Museum Celebrates Lemko Culture via Folk Costumes
by Museum Director, Lena Howansky
Within two rooms of the Ukrainian Museum and Library in Stamford, Connecticut at St. Basil Seminary resides the Ukrainian Lemko Museum–a small, yet important collection of Lemko cultural artifacts. Many books, works of art, and various crafts representing Lemko heritage and traditional life are permanently on display at the Museum. The most unique item at the Museum, however, had been previously tucked-away within glass cases, awaiting its emergence after decades.
The Ukrainian Lemko Museum houses a fine wardrobe of representative folk clothing: approximately three dozen handmade outfits, which had been sewn for children, women, and men of the Lemko Diaspora. This collection includes kabaty (pleated skirts), beaded gorsety (corsets) and lejbyky (vests), as well as embroidered shirts, blouses, and other ethnic apparel. This past Spring and Summer 2017, our wardrobe was taken out from its storage for the first time, and consequently experiences a lovely reawakening of usage.
On April 30, during the Organization for the Defense of Lemkivshchyna (OOL)’s 70th Anniversary Ackja “Wisla” Commemoration ceremony in Yonkers, New York, members of the newly-formed Lemko singing ensemble, Na Lemkowyni, and I dressed in the Museum’s folk costumes. From this personal experience, I can say that I felt like a Lemkynia beauty wearing her finest ethnic clothing. I exhibited a heavy, linen skirt with hand-painted stars and meticulous pleating, along with a hand-sewn apron with festive polka-dots, and a purple satin vest. The material handiwork and intricacy awed onlookers, as well as charmed all Ukrainian hearts in attendance.
Additionally, Na Lemkowyni performed in Ukrainian Lemko Museum costume at OOL’s Ackja “Wisla” Commemoration ceremony in Passaic, New Jersey on May 6; and at OOL’s Lemko Vatra festival in Ellenville, New York on June 25–26. At both these occasions, Na Lemkowyni displayed these outfits in fine manner, leaving favorable impressions for organizers and audiences alike.
At the annual Zlet Memorial Day Weekend gathering in Ellenville on May 26–27, the Stamford branch of the Ukrainian-American Youth Association (UAYA) wore the Museum attire, as well. Their usage was for a stage production about the tragedy of Akcja “Wisla”– the 1947 forced resettlement of the Ukrainian minority in Poland. These children presented the topic of Lemko history and life while outfitted in the Museum’s folk costumes.
By wearing these folk outfits from the Ukrainian Lemko Museum, the members of Na Lemkoviny and UAYA, and I provide a new spirit to these true works of art. With much pride, we present ourselves as cultural ambassadors for Lemko heritage. We exhibit this collection outside the Museum as a means of community outreach. By displaying the artistry of its folk culture, UAYA, Na Lemkoviny, OOL, and the Museum show and share a great love for Lemkivshchyna to the world.
I thank these participants and especially Kasia Chomiak of Na Lemkowyni and Tania Sawa-Priatka of UAYA for initiating this project. As a result, the Museum has graciously received additional reproductions of Lemko folk clothing for its collection. Generous donations have been made by John Suchowacki of Mechanicville, New York; as well as President Michael Khomyk of OOL Branch 1 (New York, New York) on behalf of Mr. Stefan and Mrs. Theresa Salasznyk.
If you are interested in scheduling a viewing at the Ukrainian Lemko Museum of its folk costume wardrobe, please feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, the Ukrainian Lemko Museum is open all-day on Sunday, September 10, 2017 for the 50th Annual Connecticut Ukrainian Day Festival, located at: 195 Glenbrook Road, Stamford, CT 06902.