Stitching Together a Lifetime of Memories
By Olena Wawryshyn
The embroidered rushnyk, or ritual cloth, has played a central role in Ukrainian culture since pre-Christian days. It is present in everyday life as a decorative object and, as an important symbolic talisman, at various events that mark the stages of an individual’s lifecycle– from birth, to marriage, and at death.
beautiful embroidered rushnyks are found in many Ukrainian homes, the
one that hangs in the apartment of
Spanning about six feet in length, the rushnyk also has deep personal meaning for Lada because she and her mother created it collaboratively.
began this collaborative project in the summer of 2005,” says Lada. Not long before that time, Lada-Uhorczak,
then aged 96, had just moved in with Sophia.
Lada-Uhorczak had been living in
Having her mother move into her small studio apartment where Lada not only lived but created her art was a big adjustment. It meant Lada had to take on the responsibilities of a caregiver and find ways to occupy her mother who could not leave the apartment on her own.
“I wanted to spend this time with my mother in a creative way,” says Lada. A painter, she originally thought of painting her portrait, but discounted that idea as her mother would “have to sit there and do nothing.”
“A rushnyk to commemorate my mother’s work in folk embroidery seemed like the perfect project for us,” says Lada.
in Krakiv in the 1940s, Lada, who grew up in
her fine arts credentials under her belt, she began drawing on her personal
reflections into the folklore of the ancient spiritual culture of
As an artist, she is interested in taking objects she finds and giving them new life. This interest in recycling objects is evident in the rushnyk commemorating her mother. In its design, Lada incorporated pieces of table runners, embroidered in complicated stitches by her mother years ago. A pillow Lada-Uhorczak had embroidered at the age of 82 is also incorporated into the design. Other sections of the rushnyk were embroidered by her mother in 2005, using the simpler cross stitches that she is still able to remember, with threads that Lada found lying around in her apartment.
overall design of the rushnyk was created by Lada, who plotted out
sections of it on a paper grid. She drew a picture of her mother’s face and
hands, and then guided her mother through the embroidery. Around the edges of
the rushnyk, the surnames Lada-Uhorczak had during her lifetime (her
maiden name and her two husbands’ name) and the year of her birth and the year
she completed the rushnyk are embroidered with black thread.
Other symbols specific to her life that are incorporated into the design are butterflies, representing her butterfly pin collection, and a string of corals with a Hutsul cross, like the one she used to often wear. In the four corners of the rushnyk are embroidered squares that represent the four seasons.
project not only appealed to the interests of Lada, who is a former curator of
her early years, Lada-Uhorczak, who was born in Bolekhiv in
she immigrated to the
decades later, after a lifetime of productivity, she still feels the need to
keep busy. Every day, as soon after she gets up, she goes to her worktable to
embroider. Sophia's apartment is decorated with the many hanging embroidered
ornaments her mother makes. Boxes of
embroidered toys, including building blocks covered with colourful stitching,
are ready to give to Lada-Uhorczak's great-granddaughter
the baptism of
lovingly made objects and the commemorative rushnyk will allow
To learn more about Sophia Lada and her art, visit. www.sophialada.com
To learn more about photographer Mir Lada visit. www.mirlada.com
Photography by Mir Lada, www.mirlada.com