Intricately decorated Easter eggs in Ukrainian tradition

Inside the East Village's Ukrainian Museum, Anna Gbur demonstrated her art.

- Anna Gbur sat at a small table inside the East Village's Ukrainian Museum before an open flame Friday, surrounded by cases of egg shells dyed in intricate patterns dating back almost a century, and hurried through an art she'd practiced for the last 40 years, rushing something one does not rush to satisfy the deadline of a television story.

"A simple design," she said, "could take an hour."

Done to her satisfaction the pattern Gbur chose for Friday's egg should've taken three hours to complete. Fox 5 gave her 40 minutes.

Gbur dropped her egg into a series of different-colored dyes. With her stylus she drew patterns in hot bee's wax onto the egg, protecting whichever color on which she put the lines of blackened wax.

"Pysanka is the Ukrainian word for our Easter egg," she said.

But in Ukraine this tradition predates Christianity. Pagans in that part of the world likely dyed eggs to celebrate the coming of spring. Various designs, symbols and colors carry different meanings and associate the eggs with different regions and time periods.

"A line around the egg symbolizes eternity because it has no beginning and no end," Gbur said.

After removing the egg from its final dye, Gbur exposes her completed design by melting off the bee's wax over an open flame.

Eggs break often.

"Sometimes you'll do it at the very end when you're taking the wax off. I've done that more than once. It'll just drop out of my hands onto the table and splat," Gbur said.

Friday's rushed pysanka survived. And while it might not meet the standards of the other dozen eggs Gbur completes every Easter, with the right care it could last forever.

Gbur, who preaches patience and a sense of color when writing on eggs and moved to this country from a tiny village in western Ukraine as a baby, keeps some eggs in her home she finished dying 30 years ago.

"It gives me a sense of tradition and attachment to my ancestors," Gbur said. "It's very primitive. You have a flame, a raw egg and bee's wax, which smells wonderful."

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