Lida Nedilsky and LiaLia Kuchma

Recorded June 11, 2021 Archived June 11, 2021 37:40 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: chi003566


Lida Nedilsky (51) interviews her mentor, LiaLia Kuchma (77), about her memories of moving to Chicago from Ukraine in the 1950s, the Ukrainian Village community, her work as an artist, and her reflections on the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Subject Log / Time Code

LK talks about her memories of moving to Chicago, living in Humboldt Park.
LK talks about the Ukrainian Village and the roles everyone had in the community. She talks about how her parents worked full time but made time to volunteer for various things.
LK talks about her early days as an artist, making posters and taking photographs during the building of St. Nicholas Cathedral. She says, in the community, "If there's a need, they find you, and you donate the skills that you have."
LK talks about the weaving traditions in Ukraine, being inspired by all the colors of her mother's embroidery thread and by her father's love of nature.
LK describes her morning routine and her walks during the Pandemic.
LK talks about the tapestry she started during the Pandemic.


  • Lida Nedilsky
  • LiaLia Kuchma

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type



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00:04 My name is Eden agista. I'm 51 years old today is June. 11th, 2021. I'm recording in, Chicago, Illinois. With Yaya kuchma, and I'm considering her my mentor as I try to understand something about Ukrainian Village.

00:30 My name is Lila. Kuchma, my age is 77. Today is June 11th, 2021 Chicago, Illinois. And my partner. In this case, which identified as friend is using a used ski, so

00:49 Thank you so much pain, you laugh for being with me today. It's a first interview. I'm conducting about Ukrainian Village and covid result in. This is a project that storycorps and the Ukrainian national museum have tried to implement. And so I'm very happy that you're with me today because I want to learn. And one thing that I learned about you on Wednesday, when we visited together and Ukrainian Village is that you love to walk the streets of Ukrainian Village and although you weren't born there, you grew up there and you live there today. So can you take us in your imagination to some places in Ukrainian Village that really hold memories for you. Can we start by locating you in that space?

01:45 Well, when you're say that holds memories for me.

01:50 Oh gosh.

01:53 Each time I walk anywhere in any new location becomes a memory, you know, and that's what determine whether I want to go back there again, or not. Now, in this particular location, Ukrainian Village when we move to Chicago and go cash. I'll say maybe in 50 or 51 and we lived on Troy street. We walked to the to the grates for my mother, walked with us to the race course. I remember that walk. Even at that young age. That's probably where both my parents walked out all the time. They never got her car. So like I said walking with their weight, but when I started getting older, you know as kids do you you

02:42 Discover your own neighborhood. So I would discover the main streets first because that's, you know, you would take the bus or something. You would recognize two major buildings. Then I would go beyond the main streets, the side streets, where the people live in, you discover, you know, the type of houses. And whether people sit outside, where there's anybody walking around, what did you see any kind of, you know, life of people outside their home? After that. I would start watching Beyond Death. So his music down, Ellie's industrial areas, of course, I would go into the Humboldt Park because in the early days all the families would go to Humboldt Park on weekends, and that's what they would rest.

03:33 Not sure.

03:37 I don't hear any. Yeah, so any case Humboldt Park now that I live, I mean somewhere and somebody else's Becca since when we lived on Friday, we were the proximity of Humboldt Park was there. Then when we move more towards by the church because that's what people used to settle around the church, always into school. You know, we still going to Humboldt Park. I got married and I'll be on the park and all this kind of stuff. And when I move back into the community,

04:18 The church in the area that we moved to was Saint Nicholas and then it became a Cathedral at that time. I was at church and this is what you're not. Obviously this was the magnetic force of all of the immigrants. You always move around the church and the community was such that it provided all the immigrants at that time. Also necessary needs for them. And, you know, all because nobody spoke English then, so nice, as I grew up going to grade school, high school college, and, you know, it was still there until I left, but in terms of just, again, discovering the the neighborhood,

04:59 I started going beyond the neighborhood more and more because I knew this neighborhood and I really just enjoy being in, you know, just something different even if it wasn't pretty but it was different Angela and their particular places, you know, that you want to walk to other places that have because you had some connection to them, personally, become significant, you continue to live in Ukrainian Village today. Do you go back to Saint Nicholas school or are there other places that attract your attention instead?

