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  • Writer's pictureAmber Rose Ostaszewski

Stitching for Good

My heart doesn't have the words to fully describe how I feel about the war that Russia is actively inflicting on Ukraine, but what I can say, is that I am so inspired by the Ukrainian people who are standing up for their country, their culture, and their legacy. Back in January I had finished an article for a publication that was exploring rushnyky, a form of ritual towels that are found in numerous Slavic areas, however, the most recognizable patterns are often from Ukraine. Now in March, going back and reading through my draft makes the words I put to the page even more meaningful. The article won't be published until the fall, and while I've been sending donations, writing to my representatives, and attending my local gatherings, I haven't really been able to find catharsis for all the thoughts swirling around about my fears for my Ukrainian friends and family, until I put some needle to thread and attended the Stitch Gathering for Ukraine, hosted by TATTER and Threadwritten.

The Stitch Gathering for Ukraine was hosted via Zoom on March 17th, with 590 participants tuning in from all over the world. We listened to the amazing family story of artist Christina Shmigel, who donated a number of embroidery books to the TATTER library from her mother who had immigrated to the States during WWII. And then from Ukraine, Hanna Rohatynksa and her translator, Mariana Kukhtyak, taught us how to embroider a traditional eight-pointed star. Hanna explained that the symbol is a protective symbol, and that it is often embroidered in red, which further emphasizes the intention. She also explained that it is sometimes also referred to as a rose, with eight petals, which I found fitting as roses are both beautiful, but their thorns are also protective. Hanna was methodical, counting each thread before puncturing the fabric and pulling the embroidery floss through. I found her demeanor especially peaceful, amazing since she was literally teaching from an active war zone. She noted that many of her usual students are still attending classes online with her, many telling her that their stitching helps calm them and helps their mind escape, if even for a few minutes. I know I certainly was calm.

Above: my eight-pointed star/rose as I learned via Zoom.

Watching Hanna's hands on the screen and mimicking her stitches with my own hoop, thread, and needle, I realized how important it is to be in the present moment and connect with your body. The motion of stitching immediately dropped my heart rate, and my mind felt clear. It maybe took me fifteen minutes, and when I placed the last stitch filling out my rose, I felt peace and joy. I outstretched my hands, palms facing up, and visualized the feeling spreading out over the world, over the Atlantic, past the Black Sea, and reaching Ukraine. I wish this feeling for all people around the world. May we one day each find peace and joy.

Below: images from the Cincinnati March for Ukraine, I wore an antique vyshyvanka from my collection in solidarity.

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