One of the great symbols of Ukraine is a vyshyvanka, an embroidered blouse or shirt. In 2006, students from Chernivtsi National University established a special festival dedicated to this symbol – Vyshyvanka Day. Since then, it has become a tradition of celebrating it on the third Thursday of every month in May, and it unites Ukrainians around the world.
On Thursday, May 18, there will be special events dedicated to Vyshyvanka Day. Initially, it was often a very joyous festival, but now for the second year, it is more quiet and focused on contemplation and memory.
Jana Streļeca, the representative of the “Ukrainian Congress of Latvia”, said that the Ukrainians believe the vyshyvanka gives strength, protects and also unifies.
The shirts also visually reflect all of Ukraine's regional diversity since there can be a wide variety, ranging from white shirts with very fine white embroidery to a color explosion typical of the Carpathian regions.
Also in the darkest moments of the nation, even in the tragedy of the Holodomor, the Ukrainians maintained the vyshyvanka as a great value.
“That is why they are very important because we know that in Holodomor, when an unknown number of millions of people died, it was a currency. The embroidered towels or vyshyvankas were the ones they kept and could get bread in exchange, or anything else to eat, even in those starving days,” Jana Streļeca said.
“At the moment, the soldiers are also wearing vyshyvanka, because it is power of the people, that is what comes from all the archetypes, all the intangible, immaterial things we see now that are actually more tangible than the materials because Ukraine is still able to resist Russia's overpower,” Streļeca said.
The initiative to celebrate a day dedicated to this symbol belongs to Chernivtsi University students, began celebrating in 2006, then joined by faculty and other creative intelligence.
The initiative soon began to grow in other countries where Ukrainians live. In Latvia, Vyshyvanka Day has been celebrated since 2016. The event will also take place this Thursday, and it invites all those who support Ukraine.
This time, Vyshyvanka Day will be a special reminder of the children suffering from war, and in this context, there is an idea to implement a campaign that was planned at European level last year, but did not happen.
“Last year the Ukrainian blogger Tanya Adams of Luhansk particularly wanted to remind everyone of how a child in all the wars felt, about the crimes against children," Jana Streleca said.
“In this context, Adams had already planned a campaign last year that women – fugitives – would be going out in all European cities with bundles in their hands that looked like babies. It could be either a doll wrapped in diapers or a sheet wrapped up. And she had the idea of smearing it with red to resemble blood. But the campaign did not take place because [..] people were simply morally not prepared for it,” Streļeca said.
“The question is, can we do this this year? I think we should do this this year. As for the use of red, I think it might not be done. But I would be very pleased that those who would come would remember about the suffering of children, how many children have suffered in all the deportations and all the Russian wars,” Streļeca said.
The marking of Vyshyvanka Day will start at six in the evening, when the Latvian and Ukrainian anthems will be played at the Freedom Monument.
The procession would then go to the Taras Shevchenko Monument at Kronvalda Park, where there would be a moment of silence for the Ukrainian defenders, the laying of flowers, poetry, reflections, and an open mic.
“Obviously, all this tragedy can only be survived together. Neither Latvians nor Ukrainians can survive it without support and sharing. That is why we are inviting everyone who feels belonging to such an event or wants to express support,” Streļeca said.