Artist of Ukranian Descent Teaching Traditional Egg-Dying Workshop to Raise Money For Ukraine
When the news of what's happening in Ukraine hit television sets and computer screens in America, many of us didn't know what to do, but we knew we wanted to do something. Some people traveled to Ukraine to bring home some of its children. Others organized rallies and protests.
For Lisa McDonald, the war in Ukraine has literally hit close to home, so she is taking her talents and offering them to Casper as a way to raise money for the humanitarian effort in Ukraine. She's doing this because, for one reason, that's where her family is from. And many of her family members still live there.
"My grandparents on my mother's side were both born in Ukraine and, during the second World War, the Nazis invaded Ukraine and they took people as forced labor to go work for them in Germany. So, my grandmother was taken from her village. My grandfather was taken from his village. They met at a German work camp and they got married, and my mother was born in a German work camp."
McDonald said that her grandparents and her mother eventually "hopped a boat to Canada" in 1949, and eventually emigrated to Canada and spent the rest of their lives in Edmonton.
"Growing up, my grandparents didn't speak very much English and so we became involved in a lot of Ukrainian things, like Ukrainian church, Ukrainian dancing, Ukrainian youth groups..." McDonald said. "As an adult, I owned a Ukrainian bar. I went to University and got a degree in Education with a Minor in Ukrainian language. I'm hardcore Ukrainian."
And one of the things McDonald learned how to do was create Ukrainian art, such as Pysanky.
Pysanky is the traditional Ukrainian artform of designing and decorating eggs with intricate patterns. Think decorating Easter eggs with your family but, like, doing way more than just dunking it in a coffee cup of food coloring.
According to My Modern Met, "The word itself is taken from the Ukrainian word 'to write,' which gives a hint into how it's done. After designs are drawn in pencil around the raw egg, it's hollowed out by drilling a small hole in the top and bottom and letting its innards seep out. Wax is then applied across the lines with a tool called a kistka, and the egg is dipped in the first dye. Just as in batik, the wax helps seal off the lines so that they remain free of the dye. Wax is continually added, and the egg is continuously dipped in different colors to achieve the desired design. Once dry, the beeswax is melted off with a candle, revealing the colorful pattern. Pysanky are then varnished to preserve them before being displayed on special stands."
Much like decorating Easter eggs is a tradition in American families, Pysanky brings Ukrainian families together every April.
"I remember after Christmas, after all the decorations were put away, my mom would pull out all of her Pysanky-making supplies, maybe around the middle of January, and she would just start writing Pysanky for months before Easter," McDonald remembered. "She'd probably get between eight and 12 dozen Pysanky done and my grandmother did the same thing and then they would go to farmer's markets and and sell the Pysanky to Edmontonians."
Some cultures believe that Pysanky can ward off evil from overtaking the world, and if ever there was a time that the world could use a little Pysanky, now is the times. Especially in Ukraine.
McDonald says that she visited Ukraine in 2019 and reconnected with various family members on her grandparents' side. She also had a couple Ukraine foreign exchange students stay with her, so her roots are, indeed, deep.
"I've been in touch with them," she said. "We've been touching base with everybody to make sure they're safe. So far, everyone is alive and safe. But they're concerned, obviously. And they're scared. They're having to hide in their root cellars. We've had a respite for 77 years since World War II. And at that point, everybody said 'Never again,' but here we are reliving it all again."
McDonald, like many other Ukrainians living in America, said the most important thing allies of Ukraine could do right now would be to close the skies.
"I think the ground troops in Ukraine are pretty tough and pretty strong," she stated. "It's the bombings from the skies that are causing the most damage and hitting the most civilians and civilian buildings."
So, McDonald is doing what she can to help; by offering her talents, her stories, and her traditions to ART 321.
On March 15 and 16, from 6pm-9pm, she will be teaching a Pysanky class at ART 321. She will do so again on March 20, from 1pm-4pm. The event is free (as are most of the classes taught at ART 321) but donations are accepted and appreciated. Every dollar raised will go directly towards humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
Suggest donations are $25, $50,, or $75.
According to the ART 321 Event Page, "Instructor Lisa McDonald has over 50 years of experience making Ukrainian Easter Eggs - Called Pysanky. She will explain about Ukrainian Easter traditions and show you how to make your own beautiful Ukrainian Easter Egg. Class size is limited to 25 spots per class, pre-registration required and all materials are provided, students under 14 must be accompanied by an adult."
You can pre-register for the event here.
If you are unable to attend the class, but still want to know more about the tradition of Pysanky and donate to help support the efforts in Ukraine, you can join the classes virtually, here:
Attending the class is not the only way you can help Ukraine, McDonald said.
"The one thing we need is this," she said. "Everybody with a voice needs to let their elected officials know that they want Ukraine supported as much as we can."
Instructions on how to do so are as follows:
Contacting your Congressional Representatives:
1. Go to https://democracy.io/#!/
2. Enter your address where you are registered to vote
3. Choose the representatives you want to contact
4. Insert your message.
5. Fill out your information, and hit send.
Contacting the White House:
6. Go to https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/
7. Select either “Contact the President” or “Contact the Vice President”.
8. Enter your information.
9. Insert your message.
10. Hit send.
Individuals can call the White House as well, at 202-456-1111.
Many people are doing everything they can think of to support Ukraine. They're donating their time, their talents, their money, and more. Lisa McDonald is doing all three and ART 321 is giving her the place to do it.
"I'm thrilled that ART 321 agreed to this project," McDonald said. "It's nice that in Casper, we have a space like that; to do activities like this. I think if I would've approached anybody with this idea, they would have been up for it, but my first thought was ART 321."
To learn more about Lisa McDonald and the work that she does, you can visit her website.