Ezra Liechty's Pysanka / Pysanky

My Mom recently asked her sister to deliver some eggs for her. Which seems pretty normal. Except these are some exceptional eggs. They are a collection of pysanky, eggs artistically decorated in a traditional Ukrainian style. And the art works themselves are pretty interesting, all on their own. Since I saw the collection at my parents’ house, I’ve become attuned to the term. And it just so happens that pysanky are a particularly-popular topic for news articles these days, considering the confluence of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the Easter season.

The pysanky that my Mom received from her sister were extra-special because they were originally collected by their father, my grandfather, Ezra H Liechty. He apparently purchased them from a Ukrainian woman who was living and making art in Jamestown, North Dakota, during the middle part of the 20th Century. So that context makes them all the more interesting to me.

Ezra Liechty's Pysanka / Pysanky

But the eggs themselves — upon which the Ukrainian artwork is crafted — are also extraordinary. Some are chicken eggs. Some are goose eggs. And one is an ostrich egg! Have you ever held an ostrich egg in your hands (note the use of the plural, there; it’s too big to safely hold in one hand!)? It’s astonishingly heavy, even after being drained of its internal contents. Something in the artisanal pysanky production process must also add strength to the shell. Because it feels quite solid, too.

Ezra Liechty's Pysanka / Pysanky

It’s a remarkable collection. I’m glad that my Mom thought to preserve this piece of family history. And I’m glad that she’s displaying them at her house now. They may actually have some financial value and historical value (some of my Mom’s research seems to suggest we could sell the ostrich egg for $700!). However, I find the family value and narrative value to be my favorite features of these works of art. In any event, I’m glad to see history and culture preserved and celebrated. So, if you ever wanted to drop by and see my Mom’s collection, I bet she’d be glad to show you.

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