Raissa Tetanish's first pysanka of the season, with many more to come.

It’s only a few short weeks until Easter and for many, it means egg hunts, family dinner and dyeing eggs.

For me, Easter has the same presence in my life, but so much more – it’s about celebrating heritage.

With the last name ‘Tetanish,’ I frequently have people ask its origin. Who am I kidding, I get it with the first name, too (I’m named after a contestant on the Price is Right, by the way. My parents loved the name).

A lot of people are close when they guess where ‘Tetanish’ comes from, but very few guess correctly – Ukrainian.

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My father’s parents settled in Whitney Pier, Cape Breton, where he and his siblings grew up. Those grandparents passed away when I was young so I don’t have many memories, and my father had a brother I never met. I can, however, still picture their small house – its furnishings and even the hardware on the door to the spare room. I still remember the smells when I walked through the door.

But I can also remember the Ukrainian figurines very vividly that were on display throughout the living room.

It wasn’t up until I graduated high school that I started to really appreciate my Ukrainian heritage. I was taking a course in community college and needed to do a photo essay. Coincidentally, one of my professors grew up with my father and it was around Eastertime. I asked if she would be dyeing eggs in the traditional Ukrainian style known as pysanky. She was and invited me along.

I sat and watched in awe for hours, photographing each of the steps involved. The egg she created while I was there sits in a basket on my kitchen table.

When the Ukrainian Catholic church in the pier celebrated its 100th anniversary five years ago was the first time I tried pysanky and now I’m hooked.

Each year, for at least a month, all my spare time goes into pysanky. My friends are addicted, as well as a cousin, and they’re already asking when the dyeing starts.

While many people throw their dyed eggs out after Easter passes, or store them for another year, I just can’t do that. To me, those eggs are much more than Easter.

They are my family. They are my heritage, and I’m proud to display them year-round.

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Raissa Tetanish
Raissa Tetanish is the new editor and marketing advisor for the Tatamagouche Light. She has more than 11 years experience as a reporter, with a background in both photography and photojournalism. She can be reached at 902-305-6177, or raissatetanish@tatamagouchelight.com.