Posted by: Larry Socha, Consular Officer
“You cannot imagine a Ukrainian family without its rushnyk,” Petro Honchar told Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. “Rich or poor, every family had one.”
Director Petro Honchar guided U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt through the Ukrainian Center of Folk Culture, Ivan Honchar Museum, on Friday afternoon, concluding the Ambassador’s first week in country. Their lively conversation flowed through each room. Under the watchful eyes of dozens of icons, the Director and Ambassador discussed religious imagery and the spirit represented by Cossack Mamay. They compared the landscape styles of Ukrainian artists in the late 19th century and the motifs of artistic schools from the Ambassador’s native California. They paused in front of a portrait of Ivan Honchar, whose private collection, spurned by Soviet authorities, became this great national treasure of independent Ukraine. “Most museums in the Soviet period were based on class struggle. Ivan had the idea that a museum could unite not divide,” Director Honchar explained. “The idea of family became central to his vision.”
Almost immediately upon entering the museum, the visitor is welcomed by scores of black and white Ukrainian photographs, many over a century old. Some are family portraits. Others depict wedding celebrations. But one at eye level reflects back at the viewer, a mirror. The visitor, wherever his roots lie, is invited to be Ukrainian, to understand Ukraine, from the very first moments of his visit.
Ambassador Pyatt was honored to make the Ivan Honchar Museum one of the first stops in his journey through Ukraine. He recalled the long, rectangular cloth of the embroidered rushnyk which symbolizes a journey and the delicately stitched flowers and birds that represent Ukraine’s fertile land. Ambassador Pyatt thanked Director Honchar for a wonderful introduction to the richness of Ukrainian cultural traditions and the country’s deep European history. At the conclusion of the tour, Director Honchar presented Ambassador Pyatt with a vyshyvanka sewn in the colors of Acting Hetman Pavlo Polubotok – a Cossack political and military leader of left-bank Ukraine between 1722 and 1724.