Cheri Sheridan saw in a historian’s research on Ryah Ludins, the woman who painted the wooden mural at the Cortland Post Office, that she was “born in Russia.”
Is she really from Russia, the Cortlandville woman said during Bob Rightmire’s review of the New York artist?
Sheridan’s grandparents came to Cortland from the Ukraine in the early 1900s. But they were called Russians.
“That’s what they always called us, when we’re not Russian,” Sheridan said.
Ukraine may have been under Russian control at one time, but that didn’t mean the Ukrainian people were Russian, Sheridan said.
And then Sheridan saw in a Wikipedia article on Ludins that she was born in Mariupol – the war-torn city in Ukraine defeated by Vladimir Putin’s invasion this year.
Now Sheridan has several ties to Ludins, who lived from 1896 to 1957. Both are women artists, printers and teachers and both have Ukrainian heritage.
Sheridan, of Cortlandville, a retired junior high school art teacher, is a printer, dyer and fine quilter. She is a granddaughter of Ukrainian immigrants.
Ludins was a muralist, painter, engraver and art teacher. She produced the mural for the Cortland Post Office called the “Valley of the Seven Hills” in 1943, which depicts Native Americans hunting in the hills of the area, on foot and by canoe, with deer and geese. flying. It is a 7 foot by 16 foot wooden relief. The mural was commissioned by the federal government’s Works Progress Administration series.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, the depth, the color,” Sheridan said. “She came here and researched the area when she applied for the WPA.”
Bob Rightmire, a graduating class from Cortland High in 1960 and a friend of Sheridan, researched the artist after seeing the Ludins’ mural at the Cortland Post Office as an adult.
Sheridan said her husband, the late Chuck Sheridan, owner of Sheridan’s Jewellers, and Rightmire were friends.
They hauled tables together at Johnny’s Diner, near Doug’s Fish Fry’s current location, Sheridan said. Bob and his wife were antique dealers and loved going to Bouckville. The Sheridans were also antique dealers.
“He just died on Thanksgiving,” Sheridan said of Rightmire. “He was a very good researcher.”
Rightmire was a 30-year-old former history teacher, art enthusiast and art writer, who retired to Oneonta after teaching on Long Island. He saw the Cortland Post Office mural as a grown man, not paying attention to it in his youth, and became obsessed with the Ludins. He went on a tear to find out more about her. He found evidence of 11 murals of Ludins across the country. Only two survived, one in Cortland and the other in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, post office.
“It’s a treasure, truly a treasure,” Sheridan said.
Rightmire, who created a Ludins exhibit at the Cortland Free Library years ago, said Ludins worked on a mural in Mexico, on scaffolding wearing pants in the 1930s. that she is wearing a skirt. She refused. A six-month stalemate ensued. She wouldn’t wear a skirt. Eventually, Mexican officials relented and she continued.
Rightmire’s notes are now held at the Cortland County Historical Society. Tabitha Scoville, director, said the material also includes an artwork and a copy of a children’s book she wrote.
“I think it’s pretty cool that he thought she was relevant to do that,” Scoville said.
Last month, the company took a walking tour of downtown and added the Cortland Post Office to the itinerary to see the mural up close. “I didn’t realize it was three-dimensional,” she said.
Sheridan’s grandfather, Harry Wereshak, came to Cortland from the Ukraine in 1912 with a piece of paper that read, “Cortland, NY, Wickwire’s.”
He moved to Mrs. Romenko’s boarding house, south of Main Street in Cortland, currently the huge yellow building a doorway from Ivan’s bar. “She’s long gone,” Sheridan said. “My grandmother (Daria Osadchey) came in 1916, with her brothers from a village near Kherson, an industrial zone on the river. It is one of the first places where Putin arrived and took power, to close access to the Black Sea.
Her grandparents met at boarding school and married a few years later, she said. The couple worked at Wickwire. Her grandmother was weaving wire mesh and her hands were very rough. She would put lotion on it at night and be ready to go the next day.
Sheridan said Ukraine fought so hard to be independent. Its inhabitants are hard workers and kind people. But they won’t allow Putin (to take over without a fight). “When I saw Wickipedia said she was from Mariupol!” Sheridan said.
“I know how hard Bob worked on this (research). It’s all now in our Cortland Historical Society, in a box over there.
Rightmire’s wife, Vicki, donated it to the society. “He belongs here. It’s part of our history,” Sheridan said. Today, she watches Putin’s war in Ukraine closely.
“No matter what he does, we will never be Russian. No matter how much he destroys,” she said.