05:46 Would like to visit the church, the cathedral, you know, I'm aware of the skull in all of that. But I really do not interact too much within their schedules or programming or anything of that sort. But if anything I sort of consider myself a visitor and I enter it as a visitor, you know, but with that sense of familiarity and it's very good, but in terms of

06:21 You know, the neighborhood being

06:24 Or watching when you said you can have the size my walking even though I'll go in industrial areas. I will walk with their trees. You have to have.

06:37 You know, what's out there and that's a

06:41 It's just like with Humboldt Park. It's a very companionable walk because I know the route. I know the particular.

06:50 Preferences of what I want to pass by what I want to see and stop and you know, visit revisit and visit and revisit. So that's more so than just walking in a neighborhood that is

07:06 They like the Ukrainian Village. I don't bought that much in the neighborhood itself, but I will walk it because I have to get things done as opposed to driving it. So when you say you have to get things done, do you mean ordinary shopping or are there particular types of work that you do that? You need to explain for those who are interested in your particular relationship to Ukrainian Village? Who who are you? Exactly? What do you do in the neighborhood, everybody?

07:45 Had a place. So to say, you know, if your family you joined the parish, if your kids you join other day, various organizations with her. It's scouting or some or Adam. If you have any particular interest, you find yourself a participant within the church, the community the museums, and you give them yourself whenever they need any aspect of you. And so from a very early age, I was

08:23 Active and doing say, whether the artwork been in the schools.

08:29 Or artwork for the church or for when the museum started being developed, being one of the early, not so much found a spot. But I was with the Ukrainian Institute of modern from the beginning as a volunteer as an as an exhibitor artist as and as a member on the Activity Board Etc with the Ukrainian national museum, the same thing, you know, if there was a need, you know, it's such a tight Community. They know who to call to call you, but you can do what you going to do it when in those early years, the spirit of volunteering.

09:13 You know, the long word volunteer, in this him with very powerful. It's a little harder to get people to volunteer these days of. So when you hear the reason outfit, there's not enough time. It's it's always

09:29 Hsps be funneling because I used to be amazed at my parents who used to work full time and still had time to belong to so many.

09:40 Organizations be involved in so many activities. They never looked exhausted. Even though I'm exhausted and they expected us to do the same thing.

09:55 In terms of taking back to walking or doing physical stuff. Yeah, I would just I'm so close to both museums. It would be ludicrous to take a car, but you got to get supplies, you know.

10:11 I prefer to walk. I will walk a distance if I can carry the stuff again. You explained that you volunteer. So your art. Can you tell us something more? What is it that you make? What are the tools of your particular trade? Would you contribute?

10:34 What's the case of going back into?

10:38 What were the church if they ever needed any kind of Graphics done, you know, to announce a particular kind of events celebration.

10:50 Xzibit, you know, I would do graphics for them posters for them standard stuff, you know, I would photograph all of the events as it was being built and I have since passed on all of the information to the church, for them to hopefully archive that besides photographing all of the events in the church at that time.

11:17 Yes, the graphics were hand-drawn. So the posters were all hand drawn. Yes. They took seemed to take longer and those dates but in case when the church was being built, this is the church to believe the men and all her by the old tradition. The cathedral is follows. The new calendar, the Saints be an oath of the mineral. Follow the old calendar. So there was obviously a bit of a ship.

11:52 I won't go into the details of the people splitting up, and they decided to build the church so they can still, you know, celebrating the old way, my parents were of the old tradition that we gave me, certainly spent more time there. And that's why I'm saying, I documented the whole building of the church, the interior. And I also worked, I helped my Esther Dicky paint interior of the church. So that was eight years worth of time. So in that respect them saying, you know, if there's a need they find you and you do what you can. If you've got the skills and talents and I was also working full-time or part-time at that time, when I was helping to paint interior of the church.

12:42 What else was that in terms of weather training institute? We all did everything by ourselves. Sooner. We couldn't afford to hire people to paint the walls to do the hanging of the exhibit poster. Same thing. We all did that all. So that's that that to another aspect of in the community.

13:06 How many years if I can't remember? How many years ago, a friend of mine and it's been over forty years. When I met with a Shinto knowledge, she came in from California. She was a filmmaker in, California.

13:19 And she wanted to do an oral history of the Ukrainian Village, but she asked me if I would photographs of people that she wanted to take oral history. The, we spent I think on that they took around seven years as well. So we are, she took her all histories. I took the photograph we did. I guess you can call it a kind of a magazine or a book, you know, of their portraits, their bit of their contents Etc.

