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Wisconsin Folks

Betty Piso Christenson

Ukrainian Eggs
Suring, WI

“With this egg, I give you love.”

Betty Piso Christenson. Photo by Jamie Yuenger.Young Betty Pisio sat in St. Michael’s Catholic Church on Easter morning. She wanted to get home to find her Easter treats. She thought of how she and her brothers and sisters would run out to the barn, climb up to the loft and hunt in the hay for hand-woven baskets. Hmm...Inside would be a cookie and special Ukrainian Easter eggs called krizanky.

When Betty was ten years old, she asked her mother Talk iconabout the colorful Easter eggs she found every year. Mama was very happy to teach Betty how to make the krizanky. But she also told Betty about a fancier kind of Ukrainian egg called pysanky. Listen to Betty tell what happened. You can read along by clicking here.

Pysanky. Photo by Jamie Yuenger.So then Betty traveled to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada to meet her relatives and learn how to make pysanky. Her cousins introduced her to an Orthodox priest who taught her about the decorated eggs. He explained that each color has a special meaning, and he drew all the traditional symbols, explaining each of their meanings. Soon enough, Betty was making the eggs her mother had told her about.

Ever since then, Betty loved to make pysanky because it’s a way to honor her Ukrainian heritage, just like her parents wanted her to do. When Betty decorates eggs, she’s carrying on a long family tradition that started in Ukraine.

Map of Ukraine

Betty’s great-great grandmother made colored eggs to welcome the spring and show she was grateful for surviving the cold winter. Betty’s mom brought this tradition with her when she moved to Wisconsin from Ukraine.

Betty learned it and kept the tradition going for many years. Betty taught all her grandchildren to make Hmm...pysanky. That means that they will be carrying on a tradition from their great-great-great-great- grandmother! 

After many years of making beautiful eggs, Betty was recognized as a master artist of pysanky. In 1996, she received a National Heritage Fellowship, which means that Betty is considered a national treasure!

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Oconto County, Wisconsin

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