ukraine: 45 posts

Crafts as Cure

In Ukraine, there is an old tradition of embroidering a rushnyk, a hand towel, during dark periods of one’s life. It matters less what’s embroidered than the process of doing so. Once the rushnyk is done, it’s tied to a tree branch and allowed to decay. This way, people say, one’s worries and dark thoughts become scattered.

I don’t know if my great-grandmother Asya followed this tradition consciously–at any rate, she was far too practical to hang perfectly good fabric in the garden, but she wove her own cloth and embroidered. Even the most ubiquitous items in the house like newspaper holders and bread bags were embellished. Her most beautiful embroideries, however, weren’t meant to be seen. They were her undergarments.

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How a French Perfume Company Influenced Ukrainian Embroideries

One of the most quintessentially Ukrainian embroideries is called rushnyk (pl, rushnyky), richly decorated hand towels that accompany a person from birth to death. In two videos that I recorded, I would like to show you rushnyky embroidered by my great-great grandmother. I discovered them by accident when I was cleaning out our shed and spotted a large chest hidden under old rugs. The drawers were jammed, but I persevered and opened them only to discover decaying paper and mouse droppings. I rummaged in it–no, I’m not even one bit squeamish–and I found the embroideries. I cleaned and restored them and it’s a pleasure to share them with you.

My great-great grandmother Pasha wove the cloth on a hand-loom, and she then decorated it. These embroideries are at least 70 years old, and yet they are remarkably resilient.

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Asya’s Secret

Happy Nowruz! Happy Persian New Year! Happy Spring! Two days ago I recorded a short film for my Instagram stories about something I learned from my great-grandmother, Asya, but some of you asked me to put it into text format to be able to re-read it. Since Asya’s message is inspiring and uplifting, I thought that today would be ideal for sharing it here. You can watch the film in my Instagram highlights.

My great-grandmother Asya was born in 1915. She was a beautiful woman, with wavy dark hair, almond-shaped eyes and a Rubenesque figure. A rose-scented red lipstick was always in her purse as was a bottle of perfume. I don’t recall her using them, but she loved these items as she did her carved tortoise combs and lace collars. She was the most vivacious person I knew, always ready to crack a joke or make light of things. That trait of hers might have served her well, because being born in 1915, she lived through the dawn and dusk of the Soviet Union, with the Bolshevik Revolution, several famines and two wars in between.

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Lindens, Ukrainian Weaving, and Nataliya’s Other Favorite Things

I like meeting people who pursue their dreams. My friend and partner on our Ukrainian Scent and Taste Adventure, Nataliya Cummings, studied theater in Ukraine, lived in an anarchist community, researched traditional weaving and created an art festival. She now lives in the UK, but she spends most of her year traveling in Ukraine and helping other people fall in love with this fascinating and yet unknown country. Today I want to introduce Nataliya to you.

Nataliya started her travel company Experience Ukraine shortly after moving to Hereford in the UK about 10 years ago, but the genesis of the idea came earlier. After completing her theater studies degree at the university, she started to create art events for children in collaboration with the Longo Maï community. Since children couldn’t travel to cities to see plays and performances, Nataliya decided to bring theater to them. Her experience was so exhilarating that she moved to the village of Nyzhnie Selyshche in the Transcarpathia, a region in western Ukraine. (It’s the same village where we will be staying during our Ukrainian Scent and Taste Adventure this summer.)

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Green Perfumes : Spring Inside You

I grew up in the city, but every summer I traveled to Poltava to spend several months with my great-grandparents. In the Soviet Union, grandparents functioned almost like a second pair of parents and such an arrangement was normal. My great-grandparents, Asya and Sergiy, lived in a village near Poltava, and their parenting was down-to-earth, literally. From an early age I knew how to prune tomatoes, plant beans and trim rose bushes to grow one perfect blossom. Asya and Sergiy are no longer alive, but we still have their garden. When I return to their village, I find myself remembering how to do things I haven’t done for ages–planting, weeding, or pruning.

February is still a month when one can only talk about new planting projects, but I like to walk around the garden and see how it’s wintering. Lately, I’ve been reminded of a scent I always associate with spring–that of fresh buds. Cut a few branches and place them in warm water. A couple of days later, the buds start to burst and their scent of green leaves, bitter sap and sweet woods is the embodiment of spring.

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  • Tourmaline in New Style-Chypre Perfumes: Hi Joyce, I have more perfume than I could possibly use during the remainder of my life. This often prevents me from trying new fragrances, for fear of finding yet… August 10, 2020 at 7:19pm

  • Joyce in New Style-Chypre Perfumes: Great article and video, thank you Victori! Also, you must have an amazing necklace collection😉 A favourite chypre (or rather, rose chypre), is Agent Provocateur’s first perfume (the pink bottle).… August 10, 2020 at 5:02pm

  • Karen A in New Style-Chypre Perfumes: Wonderful informative video Victoria, thanks! Chypres and I sometimes don’t work out but when it does, oh my my! 31 Rue Cannon is truly one of my favorite fragrances. August 10, 2020 at 4:50pm

  • Victoria in New Style-Chypre Perfumes: Skin allergies were the issue. To be honest, I can accept the moss restrictions (it’s not banned, just restricted in dosage), but there are many more other restrictions and bans… August 10, 2020 at 1:40pm

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