13:59 So I think we did over a hundred forty families or people that we stood up all of that trying to figure out what to do with this stuff stuff with now currently.

14:12 So what else? You mentions the tag receipt, you mentioned interviews, you mentioned graphic art hand drawing and painting walls. What about you leaving? How does that enter the story?

14:28 Well, I was always a nerd. So, you know, I'll be I went to the U of. I I started Navy Pier. I ended up in Champaign, you know, with a degree, just a bachelor's in art.

14:44 But I also had to work. So while working, I managed to get a part-time job so I can candy continue, join yard and I lived in it area and Halsted Street. And in Boystown when things were developing in terms of, you know, there is Clay people were there so they did Ceramics and offered courses. There was a reading workshop across the street. There was a printmakers. I was primarily a printmaker and school. So I was part of the printmakers collaborative. So I used to do all of that then.

15:22 After a few years of doing Prince making, when I discovered the weaving Workshop, I decided to take a quick course, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to just

15:34 Stop doing one discipline. So I can concentrate in another, which makes tapestry weaving. So that's how that is.

15:43 What are there? Any are any of these Arts closely associated in your mind with Ukrainian Traditions, or do they connect more with wider World culture, or American culture, all of that big because we know that in Ukraine, the weaving that they did, you know, from starting at the bottom level with the sheep or else with the, you know, what's up, the linen, when they did linen, that used to do their own weeding, and then they would embroider on it all.

16:19 And they would use it for practical reasons, for decorative purposes. And all of that. Then, of course, all of the other cultures that do weaving, great similarities. I didn't want to necessarily repeat the same motifs, but my mother was an embroiderer.

16:40 So in one respect, I can say that I was influenced by the colors of my mother's threads and my Father's Love For trees and nature.

16:50 And I just in my own mind, I just couple of them together with my own imagery. So

17:00 Basically, and I don't even know if this answer the question cuz I started forget the question, you know, when you had said so you may have to just interject and let me know if I'm just

17:12 In a going Beyond, I think that you are certainly providing a sense about what it is that you contribute and where that comes from and you've mentioned your parents a couple of times once in the context of making time to give of themselves. And the other is the aesthetic impact they had on you, or how it influences, what you want to create, what you consider to be beautiful. So this is very important to hear from you because I also want to understand we are just coming out of lockdown. We are continuing to experience a global pandemic but because of vaccinations become available. More and more Americans are able now to resume quote-unquote, normal life, and part of the project.

18:12 We're working on with storycorps is to understand what it is that you experienced.

18:19 Under covid. How does covid in packed you both in terms of disrupting, your previous life with also enabling you because you are a productive creative person. So can you tell us more about where you've been under lockdown and what it is you've been doing and how you been coping.

18:43 Where Have You Been primarily in here? But the disruption I think that disruption would had more to do with my emotional state because of the nature of, I mean, this was

19:00 This was you know, once you grasp what it was about it was terrifying, you know, you make it hit anybody, I mean and

19:09 You know, everybody is equal in this case. So that part, you know, just anxiety of living with something that short of locking yourself up and there's no guarantee. However, I enjoy being not to stay locked up. I could not be locked up in any way because that would work against it. I like being inside. I enjoy my studio. However, I can always go out and during the so-called lockdown, I would go out every day for my walks and again, through the parks early in the morning, when it was quiet, you know, so you can hear the birds Through The Season's, you know, I got cold and all of that I would be out there was essential because knowing that you can go out. I'm back in.

20:00 And you bring that?

20:03 You know, it brings you down, calms you, and you get this additional energy, and you can see their dust trees, those trees. Are they having a grand time out there alone, you know, it's the trees and the birds, and I sort of feel like I'm benefiting from being in there and their company, though, my walks and be primarily into the parks the lake, even though the lake was, was shut down. There were ways of getting down to the water. So, you know, and it was always, so uplifting to see people, no matter how early you get there. There's always people there, you know, you don't need many people to feel

20:47 Chester, you know it joyful are you know, you don't need a whole crowd to tell you that we're having a good time.

20:54 So yeah, I had a lockdown for me is not bad per se. I miss not being able to hug my friends, my family, but I would still see my friends. I mean, we did, we respected each other's distancing in the winter time. I was very cold, sitting outside meeting with each other. You know, what? We did it, you know, it hurts like no big deal, but it was very productive for me cuz I, I could work long stretches and then but it takes the beauty of it. Is that when you need to leave, you got only a couple of doors and you step out and you come back and work again.

