In pursuit of perfect egg: one Island woman’s guide to making Ukrainian Easter eggs

In the run-up to Easter, a Nanaimo woman is nostalgic for Ukrainian egg art.

Jeanne Rudy, a Nanaimo resident of Ukrainian descent, said the decorative Easter eggs, pysanky, come from the Ukrainian word pysaty (to write) and date back to antiquity. On Saturday, April 1, she made and sold eggs at the Ukrainian Easter Bazaar at St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Nanaimo.

“They’ve been around since pagan times because the egg is a very important symbol of the new season, new life, rebirth,” she said. “When the Ukrainians accepted Christianity in AD 988, many of the symbols on the eggs also had religious significance, just like the previous fish meant harvest, fishing, and later it represented the fisherman Christ.”

Rudy said she used a “wax-resistant process” to make her eggs and “preserved the color with the wax”. She drains the yolk through a hole with a device similar to a wine siphon, which connects to her laundry sink. She also uses a water-filled syringe to clean the inside of the eggs.

“You start with a raw egg. Whatever part of the egg you want to keep white, you put wax on it and dip it in the next lightest dye, which is probably yellow,” says Rudy. “Any part of the egg that you want to keep yellow, you put wax on it and you do a color gradient that ends up being the darkest color, and then you melt the wax off and all the color comes out.”

As Rudy said, she strives to find the perfect egg, and the process is meticulous.

“I have to go through it dozens of times to get a decent one that is smooth and nicely shaped, and you don’t see the film coming through, you look for cracks and stuff,” she says. “Sometimes people look at me like I’m picky. They’re for decoration, not food.”

While Rudy makes eggs at Christmas to adorn the tree, she says it’s the real time of year for egg-making, when secret dye recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“It’s a very important ritual because they’ll put some[eggs]in the barn, under the hay to make good milk, in the beehives to make good honey, on the graves of deceased loved ones , put in an Easter basket and brought to church for blessing,” Rudy said. “It’s a very important role for Ukrainian women.”

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