By Robert Podurgiel
Amid the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, St. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Carnegie this Sunday celebrated Ukrainian culture and food with its annual pysanky painted Easter egg sale.
The egg sale, now in the 54th year at the 120 year-old-church famous for its three brilliant golden onion domes that are a signature design feature of the Ukrainian faith and church, featured more than 1,000 eggs of various colorful designs, and symbols, each with a distinct meaning, specific to that particular egg.
If trees are painted on an egg, they symbolize long life, good health, strength and youthfulness. Spirals signify the mystery and connection of life and death – divinity or immortality. Flowers mean beauty and children, spring and new life, all according to a chart available at the church explaining pysanky colors and symbols.
When it comes to the colors painted on an egg, each one represents a specific meaning. Among the colors, black signifies eternity, the dark before dawn, and purple represents fasting, faith, patience and trust.
But the hand-painted pysanky eggs, which sold out completely according to event organizers, were not the only example of Ukrainian culture visitors had an opportunity to savor. The church offered small religious artworks for sale, baked goods, and plenty of traditional Ukrainian food like pierogies, stuffed cabbage, and haluski, pan-fried cabbage and noodles seasoned with butter and onions.
Michael Kapeluck, a life-long member of the church and a professional painter of sacred art and icons, organized the event this year, a job he inherited from his parents.
“It is a way to keep the Ukrainian heritage alive, while at the same time it is a way to raise funds for the charitable activities of the church,” he said.
Local Ukrainians help keep the heritage alive, he said, by sponsoring workshops throughout the South Hills on the art of creating pysanky.
“In three hours we can teach you to create a rudimentary design for an egg,” he said.
While this year’s egg sale was a rousing success, attracting thousands of visitors – an event volunteer said a line of people stretched around the block before the sale even began at 11 a.m.
Kapeluck expressed some concern for next year’s sale.
About half of the eggs sold each year are created by artisans in Ukraine, but 400 eggs already ordered for next year are trapped in Ukraine owing to the war, he said.
Rev. John Charest, who has served as the priest at St. Peter and Paul for the last four years, gave tours of the church and answered questions from people who wanted to know more about the Orthodox faith and rituals. Many of the people asked about the beautiful icons and religious imagery that adorn the church.
The church has Kapeluck to thank for the artwork. He holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University and is a specialist in the creation of religious iconography.
He paints sacred artwork for a living and has created the icon imagery in numerous churches with a faith based in Eastern Europe including Ukrainian Orthodox, Greek Byzantine and Carpatho-Rusyn churches. He has been working as an artist of sacred imagery for more than 20 years, but he said he is still learning.
Currently, he is working on a commission for a church in Ottawa, Canada.
“The art, and the church is beautiful,” said Carnegie resident Marlene Pendleton, who attended one of the tours.