Hnatiuk Collection

The Hantiuk collection is a historic journey and testament to the legacy of Dr. Miroslaw and Anna Hnatiuk and to their vision and foresight to collect thousands of Ukrainian artifacts and have them transported from Ukraine to the United States for safekeeping. This collection was generously donated by the Hnatiuk family in memory of their parents. 

All photos by Karen Majewski, Mayor of Hamtramck.

Opening remarks at the Opening of the Hnatiuk Collection Exhibit on June 11, 2021, by the President of the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum, Zwenyslava Hayda                                        

 

Dobrey Vechir Shanovni Hosti 

 

Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Thank you for attending this exhibit opening of the truly amazing Hnatiuk Collection.

 

This collection is a historic journey and a testament to the legacy of Dr. Miroslaw and p. Anna Hnatiuk and to their vision and foresight to collect thousands of Ukrainian artifacts and have them transported here to the United States for safekeeping. This exhibit is in honor of Dr. Miroslaw and Pani Anna Hnatiuk.

 

Ukrainians are talented, creative, artistic, musical, stubborn, and competitive people. Their love of ornamentation is known throughout the world as attested by the House of Gucci using pysanky designs for one of their clothing lines. If there is a plain surface, Ukrainians will decorate it. Their philosophy is usually “more is better.” There is very little fondness for minimalism or the colors beige and taupe.

 

Since ancient times, traditions, folk wear, weavings, songs, ceramics, artifacts both decorative and utilitarian became part of the daily lives of the Ukrainian people. All this came out of the home, the heart of the family. It is at the knees of the mother that the young child learned how to embroider the different stitches and how to write pysanky. It is by the side of the father that the young child learned how to carve, whittle, build, and decorate. 

 

But there is more to this than just creating. There is a deeper meaning behind every design and color on pysanky, ceramics, weavings, and embroidered items. These motifs are filled with symbolism. This the reason why it is said that a pysanka is written and therefore can be read. These symbols are the code of a nation.

 

Now that Ukraine has shaken off the shackles of the Soviet Union, there is an ongoing movement to collect, document, and preserve these masterpieces. Informational books are being published by museums, universities, and researchers. Former president Viktor Yushchenko holds one of the largest collections of Ukrainian artifacts in his recently opened museum in Ukraine.

 

It never crossed the minds of the women who embroidered their sorochky (blouses) and rushnyky (ritual cloths), that one day, their works would be on display in museums throughout the world. Each one of the blouses hanging on the wall to the right of me is representative of a woman’s soul.

 

We need to acknowledge the Ukrainian villagers. They are the ones that saved the Ukrainian language, the culture, the traditions, and all the folk art, in spite of attacks from different sides and in multiple ways. 

 

All Ukrainian art forms are interwoven. I would like to expand on one of the most venerated items that follow a Ukrainian throughout life. That is the rushnyk, the ritual cloth. Many are included in this collection. There is one modernistic rushnyk hanging right behind me.

 

The journey of the rushnyk begins when a couple marries, they stand on an embroidered ritual cloth during the wedding ceremony, another one is used to tie their hands for unity, the matchmakers are draped with rushnyky, they in turn hold icons draped in ritual cloths. When a baby arrives, the icons are hung over the baby’s crib draped with the wedding rushnyky. The Easter basket is lined with a rushnyk and after the pysanky and food is placed inside, they are covered with another ritual cloth to be taken to church to be blessed. During every holiday and festival, there is usage of the embroidered rushnyk. Guests are welcomed with bread placed on a rushnyk.

 

When I was little in a Displaced Camp, my aunt became very ill. I have the vivid memory of my mother taking an embroidered rushnyk and cross to her bedside. American penicillin saved her life.

 

In some parts of Ukraine, the casket is lowered with long lengths of rushnyky. 

 

The interweaving of symbolism continues with the embroideries on the sorochky a term used for both female blouses and male shirts

 

It is so poignantly depicted in the song DVA KOLORI…

 

Dva kolori moyi, dva kolori, chervone to lubov, a chorne to zhurba.

 

Two Colors of mine, two colors of mine, red is for love and black is for sorrow…

 

When a young man goes out into the unknown world his mother gives him a sorochka that she embroidered. After traveling many unknown paths, the song continues with the young man’s returning journey and the only thing that he is bringing back is a shred of that embroidered shirt, his only sustaining connection to his home.

 

And so, it was with Dr. Miroslaw and Pani Anna Hnatiuk. They were forced to leave their beloved homeland. They boarded a ship with their two young sons, Bohdan and Yuriy in Bremerhaven, Germany, and in

December of 1949 arrived on the shores of North America. They carried with them a few precious artifacts to remind them of their beloved Ukraine. Their 3rd son Andree rounded out the family. After living in several states, they settled in Livonia, Michigan. 

 

Their passion and yearning for all things Ukrainian continued. When the Iron Curtain eased a bit, they had occasion to travel to Ukraine and each time brought back items of artistic value. More items were shipped to them, and others, who were traveling to Ukraine, were asked to bring Ukrainian artifacts for the Hnatiuk Collection.

