An expert in the art of crafting traditional Ukrainian textiles, including embroidery, beadwork, weaving, and other traditional forms related to textiles and adornment, Vera Nakonechny preserves and cultivates these Ukrainian traditions both in the United States and Ukraine.
Nakonechny was born in 1947 in Germany to Ukrainian parents who were forced into factory labor by Germans during World War II. Her family emigrated to Brazil, where Nakonechny grew up watching her mother embroider using intricate Ukrainian stitches. At age 14, her family relocated to the United States and settled in Philadelphia, where she was able to further her education in Ukrainian folk arts from the Ukrainian Women's League of America and artists including 1999 NEA National Heritage Fellow Eudokia Sorochaniuk.
When Ukraine became independent in 1991 following the break-up of the Soviet Union, Nakonechny was able to travel to the country for the first time. She has since made numerous trips to continue her research into the textile techniques and traditions present in both the area her mother came from, Hutsul region in the Carpathian Mountains, as well as the other regions of Ukraine. She has also worked tirelessly to track down individuals who can teach her little known intricate embroidery and weaving techniques.
During her initial trip, Nakonechny discovered that because the traditional arts were forbidden under the Soviet Union , many of these traditions were in danger of being lost in Ukraine. Therefore, in addition to her work as a master teacher in the Philadelphia community – where she has received apprenticeship grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts – Nakonechny has also shared her knowledge in Ukraine through workshops and discussions and has become an associate to the National Center of Folk Culture "Ivan Honchar Museum" in Kyiv. For an article in Philadelphia Folklore Project's Works in Progress magazine, Nakonechny writes, "My art is my passion, and I feel a strong need to learn as much as I can about the millennium-old folk culture of my ancestors so I can pass it on to a younger generation. [. . .] We have become one big family, on two sides of the world, puzzling over this art form that was supposed to be lost."
Nakonechny's work has been included in exhibits in both the United States and Ukraine. She is the recipient of a 2007 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship in folk arts. In 2008 Nakonechny received a Pew Fellowship Award from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage and in 2011 she received The Leeway Foundation Transformational Award.
Video about Vera Nakonechny, created by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in 2008.
Photos of Vera Nakonechny’s embroidery, weaving, and beadwork by Yury Nakonechny.