The following are excerpts from an interview with Mrs. Nataliia Tymoshenko, spouse of the Ambassador of Ukraine in Seoul.—Ed.
Question: As was briefly introduced afore, the Korean people have a time-honoured expression, Naejo, which literally translates as “Domestic Support” and which means “Support and assistance given by a wife to her husband. How is this understood among non-Korean ladies?
Answer: Generally speaking, in human culture all over the world traditionally (married) woman is considered as a person who takes care of home, children and supports her husband. Of course, this understanding varies between cultures, and have varied over the time.
In western countries today a married woman usually has an education, a profession and a job. Depending on cultural traditions, laws in each country, concrete situation in each family a woman (or her husband) can take time off from work for maternity leave, and may get maternity pay or maternity allowance and be a person who mainly takes main care of family, spouse and children.
These days with a rising number of ladies-ambassadors in diplomatic service worldwide we see more and more husbands who support their wives - high level diplomats by assisting them, taking care of young children and home.
Nevertheless, looking at a bigger picture of western society we see that a woman still is considered as a main career of day-to-day life of her family.
In Ukrainian culture we have a word “Beregina” (from Ukrainian “берегти, оберігати ” – “to keep safe and to protect”). It is a very old word, which in pre-Christian beliefs had meaning “The Great Goddess”- the main goddess of life.
According to old beliefs this goddess – Beregina - protects a human being from all evil and is a patron of the harvest and a defender of the home, young children from distress, disease or death. A schematic image of the goddess (symbolic figure of a woman with raised hands) was found embroidered on clothes, carved on trees, on doors, shutters and porches.
These days Ukrainians use this word – “Beregina” - in the figurative sense with a meaning: “a woman (especially a woman-mother) who protects and maintains home and acts as a protectress for the whole family circle and of course for her husband.
I believe that in this sense Korean word “Naejo” and Ukrainian “Beregina” are correlated.
Q: Please introduce the First Lady of your country and the First Family fully.
A: In Ukrainian culture it is not appropriate to introduce someone you do not know personally or/and you do not have authority to do so, specially, if this is a person of a high rank in the society. That is why I am in a no position to introduce the First Lady of Ukraine and the First Family as well.
Q: What is your role as the Spouse of the Ambassador of your country in Korea? How do you help His Excellency to perform his work well?
A: For my husband, Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of South Korea, His Excellency Olexander Horin, this is fifth diplomatic posting and the third one as an Ambassador. I have accompanied him to all of his previous postings, which literally were on different continents - North America, Europe and Asia.
From my husband’s first posting, which was at Mission of Ukraine to United Nations in New York, DC, I saw my task in support my husband in all possible ways. Firstly, by creating comfortable and joyful environment for him and our whole family (by then we have our newborn daughter) and by taking care of everyday needs of our family. Secondly, by being attentive to his needs connected to his everyday work as a member of the Ukrainian Mission to UN, which was quite challenging and demanding, due to the fact, that work in UN literally never stops and working hours can be long and odd.
Back then I also believed, as I still do now, that a spouse of a diplomat, especially spouse of an ambassador, needs to be interested in the work of her/his spouse. And not only be interested but to know many different things about diplomatic life, history and culture of your own county and a country of posting.
So in each country we have lived I have learnt about it, read books, went to museums, attended lectures and seminars, traveled around the country, met people. I have learnt more about history and culture and social issues in my country, Ukraine, as well. That helped me during numerous meetings, events I attend with His Excellency when I was able to keep talks, discussions about divers topics/subjects and to present my country along with the Ambassador.
So, I as see it, a spouse of an ambassador supports him not only at home, in private life, by creating opportunity and possibility to have so needed rest after full day of intense and important work, by efficiently running their household and by taking care of everyday needs of their family. She also supports her husband in official life, by presenting her own country to the people of country of posting and to members of diplomatic community along with an Ambassador in different situations, during official, protocol and social events of different kinds, which are organized in/by the Embassy and/or at any other places, while meeting and communicating with people from different backgrounds.
With this vision in mind, during the time of our stay in South Korea I have made several presentations in different places for different people whenever and wherever I was invited.