 

I can only envision their anticipation as they opened a package to discover what new treasure was inside.

 

Their home became a private museum. There was a hope of purchasing a building on Farmington Road to house the collection as it grew from hundreds of items to thousands. Many visitors were invited to view their collection.

 

Bohdan and Yuriy Hnatiuk followed in their father’s footsteps and became doctors. Andree studied medicine but chose to serve humanity with a different career. 

 

As the Hnatiuk sons married, their spouses entered into a unique situation: their in-laws had a vast museum in their home. The journey continued with the grandchildren growing up surrounded by these beautiful Ukrainian artifacts. I am sure that many stories were shared with them.

 

As the elder Hnatiuk’s aged, there was a concern of where the collection should be housed. A conversation was held with our museum during which p. Anna Hnatiuk indicated that once our museum acquired larger quarters the collection would be donated to us.

 

A delegation from the Ukrainian Cleveland Museum visited the Hnatiuk’s home museum and it was decided that the Hnatiuk Collection would be donated to them, and rightfully so, for they had the proper space and finances to deal with the holdings. Needless, to say, we were disappointed. The Ukrainian Cleveland Museum held an opening exhibit which Chrystyna Nykorak, our former Executive Director, and I attended.

 

In due time, our museum purchased our larger quarters and was honored with the balance of the Hnatiuk Collection. We were overjoyed. And the journey continued. Olia Lisiwkiyi, our present Executive Director, was instrumental in transporting, documenting, and storing all the hundreds of artifacts at our location. What we see on exhibit today is only a fraction of the treasures that were donated to us.

 

A warmth body was created around the collection. The Hnatiuk Exhibit Committee was formed with Marta Sobko as head. We are very grateful for Marta’s exacting abilities which helped the process be on target. She was instrumental in planning out the display in a very artful way. Her time and devotion to the exhibit are greatly appreciated.

 

The committee consists of 5 Board members and one volunteer. Each brings their own expertise and specialties. Marta Sobko created the windmill prop with the help of volunteer Roman Stefaniuk. Together they hung it on the wall behind you. Svitlana Leheta, who has an eye for detail and beauty, made sure that all items were properly hung and displayed. Chrystyna Nykorak, also a collector of Ukrainian textiles, attended to the proper regional components of the costumes and the detailed dressing of the mannequins. Arnie Klein, an expert on embroideries and pysanky writing, did extensive cataloging to identify the artifacts. He created a sampler of different stitches and recreated a portion of a Broshchivka blouse. He will be available tonight in the Educational Corner for us to view his display and answer questions.

 

The museum was very fortunate to have Martha Jean Hnatiuk, wife of Dr. Yuriy Hnatiuk, join the Board of Directors. Her calm and professional demeanor as well as her experience on other Boards balances the Committee. She has been most helpful in doing multiple tasks for setting up this exhibit. 

 

Volunteers who helped in other capacities to whom we are very grateful are Mark Liss, Volodymyr Solbodyan, Kelsey Ziegler, and Tanas Hayda, as well as Colleen Kelley who ordered flowers to be flown in from Holland and California, and who has arranged them for your enjoyment in our little bistro in the small wing of the museum. 

 

We are extremely grateful to Olia Liskiwskiyi, the museum’s Executive Director, who kept all the moving parts together. In between phone calls, visitors, e-mails, mailings, fetching and putting things away, her brother Mark Liss and Olya created a slide show of the Hnatiuk photos and their home museum for us to enjoy. Please take the time to view it. The background music is by the Bandurysty Capella of which Dr. Hnatiuk was also a member of. Dyakuyu Olyu!

 

Within this journey, there are as well the members of the museum who support and attend our events. If you are not a member, we ask that you consider becoming one today. Please approach Olia Liskiwskiyi for a membership form. A thank you goes out to our donors without whom we would not be able to exist. Please consider a donation as well, so that we can continue the very important work in accordance with our mission statement. Covid-19 was not kind to our finances.

 

Thank you to our Board members who continue meeting and planning how to keep our museum in good standing. And to you, this evening’s attendees. Thank you for sharing this momentous event with us.

 

Gratitude goes to the donors of the delicious food that we are enjoying tonight, catered by the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Warren. 

We also extend our thank you to the two staff members who so graciously are serving us tonight. Dyakuyu!

 

But most of all, and again, our sincerest gratitude goes to the Hnatiuk family for donating their parent’s vast and valuable collection to our museum for safekeeping. Not only is this collection Dr. Miroslaw and Pani Anna Hnatiuk’s legacy, but so is their family that they created and nurtured. 

 

But let me underscore that as much as the Hnatiuks loved Ukraine they also loved America, the land that gave them and their children and grandchildren opportunities far beyond their expectations. They were also proud Americans. 

 

And now the journey continues…the Ukrainian soul is on display…The Hnatiuk Collection is here for posterity.

 

After everything is said and done, we come to the museum to view and ponder

 

It is said “If you build it they will come” …Dr. Miroslaw and p. Anna Hnatiuk built this collection, and we came.

 

Dyakuyu