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Thursday, September 29, 2022

30th Anniversary of White Aster of Love

Cover of White Aster of Love

So that history does not repeat itself, it is worth recalling Iryna Senyk (1926-2009), the heroine of the Ukrainian people in the struggle for the freedom of Ukraine.

We cannot allow Ukraine to roll back to the times when the communist authorities arrested conscientious people and imprisoned and/or sent them to deportation camps. Now in 2022, maniacal Putin wants to conquer Ukraine and return it to its yoke! We know from history how this looks and it must be stopped!

Young Iryna Senyk

As a political dissident, Iryna Senyk (1926-2009) endured 34 years in prisons and exile. Incredible suffering, hunger and humiliation could not break Irina's indomitable spirit, which is dramatically revealed in her poetry of that time and since 1991 in independent Ukraine. Iryna was also very fond of folk art and embroidered original miniatures using fish bone needles and threads from her kerchief. She gifted them to her cellmates.

Article about dissident stitches & Anne Cromoshuk


Christine Bolubash, a UCWLC member, met Iryna in Lviv in the summer of 1989. Pani Senyk presented her with a folder of poems and original fashion sketches decorated with her designs. Christine smuggled this gift with her to Canada at great personal risk. She proposed to her St. Demetrius branch of UCWLC, Toronto, to publish a book that combines the political dissident’s fashion sketches with embroidery and lyrical poems. Christine Borsuk translated 76 poems into English.

Christine Bolubash brings us together

This project was interesting because it was published to honour pioneer women on the centenary of the settlement of Ukrainians in Canada (1891-1991). The St. Demetrius UCWLC book committee decided to turn the sketches into fashionable clothes. 

Committee in front of St. Demetrius

Creative work began with my consultation with the 27 members of our branch. 

Maria with Iryna Senyk, 1990

Collaborations between members, many of them daughters or granddaughters of pioneers, and the new wave emerged as some ladies could sew and embroider; some embroidered for the first time in their lives. This quest brought together people of various immigrations to help the ladies finish their embroidered dresses by the winter of 1991.

Three models and sketches of the designs

The committee invited Iryna Senyk who resided in Boryslav, Ukraine, to the world premiere of "White Aster of Love". The presentation took place on September 27, 1992 at the Marriott Hotel. A multi-media presentation with the theme of the seasons combined the fashion show of the ladies modelling their embroidered clothes with a bilingual reading of poems. 

Collage of runway flowers presentation

The organizers were thrilled Iryna was able to travel to Canada for this Première. Christine Bolubash presented the deluxe bilingual ”White Aster of Love” book to its author, the indomitable Ukrainian patriot Iryna Senyk.

Iryna and Christine Bolubash at the premiere

Models with Iryna at St Demetrius

“Tribute to Iryna" - a travelling presentation of photos of ladies in embroidered dresses interspersed between an audio recording of poem readings, was shown in numerous Canadian cities and in Detroit. The audiences were better able to appreciation the values and talents of Iryna Senyk. Out of 5,000 published books, the St Demetrius UCWLC branch sent 1,000 books to Ukraine for distribution to school and local libraries. This was timely as Ukraine just became an independent nation.

Toronto Sun article Our readers are exceptional

Janice Dineen, a columnist for the Toronto Star, highlighted Iryna Senyk's philosophy of life in this way: "Material things do not matter. What I valued early in my life, I value now: my country, my religion, my family, and my art.”

Toronto Star article by Janice Dineen

Here are a few of the collages for some of the designs.

Lillian Yuryk

Bozhena Iwanusiw

Frances Hunkewich 

Christine Bolubash
Joyce Lesyk

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