21:38 Do you have like a regular routine where you've developed?

21:44 If it's a regular is ever since I've retired, which is not a long time. And especially after, after my husband died. My routine has been one of getting up with the sunrise. You know, that's, that's one of the best ways to rise, even if it's overcast and I would

22:07 Do my ablution service, they have a quick breakfast and come down to the studio.

22:13 And there's always something at work. You know, I always try to have something waiting for me working. So I work as long as I need to. There's always, you know, life people goes on that. Takes you away from your work, but I, please know, I can I come back and I just sometimes I have to close myself off from friends or other activities, but, you know,

22:41 It works.

22:44 Did you find under covid? That it was more quiet. Did you have to fill the Silence with any kind of sounds are not inside inside. I have the radio as my main companion. I listen to audiobooks. I've been listening to audiobooks for

23:10 Over 40 years. I mean they are wonderful. You go through so many topics ordinarily, you wouldn't, if you're just buying a book because like I said at the beginning, there were few topics that were available as audiobooks. And again, if I needed to be with a friend, I just reach out and make plans to see somebody.

23:35 For however, long it is. So that's was not a big, it was not bad.

23:43 I did, I didn't want to mention something about the

23:47 Walking, I would not walk on, I would not go into areas that were.

23:54 I wouldn't go downtown.

23:57 Unless I had to get to a destination, which made me walk the distance because there's something very sad about business areas that are not functioning. I didn't need those reminders. My preferences were, it was to go where there is something that's living. So in a green guy, sounds normal, you know, sometimes with friends, I would walk, I would walk with a friend every now and then again with the with our masks, on the course we respect.

24:35 What's the weather in this area to do?

24:39 It sounds as though, you're very aware of the disruption to other people's work lives. As you said your business or commercial parts of the city.

24:51 In your case, did the time that we spent on give you any new ideas or encourage you to develop any new skills.

25:08 Let's say, mental skills, emotional skills.

25:16 Kills kills. Not being dependent and I don't know if that's a skilled but finding that you really could alter so much about yourself. If you want to just have a good still life without waiting for waiting for something to happen. Just waiting waiting is a horrible thing.

25:40 But the thing with the businesses, you can't escape that sometimes just walking by so many of the businesses that were not functioning.

25:48 Like I said, subjectively those painful, you know, it it really

25:54 And I'm not one to do a lot of shopping or eating out. So even though you try to help him some respect. It's a small contribution, but you know it like I said, it was a painful reminder. So you just try to be decent when you see people, you know, do whatever you can.

26:17 Did you participate in any other groups art projects? I know that folks have had to learn to do virtual exhibit and sometimes even performances were you pulled into any projects like that?

26:39 Actually, during all the time. I was only in one Zoom situation meeting. I will admit I'm not crazy about technology. Sorry best, but I realize that it helps. It's just so it sucks. So much a different kind of energy out of me that mess, and I wasn't rude to say Pastor in the whole period of time and surprisingly the one of the exhibit, the opening was right as the covid had started. So there wasn't that friend to, you know, no access to people. But even though it opened, then they still had to impose the restrictive. People coming in with masks and the second exhibit was that woman made Gallery, which was even though they had an opening for say it was and people could come.

27:37 It was.

27:39 You know, rent a little lonely. I mean people could come but you're only like 3 people at a time or something. That's sort. So that was the extent of my participation in exhibits. I could see. I'm trying to think if I was involved in any other kind of exhibits.

27:59 I did not guess I didn't enter anything cuz it doesn't have the kind of appeal for me. You know, I'm a tactile person, you know, even though you're not allowed to touch things on the walls.

28:11 You can touch my pieces on the walls. But, you know, I just like to do things there and that in person. So

28:21 Are you making anything with the understanding that people need to have that tactile experience again? Have you been inspired in your work to create something? To celebrate the fact that we can be together again. Best case because the piece behind me, took me 5 months to do.

28:49 And it was because I was in a bit of a state of concern or any kind of a

28:58 Ordinarily, when I do a tapestry, and they'll be normally on the big room.

29:06 I am excited about the imagery. I did not, I was not able to come up with an imagery that motivated me enough.

29:16 That I could sit at the loom for over 5 months and just excitedly. Just keep them coming back. Now, when I send image, it had to be an image that especially if you wanted it to be significant. I just couldn't come up with anything that wasn't a title.

