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Keeping Slavic heritage alive

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - It wasn't a new art form that drew people of all ages around a table at Youngstown State University Thursday night, but a technique of egg decorating that dates back to many of their ancestors that has become new again for this generation.

"I've been doing this since I was nine years old at my grandmother's house in front of the stove, we used to do this all the time," says Donna Gostey of Butler County.

Gostey's grandmother immigrated to Western Pennsylvania from Slovakia.  Donna is now passing on this tradition to her granddaughter, Emma, who is in the first grade at Hilltop Elementary in Canfield.

"It's kind of fun," said Emma.

This style of using pin tips dipped in wax, known as wax applique or relief, was started in Eastern Europe, according to Polish folklorist Larry Kozlowski.

He says the egg was considered a symbol of life and Spring.

"So each color had a different meaning, each design had a different meaning. So when you drew this egg you made this 'pisanki,' which comes from the word 'pisaæ,' which means to write.  Then you were giving someone all these wishes on the egg that you could actually read that much like a greeting card you get at the store," says Kozlowski.

Keeping this Slavic heritage alive is the goal of the recently formed Slavic Student Association at YSU, which organized the event.

"If you don't know your history, you kind of almost don't know where you're going and it's really to feel a connection to the past through these older traditions," says Caleb Wright, president of the Slavic Student Association.

Due to the large turnout Thursday, Kozlowski announced a sign up for extended classes in egg decorating and palm weaving this summer.

To sign up or for more information, email info@simplyslavic.org.  You can also visit the YSU Slavic Student Association on Facebook. 

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