Only this year, last February, I presented Ukraine to pupils in Dwight International School and just recently, in March, I made several presentations about history, culture heritage, folk art and traditional food of my country in Sookmyung Women’s University, which were taped in studio for students to study them online due to outbreak of coronavirus.
As a rule, I present not only facts and figures about Ukraine but national costume as well. I have wore Ukrainian national costume at many different important events, such as, Love Fashion Show, which took place in National Assembly some times ago, at Global Costume Festival in Suwon (2018) and in Ansan (2019) and, of course, each year at Ukrainian National Day celebration reception and always have got many compliments on its beauty.
Quite often my husband has a very tight schedule, as all ambassadors have, so on his behalf I go by myself to different events (first of all cultural ones, like for example, opening of an exhibition) to represent Ukraine.
My help to the Ambassador probably becomes the most visible during the period of preparation for the National Day of Ukraine celebration as well as during the event itself and, of course, before and during high level official visits of Ukrainian dignitaries, first of all and mostly, visits of the President and First Lady to the country of posting. These are quite unique and special events and they require from spouse of an ambassador special knowledge and abilities.
Talking about special knowledge and abilities of a spouse of an ambassador I would like to point out the fact that sadly many people do not think that spouses of ambassadors require (or even worse, have) any of them.
In reality a spouse of an ambassador needs to have (and has) knowledge in many different spheres: politics, diplomacy, diplomatic protocol and etiquette, culture, history of own country and current situation in it. The same goes for country of posting and the world.
Being a spouse of a diplomat for many years and a spouse of an ambassador for the last 18 years, I have learnt from personal experience, that to be able to efficiently support an ambassador in the way we just talked about his spouse requires a number of very concrete and specific characteristics, which are:
To be ready for changes of circumstances, to be ready to change homes, places of living, countries of husband’s postings (jobs), be ready to even change your own career.
To be adaptable and to be able to live in new places, in new conditions, new environment, new (sometimes very different from your own) culture.
To be flexible and to be ready to try, experience and to learn new things.
To be patient and to see new possibilities for yourself and your family, your children, which each place, each country can have.
To use the advantage of living in different countries, in different cultures to learn about them and to enrich yourself.
Always have things to do and to be interested in.
To be interested in spouse’s work and understand it.
To be well self-organized, to be good in time management
To be emotionally balanced and physically fit.
To have a sense of humour, which can and usually do help in a course of diplomatic life.
Q: Please introduce yourself, including your family.
A: I was born in Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine. I graduated from National State University and later have obtained there PHd degree in linguistics. I am a specialist in the sphere of language of diplomatic documents, diplomatic and business protocol and etiquette and cross-cultural communication.
I published 4 books and more than 60 articles on named topics.
In Ukraine I have worked in National State University in Kyiv and Diplomatic Academy under MFA of Ukraine as an associate professor and in one of the State body as a state employee-high level manager (Ukrainian law permits to combine these two spheres of work).
I have worked abroad (Austria) and intensely travelled for business and lived in many countries on different continents (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America) due to my personal work and as a spouse of a diplomat/ an ambassador.
During our stay in Seoul for 3 years now I have classes in Sookmyung Women’s University in a frame of the course “Global Leadership and Networking” as an Honorary Professor of this University.
With my husband, we have two wonderful children, a daughter and a son, both are students in Europe. They have visited us several times and together we have actively explored Seoul and have travelled to many places in South Korea as well, for example, Busan, Gyeongju, Jeju island. Both our children absolutely enjoyed their time here in South Korea.
As anyone, I have hobbies and things I like to do when I have free time.
To learn more and understand better history and great achievements of people of South Korea, last year I have completed “International course on Korean development experience”, organised by Sunnong Culture Forum.
I like to read and try to read new books regularly, especially about country of current posting. So far I have read several books about South Korea, among them “The new Koreans” by Michael Breen, poetry collections of poets Do Jong-Hwan and Jeong Ho-seung (in English), books published in a frame of Korean Spirit and Culture Promotion Project (“The Practice of Hongik Ingan” and “Fifty Wonders of Korea”).
Recently I read a wonderful and a powerful book “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee, which helped me to learn more and to understand better Korean history and culture.
