Vyshyvanka as a symbol of freedom

1/20/20245 min read

Vyshyvanka as a symbol of freedom

What is Vyshyvanka?

Every Ukrainian probably knows what a vyshyvanka is, because it is not just clothing, but a part

of the soul. The history of the national costume of Ukrainians goes back to ancient times.

Our industrious ancestors always knew how to create real beauty from canvas and threads.

It is not known for sure when vyshyvanka began to develop as a branch of art. Researchers

claim that the development of vyshyvanka took place over several centuries.

From year to year, our ancestors enriched the craft with new ornaments and techniques.

Craftswomen learned how to make threads of unique shades in order to bring out new colors on

the canvas.

In ancient times, it was believed that embroidery protects a person, gives them good luck and

health. Mothers sewed clothes for their children with special warmth and love. There is evidence

that in some regions of the country, the embroidery process took the form of a special ceremony.

During the process, women prayed and believed that these prayers would make the embroidery

stronger and charged them only with positive emotions.

And what does our embroidered shirt symbolize?

Our ancestors believed that each element on the vyshyvanka has a specific meaning. Over

time, the tradition of choosing an embroidered shirt, taking into account its symbolism,

disappeared. People stopped thinking about the fact that the combination of certain patterns can

bring disaster to their fate, or vice versa - happiness and luck.

In connection with the unprecedented flourishing of Ukrainian national clothing, Ukrainians

began to pay considerable attention to what is depicted on their embroidery, what colors are

combined and what they symbolize.

Vyshyvanka experts are convinced that the symbolism of vyshyvanka elements has a very

strong influence on the life of the one who wears it.

So, here are some basic tips for choosing an embroidered shirt from the point of view of


geometric patterns symbolize the elements of nature and the fertility of the earth, such patterns

are characteristic of the Hutsul region;

plant and flower ornaments have long symbolized family happiness, maternal love, such

ornaments were embroidered in Chernihiv region;

craftsmen from all over the country depicted animals on canvas and believed that their images

brought fidelity, wealth and longevity.

Not only shades and forms of embroidery are symbolic, but also the canvas and its color.

Traditionally, it was believed that snow-white color means virginity and purity, red symbolizes

vitality, green - nature and peace, and black - sadness and longing.

Most often, white vyshyvankas were worn, they added cheerfulness, and black vyshyvankas

served for times of fasting and mourning.

Today you can buy embroidered shirts of various colors: pink, burgundy, green, gray and others.

Just remember that a darker color of an embroidered shirt always symbolizes sadness and longing

Vyshyvanka is the clothing of free people. It has accompanied Ukrainians since ancient times and was a symbol of indomitability and the fact that we are a proud and free nation.

Shirts embroidered with special symbols were worn by characteristic Cossacks (some samples have survived to this day).

The Chumaks entrusted the washing of their shirts to only one single dear to them woman. And the soldiers of the UPA carried black embroidered shirts with them in case of a sudden death.

Thousands of people suffered terribly because of those embroidered shirts, died, endured hunger... The famous Ukrainian linguist, writer and dissident Boris Antonenko-Davydovych,

author of the book "How we speak", which became a textbook of the true Ukrainian language of the 20th century, in 1937 he was arrested for singing Ukrainian songs, saying that Ukraine could

fully develop only when it separated from the Soviet Union, and for wearing an embroidered shirt. He was first sent to Siberia for decades, and then sentenced to life imprisonment. His real "guilt" was the refusal to Russify dictionaries of the Ukrainian language.

For Boris Dmytrovych, embroidery was a way of self-expression of one's own freedom and a

symbol of defiance. During his first trial, he asked his wife to bring a vyshyvanka to the courtroom and proudly wore it so that everyone could see that it was a Ukrainian being judged.

With the beginning of the Russian aggression, the Ukrainian vyshyvankas became a symbol of Ukrainian strength, a sign of courage. It was dangerous to wear an embroidered shirt in a Hot Spot where heavy hostilities were taking place - it meant saying "I defend my land. This is my

land!" And in our time, emigrants who left the occupied lands, namely the east and south of Ukraine, crossing the checkpoints, also tried to take their embroidered shirts: they wore them

inside out, put on sweaters on top, and in this way took them out of the occupation. It would seem that why risk your life, if you can buy a new shirt later. But the Ukrainian character is different - it is about "we will not give up", "I will stand to the end", "the spirit is stronger than the

body", "Ukraine will be free".

Vyshyvanka embroidery as a coding language

Now that we learned about symbols and colors it is also important to know that vyshyvanka

embroidery has its own alphabet( abetka ) which makes it possible to encode words, city names and your own name into a scheme of Ukrainian ornament, which resembles a QR code.

Each letter is an embroidered symbol, each symbol is a powerful charm.

The alphabet and its interpretation were published in a book by Volodymyr Pidhirnyak, a

researcher of Ukrainian pysanka and embroidery.

By analyzing the folk art of the Carpathian region, he discovered certain regularities in the ornaments, which led him to discover the encoded information in them.

This is what the common names of Ukrainians, encoded in Ukrainian embroidery, look like.

What is Vyshyvanka nowadays?

A few years ago, Ukraine blossomed again with Vyshyvanka. Moreover, they have become

fashionable! And not only in Ukraine - in the whole world.

But they also carry an additional semantic load. After all, wearing an embroidered shirt means not only being fashionable, but also publicly declaring one's belonging to the Ukrainian nation

(or its support), demonstrating one's national consciousness, historical memory.

At the same time, unfortunately, the symbolism of embroidery has remained the same as it was thousands of years ago. And that under any circumstances, it continues to be a symbol of our

freedom and will.


1. https://ostrohcastle.com.ua/vyshyvanka-kod-natsiyi/

2. https://www.zt-rada.gov.ua/?pages=11009

3. https://vezha.ua/u-vsesvitnij-den-vyshyvanky-u-kinoteatri-rodyna-pokazhut-dokumentalnyj-film-spadok-natsiyi/

4. https://kalyna.store/istoriya-ukrainskoi-vishivky

5. http://na-kryzhalyah.blogspot.com/2017/05/blog-post_31.html

6. https://etnoxata.com.ua/statti/vishivanki-istorija-i-suchasnist/suchasna-ukrajin