Ukrainian Peasant Woman – 25 April 2022
Here is a painting of a young peasant woman from what is now Ukraine. She stands still, as though being photographed rather than painted. From her boots, to her dress, to her jewellery, and the dressing of her hair, everything speaks of her particular place and people of origin. Around her neck hangs a large cross on a ribbon. Being a (Orthodox) Christian is part of her identity. The woman’s dress is highly decorated, patterned, as is the wall behind her. She stands on simple, bare, wooden boards. The whole image intends dignity and a particularity that is to be appreciated and valued.
The picture comes the first decades of the twentieth century, when Russian avant-garde movements were emerging as the Russian empire collapsed and the Soviet Union grew. The study of folk-lore and peasantry had a political resonance for artists. Such images revealed a diversity of peoples. This image of a Ukrainian woman from the past feels further way and more different that our common response to images of Ukrainian women in film and photographs, who seemed closer to us (more like us?) because of contemporary western-like dress.
The picture is ‘Ukrainian Peasant Woman’ (1910-11) by Vladimir Burluik, in the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Burluik, painting in a style shaped by French Impressionist and Post-impressionist art and Russian folk art, represents the appearance of a young woman from the southern areas of what was then the Russian Empire, that is now Ukraine.
‘Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.’ Then all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
God of all peoples and nations,
Who created all things alive and breathing,
United and whole,
Show us the way of peace that is Your overwhelming presence.
We hold before you the peoples of Ukraine and Russia,
Every child and every adult.
We long for the time
When weapons of war are beaten into ploughshares
When nations no longer lift up sword against nation.
We cry out to you for peace;
Protect those who only desire and deserve to live in security and safety
Comfort those who fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones
Be with those who are bereaved.
Change the hearts of those set on violence and aggression
And fill leaders with the wisdom that leads to peace.
Kindle again in us a love of our neighbour,
And a passion for justice to prevail and a renewed recognition
that we all play a part in peace.
Creator of all hear our prayer
And bring us peace. Make us whole.
Christian Aid, A prayer for Passion Sunday 3 April 2022