With Mr. Ambassador, I travel a lot around Seoul and South Korea. We visited many unique, interesting and beautiful places and have many great memories about our travels.
I like nature and with my husband quite often enjoy long walks in Namsan park and many other green areas of Seoul.
My husband and I, we love music and regularly attend musical performances of different kinds. I especially enjoy traditional Korean music concerts in National Gugak Centre and classical music performances in Seoul Art Centre.
Q: Are you a member of the Ambassador Spouse Association Seoul? If yes, what is role there?
A: I became a member of Ambassador Spouse Association Seoul not long after we arrive in Seoul in October 2017. It is good to be a part of the events, which our Association organises. This give me chance to spend nice time with my colleagues, interesting and intelligent ladies, and to learn about culture and history of their countries and culture and history of South Korea as well. We share our life experience, talk about almost everything and support each other.
Q: What if any, are your experiences in the cultural, charity and other activities of ASAS and/or other such organisations in Korea? Please elaborate.
A: As a member of ASAS, I participate in charity work, which Ambassadors’ Spouses’ Association conducts with Korean Down Syndrome society (KDS) and Korean Red Cross.
I have organised two Ukrainian International days for young adults, with whom KDS works, and for 2 years participated in a fair organised by this organisation to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day, representing Ukraine.
For several years, I take part in Korean Red Cross monthly cervices. Last year in September, during one of them, I have made a presentation about Ukraine. I have also participated in Korean Red Cross charity bazars.
I am very grateful for the possibility to be a part of important and meaningful activities of these two organizations.
With colleagues from Ukrainian Embassy, I took part in Seoul International Women’s Association (SIWA) charity bazar last year and was happy to see big interest of Korean people who came there for Ukrainian traditional souvenirs and products.
Love for nature was the reason I became a member of Garden Club in Seoul, where I met not only my colleagues, spouses of the ambassadors, but many prominent Korean ladies.
As an Honorable Ambassador of MIZSILVERKOREA for two years in a row (in 2018 and 2019) I was a judge at the finals of this competition. I was absolutely amazed by beauty, elegance and grace of ladies-participants. For me this event became a real celebration of womanhood.
With Mr. Ambassador I took part in Global Costume Festival in Suwon and in Ansan. There we had opportunity to wear hanboks made by Korean designers and to present Ukrainian national costume as well.
With the help of Korean Culture Association and World Masters Committee, other Korean organisations and institutions my husband and I, along with members of diplomatic corps and their families, we participated in numerous tours around the country and visited many historical and cultural places and sites of a great interest.
Q: The Korea Post organizes tours for the Ambassadors and Spouses. However, sometimes Ambassadors are busy with their work and are unable to attend. Would you attend such schedules of The Korea Post media on behalf of His Excellency?
A: Mr. Ambassador and I, we really appreciate efforts that “The Korea Post” puts into presenting South Korea to members of diplomatic community by organising interesting and joyful tours and visits to many place of the country. We always try to participate in such events together as it makes each trip more memorable.
However, in cases when Mr. Ambassador had pressing engagements, I attended an event on behalf of His Excellency, as I did in other similar situations, which I have mentioned. We appreciate understanding of organisers on this matter and their support. Of course, in the future, if similar situations occur, I will attend events, organized by “The Korea Post”, if my schedule and circumstances permit.
Q: Please introduce traditional food and beverage of your country, which may be different from those of Korea.
A: Ukrainian cuisine is closely linked to the customs, culture, and way of life of the Ukrainian people. It is famous for its diversity and flavours.
In 2016, according to Yonderbound, one of the largest travel communities in the world, Ukrainian cuisine hit the top 10 in the world, taking 8th place between Japan and China. Tourists from all over the world participated in the voting. They appreciated the taste of food and its exceptional nutritional value.
Important trade routes have historically stretched across Ukrainian territory where for many centuries dozens of ethnic groups lived side-by-side, each of them bringing something unique to the local food culture. As a result, Ukrainian cuisine turned out to be multifaceted, but with its nationwide characteristics.
