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    The following taken from the forward to "Khto my, Lemki…" (Who are we, Lemkos… -wm) by Ivan Krasovskiy & Dmitro Solinko, Lviv 1991. http://lemko.org/lih/whoarewe.html

    Translated from Ukrainian by Walter Maksimovich. (C)1996 Walter Maksimovich The specific electronic form of this file is copyrighted. This file may not be sold.

    Thunderous events, which are taking place in Eastern Europe, Soviet Union, separately in Ukraine, gave birth to a new moment in rebirth of democracy, and reawakening of national conscience of entire nations, and of separate groups and entities. This process has also touched residents of former western Carpathian Mountains – Lemkos, scattered all over the world.

    As a result of historical developments, ethnographic territory populated by Lemkos, also after World War II, found itself divided among three nations. The Galician part of Lemkivshchyna became part of Poland. This is a hilly swath of land of south-eastern Poland that starts at Salinka and San/Syan rivers in the east, to where river Solyanka meets Poprad in the west. Southern part of Lemkivshchyna became part of the Slovak Rep.
    This is a hilly stretch of land that starts at the Ukrainian border, to river Poprad. Part of southern Lemkivshchyna has become part of Zakarpatska Oblast (district of Ukraine – wm) This "triangle" from the village of Uzhok (in the north) and the town of Uzhhorod (in the south), to the river Borzhava in the east. It reaches counties of VelikoBerezyani and Perechini, and partially Slavyavski, Irshava, Mukhachevo and Uzhhorod.

    Already in the middle of the 18-th century, numerous Lemko families from Priashev district and the Galician part of Lemkivshchyna, resorted to find a better fate in Yugoslavia. United into various "ruthenian" centers, they continued to develop their ancient traditions. Since 1990, emigrants from Lemkivshchyna belong to a single organization, Union of Ruthenians of Yugoslavia.

    During the second half of the 19-th century, a wave of mass emigration to the United States and Canada swept over Lemkivshchyna. Over there Lemko united themselves at first into general Ukrainian organizations, to be followed by their own, regional ones. One of the first Lemko organizations became "Lemko-Soyuz" (1929). This organization declared Lemkos to be "Carpatho-Ruthenians" ("carpatho-ruthenians", "hungaro-ruthenians", "slovak-ruthenians" names were artificial labels created in the second half of the 19-th century). The conservative-separatist policy of "Lemko-Soyuz" contributed to its downfall in the 80-ties. In the U.S. active are The World Federation of Lemkos, Organization for the Defense of Lemkivshchyna (1936), and in Canada exists Union? of Canadian Lemkos. All of them have pro-Ukrainian leanings.

    Especially tragic was the fate of Lemkos from Western Galicia (Poland) after World War II. Former and latter governments of Poland were not interested in cultural and national aspirations of non-Polish national minorities. If until now nothing has been successfully done with the "stubborn Ruthenians", then the Stalinist experience of deporting whole nations, and of their destruction, has assisted Polish nationalistic authorities to square accounts with their neighbors by birth, regardless of the fact, that Lemkos always met Poles with a feeling of respect and friendship.

    Between 1944 – 1946, a majority of Lemkos (over 200,000) was deported from Poland to Ukraine. Even worse fate met those Lemkos who remained on their native soil (they amounted at the time to approximately 140,000). In the spring of 1947, the Polish government began the so called action "Wisla" (Wisla, from the name of Poland's main river, Vistula-wm). With assistance of the army and police units, Lemkos were forcefully chased out of their native lands. With the aim of quick assimilation, they were scattered in small groups over (former German – wm) western and northern parts of Poland. Expected destruction of Lemkos, expected by the Polish authorities did not materialize. In 1956 they united themselves around Ukrainian Socio-Cultural Society (USKT). However the Polish ruling circles were not interested in uniting of Lemkos with the Ukrainian population of Poland. Constant threats, limited by-laws of USKT, and luck of fulfillment of even minutest legal demands, eventually steered some Lemkos away from USKT and Ukrainian problems. In order to exacerbate this process in Poland, the name of Lemko "carpatho-ruthenians" was popularized, with proposals to accept it as a national-ethnographic name. Other Polish journalists attempted to convince Lemkos: "You are not Ukrainians, not Ruthenians, you are – Lemkos". To no ones surprise, this false idea has found fertile soil. In 1989, in Legnitsa, Society of Lemkos was created. Its leaders recognize the name "Lemko" only. Union of the Lemkos of Poland, created in 1990, allows Lemkos to call themselves as they themselves wish, but recommends to reach unity and to jointly pursue new developments of regional culture.