29:41 It still didn't say anything about me. You know, it's almost artificial. So the piece behind me was a piece that I would return to sometimes when I am at a fellow. It's just something I could do without too much thought or you know, there's no storyline there.

30:03 I'm not thinking about which color goes together. No, all colors, go together. But this thing for me, just, you know, to be active, you know, to be have worked actually. And when I run out of work, that was the end of it.

30:20 And the Yarns I would just use all the Yarns. Well, I got a lot of yard, but Giants more readily. So I can concentrate on the colors to use. Now the feast that I will be working on starting.

30:34 That has a purpose, you know, and if I had had that in mind sooner, I could have answered your question differently, but

30:48 Anyways, cuz sometimes people do come with particular.

30:54 I'm part of us save the world, kind of a project Mouse, save the wreath, save the forests and all of that. I've been asked to do a tapestry for that. So that's what I'll be working on next on a tree.

31:09 And the tree you said because I look kind of what kind of tree what will ride.

31:22 I mean forests for what purpose is set around, you know the wrong reasons. So I chose a very simple statement that's going to be in part of the tapestry once upon a time. There was a tree.

31:37 And then I'm going to have the graphic again, very simple to go with it. So that's what I'm going to be working on. The covid virus is in some respects connected to the forests and deforestation. As we cut down the trees and live closer to the animals, the wild life, literally wild. They can transfer their illnesses to us and we make them vulnerable intern. So this is an interesting thing to consider when we Embrace preserving trees. In some respects. We're taking responsibility for the virus and our way of life that creates it.

32:28 Well, I agree with all of that.

32:33 And again, while I cannot.

32:36 Speak as you do, you know? But I, I participate in that whole notion. Yes, and that's why I was at the tree so often.

32:51 So do you consider this project? The saving the forest project your gift, your homecoming presents to the people, you love to the world that you love? Well, it's something I can do and that's what I will do, you know, and I just hope that I got this, a lot of gifts, all different sizes shapes, and forms and cetera. So, for now, that's what I can do and I'll give it to them, you know, if they can benefit from that with this tapestry, once I finish it, God will. Because I don't, you know, like I said, I can give him a tapestry.

33:31 And then they can do with it what they want with it. So yes.

33:37 Annie lalla. Are there any last thoughts that you want to share or things you think? Other people will be part of this interview should answer. There's something, I haven't asked that you think is important. That is a hard question. No, I don't think that's what I mean. I wish I could. But I would. Like I said, I feel very comfortable in you with you and trusting you and your questions. You come to the question sooner than I do you do after you asked a question, says yes, you're right. I agree with it. So, yes, I, I defer to that. So,

34:18 I do have one more question, but it feels a little bit out of place. You have a tapestry behind you that you referred to several times and maybe with a photograph that will be part of archiving this interview. Someone will have a chance to see it. I'm not sure. Are you comfortable? Describing that tapestry because I can see it.

34:44 How would you as an artist describe the tapestry that frames your face for me right now will briefly when I sent this tapestry. We could go to friends of mine cuz I finished it around a week ago and they mentioned it. Lila. Is this? Your what is this? Something like a description of you or your profile? And I said, you're right. It is because this is something I returned to when I need to do it. Plus the fact, when I mention about colors of my mother, my mother in German broidery. She left me with a lot of them for Iris and I try to incorporate them in the tapestry. So but I'm not going to embroidery but this is basically the intersection, you know, they intersected cuz that's how a weaving is done. So yeah, this is part of my identity behind me and I I'd be happy to take that as my

35:43 New status, my so-called profiler portrait instead of my face. So yes and my foot and just briefly my father was a poet. So the lines of the lines of you know, and you love trees. So if you look at a tree looking at it, the trunk. And if you turn this thing on its side, that's you know, what? The bark of a tree. So, whatever it's called. Yes, my identity is in that piece like yourself. Do you connected with today's lingo? Your icon?

36:28 Talk to some of that.

36:31 Angela, it's been a real pleasure to have this time and even more to be able to email with you and chat with you, over the phone and troubleshoot with you. Because this is enriching, you know, for me because you've got different time schedules than I do, you know, so that you responded, whenever I had my going crazy time, especially with out this morning that I wrote to you. Yes, and I have the answers to your questions. Caribfest. I'll tell you them. I'll tell you them later. So there are lots more opportunities to do story. And so, thank you so much for today. And please stay healthy and stay stay creative because it is who you are.

37:31 Like I said, people need to keep doing, you know, there's so much doings. Are we done?