There are hundreds (if not thousands) dishes in Ukrainian cuisine as Ukraine is rich for dark soil (chornozem), what is considered the most fertile soil in the world. From this extremely rich soil, which has plentiful of edible resources, come ingredients for dishes. Some of these dishes have a centuries-old history, such as Ukrainian borsch (which is dated back to 14th century, and by some experts – back to 11th century).
Each of the ethnographic regions of Ukraine has its own peculiarities of cuisine, due to historical development and traditions. And of course each family has its own special recipes of favourite dishes.
Many features of Ukrainian cuisine were conditioned by the way of life of the people in historic past, the vast majority of whom were engaged in difficult manual work. To do hard work, people needed nutritious, high-calorie food. That is why, the prominent characteristic of Ukrainian cuisine is a big number of various dishes that are rich in proteins, fats and carbohydrates with a lot of vegetables and fruits.
Ukrainian national character demands that all food have to be tasty, if not delicious. Because of that most dishes are characterized by a complex set of ingredients (in some cases it can be up to 20 in one dish) and a preparation method of many of them requires a complex heat treatment - they are first fried or cooked, and then stewed or baked. This is the most distinctive feature of Ukrainian cuisine technology. The sophisticated heat treatment preserves the aroma of the dishes and gives them juiciness.
The sophisticated taste of numerous and variable dishes and products in Ukrainian cuisine is achieved not only through a combination of different types of heat treatment, but also by the use of various fats and local traditional spices such as onions, garlic, horseradish, dill, parsley, cumin, thyme and others.
It is impossible to imagine Ukrainian cuisine without bread and dishes made from flour. Already in the period of the Trypillya culture (5-6 thousand years ago), which was accepted by the Eastern Slavs, the population of Right-Bank Ukraine grew cereals - wheat, barley and millet.
For centuries, Ukraine was called (and still is) "the breadbasket of Europe" as the country produces and exports wide variety of grains, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, millet and buckwheat, from which people make uncountable types of breads.
In Ukrainian culture bread is considered as maybe the most honourable, respected food. We have very old saying: “Bread is the head of everything”, which means: “Bread is the most important thing among all other things”.
Ukrainians like and produce numerous types of dairy products. Each Ukrainian has her/his own preferences for these products. It is impossible to talk about traditional Ukrainian dairy products and not to name Smetana – sour cream, which is an important sauce or component of many Ukrainian dishes. We use Smetana not only in/with sweet and flour dishes, but also as an important part of the first and second courses.
Smetana (sour cream) is not the only fermented food in Ukrainian cuisine. We have huge variety of such products: fermented/pickled vegetables and fruits (cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, sweet peppers, eggplants, zucchini, apples, plums etc.), fermented dairy products apart smetana (sour milk (prostokvasha), ryazhneka (backed fermented milk), kefir, masliana (fermented dairy product from Carpathian mountains region) etc.).
Huge variety of fermented foods, popularity of numerous soups, high consumption of meet, garlic and onion are the particular characteristics of Ukrainian cuisine, which, for my opinion, correlate with Korean cuisine characteristics.
We could talk days about Ukrainian cuisine, but as we do not have such possibility in a frame of this interview, I would like to describe some of the most famous Ukrainian dishes.
The most well-known and symbolical traditional Ukrainian food, which is considered the national dish of Ukraine, is borsch - a hearty soup made in a variety of ways, depending on region where it cooks and the person who cooks it. That is why there are more than 70 recipes for red borsch.
The classic version of it is the one, that is cooked with pork, beef, veal or chicken and variety of vegetables, herbs and spices. Borsch is supposed to be extremely rich. We have a traditional saying: “In real borsch your spoon would stand straight”, which means: “Borsch has to consist of many ingredients” (and in reality this dish can consist of almost 30 ingredients).
However, the lean version is also common: with mushrooms and/or beans of different kinds. In some regions, fish is also used instead of meat. Moreover, in Zhytomyr Region, for example, you can try borsch containing dried plums (prunes).
Apart from the classical “red” borsch, to which beetroot gives its recognizable colour, many Ukrainians also love “green” borsch, where the main component is sorrel leaves. It is often served in summer and considered as a ‘light’ dish.
