Vera Nakonechny was born in Germany to Ukrainian parents. The family immigrated to Brazil, where she began to learn embroidery from her mother. In 1962, they settled in Philadelphia, home to a large number of people of Ukrainian descent. There, she studied at the Ukrainian Women’s League of America and with artists such as the late Eudokia Sorochaniuk, a 1999 Heritage Fellow.
When Nakonechny was finally able to visit Ukraine in 1991, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, she found that many traditions were being lost. “The Communists really did a disservice,” she told an interviewer. “If you were caught doing things, you were considered a nationalist. Many people got deported for doing their own art. For self-preservation, they didn't teach. Now there is a generation that never got taught.” And even after the ban was lifted, she said, many remained fearful of sharing what they knew. She has since returned a number of times, both to learn and to teach. “Ukraine has twenty-two different techniques of embroidery. In that, there are 200-some stitches," she says. “It's complex.” Aided by apprenticeship grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, which also honored her in 2007 with its Fellowship in Folk Arts, she has studied with masters at Kiev’s National Center of Folk Culture’s Ivan Honchar Museum, where she is an associate, and has sought out elderly women in remote villages to learn from them. At home, she’s recognized as a master teacher and has passed along her knowledge to both her daughters.
Nakonechny is known particularly for her stunning headdresses and her beautiful beadwork, weaving, and embroidery. Her work has been featured in exhibits both in the U.S. and Ukraine. Her honors also include a 2008 Pew Fellowship Award from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage and the 2011 Leeway Foundation Transformational Award.
Crimmins, Peter. “Northeast Philly woman honored by NEA for reviving Ukrainian needlework.” Newsworks, July 3, 2014. http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/arts-culture/69978-northeast-philly-woman-honored-by-nea-for-reviving-ukrainian- folk-art
Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. “Vera Nakonechny, 2008 Pew Fellow, Named NEA National Heritage Fellow.” June 26, 2014. http://www.pcah.us/news/117_vera_nakonechny_2008_pew_fellow_named_nea_national_heritage_fellow
Philadelphia Folklore Project. “Vera Nakonechny.” July 12, 2009. http://www.folkloreproject.org/folkarts/artists/nakonechny_v/index.php
Kadaba, Lini S. “Ukraine’s beautiful heritage.” Philly.com, July 31, 2014. http://articles.philly.com/2014-07- 31/entertainment/52243427_1_folk-artist-national-heritage-fellowships-embroidery
Rearick, Kristie. “Folk artist's show puts focus on Ukrainian headdresses at WheatonArts.” South Jersey Times. September 24, 2014. http://www.nj.com/indulge/index.ssf/2014/09/ukrainian_headdresses_focus_of_wheatonarts_exhibit.html
Vera Nakonechny interviewed by Nicholas R. Spitzer and describing Ukrainian clothing, 2014 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Vera Nakonechny talks about getting involved in the Ukrainian crafts, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014
Vera Nakonechny answers the question 'What are some of the techniques?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014
Vera Nakonechny answers the question 'What are the different kinds of symbolism that exist in Ukrainian embroidery?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014
Vera Nakonechny talks about how prayer can accompany the craftwork, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014
Vera Nakonechny answers the question 'What kinds of costumes do you make?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014
Vera Nakonechny talks about the wedding headpiece, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014
Vera Nakonechny answers the question 'What kind of work did you do?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014
Vera Nakonechny answers the question 'What keeps you going?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014