Of Easter Eggs and...Bunnies??
Baba and Mama worked hard cleaning and baking, while the
little boy watched. Illya wanted to help but, was
shooed away as the women continued to work. In two days it would be Easter.
Although officially atheist, Easter was still celebrated in the Kuryakin household every year as it was in many Soviet
homes with the traditional foods and colored eggs.
Napoleon entered the office he shared with Illya to find his partner smiling slightly.
"Are you ready for this weekend?" he asked, breaking into Illya's thoughts.
"Yes, I am. Are you sure your family will not mind a
stranger at their celebration?" Illy asked hesitantly. He had been in the U.S. only a year and
assigned as Napoleon Solo's partner for six months.
"Hey, no problem at all. There's
always a houseful on the holidays. My mother loves to cook and especially loves
having all of us around."
"But I am not family."
"Even better, Mom always said if you could do something for
a stranger for Easter, the family received more blessings during the rest of
the year." He grinned at his partner. "She'll love having you there. You may
get lots of questions about how you celebrate Easter."
Illya nodded; he had accepted the
invitation but was still not sure it was going to be a good idea. He knew
nothing about Western Easter and did not want to look foolish or to offend.
War had come to the small town where the Kuryakin
family lived. Times were hard and Easter eggs and special cakes were a thing of
the past. As the family was moved around
by both the Germans and the government, Illya managed
to hold on to two very precious eggs that his grandmother and mother had made
The eggs now lay in a wooden box filled with cotton. He
gently took each one out of its wrapping and held it in his hand. Baba had died
during the war and his mother had not painted eggs again until the war was over
and they had settled again in Kiev. He had not saved any of the later eggs. In
his child's mind, the war was over and they would have painted eggs forever.
Illya put the eggs back into their
box and lay the cotton over them, then he put the box
back on the closet shelf where it always stayed. He heard a coded knock on his
front door and went to let his partner in. They would be leaving soon.
Napoleon stood outside Illya's
door holding two very large stuffed rabbits with very big bows around their
necks. Illya stared at the rabbits and then at
"Napoleon," he asked. "Why are you carrying stuffed
"They're for my nieces. They're Easter bunnies," replied
Napoleon. Illya looked at him confused.
"What are Easter bunnies?"
"The Easter Bunny delivers Easter baskets to children on
Easter morning and hides the Easter eggs. Wait a minute, you've never heard of
the Easter Bunny?" Illya shook his head. "No colored
Easter eggs to find?" A second shake of the blond head.
"Do you even celebrate Easter?"
"No, Napoleon. In Ukraine we don't have an Easter Bunny. And yes we celebrate Easter." It was
Napoleon's turn to look confused. Illya motioned him
into the apartment and to a chair. "Wait here for a moment," he said and walked
to the single bedroom.
After a few minutes, Illya came
back into the living room with a wooden box. He sat down across from Napoleon
and opened the box.
"In Ukraine," he began, "the celebration begins during the
week before Easter. The women clean the entire home and begin cooking for
Easter Sunday. They make the Easter cakes and paint eggs, called pysanky. That's what these are." He carefully opened the
box and pulled away the top layer of cotton.
"They're beautiful. Did you make them?" asked Napoleon.
"No, of course not." He picked up
one of the beautifully colored eggs. "This was made by my grandmother." Picking
up the second egg he continued. "And this by my mother.
They were made before the war and were my favorites."
"Will you bring them?" Asked Napoleon.
"I think everyone in my family would love to see them and hear the story behind
them." Illya gently laid the eggs back in the wooden
box and recovered them with the cotton.
"I will bring them. And, you can tell me how it came to be
that a large rabbit delivers Easter baskets."
"It will be my pleasure," replied Napoleon as he stood up. Illya went back to the bedroom to get his bag and joined
Napoleon at the door. "Now, if we don't get going, we won't get a chance to dye
Easter bunnies and eggs were carried carefully to the car
and the two men were off.