It is customary to serve “red” borsch with a spoon of sour cream (smetana) and fragrant warm buns called 'pampushky', soaked in vegetable oil with grated garlic.
Ukrainian people love this dish so much that even a small town in Ternopil Region (Western Ukraine) was named in honour of it. Nowadays it hosts an annual borsch festival.
Other the most famous Ukrainian dishes, varenyky and holubtsi, are also considered to be national favourites not only of Ukrainian people. They are a common meal in traditional Ukrainian restaurants all over the world.
Varenyky, are dumplings with a variety of fillings, from sweet to sour. Each Ukrainian has her/his own recipe of varenyky, but the preparation method stays the same: wrapping unleavened dough around the filling.
The most ‘basic’ filling is mashed potatoes (with fried onions) — this way varenyky are a pretty simple, yet delicious dish, often sprinkled with dill. Other sour fillings include pickled cabbage, salty cheese, mushrooms, mix of cabbage and mushrooms/potatoes and mushrooms, as well as meat, liver, or fish.
Among the sweet fillings let’s name cottage cheese, poppy seeds, different fruits and berries. The most popular sweet filling, without a doubt, is sour cherry, which makes sweet varenyky a perfect summer dish.
Interestingly, the name of the dish came from the Ukrainian word "varyty", which means: "to boil". Varenyky (with no meet or soft cheese) are traditionally included in the list of twelve Lenten dishes that are prepared in Ukrainian families for Holy Christmas Eve.
In the West of Ukraine, there is a recipe of "varenyky of love": they are made in the shape of a heart and pink in colour, which comes from beet juice added to the dough.
Varenyky occupy a special place in Ukrainian folk songs, as well as in literature. Famous writer Nikolai Gogol wrote about this dish, saving a useful tip throughout the centuries: do not forget to serve smetana (sour cream) and dip varenyky in it before eating. It was counted that there are as many as 86 mentions of this dish in Nikolai Gogol`s novels and short stories.
What is more, in Canada, where more than 1million of people of Ukrainian origin live, varenyk was even immortalized in stone 9-meter stone monument, which was hoisted there in his honour.
Holubtsi is another dish that is traditionally prepared not only for Holy Christmas Eve, but also on everyday basis. A mix of millet (often replaced by rice nowadays), meat, finely chopped carrots and onions with spices is wrapped in cabbage leaves. There are two ways to make them: bake them in the oven or stew them in a pan. Like other Ukrainian dishes, holubtsi traditionally are served with sour cream. A similar dish called “Dolma” is also popular in the South of the country. In this dish the filling (the same as for holubtsi) is wrapped in grape leaves, which gives dolma a slightly sour taste.
Ukrainians are also passionate about deruny. These are lush potato pancakes, cooked with onions, eggs and garlic. Mushrooms or minced meat can be (and are quite often) placed inside. This type of recipe is especially popular at north of Ukraine. In the town of Korosten, Zhytomyr Region in Northern Ukraine, the annual International deruny festival is organized, and the local community has even erected a monument of their favourite dish.
Chicken Kiev is the relatively new Ukrainian dish (its particular recipe was created in 20th century) but despite it became well known and even famous. The simple combination of fresh chicken filet with a piece of butter (and dill) is considered to be quite exquisite all over the world. Nowadays, chicken Kiev is served in fashionable restaurants in London and New York. It is always the first dish ordered by foodies visiting the Ukrainian capital.
The traditional favourite beverage in Ukraine is uzvar - a decoction of dried fruits ( usually, apples, pear, prunes, raisins) , which is often replaced with compote, made from different fresh fruits and berries, in the summer . Since ancient times in Ukraine reigns kvass of different varieties.
For many centuries, the honey based drink (medovuha) was the only drink of Eastern Slavs. It was cooked for a family use in large clay pots, and for sale - in breweries, and then fermented. Until the seventeenth century, the profession of medovar (person who makes medovuha) and later brewer was one of the most respected. With the development of food technology, diverse alcoholic beverages became a cultural attribute of the Ukrainian cuisine (various horilkas (vodkas), cognacs, wines, strong tinctures and beers).
