Ukraine is blessed with a variety of flowers. Although they are known for their beauty, many have other meanings and are important symbols of the country. The legends and inspiration of the flowers are intriguing, and continue to fascinate people no matter where they are from.
Sunflowers, or sonyashnyk, as they are referred to in the Ukraine, are a symbol of the motherland. One of their sayings is that as the flower turns towards the light, so men should strain with thoughts, words, and deeds towards the motherland. The flower has other meanings too: unity, well-being, and fertility. The flower is also a popular design for embroidery, kitchenware, and other decorations around the country.
Periwinkle, or barvinok, represents eternity and fertility. Because of this, the flower is a popular choice for wedding wreaths or plants for tombstones.
There is a legend behind periwinkle’s meaning. The story goes that a man named Bar was in love with a woman named Vinka. The two loved each other greatly and wanted to get married, but a neighboring witch had a daughter who also was in love with Bar. Because of this, the witch cursed Bar and Vinka on their wedding day. The pair disappeared, and when Bar’s mother cried, the tears turned into a plant with blue flowers.
Guelder-rose, also known as kalyna, is Ukraine’s national tree. The plant has become a symbol of the unity of Ukraine. It represents how those who live, those who have passed away, and those who have yet to be born are all still connected together through the land. As Ukranians say, “without willow and guelder-rose there is no Ukraine.” Today, the tree is one of the most recognized national symbols of the country. Guelder-rose is also used during wedding ceremonies, as a protective amulet, and as a medicine.
The poppy is a popular plant. In folk medicine, the plant is believed to protect people and property alike from the evil eye. Many people planted the flower on their property as a result. The flowers are used during the religious festivals of Spas and Makoviy. The seeds are also a necessary ingredient of kutya, a common Christmas dish.
Poppies may also be used in medicines and sedatives. Their delicate petals represent youth and passing beauty.