Legacy of the Nation: Prison for embroidery: the story of vyshyvankas

13:56 Nov. 30, 2016

Prison for embroidery: the story of vyshyvankas

Ukrainian boy wears vyshyvanka - shot from "The Legacy of the Nation" (Facebook/spadoknacii)

UT meets Lesia Voroniuk, the screenwriter of the documentary "The Legacy of the Nation". In an interview, she reveals with what perils Ukrainians had to deal to preserve the right to wear national symbolic shirt

On the road to success, the makers of Ukrainian documentary about vyshyvankas "The Legacy of the Nation" encountered numerous difficulties - trouble finding interviewees, power outage in one of Ukrainian cities while on filming, time limit - but in the end, the movie was welcomed by such countries as Czech Republic, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, UK, Italy, Greece, and the United Arab Emirates. And now, Canada and the US are the next in line.

This international attention provides a chance for the Ukrainian voice to be heard. The film screenwriter Lesia Voronyuk says"The documentary is our response in the information war, but the movie is not propagandistic - we don't twist facts and create false stories."

The essence of the film is encapsulated in its slogan - "To embroider for survival". The documentary tells truthful stories of Ukrainian witnesses about the history of Ukrainian embroidered shirts - vyshyvankas. 

The story from the town of Sokal, Lviv oblast, which is included in the film, literary demonstrates that Ukrainian shirts are ‘legacy of the nation' and Ukrainians, by pains and gains, tried to save their vyshyvankas. In the 1940s, the local train station became a key point for deportation Ukrainians from Kholm region to the USSR. (This territory was then passed to communist Poland. ) While being deported, people were prohibited to carry their vyshyvankas with them. That's why people buried  their shirts in boxes, and they started to dig them out only in the 1990s when Ukraine gained its independence.  

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Read more: Ukrainian Vyshyvanka Parade in Japan (photos)

The documentary also collected witness accounts of people who live at occupied territories, including Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Lesia Voronyuk says that people there could be arrested for vyshyvankas: migrants from Eastern part of Ukraine took their embroidered shirts with them, but wore them underneath their clothes, so the inspectors working at the border couldn't take them away. 

The story of Ukrainian vyshyvanka and its significance for Crimean Tatars is also presented in the documentary. Crimean Tatars put on vyshyvankas to mark Ukraine's Independence Day already in times when Crimea was under Russian occupation to display their solidarity with Ukraine. However, they have been labeled ‘terrorists' and arrested for this act in Crimea.

Read more: Vyshyvanka Mega March in Odesa (photo gallery)

The movie ‘The Legacy of the Nation" was created to mark the 10th anniversary of Vyshyvanka Day on May 19. Vyshyvanka Day was initially organized by Lesia Voronyuk and a small group of students from Ukrainian city, Chernivtsi, and now it is celebrated in 60 countries of the world. In this day, Ukrainians put on embroidered shirts and go in this outfit to work, school, universities, public places, creating a unique and bright flash mob.

Lesia Voronyuk says that people should not just wear embroidered shirts, but should understand more about Ukrainian culture and history – they can be grasped via Ukrainian symbolic shirts. The documentary screenwriter says: "An embroidered shirt is not just a piece of cloth, it is a symbol of a nation." To educate public, Lesia Voronyuk and her team decided to produce a documentary about Ukrainian vyshyvankas. This is how the movie "The Legacy of the Nation" was born.

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Read more: Vyshyvanka Day in Ukraine (photo gallery)

Apart from Lesia Voronyuk, who produced a script, Olexiy Dolya - ethnography expert and movie consultant, and Olexandr Tkachuk - the movie director - have been involved in the production of "The Legacy of the Nation". The team has been working on the documentary for almost a year. The organizers wanted to present the project on Vyshyvanka Day, that's why they worked intensively, without day-offs.

Read more: 'A symbol of Ukraine's unity' - Vyshyvanka Day initiator (video)

The movie was translated into English, French, German, Spanish. Interviewers from 6 countries were involved in this project. The team has produced more than 50 interviews, but not all of them have been included in the documentary. Lesia Voronyuk says that the unused footage is likely to be used in their next documentaries.

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