Growing up, my father and I used to write Lemky style Easter Eggs for Easter. I would always look forward to this. My father would tell stories of how his father had made beautiful pysanky when he was a boy. Unfortunately, my grandfather had passed away before I was born. But I had always felt drawn to the art form. We had heard about the "old country" from my mother's father and how beautiful the land was. The only problem was that no one ever asked, "Where is the old country?" before my grandfather passed away.
One day in 1993, while cleaning out my mother's closet, I ran across some very old letters that were in a language that no one knew how to read. They were written by my mom's uncle to her father from a country called "Austria Galicia," and most were postmarked from a town called Turka. So, we had found the old country, but looked on every map that I could find, but there was no town called Turka. Very carefully, I sorted and examined each of the documents. Then, by some great miracle, on the back of one of the letters was written a little bit of English from my mom's cousin in Ukraine to my Grandfather. With a little help from a very nice Ukrainian friend, I composed a letter and addressed it to a little village called Ilnyk in western Ukraine. This was in 1993, two years after Ukraine's Independence. Several weeks later, after 27 years, our families were reconnected. Then in 1997, 87 years after my grandfather had left Ukraine, our family had returned to our homeland, to once again walk the village of my ancestors.
In those years leading up to the trip, I wrote many pysanky and improved my pysanky-making skills. I was looking forward to buying authentic pysanky from the birthplace of the Easter Egg. I was expecting to see people on every corner selling them. But alas, it was very difficult to even find a store that had any at all to sell. In the wake of the Soviet Union and the economic struggles, it seemed that the art form was not being handed down to the younger generation. It appeared that new ideas and survival instincts had replaced the old traditions. However, during our trip, we met family and friends who were very talented in stained glass, iconography, embroidery, jewelry, and music, but had no market to sell their wares.
Upon returning home, I approached many established businesses and showed them what the people in Ukraine had to offer. There were many complements, however, there was no interest. Then, with the encouragement of friends, the support of my loving wife, and a small personal loan from myself, I started on January 1, 1998 a company called All Things Ukrainian, Inc. I already had a full time job as an Electrical Engineer. Why add more stress into an already busy life? Well, when I was thinking about this, I heard a little voice say "Do it; if you don't, no one else will." Call it the "Voice of God" or just insanity, I started something that takes up as much time as a second job. However, I would say that in some small way, we are paving the way for a better life for a few (if not many) people in Ukraine. Someone told me once that the smallest raindrop can cause a ripple in the largest lake. My only hope is that the people in Ukraine can persevere long enough for economic stability to come. All I ask from you is to please take the time to look over what we have to offer. These items are lovingly created by Ukrainian craftsmen who want to to make a better place for their children in the country that they love.
John Washinsky, Pres.
All Things Ukrainian, Inc.
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