Of the great variety of legendary Ukrainian horilkas, honey and pepper horilka are particularly distinguished, which combines contradictory tastes that embody the versatility and unpredictability of life itself - the bitterness of pepper, the honey taste and the fragrant aroma of wild herbs. Nowadays Ukrainian horilcas are available on Korean market.
Due to favourable natural conditions, winemaking has been practiced in Ukraine for centuries. From ancient times, wine was produced on south territories by the Greek colonists. Nowadays Crimean and Odessa wines, Trans-Carpathian cognacs are known all over the world.
Drinks such as tea and coffee have long become commonplace throughout Ukraine. In Lviv, a city in Western Ukraine, each year the biggest in Eastern Europe coffee festival takes place.
Q: What are the costumes of your country?
A: Ukrainian traditional (folk) costume / clothe, both male and female, is very diverse. Nevertheless, it has common characteristic features, which are: clarity and elegance of forms, harmony of silhouette, richness of decoration and colours.
Ukrainian national attire has features of Scythian, Vikings, Eastern nomadic peoples and Byzantine clothing. But mainly, fundamentally, the history of Ukrainian folk dress is closely related to the traditions of Kyivan Rus.
(Kyiven Rus’ the early, mostly East Slavic feudal state dominated by the city of Kyiv which, existed from about 880 AD to the middle of the 12th century. The existence of Kyivan Rus’ is one of the major factors of the formation of the basis of Ukrainian identity.)
Evidence of such correlation can be found in the Slavic chronicles written in 12th century. In these documents the description of many part of people’s clothing can be found. Nowadays Ukrainian national costume (clothes) has the same components.
Already in ancient time, different regions had their significant differences in the features of clothing. Most noticeable was the difference between embroidery ornaments and the shape of decorations and jewellery.
The basic elements of the Ukrainian national costume during later historic periods remained almost unchanged. Minor changes in clothing were influenced by specifics of different historical periods and changes in statehood, within Ukrainian lands.
Ukrainian national costume has noticeable features depending on the specific region, especially in the region of Carpathian mountains.
It has its specific characteristics regarding to gender, age, social status of a person, level of formality / specifics of activities (for example, casual, for large festivities and celebrations, weddings etc.), season of the year and the natural and climatic features of the area.
A national festive outfit is taken as the basis of nowadays Ukrainian national costume.
Traditional Ukrainians' menswear consisted mainly of wool trousers and a linen or hemp shirt. In the warm season, the shirt also could be used as outerwear. The main feature of the Ukrainian shirt is a short section from the front in the middle, the so-called bosom, embroidered with a traditional ornament.
The ornaments corresponded to the region of residence of the Ukrainian, but in general, they were red and black patterns.
The collar of the embroidered shirt could have a wide reclining collar or a narrow collar-rack, and the clasp could serve as a beautiful braid in the tone of embroidery or regular buttons.
Ukrainian men did not wear a shirt over their pants, as some other Slavic peoples did and still do, they tucked the shirt into their pants.
Traditional Ukrainian trousers were sewn loose, wide, and between legs was in-sewn a matte from rectangular pieces of fabric, which gave even greater freedom of movement. Such a cut was convenient for riders and foot soldiers.
In the Trans-Carpathian region there were more tight trousers with lining at the bottom. The lapels were decorated with embroidered ornaments.
Traditional women's Ukrainian clothing is even more bright, more colourful and more diverse than men's.
There are also significant diversity and regional differences in the women's Ukrainian costume. Each region has its own peculiarities of silhouette, cut, individual parts of the clothes and a way to wear them, colours, patterns and techniques of embroidery, their decorations, jewellery and decor.
An embroidered shirt (vyshyvanka) was (and still is) the most prominent and decorative part of Ukrainian women's costume.
The original Ukrainian women’s clothing worn over vyshyvanka (embroidery shirt) is plahta - a skirt, made from a homespun dyed woollen cloth. Plahta was quite voluminous because its making required about four meters of fabric, which was cut and stitched in a certain way. The finished plahta was embroidered with inconspicuous patterns. Women put it on, wrapping it around the waist, and tied it with a waistband. A beautifully embroidered apron was put on plahta in the front.
The most famous type of Ukrainian women's sleeveless jackets was Corsetka, which had its own characteristics, various variations of length and decoration, depending on regional affiliation.
