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The perfect pysanky — McAdoo woman masters Ukrainian egg decorating

eorgine Postupack-Borchick learned the art of pysanky when she was a little girl.

She’s 84 now, and she never stopped creating the traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs.

“My mom taught me,” the McAdoo woman said.

She’s been teaching others the ancient egg decorating art since she was a teenager, and wrapped up her most recent class at the Tamaqua Arts Center.

“I teach you how to turn the egg, how to keep it on the table - and how to do the marks on it,” she said. “If you listen, you can do it.”

Postupack-Borchick was 13 years old when she attended a League of Ukrainian Catholics convention.

While there, she met Lupa Perchyshyn. The late Minneapolis native had a Ukrainian gift shop where she sold pysanky supplies. She was well-practiced in the art - and even wrote several books on pysanky.

“She was teaching us how to do the eggs, and she looked at me and she said, ‘You’re a natural. You’re a better teacher than you are a doer,’?” Postupack-Borchick said.

Perchyshyn urged her to instruct. She even hooked her up with supplies.

“She said, ‘I will be in touch with you and call you to see if you are teaching,’??” Postupack-Borchick said. “She got me very, very interested in teaching.”

She’d continue teaching and estimates that she’s made hundreds of eggs on her own. She even makes her own dyes from dried flowers, onion skins and other natural sources.

Twelve of them are even on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

To make the eggs, beeswax is applied, and the egg is dropped into a colored dye. Once it’s dry, more designs are applied, and the egg is dipped in the next color. The process is repeated.

“There are usually five to six colors on one egg,” she said. “By the time you’re done, the whole egg is almost covered with beeswax. Then you take the beeswax off.”

Unveiling the finished creation, she said, is the most enjoyable part.

“People will say, ‘My egg is so ugly.’ They see the wax on it. They don’t see what’s underneath it,” she said. “And when it comes off, they say, ‘Wow. Did I do that egg?’?”

The history of pysanky goes back 2,000 years, Postupack-Borchick said.

“The pagans did the eggs and used them for things like burying them for a good wheat harvest, or when a child was sick, they gave an egg to a person,” she said.

When Christianity came to Ukraine in 988 A.D., the eggs were adapted to represent the religion.

“All the symbols related to the heavens and the saints and what they treasured as God turned to a Christian symbol,” she said.

There are dozens of symbols.

A triangle represents the Holy Trinity; a straight line symbolizes eternity, and a ladder signifies prayer.

Other common symbols include the flower, which shows love and charity, and the five-point star, a symbol of God’s love toward man.

Colors also hold significance, like the purity of the white, or the happiness of the brown.

“Every color and every mark on the egg represents something that pertains to God,” she said. “The meaning of the egg is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

For the most part, the eggs are painted around Easter. There are Christmas eggs, too, and they usually tell the story of Christ’s birth.

And while many think of them as a Ukrainian art, others make them, too.

“Poland makes them. Lithuania makes them. The whole Baltic countries make the eggs,” she said. “They all have their different patterns.”

Postupack-Borchick can teach all styles.

“If somebody comes in (to classes) and says they’re Polish, I’ll try to show them what a Polish egg will look like. I’ll tell them, ‘This is what your heritage is,’” she said. “Lithuanians do the scratchings so I’ll teach how to do the scratchings.”

Even Germany and Romania have their own styles of eggs - and Postupack-Borchick has examples of them all.

“Everyone has their special patterns - and each village also has their special pattern,” she said. “You could hand me an egg from someone else, and I could tell you exactly what village it came from.”

She’s taught at grade schools and high schools, and even at nursing homes. She recently returned from a trip to Philadelphia where she taught 76 students over the course of six days.

Anyone can do it if they just follow her instructions, she said.

She recalled instructing at an assisted living facility in Berwick several years ago. While there, she met a 92-year-old man who had Parkinson’s disease.

“He was Ukrainian and he was so intent watching me do the egg and I gave it to him when I was finished,” Postupack-Borchick recalled.

The man said his disease was severe but wished that he could complete an egg before he died.

Postupack-Borchick promised to return the next day to help him.

“I said, ‘I guarantee you. You will do an egg,’” she said.

She returned day after day for two weeks as the man worked on the egg.

“He did an egg every day until he was 97 years old,” she said. “The doctor called me and said, ‘I don’t know what you did for him but his memory has gotten better, his shaking has stopped, he is sociable and talking to everybody.”

The day before he died, the man completed an egg. Postupack-Borchick received it from his daughter.

Even though she’s helped many turn out eggs, that one remains special to her.

At the Tamaqua Arts Center, each of her classes are filled.

She’s thankful for the interest.

“It was a dying art. I would maybe get three or four in a class,” she said. “But when the war broke out in Ukraine - that first year - I taught 272 people. I was out every night of the week teaching.”

“I just love to do it. I love to teach. I love people, period,” she said.

Georgine Postupack-Borchick, of McAdoo, shows how to start making pysanky eggs to a class at the Tamaqua Arts Center.
Kathy Karanink, of Coaldale, lights a candle so she can start applying melted beeswax to an egg. With her is Georgine Postupack-Borchick who taught the art of making pysanky eggs at the Tamaqua Arts Center.
Tools used in the pysanky egg making process. JILL WHALEN/TIMES NEWS
Georgine Postupack-Borchick, of McAdoo, showed the different types of pysanky eggs she made to students in her classes at the Tamaqua Arts Center. She has created pysanky styles from different nations, and on everything from a tiny sparrow egg to ostrich eggs. JILL WHALEN/TIMES NEWS
A poppy is shown on a pysanky egg created by Georgine Postupack-Borchick.
Pysanky eggs are usually created around Easter but are also made around Christmas, like this one from Georgine Postupack-Borchick.
Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Romanian, Japanese and Polish pysanky eggs are among those pictured here.
This style of Ukrainian egg is traditionally created from a hardboiled egg, cracked and then eaten on Easter morning.
Georgine Postupack-Borchick hand-dyed silk to make this Japanese style pysanky egg. JILL WHALEN/TIMES NEWS
A Lithuanian pysanky egg, like this one from Georgine Postupack-Borchick, is made by scratching a design in wax. JILL WHALEN/TIMES NEWS
This is a Polish style pysanky egg made by Georgine Postupack-Borchick.
Ukrainian pysanky is shown on ostrich eggs. The large one took nine months to create.
Georgine Postupack-Borchick's son, Duane, carved this pysanky egg from wood.