Vasylkiv Cockerel

Vasylkiv Cockerel

Published on Thursday, June 23, 2022. This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of American Craft Magazine.
blacksmith working a bar of glowing metal in her studio

It’s uncertain whether the rooster was designed by Ukrainian artist Prokop Bidasyuk or, as the National Folk Decorative Art Museum suggests, by Valery Protoriev, who started working in the 1950s at the Vasylkiv factory where it was produced. Photo courtesy of the National Folk Decorative Art Museum.

After a high-rise building in Borodianka, Ukraine, collapsed under Russian shelling, journalist-photographer Elizaveta Servatyanska looked up and saw in the ruins an undamaged rooster-shaped ceramic jug atop a kitchen cabinet. The jug had been factory-produced during the Soviet era in Vasylkiv, a town near Kyiv with a long tradition of manufacturing majolica, a style of glazed earthenware pottery.

The rooster is a powerful symbol of protection in Ukrainian folklore. Artist Oleksandr Grekhov created a web poster featuring the unharmed ceramic cockerel—or young rooster—with the words “Hold On,” and the jug quickly became a symbol of Ukrainian strength and resistance to the Russian invasion.

While it’s neither handmade nor the American work this magazine usually covers, it would be hard to find a better example of the power of craft. After Russian troops retreated from Kyiv in April, we asked the National Folk Decorative Art Museum if they would share a photo of the jug with us as it had once been exhibited there. We were moved when Liudmyla Strokova, the museum’s general director, sent us this photo, even as Russia resumed bombing Kyiv.

We think about the artists, journalists, photographers, museum professionals, and citizens working to protect the cultural heritage of Ukraine, and we wish them safety.

—THE EDITORS

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