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Many Faces of the Ukrainian Madonna

The Marian Library has a series of prints by the well-known Ukrainian artist Maria Harasowska-Daczyszyn (1911-2000). Known by her nickname “Mika,” she was born in the city of Staryi Sambir, Ukraine, to a religious family that encouraged her artistic pursuits from an early age. It is estimated that she created over 1,000 paintings in her lifetime — portraits, natural landscapes, and Marian icons featuring the Blessed Mother and Baby Jesus in various stylized traditional Ukrainian clothing. 

Enduring the hardships of two world wars, Harasowska-Daczyszyn was known for her laughter and unbreakable spirit and continued to create, though many of her earliest works were destroyed. Due to the threat of exile or execution under the Soviet regime, she was not able to safely return to life in her home country. Like many others of the Ukrainian diaspora, she eventually emigrated to the United States, settling in New York in 1949 and later in Chicago. The Ukrainian National Museum in Chicago featured her artwork in a retrospective exhibit in 2014. 

In a biography of Harasowska-Daczyszyn, Halyna Stelmashchuk connects the artist’s Madonnas to her deep faith and devotion to the Blessed Mother. With eyes radiating love and kindness, many of these icons showcase the spirit of her country and its Marian roots. Stelmashchuk also writes of Harasowska-Daczyszyn’s love for nature, depicted in the backgrounds of many of the icons. The Ukrainian landscapes behind Mary and Jesus feature churches, villages and often the sunflower, now known the world over as the national flower of Ukraine. Many of these paintings were created around 1987 in honor of the Marian Year proclaimed by Pope John Paul II and in celebration of Ukraine’s millennium of Marian devotion.

The images below can also be found in the Marian Library’s Ukrainian Marian Collection on Pinterest. More images will be uploaded each Sunday during Lent.

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