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“You have to have good eyes and steady hands,” she says, “and eventually a sore back.” Some people prefer to make pysanky using a much simpler method. A new product helps create colorful and intricate pysanky in just minutes. It consists of plastic decals saturated with reproductions of traditional pysansky. Tailored to fit standard eggs, the decal transfers its design onto an egg’s shell when submerged in water.

“It’s cheating,” jokes Natalia Honcharenko, the museum director at the Ukrainian Historical and Educational Center of New Jersey.

The center, nonetheless, sells the increasingly popular decals in its gift shop along with plastic eggs and other novelties. Serious aficionados may also purchase kistky, old-fashioned beeswax and step-by-step guidebooks and videos.

The center — run by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America — plans to complete a 30,000 square-foot Ukrainian museum, which will house a permanent pysanky exhibit. In the meantime, it stores its collection of priceless works of art and artifacts, including paintings, portraits, sculptures and books — some of which are more than 300 years old — in the adjacent cultural center.

“This is one of our best in the collection,” says Ms. Honcharenko, as she carefully opens a green box filled with cards. On each of the cards is a hand-drawn image of a pysanka.

In the 19th century, the Duchess Katerina Skarzy dispatched artists across Ukraine to draw pysanky and itemize the symbols in their designs and their meanings. The museum has more than 4,000 of the cards and an original copy of the catalog of the symbols.

During World War II, many believed the set to have been destroyed and lost forever. Miraculously, though, Konstantyn and Olena Moschenko, natives of Poltava, Ukraine, managed to assemble and preserve it through the tumultuous period.

In 1961, Mr. and Mrs. Moschenko donated the collection to the church, which served as the foundation for the present archive and soon-to-open museum. Today, experts from around the world visit the center to study the cards.

The artifacts help preserve Ukrainian culture, says Ms. Honcharenko, as she gently peruses the 200-year-old catalogue.

“It’s important to know your past to know who you are,” she says. “It helps shape you. This is what we will teach the next generation.”

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Journalist Marvin Anderson reports for the New York Times.



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