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Beautiful Painted Easter Eggs from Poland (AKA Pysanky)

Kari was an operating room nurse for 25 years before she retired. Uplifting quotes are always wanted, and Kari collects them.

Painted Easter Eggs AKA Pysanky

Painted Easter Eggs AKA Pysanky

Painted Easter Eggs AKA Pysanky

Good Friends

Years ago I had the pleasure of caring for a small girl from Poland. She had a "hairy nevus" on her upper arm. The upper arm looked like it was covered in gorilla hair, except for one thin strip of skin on the inner aspect of the arm. She was in the USA for a plastic surgery procedure to remove the nevus.

The son of a plastic surgeon working at our hospital had traveled to Poland. He was so taken with this girl and her family that he convinced his father to do the surgery on her for free. He raised the funds to bring them to the USA and to pay for their stay.

The girl and her family were wonderful people. Only the father spoke English, but I became good friends with the girl and her mother. They were in the US for about a month and a half. The father was often busy. I spent a lot of time with the mother and child. We didn't need to speak the same language to communicate and I grew to love them.

Birthday Party

After about 3 weeks, I found out that the child's 6th birthday was the following week. Engaging the help of a few good friends, all with children near the child's age, I managed to put together a surprise birthday party. We had so much fun! It was a surprise to both the mother and child. To this day, I can still see their faces as walked into the room.

Language was no barrier to the children. They played and laughed, never worrying about understanding. Children seem to understand each other better than adults. The child's face was lit up with joy the entire time.

After they returned to Poland the mother and I kept in touch. A couple of years later, she sent some beautifully painted wooden eggs for Easter. She explained that the making of these eggs was a tradition passed down through her family in Poland.

I have treasured these eggs for years as a symbol of our friendship. We lost touch while I lived in NM, but the eggs keep her close in my mind and heart. I will never forget how blessed I was to know this family.


Pysanky is the Polish name for these eggs.

Pysanky is the Polish name for these eggs.

Pysanky-Beautiful Eggs

Pysanky are beautiful decorated eggs made, most commonly, in the Ukraine. The word Pysanky (plural) or Pysanka (singular) comes from the word pysaty which means "to write". The designs are drawn on using a kistka (a special writing implement) and beeswax. The egg then go through a series of dyeing and drawing on more wax. The wax is removed at the end and a beautiful and intricate design remains.

True psyanky are not wooden, but actual egg shells.  Traditionally the egg was left whole and eventually dried out.  Now it is more common to empty the egg after it have been decorated and a coat of varnish has been applied. The wooden ones are much more durable. The design has been painted on and they are equally beautiful.

The Tradition of Pysanky

People began making pysanky some time around 4000 years ago. The egg was considered the beginning of everything. The shell was the heavens, the white was the water, and the yolk was the earth. Later, the egg became a symbol of rebirth. Pysanky decorations are symbols that give the power of health, wealth, power, fertility and rebirth, to name just a few.

Velykden was initially the name for the spring equinox, the feast of life or rebirth. It translates to "great day". The early Slavs believed in a sun god. The birds were the only beings able to get close to the sun god and so were the sun god's chosen. The people could not catch the birds, but they could get the eggs. Thus eggs were believed to have magical qualities and to be the source of life and rebirth.

The pysanky were made by the women of the family in a highly secret setting. The women made them after the children went to bed. No peeking was allowed. The secrets of the dyes and designs were passed down from mother to daughter, generation to generation. The eggs would be made over the course of a week. It was not uncommon for one household to make 40 to 60 eggs. Eggs were given out to family members and esteemed friends.

Painting the Pysanky

Such intricate work!

Such intricate work!

Pysanky-Filled With The Spirit of Women

The making of the pysanky was thought to take the goodness of the women and transfer it into the design on the egg. This was thought to decrease the hold evil could have on the household. The eggs held the household safely when the women displayed exemplary behavior prior to creating them.

