, especially old family albums. June 30, 2016 at 3:40am Reply

  • Amalia: Those times life was hard and people was stiff and tense. My father loved my folk music and chorus from USSR -as it was called then- and former Yugoslavia and he initiated me.Back on those years we lived as immigrants in W.Germany and I remember him being very emotional hearing this music along with Greek music. You brought back memories Victoria… June 29, 2016 at 11:39am Reply

    • Victoria: I can just imagine! By the way, what traditional Greek music would you recommend? June 30, 2016 at 3:41am Reply

      • Amalia: OH! Greek folk music characteristics vary although their roots date back to the Byzantine period and antiquity. I like this from the Aegean islands, Crete and rebetiko, recent urban music.. Interesting is the Carnival tradition, where songs and performances are with extremely bold content. They are survival furious delusions of lewd, lustful Satyrs, of Silen and of other forms of Greek antiquity. Domna Samiou was the leading performer and researcher of Greek traditional music. You can see here: June 30, 2016 at 5:17pm Reply

        • AndreaR: I just listened to Domna Saminou on youtube. She’s marvelous! Goosebumps. June 30, 2016 at 6:01pm Reply

          • Victoria: I also got goosebumps listening to her. July 1, 2016 at 2:35am Reply

          • Amalia: If you could understand the language and had experiences – biomes. Pity that I can not explain. July 1, 2016 at 4:34am Reply

            • Victoria: The spirit is still felt. July 1, 2016 at 11:52am Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you for the recommendation. This music is new to me, but I notice some familiar elements, so listening to it is a fascinating experience. July 1, 2016 at 2:38am Reply

  • Rebecca: So touching. June 29, 2016 at 11:39am Reply

  • Annie O: Once again, a portal through which we glimpse a world so different than ours, and yet one we instinctively recognize and which stirs something ancient within. Old photos often have the memory of scents associated, be it old books, old wooden houses, cooking smells, etc.
    Scent must be one of the most ancient parts of our brains. June 29, 2016 at 4:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: I didn’t realize it until you mentioned it, but yes, the moment I start flipping through old photos, I imagine various scents. June 30, 2016 at 3:43am Reply

  • Kari: I love this! What character in this collection of photographs. I am really enjoying your postcard series. June 29, 2016 at 10:40pm Reply

  • Floralouise: I hope to some day visit this museum. I find folk art, along with journals, diaries and letters, fascinating. June 29, 2016 at 10:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: Then you’d find it fascinating. It’s also next door to Kyivo-Pecherska Lavra, one of the world’s architectural gems. June 30, 2016 at 3:44am Reply

  • spe: Fabulous display! I’d like to better understand how the culture, history, and costumes relate. June 30, 2016 at 1:23am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a fascinating topic, and I’m currently exploring it. June 30, 2016 at 3:44am Reply

  • Neva: Lovely costumes Victoria. I admire the skills and time that are woven into the fabrics and the embroidery. It’s a very special craft which is nowadays almost extinct I suppose. Thank you for giving us another glimpse of your Ukraine. I hope one day I will be able to see it on my own.
    Do you own a costume, maybe from your grandmother? June 30, 2016 at 4:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Embroidery has always been a big part of Ukrainian culture, and while fewer people do it today, as a craft it lives on. Traditional clothing is very fashionable today, in contrast to my grandmother’s time. I have a few pieces embroidered by my great-great grandmother, but I also have had a few shirts embroidered by an artist. And a couple of machine embroideries for every day. June 30, 2016 at 3:44pm Reply

  • Karen A: What a wonderful museum it must be! Love seeing a few of the photographs – old photos are such treasures. (As are any reminders of people’s lives in the past) July 1, 2016 at 4:44am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s one of the best collection of its kind, and they also rotate exhibits.
      By the way, the Ukrainian Museum of New York is also wonderful, and lately they have been hosting one good exposition after another. July 1, 2016 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Aurora: It’s a rare treat, getting a glimpse of past Ukraine, thank you so much. And they all look so solemn, of course in the west as well people didn’t smile in photos back then. July 5, 2016 at 12:04pm Reply

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