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Mykolayiv Vasyltsiv (8) with other Ukrainians celebrating Vyshyvanka at the GPO in Dublin

Mykolayiv Vasyltsiv (8) with other Ukrainians celebrating Vyshyvanka at the GPO in Dublin

Ukrainian couple Nick and Nataliya Kozlov at the GPO gathering in Dublin

Ukrainian couple Nick and Nataliya Kozlov at the GPO gathering in Dublin

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Mykolayiv Vasyltsiv (8) with other Ukrainians celebrating Vyshyvanka at the GPO in Dublin

Ukrainians in Ireland held their own version of a colours day yesterday by displaying their traditional vibrantly embroidered shirts.

The Vyshyvanka gatherings in Dublin, Waterford, and Cork were an expression of their culture and identity – which have been suppressed in their native Ukraine in the past when under Soviet rule.

Different families and regions have their own stitching designs in much the same way that Scottish clans have their own tartan patterns.

“This is not just a garment embroidered with colourful threads. It is our rich tradition, our genetic code, reflecting our national strength and our ancestors’ experience,” said Nick Kozlov, of the Ukrainian Crisis Centre of Ireland, at the gathering at the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.

“Our deep wisdom of our ancestors that carried through the stitches in the past are known by every Ukrainian looking at them.

“We would know another Ukrainian by meeting and looking at their clothes.

“They reveal their social status and the region that they came from. And we hold onto that and we help it survive because of Soviet Union oppression and the repression of the Russian empire which prohibited and discouraged any reflection of nationality.

“The tradition went underground, but in the 20th century it became a symbol of resistance to the oppression of the Soviet Union. And since Russia occupied and declared war to Ukraine it has become a symbol of resistance to war and resistance to our occupiers. This is our Ukrainian treasure that we now carry proudly.”

The idea of Vyshyvanka Day first came about in 2006 from students at Chernivtsi University who suggested choosing a date in the calendar to wear their Vyshyvanka shirts all together.

Initially, several dozen students and faculty members wore their embroidered shirts. But in the following years, the holiday grew to a national level in Ukraine.

Later, it attracted the participation of the Ukrainian diaspora around the world.

The fifth anniversary of the holiday in 2011 was marked by setting the Guinness World Records for the largest number of people dressed in embroidered shirts and gathered in one place. More than 4,000 people in Vyshyvanka shirts gathered on Chernivtsi’s Central Square.

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“It happens on the third Thursday of May every year and we decided we could share it today with the Irish people here today,” Mr Kozlov added.

“If you look at your history, the GAA kept the traditions of Ireland alive, kept the games of Ireland alive, and proud Irish people kept that while the English language was spreading more widely than Irish. We kept our language and we kept our tradition.

“I believe the colours of GAA match our colours tradition. You can identify where a person in Ireland is from by their county colours.”

The group set a colourful scene at the GPO. Some displayed the intricate stitching patterns and colours of their local designs, while others had single colours depicting their regions. Many also wore beaded necklaces in their colours and sang traditional Ukrainian songs.


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