The women were to ensure they exhibited the qualities of love and benevolence during the day before they made pysanky. They were to care tenderly for their families, refrain from evil thoughts and cook a good dinner. By living virtuously it was thought that the goodness transferred to the egg would be stronger.

The eggs had to be fertile, or the household would not be fertile. The symbols and colors all had meaning. An embattled line (a square up and down like the top of a castle turret) going all the way around and meeting is supposed to trap evil spirits and contain them. One of mine has a bird, this is supposed to ensure life and happiness in the home.

In 988 A.D. the Ukraine officially became a Christian state. The prince converted and forced it on the people. Velykden became Easter. Over time the pagan symbols took on Christian overtones. For example, the triangle went from symbolizing air, fire and water to symbolizing Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

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After the advent of Christianity the eggs held even more power. People would take their eggs to church. At the church the eggs would be blessed evoking even greater power to them.

A Poem about Pysanky

Pysanky and Easter Eggs

Eggs are a symbol of rebirth throughout the world.  It is thought that hard-boiled eggs for Easter became popular after Lent in Europe because they were forbidden to be eaten during Lent.  People would hard-boil them to preserve them until after Lent.  They were a favorite gift for servants and children.  No where else is the dyeing of eggs such a tradition as in the Slavic territories.  Here it is an art form!

More Beautiful Easter Eggs

Pysanky are exquisite.

Pysanky are exquisite.

Good Friends

I learned a lot researching these eggs, but mostly I learned what a good friend she was! Pysanky are not just given to anyone. They are given to people to bless them and show esteem. They are only given to people you love and wish the best for.  Pysanky are given as a symbolic gift of life.  I never knew until now what I had been given, but I know I love her as always.  Language is not a barrier to love!

How to Make Pysanky

Learn how to Make Pysanky with These Step-by-Step Instructions

  • How to Make Ukrainian Easter Eggs (pysanky)
    A complete tutorial on how to make pysanky, or Ukrainian Easter eggs. Features step-by-step illustrated instructions (beginner to advanced), hints and tricks, symbols used on the eggs and their meanings, an extensive suppliers resource, workshop list


© 2009 Kari Poulsen


philipandrews188 on May 20, 2011:

Great design. Thanks for sharing.

Monisajda from my heart on March 16, 2011:

It was good to see your hub. I am originally from Poland and your story has touched my heart. Pisanki (Polish name, Pysanky - Ukrainian name) are a part of our culture. I also own some wooden ones that my daughters love and treasure.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on April 23, 2010:

Thanks Ndasika! They were a lovely family and I miss them still.

BJ, I wish I could visit Poland! The eggs are beautiful, aren't they?

BJBenson from USA on March 27, 2010:

I was in Poland a few years ago and was able to get some eggs. They are so pretty.

Ndasika on March 27, 2010:

I don't know what to thank you for, either the beautiful Polish eggs pictures, the story behind the eggs or taking care of the girl, but this hub is a great source of humanity and sharing. Thanks for being so generous in sharing with us those superb pictures of the Easter eggs from Poland.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on April 05, 2009:

TP, I remember commenting about how beautiful that Easter tree must have looked! I don't know what happened to the comment, so here it is again. :)

Thank you Frieda! I'm glad you enjoyed it. The eggs are even more special to me now, if that is possible!

Frieda Babbley from Saint Louis, MO on April 05, 2009:

Amazing! My mother used to make a version of those shown in the second video when I was younger. She blew the inside out though, poor thing. They were so beautiful at the end. Fantastic history and wonderful videos. I loved the poem one very much. Very well planned hub here. Very enjoyable. Thanks!

TP Gamarro from New Jersey on March 22, 2009:

I used to work with a woman who collected these eggs and she took me to a little shop in Paterson, NJ way back thirty years ago, where she got these eggs. She also made her own and I have to admit I have tried it and it is fun but it is a lot of work and you have to be extremely careful because they are delicate when using a real shell, of course. I absolutely love them. She used to use them to put on a small Easter tree as opposed to a Christmas tree. You can't imagine how beautiful it looked.

