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English \ Culture \ Ukrainian identity shines through at ethnic festivals

Katya Gorchinskaya, Editor

Kyiv Post editor Katya Gorchinskaya writes: Growing crowds take on to traditional Ukrainian dress, but what actually is the core of modern Ukrainian identity?

If there is one thing that struck me at the latest Krayina Mriy ethnic music festival, it's the crowd of people wearing traditional dress. Their number seems to be growing rapidly each year, and just about outnumbered us, plainly clothed, this time on June 27.


It's as if people are coming out of the closet more and more and are becoming proud to be Ukrainian. They are ready to show off their ethnicity and celebrate it. But what is it that they are celebrating? What does it mean to be Ukrainian? What makes the essence of the modern Ukrainian identity? There is plenty to be said here.

When I first went to Scotland about 15 years ago, I was astounded by the ease and pride with which this small nation slipped into traditional clothes for grand celebrations and everyday living alike. Impracticalities of the kilt did not seem to bother the local men.

In Ukraine, it was different. Nobody wore the plakhta, the wonderful female skirts whose patterns varied from region to region, and even from family to family. Traditional embroidered shirts, or vyshivankas, seemed to be reserved to the freaky mustachioed old men in the center of Lviv debating something hotly. Some politicians wore them too, but it always looked out of place and out of context.

There has been a slight shift since then. Although traditional Ukrainian clothes have not yet been adapted to modern requirements, patterns, colors and other elements of national dress have been seeping into street and high fashion, and increasingly inspiring the younger generations. It's a lot more common now to see people wearing vyshivankas, and not all of them come from western Ukraine. National dress is slowly reintegrating into the national identity.

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