By Anne Klockenkemper, Staff Writer, Sun-Herald
North Port Sun, North Port Florida, Friday, Dec 23, 2005
NORTH PORT — Snowcapped mountains reach into the starry sky,
towering over a scenic Ukrainian village complete with straw-thatched
houses, a gold-domed Orthodox Cathedral and colorfully dressed
This isn’t a real Ukrainian village, however. It sits in Irene and Myron
Radzykewycz’s lanai, and the residents are dolls and angels, each clothed in
authentic Ukrainian garb lovingly and intricately embroidered by Irene. “I
started doing this 50 or 60 years ago,” said Irene.
Close to 70 dolls of various sizes are dressed in the native costumes of
various areas of the Ukraine, including Kiev and the Carpathian Mountain
regions. Irene learned to embroider as a girl in the Western Ukraine, and
she came up with the idea to set up the village on her lanai during
hurricane season. “When we put up the hurricane curtain, that gave her the
idea to set up the extra room,” said Myron.
Irene, who came to the United States from the Ukraine in the 1950s, does
extensive research into the costumes of different Ukrainian regions before
creating a new doll. Some of them are bright and colorful; others,
especially the angels, wear dresses that are all white, cream or tan.
“The special Ukrainian name for white-on-white embroidery, or for very pale
colors, is merezhewo,” said Myron. Depending on the size of the doll, it
takes Irene between four weeks and three months to embroider the dresses
her dolls wear. And when she needed boots for several of the male dolls, she
found a creative way to make them. “I went into my closet, and I found an
old pair of black, leather gloves and I cut off the fingers,” she said.
The entire tableau takes nearly three weeks to set up. “I arrange it
differently every year,” Irene said. “You have to have patience to do this.”
And while Irene constructed all the smaller buildings, Myron built the
cross-shaped church that dominates the miniature landscape. “My uncle was
a monsignor in (the) Ukraine, and he built a village church from stone. I
was trying to copy from that,” Myron said.
Irene likes to go into the lanai and just sit on the floor contemplating her
creation and the history her village reflects. “These things don’t exist
anymore,” she said. “When I sit in here, I dream. I go back in time.” Irene
doesn’t sell her creations, and can’t name one that is her favorite.
“How can you have a favorite, when they are all so beautiful?” she asks.
“And I’m not ready to part with them yet — it’s my little heaven.” -30-