Great Hub! Thanks!

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on March 15, 2009:

Thanks Real Tomato, That is really kind of you!!

The Real Tomato on March 15, 2009:

I think traditions make life more meaningful.  It brings us together. Your hub is great example of this.  

You've created an expression of life with this Hub. A beautiful thing to be able to do.

: - )

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on March 14, 2009:

Thanks LondonGirl!

LondonGirl from London on March 14, 2009:

A wonderful hub, great to read!

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on March 14, 2009:

They are beautiful, aren't they?! I have never had the pleasure of making one, was it as hard as it looks?

pauljorg on March 13, 2009:

Wow, those are beautiful! When I was in school we made Ukranian eggs that looked similar. We used a "kiska" to apply ink to the egg's shell. This brings back memories!

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on March 10, 2009:

Constant, I remember! I wish I could make eggs like this! I may try, but I haven't yet. The swirly's were the best in the day! Thanks for reminding me!

Constant Walker from Springfield, Oregon on March 10, 2009:

Wow, beautiful! A cousin and I dipped eggs into that swirly paint solution that used to be really populer. Remember? Anyway, the eggs were cool looking, but nowhere near the ones here.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on March 07, 2009:

diggersstory, I concur! Beautiful!

Peggy, Thanks, learning about these eggs makes me miss them all the more!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 06, 2009:

Great eye opener to the meaning of these gorgeous eggs and a terrific memory for you in that your relationship with this girl and her family led to this end result. Very interesting hub, Kari.

diggersstory from #1 Tourist Trap O Town USA on March 04, 2009:

hehehe @pest agreed.... Nothing compares to these eggs.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on March 04, 2009:

LelahKimball, Thanks! They were really fun and wonderful people...we had a lot of fun trying to pantomime what we were meaning! As you may be able to tell, I still miss them!

blondepoet, I wish I could claim these as my own! I have never made these myself, although it looks very tempting. Do you make them? The only ones I have had are the painted ones my friend sent me.

Gail, They are really beautiful! I am surprised you can't imagine having the patience to make them. You seem very patient to me!

Susan, The pictures are the descriptions she gave me, Poland is a very beautiful country. They didn't live in the city, so mostly I included country. Thanks for reading, I am glad you enjoyed it!

Princessa, A very beautiful tradition! The eggs are real works of art. One person said that even when they make the same design over and over, no two eggs are snowflakes. I have a much greater appreciation now that I have researched it! Thank you so much for offering this challenge!!! I found out things I may never have known.

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on March 04, 2009:

A beautiful tradition, and those eggs are real works of art.

Susan M on March 04, 2009:

Beautiful story and such beautiful eggs! I'm half polish and really appreciated the photos of Poland that you included. Wonderful hub!

Gail S on March 04, 2009:

Those are beautiful eggs! The designs are SOOOO intricate! I can't imagine having the patience to make them.

blondepoet from australia on March 03, 2009:

Wow this is really close to home for me.I am Australian born but my folks are Russian so we decorate eggs at Easter as well.My god you have some divine pics of eggs here it is so amazing what you can do.

LelahKimball from USA on March 03, 2009:

Beautiful eggs! Touching story in the lead.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on March 03, 2009:

Crazy and beautiful!! Thanks for reading goldentoad!

goldentoad from Free and running.... on March 03, 2009:

good lead in, to see the crazy eggs.

Kari Poulsen (author) from Ohio on March 03, 2009:

Hey Pest! They are beautiful aren't they! I wish I knew the meaning when she sent them. However, didn't have internet in those days!

I bet you would make beautiful pysanky!! Make sure you include all those symbols such as raccoon, skunk, beaver. All of these animals have mystical qualities!

Pest from A couch, Ionia, MI on March 03, 2009:

Holy crap those things are beautiful! Makes me want to go a little above and beyond gold spray paint this year.

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