    In the Slovak Republic, majority of Lemkos call themselves Ruthenians, but do not isolate themselves from the Ukrainian nation. A group exists, which considers itself a separate "nation of Ruthenians". A small group of Lemkos has declared itself to be Slovaks.

    About half of the Lemkos reside in Ukraine. These are the deportees from Poland, but also permanent ones, former inhabitants of certain regions of Zakarpatski district. Basically all Lemkos are aware, that they are part of the Ukrainian nation, and just certain individuals in Zakarpatski district, and the emigrants, support the idea of "Carpatho-Ruthenian" nation.

    Even though separate ethnographic distinction of Lemkos gradually assimilate and disappear, (language, traditional garb, national architecture, ways of farming land, regional industries), the time has come for a joint scientific investigative and cultural work, that would deal with Lemko customs and culture.

    One can no longer delay the need for uniting of Lemkos, in the path of combined efforts into a single stream of undertakings for restoration of their history, learning and development of their unique cultural traditions, and it is unavoidable to conclude nonsensical internal arguments, and to at last enlighten all, whose parents children we are, compelled us to prepare this booklet, and in a limited manner reply to a question Who are we, Lemkos?

    In order to give the reader, from the beginning, an objective orientation (on this subject – wm), we decided to cite from most helpful and many sided sources – various encyclopedias, What do they say about us? Let's start with the Polish ones. In "The Large General Encyclopedia" (v. 43-44, Warsaw, 1910, pg. 190) one reads: "Lemkos, or as they call themselves "Rusnaki" (Ruthenians – wm) – a branch of Ruthenian hillbillies (gurale), so named in conjunction with their partial use of the word "lem", meaning "only". Inhabit northern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains. Their villages stretch from river Poprad, eastwards through counties of Noviy Sanch, Hrabiv, Horlitse, Yaslo, and Korosno, and inhabit a swath of land from the mountain border running north about 20 – 30 km, and in the length of about 100 km ….".

    "The Illustrated Encyclopedia" (Pshatski, Everta, Mikhalski, v. 3, 1927) declares "Lemkos – a group of mountain people, who inhabit northern slopes of the Carpathians, from Poprad river to Ivanich and Rimaniv. Altogether they amount to about 100,000 persons. Their name originates from a word "lem" or "lyem" – for "just", "only".

    This issue is similarly treated by "The General Encyclopedia", published in 1934 in Warsaw: "Lemkos- Ruthenian hill people (hillbillies), who reside on the so called Lemkivshchyna in Western Malopolska, on the northern slopes of the western and middle Beskid mountains. In the west their villages cross slightly over river Poprad, in the north they approach Hrabiv, Gorlitse, and Yaslo, in the east they reach Dukla mountain Pass" pg's. 666-7.

    Lemkos – one of the branches of Ruthenian mountain people in the Carpathians, to the east of Poprad river till the Dukla Pass "declares" General Illustrated Encyclopedia, published in 1937 in Warsaw. "The Large Contemporary Encyclopedia" (National Scientific Publishers, Warsaw, 1965, v. 6, pg. 697) states that "Lemkos, their own name Rusnaki (Ruthenians -wm) (ethnographic name – ik and ds), term used in literature since the late 19-th century. This is a name for the Ruthenian nationality, who lived until 1945, in the lower Beskid mountains, from Dukla Pass to river Poprad".

