Legendary Borshchivsky embroidery          

Traditional women’s costume from Borshchivsky District, photo courtesy of D. Peretrutov 

Culture, Ukraine

Translated by: Christine Chraibi

The Borshchivsky District (Ternopilska Oblast) is famous for its black embroidered shirts, unique ornaments and embroidery technique, which legends and folk tales are made of.

The Borshchivsky District has many ancient traditions and one of them is the famous black embroidered shirt that is truly unique in its ornamentation and embroidery technique. There are several versions relating the origin of black embroidery and here is one of the most popular tales.

In the 13th century, western Ukraine was regularly attacked by Turkish and Tatar armies. They ruthlessly devastated and looted villages, captured local peasants and sold them into slavery. There is an ancient legend that tells of a Tatar invasion that left death and devastation in many villages along the Dnister River. All the men were killed…

As a sign of mourning and deep loss, the village women and girls in Borshchivsky District vowed to remember and mourn their men for seven generations. They began embroidering their shirts with black thread… People born in the early twentieth century were the last generation concerned by this oath… but the tradition continues.

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Fragment of Borshchivsky shirt

Today, contemporary artisans and masters are trying to recreate the beauty of Borshchivsky embroidery, but the old shirts hidden in grandmother’s chests shirts overwhelm us even more with their  uniqueness and absolute perfection.

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Translated by: Christine Chraibi

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