The beauty of Ukrainian women in national clothes admired famous artists, writers and poets. They displayed colourful original Ukrainian costumes in their works, noting the extraordinary taste of Ukrainians in their clothing and jewellery. This applies not only to women's clothing, which is undoubtedly very colourfully and elegant, but also to men's attire, which is heavily embroidered and embellished with national symbols as well.
In our days, vyshyvanka is an important part of clothing of Ukrainian people. As before, during the holidays, as well as in everyday life, Ukrainians (both female and male) with a great pleasure wear a huge variety of vyshyvankas. Women also love to wear traditional Ukrainian jewellery (namysto) and decorations of different tipes.
In previous years, Ukrainian traditional (folk) costume was noticed and has already attracted interest in many countries.
In the fashion world, embroidered items of clothing (not only shirts (vyshivankas), but embroidered dresses, suits and even coats and jackets) remain at the peak of popularity over the past few years.
There are many examples of how world-class designers have used Ukrainian embroidery ornamentation during previous decades.
In 2005, the legendary French designer Jean-Paul Gauthier presented his "Ukrainian collection" after his visit to Ukraine. He has decorated most of dresses of this collection with Ukrainian embroidery. Later a photo of Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow in a dress from this collection was on the cover of one of the Vogue magazine issues.
In 2008, Dior art director John Galliano presented a collection, which used Ukrainian ethno-motives. Ukrainian ethnicity was also visible in the autumn-winter 2008-2009 collection created by Gucci art director Fried Gianni. At the autumn-winter 2013-2014 shows two fashion designers - Prabal Gurung in New York and Gareth Pugh in Paris - showcased collections which were inspired by Ukrainian girls and young women who practice traditional Ukrainian martial art "Asgarda" (which is connected to traditions of Scythian Amazons).
In 2015, Valentino fashion house presented a collection, which included shirts, dresses and costumes decorated with embroidered ornaments of Ukrainian motives.
Talking about the mega-popularity of Ukrainian vyshivankas and embroidery in general, I would like to mention the Ukrainian designer Vita Kin and her numerous collections of embroidered dresses, which were seen on many Hollywood stars and some European first ladies as well. In 2015, The Wall Street Journal has named Vita Kin dresses the most popular summer dresses of the year.
Q: What are the main festivals and folk rites in your country – like Korea’s Chuseouk and Soellal?
A: Ukrainian people have a rich culture, which reflects our long history. We are accept life wisdom and lifestyle guidelines, which have come from ancient times. They are reflected in Ukrainian customs, folk rites and folklore.
The most ancient are the calendar rites, which are closely connected to agrarian life. They go back to the primitive, pagan beliefs of our Slavic ancestors.
Like mother tongue, traditions and folk rites unite separate individuals into one people. In Ukraine, we have an old belief that God and the people punish those, who forget traditions and customs.
In Ukrainian culture pre-Christian customs and folk rites are harmoniously intertwined with the religious ones, forming traditions and customs we have today.
This is how the modern folk calendar was composed, with Christian holidays dates and ceremonies supplemented by ancient ceremonial elements.
For example, winter holiday which is now Christmas, used to be the celebration of the time of winter turning of the sun (when days become longer), which was seen as a symbol of rich harvest and happiness. Christmas cycle of holidays is associated with the rebirth of the new sun.
It was a time of divination for the coming year; and so we still have, as Christmas traditions, a number of pre-Christian folk rites, which are intended to bring a good harvest next year, wealth and prosperity for families, happy hunts for a hunter, a wedding for a girl and a happy journey for a soldier.
During Christmas celebrations people sing ritual songs - koliadkas, which were known far back before the beginning of Christian times (before 988 AD) on the territories of modern Ukraine. In koliadkas people proclaim the birth of the world (in Christian carols – the birth of Christ), and wish to everyone a prosperous life and a bountiful harvest.
Christmas in Ukraine is one of the most loved and important holidays which characterized by numerous traditions, customs and folk rites. In Ukraine we officially celebrate two Christmases – Catholic (on 25th of December) and Orthodox(on 7th of January) as there are two numerous groups of churchgoers - Catholics and Orthodox - in our country (with less numerous groups of followers of other religions).
