The Pocket Museum pays homage to the Ukrainian people

Milo, the Pocket Museum’s curatorial little mouse, has brought a piece of his home country of Ukraine to downtown Hattiesburg.

The new display features hand-painted matryoshkya (nesting dolls) in a range of styles from Disney characters to holiday characters and traditional Ukrainian designs. The collection is on loan from Leann Swafford of Petal. She started collecting the dolls as a student teacher to use in her classrooms.

“Kids loved them because they never knew what the next doll would look like, how many there would be, or how tiny they would get,” Swafford wrote in his display description.

Matryoshkya dolls were first created in 1890 by toymakers Vasily Zvyozdochkin and Sergey Malyutin. They went on to win a bronze medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900 with the design, and the matryoshkya became a national icon of Ukraine.

Traditionally, matryoshkya dolls consist of eight parts – the mother and the seven children – carved from a single piece of wood. The dolls on display vary some of the traditional designs, but are true to the colorful and playful nature of the original.

A plaque in the exhibit reads, “This month’s exhibit is a tribute to the people of Ukraine, Milo’s birthplace, and the artists who sculpted these works.

According to museum officials, Milo immigrated to Hattiesburg from Ukraine in November 2020 to become the museum’s curator.

“Milo and his son, Winslow, traveled together from Ukraine,” said Lisa Conn of the Hattiesburg Convention Center. “The following December, Milo’s wife, Rose, and daughter, Poppy, made the trip to Hattiesburg to join them.”

Milo himself appears at the bottom of the exhibit waving the Ukrainian flag and celebrating his homeland.

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