Ukrainians don embroidered shirts to show unity

Mariupol (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukrainians led by President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday donned the country's traditional embroidered dress -- a yearly celebration that has become a manifestation of national identity and unity.

On a visit to an EU-Eastern Partnership in Riga, Poroshenko was photographed wearing a colourful folk-style shirt for "Vyshyvanka Day", named after the national clothing, while Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko wore an embroidered dress.

Many members of parliament sported similar traditional garments during Thursday's session, as did thousands of other Ukrainians, according to AFP journalists.

"It fills me with joy to see Ukrainians, large and small, joyfully wearing this national garment. For us, it is our pride and a symbol of our homeland," Jaresko said on her Facebook page.

In Mariupol, the last major city in war-torn eastern Ukraine that is still under control of Kiev, more than 200 people gathered wearing the traditional clothing.

"Being a Ukrainian patriot is much harder in Mariupol than Kiev or Kharkiv," said Natalia Tioukhay, a 57-year-old librarian, referring to the proximity of her town to rebel territory.

The day of the "vyshyvanka" created a buzz on social networks, which were full of photographs of Ukrainians wearing the garments at home and abroad.

The Ukrainian embassy to the Vatican even announced on Twitter having offered such attire to the pope.

Members of the Canadian embassy in Kiev as well as the UN Refugee Agency also posted group photos in embroidered shirts on their Facebook pages.

The day is not an official holiday in Ukraine, but it is increasingly celebrated amid rising patriotism since mass protests last year ousted a pro-Russian president and triggered a pro-Moscow insurgency in the east.

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