Russian Studies Program

Pysanka1

The annual Ukrainian Pysanka, or Easter egg painting, was held in the Scullery of the Bucknell Langone Center in the evening of March 11, 1997. This year the event was sponsored by the Bucknell Russian Program, the Russian Club with the strong support of the Office of International Education (thank you Susan Zingale-Baird). Sue Brown and Madhu Malik made up the core of engineers who whipped the evening up, assisted by Faye Beard, who helped with the special Orthodox Easter dishes of kulich and paskha. (Food was provided to divert appetites from the objects d'art.) The Russky Kruzhok (Gillian Kirstel, Sally Ryman, Devon Webster with his trusty camera) handled the promotion and historical record. The whole production was hours in the planning and days in the making, with a cast of more than a dozen!

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The amateurs first set to eating the special Orthodox Easter kulich and paskha that Mrs. Beard and Professor Brown prepared for the occasion. Professor Beard waited too long and came up with an empty plate. His pleas for a portion of his wife's contribution were ignored. The serious pysankers, of course, went immediately to work. Keep those crumbs out of the dye, guys! And watch the candles! We only had one fire all night, which left the Langone Center standing.

 

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The Russian Studies Program in all its spendor led the way and lit the path of creativity with the product of their endeavors. The artistic skills of the Program was evident in the output of the fearless leaders, which each proudly displayed. But others quickly followed, focusing all their artistic skills on a single egg. No, she isn't frying the egg in its shell over a candle; she is melting the beeswax in order to reveal the patterns left in the eggshell by the dyes. Pretty soon everybody was at it . . . under the watchful eye of Professor Madhu Malik. Three eggs did crack, despite all her efforts, but most could still be displayed--not a bad record for 7 dozen eggs.

 

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It's all about making beautiful eggs with ugly beeswax, ordinary candles, odd little kistki or styluses, and dyes. The way you do it is like this: first you dye the entire egg a light color, like yellow. Next you draw a design that you want to be yellow with melted wax, using a kistka. Then you dye the whole egg in a slightly darker dye, say, orange. Next you draw the design you want to be orange with melted wax and dip the egg in a slightly darker dye, say, red. You continue like this until your entire design is completed. By this time the eggs looks awful: it is all black with smoky wax! Rebecca and Katie Bowen (left to right) show us their eggs before they took all the wax off.

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You remove the wax by holding it to a candle so that there is enough heat to melt the wax but not cook the egg. This mysterious hand shows us the final result when all the wax is removed. (Here is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.) By the way you get far less cholestorol in your arteries decorating the incredible edible egg than you do eating it. 

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The payoff is the eggcitement (I had to do one egg joke) of taking home a beautifully crafted egg. Here Walter 'Faberge' Webster and Natasha (Rembrandtsky) Yelanskaya (one of the several real Russians and Ukrainians at the egg fest) show off their handiwork. The eggs are still raw but in a 3-4 months the shells will be empty except for a few harmless crystals of cholesterol. (Of course, you shouldn't check to see if this is true.)

 

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Unfortunately, the whole thing was a great big mess! Just look at that table! Upperclass Russian majors (as usual) led the way. So why are they smiling? Do they think Professor Beard is going to clean all of this up? He is so distraught that he can't decide what to do with his egg. Throw it? Nah! They wouldn't understand.

 
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