Object ID: 1996.162.1
Varvara Zilinsky (1861-1950) was born in the town of Voloca, Bucovina, which was part of the Austrian Empire at the time of her birth. She lived there with her parents Konstantin Ilia and Iliana Paulenko until she met Marco Zilinsky, and the couple married in November of 1880.
Though the Bucovina region has at times been part of Austria, Romania, and Ukraine, the Zilinsky family was culturally Romanian, and wedding customs, in accordance with their regional culture, involve the entire community. In traditional Bucovinian culture, a man must go to the home of his prospective bride accompanied by his parents and ask for her parents’ permission to be married, and on the same day, a dowry and wedding date must be decided. This tapestry was hand woven by Varvara and given to Marco as part of her wedding dowry. Three weeks before their wedding date, the priest of the local Orthodox Church announced their upcoming marriage to the community.
In 1898, an agent from the Canadian Land Office visited Voloca offering 160 acres of farm land to anyone willing to settle the prairies of Western Canada. The offer was too good to refuse, so in April, 1899, Varvara, along with her husband and children, emigrated to Canada. They took a train from Czernowitz to Hamburg, Germany and, on April 26, 1899, set sail aboard the S.S. Brasailia, landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 9th. With one suitcase containing only their most important belongings, including Varvara’s tapestry, the Zilinsky family then made their way to the prairies.
The family settled in Saltcoats, Saskatchewan where they farmed the land for many years before leaving those freezing winters behind and moving to Kelly Creek in 1924. Again, the old woven tapestry made of dyed flax yarn travelled with the family, this time to the mild climate of qathet region.
Varvara’s woven tapestry made of materials from her homeland was kept by family members for nearly fifty years after her death, and in 1996 it was donated to the museum.
The flax plant, Linum usitatissimum, has been cultivated for thousands of years for use in textiles. After the plant is harvested, the inner fibers are removed from the stalks and spun into yarn. The yarn used by Varvara to make her tapestry was colored using natural dyes.