Ukrainians show off embroidered shirts to celebrate unity

President Volodymyr Zelensky in a screenshot from a video he posted on Twitter for “Vyshyvanka Day”. SCREENSHOT: TWITTER

KYIV, UKRAINE (AFP) - Ukrainians donned colourful embroidered shirts on Thursday (May 19) for a normally light-hearted annual celebration that this year is being viewed as a symbol of national unity against Russia's invasion.

Known as a "vyshyvanka", the loose-fitting shirt is often white with geometric patterns in embroidery along borders and is a much-loved folksy item of clothing worn for special occasions.

President Volodymyr Zelensky took to social media to congratulate Ukrainians on "Vyshyvanka Day" and called the item of clothing "our sacred amulet in this war".

The president was wearing an unusual green vyshyvanka reminiscent of the military-style colours he has worn ever since Russia began its assault in February.

Etnodim, the retailer selling the shirt worn by Zelensky, said on Facebook it was intended to symbolise "the resilience and strength of our people".

Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said it was "a symbol of freedom and love for Ukraine" and a "cultural weapon that unites Ukrainians".

Wearing a vyshyvanka is "a reminder that we are all united and consolidated as never before", he said.

The celebration has been held on the third Thursday in May since 2014 - when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and a rebellion by Russia-backed separatists began in the east of the country.

"I've worn it every year since 2014 on the official holiday," said Denys Tymoshenko, 41, a teacher in Kyiv.

"But this year it's different, it symbolises the solidarity between all Ukrainians - soldiers, volunteers and refugees across the world," he said.

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