IRIS-Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services

Reviving Ancient Ukrainian Dolls in CT

My name is Zhanna. I’m from the Volyn region of Ukraine. 

I came to the United States under the Uniting for Ukraine program and I have been living in Hartford, Connecticut for a year. Even though I’m far from home, I like my life here.

On Facebook, I came across Svetlana, IRIS’ Ukrainian Program Outreach Specialist. She helped me move and settle into an apartment, complete paperwork, and search for a job.

It’s hard to be new in this country, especially when you don’t know the language. Fortunately, I found sympathetic people at IRIS.

I’m creative and I’ve always liked doing something with my hands. This is how the idea of making Ukrainian dolls, called Motankas, was born. 

Ukrainian towels and embroidered shirts are known everywhere in Ukraine and beyond its borders, but Motanka dolls are less known. 

Motanka is a symbol of well-being, hope for the best, and is a sacred object. They’ve been around for 5,000 years. 

You can’t make a Motanka doll when your heart is hard or you’re angry. It should only be done with good in the soul. After all, each doll was and remains a unique creation of the master. In ancient times, the motanka doll performed an important function of amulet and talisman for the whole family.

There are many variations of Motankas, because each craftswoman puts a piece of her soul into it. This is how my motanka doll was born. Here, in the United States, I want to work and do something useful for people. All this was possible thanks to the help of IRIS.

*Zhanna (pictured left with Svetlana), originally shared her story with IRIS in Ukrainian. It has been translated to English.

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