Bread Memorialized in Ukrainian Consciousness and Behind Four Walls

Bread itself is an object of reverence and hospitality in Ukraine. Recognized for centuries as the “bread basket of Europe” and victimized by Stalin during the Second World War leaving its citizens without grain to make bread, Ukraine’s devotion to bread has found a home in Kiev’s National Bread Museum. Moving exhibits in the museum demonstrate the magnitude of bread’s meaning.

Conceptualized by Lybov Manoryuk, the museum originally catered to the education of school children, many of whom brought bread from their family homes to share with others. Displays of intricate bread loaves record Ukrainian folk traditions. Beautifully decorated round loaves tell stories of good fortune and bad luck. Loaves adorned with a snowball tree portended love and supernatural protection. Others specked with thorns suggest that a marriage may have its ups and downs. One loaf baked over a decade ago with the same ingredients used during the Second World War’s Leningrad Blockade reminds visitors of those lost to war and starvation. Other examples of bread taken into space by the Soviet cosmonauts weigh a mere 4.5 grams each.

Since the museum’s beginning in 1983, Ukrainians and tourists alike have flocked to the museum with numbers topping two million. Ukrainians consider it bad luck to leave the slightest bit of bread on one’s plate as it dooms a person to haunting nightmares. As with so many other Ukrainian traditions, bread is imbued with meaning so be sure to have a piece on your travels whether or not you visit Kyiv’s historical record of bread’s role in the history of Ukraine.