A collection of pysanky written by Ihor Slabicky, Carol Novosel, and others.
Photograph by Ihor Slabicky

WaterFire Providence helped the small town of Sharon, Pennsylvania turn around their historic old town center on the Shenango River right at the Ohio state line. Allan Redfern and Barnaby made many trips out to help their all-volunteer crew build and then present their first WaterFire in 2013. About a dozen Providence volunteers drove all the way across Pennsylvania to help them with their first lighting. WaterFire Providence volunteer Ihor Slabicky came to help:

“When we arrived in Sharon to help out with their first WaterFire lighting on August 3, 2013, we had an opportunity to explore the town and take in all the special exhibits they had created.  

One that caught my eye was a tree decorated with hundreds of gorgeous pysanky – Ukrainian Easter Eggs. Being a pysanka “writer” myself, I was surprised and intrigued at seeing them. The eggs are inscribed or written by hand with each writer creating an original symbolic language. I introduced myself to Carol (nee Worona) Novosel, who had written those pysanky, several hundred of them! Naturally, we talked “shop” about the traditional designs we write and our techniques and so on.

Decorated with hundreds
of gorgeous pysanky, Ukrainian Easter Eggs

When I returned to Sharon to help with their lighting that September, I brought along several of my pysanky, hoping that Carol would once again be exhibiting. She was! I gave her my pysanky, which thrilled her, and she, in return gave me some of hers. Her pysanky now reside in my collection, a wonderful remembrance of her and all the friendships and unexpected surprises that so often happen at WaterFire!  

I have been volunteering with WaterFire since it began and have found so many interesting friends and special adventures over that time. As we are now all waiting and working, sheltering in our homes, let’s look forward to gathering together once again around the fires of WaterFire. The egg is a universal symbol of life and rebirth and renewal — as are water and fire. In this time when our whole world is on hold as we come to Easter, I hope my sharing this ancient Ukrainian tradition will remind you of the many good times to come.”

Barnaby asked Ihor to remember how he first came to join us as a volunteer! Here is his reply:

“I do remember thinking that putting fires on water had to be the craziest idea ever! And who would ever even think of that! To put that thought in perspective, I also thought ‘Who would ever want to have a personal computer in their home?’ and ‘A cell phone — Why?’ So you are in great company!  🙂  

I was also REALLY impressed by the whole feeling of WaterFire — that part of it is very reverent and solemn, and part is very free spirited, and then part is ‘This is SO cool — let’s stay and enjoy!’ And there was a feeling of ‘Anything can happen and it will be great fun when it does!’

In the spring, you telephoned me. We talked about WaterFire and you said those words that are forever burned in my memory: ‘How’d you like to volunteer for WaterFire?’

This was like Jerry Garcia asking if you want to join the Grateful Dead, or Jesus asking if you want to be one of the Twelve Apostles, or Ernest Shackleton advertising ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey…’  My response was: ‘What? You mean you can volunteer for this?’

The rest is, well, history. And here we are — 25 years later!  

I-)  ihor”

All of us at WaterFire join Ihor in wishing every one of you a Happy Easter for both this Sunday and for Orthodox Easter next Sunday on April 19th, along with our warmest greetings for Passover and Ramadan and the Narragansett Salmon Moon Festival. Plus we add our greetings to the many people around the world holding festivals where we all come together to celebrate the coming of new life to our good Earth: Holi, Songkram, Bun Pi Mai, Hanamatsuri, Saga Dawa, Parinirvana, and of course the recent Spring Equinox.  

Peace and Good Health to all.

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