    And finally "The General Encyclopedia (Povshekhna)" (v. 2, Warsaw, 1974) also states that "Lemkos, their own term Rusnaki (Ruthenians – wm) – Ruthenian people, who until 1945 inhabited Lower Beskid. In connection with UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army – wm) activity in the cited territory, after 1945 repatriated to Vrotslav, Shchetsin, Olshtin and Koshaleen districts".

    We cite appropriate references of two Chekhoslovak published encyclopedias. "Encyclopedic Illustrated Dictionary", v. 2, (Chekhoslovak Academy of Sciences, 1981), thinks that "Lemkos – ethnographic group of Ukrainian people in the Carpathians, between Syan and Poprad rivers, and west of Uzh river". "The Small Czechoslovak Encyclopedia" (v. 3, 1986) cites identical definition: "Lemkos – etnographic Ukrainian group in the Carpathians, between Syan and Poprad rivers, and west of river Uzh" (pg. 762).

    Definitions from Ukrainian encyclopedic publications are just about identical, for example "The Dictionary of Ukrainian Language" by B. Hrichenko (v. 2, Kyiv, 1908) defines "Lemak – a name for Little Russians, that live in Hungary, resident of the valleys of Beskid"; "Lemachka – a Little Russian woman of Hungary, resident of the valleys of Beskid". (These definitions apply only to Trans-Carpathian Lemkos – Lemaks). "Lemko – Galician Little Russian, inhabitant of Lemkivshchyna" (pg's. 354 – 5).

    "The Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedia" (URE, v. 8, Kyiv, 1962): "Lemkos – etnographic group of Ukrainians, who for a long time inhabited both slopes of Eastern Beskids (in the Carpathians, between small rivers of Syan and Poprad, westwards from Uzh river)…". Similar definition one finds in the "Soviet Encyclopedia of Ukrainian History", (v. 2, Kyiv, 1970), in "Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedic Dictionary" (v. 2, Kyiv, 1987) and others.

    Let's cite two more authoritative Russian encyclopedic publications, them being: "Large Encyclopedia" (v. 12, St. Peterburg, 1903): "Lemkos….Ruthenian inhabitants of western Beskids (Carpathians), uniates (Ukrainian Catholics – wm). Their language is a combination of Ruthenian language, with Polish and Slovak words".

    "Small Soviet Encyclopedia" (v. 6, Moscow, 1937): "Lemkos – one of Carpathian branches of the Ukrainian people. Population – 250,000. Inhabit western Ukraine (Poland), Carpathian Mountains, on both slopes of the Carpathian peaks, and in Zakarpatska Ukraine…."

    That Lemkos (Lemken) – inhabitants of western Carpathians, and belong to the Ukrainian people, writes "Der Grosse Brokhaus", Munich, 1955).

    Similar conclusions come from other publications, and to further cite them is unnecessary. We won't accuse authors of different viewpoints in lack of knowledge of exact ethnographic dividing lines for Lemko inhabitants, and exact population counts. What's important is this: all encyclopedias state, that Lemkos are a part of the Ukrainian people. And only publications until now, without any sympathy towards the term "Ukrainian", continue to use the old name "Rusiny", However, this after all does not change the situation.

    It would appear, that everything is well understood. But why use different national names for labeling of Lemkos, whether by their neighbors, or amongst Lemkos themselves?

    In order to clarify this question, let's turn to history, and take a short trip into the past.

    While writing this book, we utilized archival material, historical and literary published resources, periodicals, and our own experiences and observations.



    More great info.

