Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Notre Dame of the Kerchief - Покрова
Telling the truth can be dangerous, but very cathartic and healing, too.  Hidden behind the beautiful traditional Ukrainian kerchief хустка, women have consciously or not, hidden our culture's vulnerability, meekly submitted to patriarchal authority with a veneer of politic appropriateness while seething truths roil beneath. Romantic images of pious women praying, or stalwartly labouring, enduring drudgery and pain for the life of kin and kindred, this is the Ukrainian woman of ancestral tradition. But though family relationships dominate the thoughts of women everywhere, conflicts and conflicted emotions cannot but foster an inquiring mind.  Raising children means obsessing on the future. And children bring inexhaustible opportunity for questions, articulate discussion, and often piercingly accurate observations. And yet the indomitable, protective instinct of women persists and is the stuff of legend.

Statue of Lesya Ukrainka
 near the Murray Building, University of Saskatchewan,
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Raised in Canada, quasi-Ukrainian, interested in the culture, traditions and nice stuff, I was protected from the brutality my family endured in the home-places in Ukraine. A guest in their home, I accept the truths they were willing to share. In a shocking moment of truth, with the recognition of the blood line coursing forward through time, the guardian of truth performs a public heresy.  With Ukrainian Baba's urgent removal of her veil of silence she utters revelations about the vulgar acts of men, and their gut-wrenching dispensation with hope, life and opportunity.  (the war time experiences) A profound empathy engulfs me and I am awe struck by the deep, dark sorrow some of these women have carried in their hearts. I cannot fathom their gentle, kerchief veiled, pious stance on street corners and temples of prayer. I cannot suffer their patience, for the imperative of the modern world screams " it is enough", "it is time!"

One of the most interesting women literary heretics of the past century is Lesia Ukrainka Леся Українка (1871-1913).  Her exquisite mystical writing evokes Ukrainian folkloric beliefs and superstitions connected with natural phenomena. Yet she suffers a silent war even today, for in her dramas she quietly raises the question 'why?'  Fanciful and rich of spirit, today her voice is relatively silent while the inventive and hypocritical popular media brazenly lures with its vapid glamour, easy consumption and disposal.  And the wise keepers of the hearth who know better generously nurture the thirsty with coffee and beautiful handmade Ukrainian delicacies.
calgary ukrainian festival

Ancient wisdom ends the harvest season
and begins the wedding season
on the day of Pokrova.
A young bride
exchanges her veil for a kerchief.
Who will ask Baba 'why?' Why is it so?  Why did they emigrate? Why did they scrimp and save? What motivated the building of churches, community halls, libraries, museums and the like all over Ukraine's international diaspora?  Why the dance groups, the casinos, the bingos, the festivals, the community events?  Tired of the loneliness of silence, or fiercely tenacious?

Truth be told, our emigrating families fiercely blazed trail, surviving a barrage of dangers in the passionate hope of a better future. Beneath Baba's kerchief where pain and patience endured, Notre Dame of the Kerchief carries blessing, protection, intercession, and healing - the Pokrova, Покрова Пресвятої Богородиці.

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