Orthodox Christmas celebration is always prepared in advance. People wash and clean their houses, do all house work inside and outside as all the chores have to be done before the celebration starts.
12 dishes are usually prepared for Christmas Eve supper (in Ukraine it is called Svitla Vecheria). Among them – kytia, which is the most important, essential dish at this event. Academics believe, that kutia has been known to Ukrainians’ ancestors since pre-historic times.
The main ingredients for traditional kutia are: wheat grains, poppy seeds and honey. Walnuts, dried fruits and raisins can be added as well. Kutia is a Lenten dish, that is why no milk or egg products can be used. There are known kutia recipes that use pearl barley instead of wheat grains.
Kutia is the first out of twelve dishes, served for Sviata Vecheria, which we eat. Everyone at the table must have at least a spoonful of it.
During Orthodox Christmas celebration on many streets you can see not only Christmas trees, but Didukh (wheat or rye sheaf)as well. Didukh usually is decorated with cornflowers and viburnum. In Ukrainian culture it is not only a symbol of abundance, but also a personification of the memory of our ancestors.
The main traditional annual holiday for Ukrainians is Easter. Its customs, which combined ancient pagan and church rituals, were passed from generations to generations, and many of them exist nowadays too.
The Easter holiday is the equinox of spring and symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, day over night, warmth over cold.
The most common name for Easter holiday in Ukraine is Velykden . According to experts, this word came to us from paganism, and was previously associated with the awakening of nature, with the beginning of sowing. The word "Velykden" (“The great day”) means coming of spring, the sun, coming of all the best and the rebirth of nature.
In our days, Velykden holiday in Ukraine also symbolizes the universal revival and renewal of the world.
In Ukraine there are several folk rites, customs an symbols, which are associated with Velykden (Easter). First of all, it is Pysanka - Easter egg, decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs of different regions using wax-resist method. Their unique ornaments and variety of colours fascinate the eye. Pysanka is a popular souvenir tourists bring back home from their trips to Ukraine.
Secondly, it is hayevki - folk songs, in which people invite spring to come. Usually they are performed by children and unmarried girls. According to experts, this tradition has also come to us from the time of paganism.
The third one is a huge number and variety of Easter games. Spring is a period of awakening of human feelings, so Easter celebration events were conducted to entertain young people. During Easter games young people built various towers, rode swings, led roundabouts and rolled eggs. Some games were purely entertaining, others showed masculine strength and endurance, but most of them were courtship.
In Western Ukraine, there is a custom of pouring water on yourself and others during the first Monday after Easter. Most often, young people - boys and girls - participate in it. On one hand, water symbolizes spring cleaning, on the other - people believe that the water would give them strength and health.
People begin to prepare festive clothes and to thinking, what would be needed to prepare Easter dishes, in advance. Good Wednesday, usually is a day when general cleaning starts and it continues during the next day. On Clean Thursday, according traditions, people clean their houses and themselves, cook Easter food and make pysanka. They also prepares Easter basket to bring to church.
Easter treats are favourite treats for both adults and children. Traditionally, in a festive basket people put farmer cheese paskhas, bread paskhas - kulichi (both are traditional Ukrainian Easter dishes), cottage cheese, eggs, butter, ham, sausages, horseradish, salt and other food.
Sometimes people also put in their Easter baskets items, which, they think, might help them and protect them, for example, crosses, medallions, icons and various charms.
Everything in the Ester basket, even embroidered towel, which it covers, considered to be of magical values after being blessed in church.
It is customary to spend Velykden (Easter) with loved ones and to share food with them.
In Ukrainian culture Velykden symbolizes the purification of the soul and deliverance from sins, so it is necessary to meet it with light thoughts, to be pure not only physically, but, most importantly, spiritually as well. People also should not do housework, work on the ground or do cleaning (as it has to be done beforehand).
On Velykden people cannot quarrel and swear, all resentment should be forgiven and forgotten.
During Velykden holidays many Ukrainians usually spend time outside enjoying warm weather, sun, spring beauty and a good company of relatives and friends.