    The Lemko Rusyns: Their Past and Present (Part 1): http://www.carpatho-rusyn.org/lemkos/lemkos.htm
    The Lemko Rusyns: Their Past and Present (Part 2): http://www.carpatho-rusyn.org/lemkos/lemkos2.htm

    I'd post it directly, but it was posted on this site with permission so I don't want to upset anyone. This info is quite old, though. It was published in 1987.



    Lemkos (http://www.rusyn.org/ethlemkos.html) — the farthest western ethnographic group of Carpatho-Rusyns. The territory they inhabit consists of a triangular wedge jutting into West Slavic settlement, with *Poles to the north and *Slovaks to the south. The base of the triangular wedge is formed by the valleys of the Oslawa and Laborec rivers, while its apex reaches as far as the Poprad river valley. Some authors extend the eastern boundary of Lemkos almost as far as the San River and the upper Uzh River and its Turia tributary in Subcarpathian Rus’/Transcarpathia (see Map 3). The farthest western Lemko-Rusyn village is Osturna, at the foot of the Tatra Mountains on the southern flank of the Carpathian crests. The triangular wedge is about 150 kilometers long on its west-east axis and about 60 kilometers long at its north-south base. In terms of present-day administrative borders, the lands traditionally inhabited by Lemko Rusyns comprise the southern part of the Podkarpackie and the southeastern corner of the Malopolskie palatinates (wojewodztwa) in Poland, and the northern parts of the Stara L’ubovna, Bardejov, Svidnik, Stropkov, Medzilaborce, Humenne, and Snina districts (okresy) in Slovakia. Elsewhere in this encyclopedia Rusyn-inhabited lands in present-day Poland are referred to as the *Lemko Region, and in Slovakia as the *Presov Region.

    The northern flank of the triangle follows a line just below of the towns of Grybow, Gorlice, Zmigrod, Dukla, and Rymanow in Poland. This invisible line has traditionally functioned as a sharply delineated ethnocultural boundary between Lemko Rusyns and Poles. Completely different is the situation along the southern flank of the triangular wedge, where traditionally the boundary has not only been invisible, but also quite uneven and permeable. One reason for this difference has to do with language and religious factors. For instance, on the southern slopes of the Carpathians the “Rus’ faith” is common to inhabitants who still speak Rusyn as well as those who adopted Slovak or Hungarian.

    The ethnonym Lemko is externally ascriptive in character. That is to say, because the population uses the word lem (meaning only) in their speech—a word not used by nearby ethnographic groups—their neighbors ascribed to them the nickname Lemko. This name was first mentioned in the scholarly literature in 1820 and gradually became accepted by many authors. By the early twentieth century the Rusyns living on the northern slopes of the Carpathians had given up their traditional ethnonym, Rusnak, for the name Lemko. South of the Carpathians, however, they retained the ethnonym Rusnak, or its variant, Rusyn. As the Rusnaks north of the mountains adopted the new name Lemko, they also evolved from an ethnographic to an ethnonational group. In this entry, the Rusyn inhabitants north of the Carpathians (in the Lemko Region proper) will be referred to as Lemkos, those on the southern slopes (in the Presov Region) as Rusnaks. As a whole, the population will be referred to as Lemkos/Rusnaks, their territory as the Lemko/Presov Region.

    During the interwar years of the twentieth century there were in the Lemko Region of Poland about 180 villages inhabited exclusively by Lemkos and a few dozen others of mixed Lemko/Polish habitation, for a total Lemko-Rusyn population of about 130,000 (1931). On the southern slopes of the Carpathians in Slovakia there were at the outset of the period (1919) 269 villages in the mountainous regions and another 149 villages in the immediately adjacent areas to the south and southwest. Of this total of 418 villages, 103 were inhabited primarily by Rusyns, 54 by Rusyns with a Slovak minority, and 7 by Slovaks with a Rusyn minority. In absolute numbers, 85,000 persons in eastern Slovakia declared their nationality as Rusyn (1930), although it is likely that several thousand more identified themselves as “Czechoslovak.” By the 1930s the majority of the Lemko/Rusnak population was of the Greek Catholic faith, with about 15 percent (20,000) Orthodox in Poland and 9 percent (9,000) in Slovakia.

    There is still controversy about the ethnogenesis of this farthest western Rusyn ethnographic group. Some authors consider Lemkos/Rusnaks the autochthonous inhabitants in the Carpathians, living in the region (once much larger in extent than it became in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries) since proto-Slavic times. Other authors argue that Lemkos/Rusnaks made their appearance only in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, as when Vlach shepherds migrated from the Balkans and settled in the Beskyd ranges of the Carpathians, where for the most part they were rusynized (see Vlach colonization).

    Traditionally, Lemkos/Rusnaks earned their livelihood primarily through agriculture, but also through raising goats, sheep, and cows. Agricultural productivity always remained underdeveloped, however, owing in large part to the harsh mountain climate, poor soil, and antiquated farming techniques. Aside from the main crops, oats and barley, potatoes, kohlrabi, cabbage, beans, and flax were also sown. Livestock breeding was not very well developed; most households had only from two to at most a dozen cows that grazed all year long in the common pasture land (toloka).

    Other means of livelihood were limited. A few villages specialized in small-scale crafts, while some Lemkos/Rusnaks worked in the forests and may have tried their hand at retail commerce. The products they made were based on accessible materials such as wood and stone. The forest was particularly important. Women picked mushrooms and berries, which they sold in the nearby small towns, while men felled trees, sold as uncut logs or cut into lumber. Some villages were noted for crafts such as wagon-making, metal-repairing, barrel-making, embroidery, stone-cutting, and tar-making. The village of Losie near Gorlice was particularly renowned for the production of grease. Losie’s grease merchants were the most mobile element among the Lemkos, in some cases traveling on their wagons as far as Lithuania, Russia, Silesia, Moravia, and Transylvania.

    Lemkos/Rusnaks also found employment as seasonal workers in the more agriculturally developed lands to the south, especially the Hungarian Plain. Beginning in the 1870s, increasing numbers emigrated abroad, in particular to the United States but also to Canada and Brazil. The phenomenon of emigration resulted in improved economic conditions for Lemko/Rusnak villages; it also had a positive impact on national self-identity and changes in cultural and civic life.

    Lemko/Rusnak culture has been heavily influenced by Poles and Slovaks, although at the same time it has retained archaic elements that have disappeared among neighboring groups. In comparison to other Rusyn ethnographic groups (*Dolyniane and in part *Boikos/Verkhovyntsi), and in particular to their neighbors to the north and south, a number of cultural characteristics allow Lemkos/Rusnaks to differentiate “their own” from “the others.” Among the most important of these differentiating factors is the manner of laying out villages and the spatial plan for domestic dwellings and property. Village houses were arranged in the form of a long chain along a river or brook. Also part of this spatial plan were the so-called arable lands in the forest, located halfway down the valley from the village. The Lemko/Rusnak homestead more often than not consisted of a single dwelling built in wood and divided into two parts. Roofs initially had four slopes, but subsequently only two slopes with eaves covered with straw or shingles. The living quarters had walls of wooden planks. Villages inhabited by Lemkos/Rusnaks were also distinguishable by the presence of Lemko-style wooden churches (see Architecture).

    Another important element differentiating Lemkos/Rusnaks from other groups and contributing to their self-identification as a distinct group was their language (see Language). Clothing too was distinctive male dress consisted of a white linen shirt, linen (summer) or woolen (winter) pants, a white or light blue vest, and a short jacket made of homespun wool. Of particular importance was the heavy mantle or cloak (chuha), swung over the shoulders, which was worn by the gazda (peasant landowner) as a distinguishing badge from other people in the village. All men wore a black hat (kalap) with a short brim. Female dress consisted of an undershirt (oplicha), a blouse (koshelia) decorated with beads in an embroidery-like design, over which was worn a black velvet (or more likely linen) corset-like vest decorated with silver-threaded embroidery patterns resembling plants, a pleated skirt with decorated base, and an apron with horizontal decorative strips sewn on. In the winter women wore a coarse woolen vest (serdak/laibyk) or a heavy white sheepskin coat. Married women covered their heads with a small close-fitting cap (chepets) over which was worn a shawl (khustka) or simply a kerchief (khustka/fatselyk) directly on the head. Unmarried girls wore a necklace with small beads. Male and female footwear consisted of leather moccasins and in the winter high boots.

    Lemko/Rusnak spiritual culture, with its religious beliefs, customs, and rituals, continues to reflect archaic and pagan elements mixed with later features from both Eastern and Western Christianity. Still evident are traces of primitive cults based on belief in the forces of nature, according to which the world is filled with supernatural beings that take the dreaded form of forest spirits and spirits to punish wrongdoers, as well as the unbaptised, masked demons, devils, and vampires. These beings were thought likely to be encountered at crossroads, in cemeteries, and in old mills. Shepherds usually knew how to neutralize their evil powers.

    The unity and integrity of Lemko/Rusnak ethnographic territory was destroyed during the twentieth century. After World War I the establishment of an international border between the new states of Poland and Czechoslovakia reduced the ease with which Lemkos and Rusnaks on both sides of the mountain crests had interacted when the entire region lay within one state, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the close of World War II the Lemkos on the northern slopes of the Carpathians were, between 1945 and 1947, deported from their homeland. About 70 percent went to the Soviet Ukraine, the remaining 30 percent to those parts of Poland inhabited by Germans (also deported after the war), in particular Silesia in the southwestern part of the country. A smaller number of Rusnaks from south of the Carpathians (about 12,000) opted voluntarily to leave northeastern Slovakia and were also resettled in the Soviet Ukraine. After 1956 an estimated 10 percent of the deportees from “the West” (i.e., western Poland) returned to their native Carpathian region, while nearly all the Rusnaks from the southern slopes who had opted for the Soviet Ukraine returned to Czechoslovakia (see Lemko population resettlement; Optanty).

    Despite the historical and cultural changes that have occurred over the centuries, most Lemkos in Poland and Rusnaks in Slovakia continue to be aware of the ethnographic and ethno-national unity of their homeland on the northern (Lemko Region) and southern (Presov Region) slopes of the Carpathians.

    Bibliography: Jan Husek, Narodopisna hranice mezi Slovaky a Karpatorusy (Bratislava, 1925); Ivan Bugera, Zvychai ta viruvannia na Lemkivshchyni (Lviv, 1939); Roman Reinfuss, “Lemkowie jako grupa etnograficzna,” Prace i materialy etnograficzne, VII (Lublin, 1948-49), pp. 77-210—and separately (Sanok, 1998); Roman Reinfuss, “Ze studiow nad kultura Lemkowszczyzny po obu stronach Karpat,” Polska Sztuka Ludowa, XX, 1 (Warsaw, 1966), pp. 3-22; Myroslav Sopolyha, Narodne zhytlo ukraintsiv Skhidnoi Slovachchyny (Bratislava and Presov, 1983); Jan Podolak et al., Horna Cirocha (Kosice and Humenne, 1985); Bohdan Strumins’kyi, ed., Lemkivshchyna: zemlia—liudy—istoriia—kul’tura, 2 vols. (New York, Paris, Sydney, and Toronto, 1988); Roman Reinfuss, Sladami Lemkow (Warsaw, 1990); Jerzy Czajkowski, ed., Lemkowie w historii i kulturze Karpat, 2 vols. (Sanok, 1992-94); Iurii Hoshko, ed., Lemkivshchyna, Vol. I: material’na kul’tura (Lviv, 1999).

    Helena Duc-Fajfer

    Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.

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