Fifth Anniversary of the Lemko Association

Special thanks to Susyn Mihalasky for granting special permission to use the following material. This material is copyright © 1995,1996 by Susyn Y. Mihalasky and Karpatska Rus'. Any unauthorized use or links are strictly prohibited

In 1994 the Legnica (Poland) -based Lemko Association (Stovarysynja Lemkiv) celebrated the fifth anniversary of its founding. This pro-Rusyn cultural organization (henceforth referred to as the "Stovarysynja Lemkiv") is probably best known to readers of KR (Karpatska Rus') as organizer and host to the Lemko Vatra "in Exile" (in the Silesian village of Michalow).1 What follows; is an English translation of excerpted remarks published by the Stovarysynja Lemkiv on the occasion of its fifth anniversary.

These remarks are interesting for several reasons: firstly, they are an excellent introduction to the Stovarysynja Lemkiv and its philosophy; secondly, the remarks provide a thorough chronological summary of the activities of the Lemko Association: lastly, the remarks illustrate some of the difficulties facing Lemko Rusyns in Poland today. This is evident, for example, in the painstaking efforts undertaken by the Stovarysynja to demonstrate the "Lemkoness" of its philosophy and activities. This effort is symptomatic of the ideological conflict currently being waged between, pro-Ukrainian and pro-Rusyn ethnonational orientations Poland for the "hearts and minds" of the same small number of unassimilated Lemkos. The Stovarysynja Lemkiv has attempted through its activities and philosophy to stake out its claim as the Lemko organization in Poland most committed to local Lemko culture.

For the benefit of those who may not be so familiar with the current situation of Lemkos in Poland or with Poland itself, brief clarifications are provided in [brackets]; comments in (parenthesis) are part of the original text. Longer clarifications; are provided in endnotes. Surnames, titles and names of institutions are transliterated from the Lemko, with the accompanying English translation used subsequently throughout the text. - Susyn Y. Mihalasky

Greetings to All Lemkos and Their Neighbors!

The Stovarysynja Lemkiv, which is the most locally- and grassroots-based of all organizations currently calling themselves "Lemko, " is this year [1994] celebrating its fifth anniversary. What have we accomplished in these five years?

This article was reprinted from: Karpatska Rus' (Yonkers), March 3, 1995: 1-2.
Translation and commentary by : Susyn Y. Mihalasky


1. The other major Lemko organization in Poland is the pro-Ukrainian Ob ' jednannja Lemkiv (Union of Lemkos). The Ob ' jednannja manages the Ukrainian-oriented Lemko Vatra "in the Homeland" (Zdynia village in the Lemko region). The Lemko Association (Stovarysynja Lemkiv) which issued these translated remarks on the occasion of its 5th anniversary is also not to be confused with the Lemko Association (Lemko Sojuz) for the United States and Canada, which was founded 1931 in Cleveland, Ohio.

2. The "last truly Lemko Vatra" referred to here in the text is the 1989 Vatra in the Homeland. Organizing committees were elected annually to plan and manage each festival, with the understanding that Lemko material and spiritual culture were to be emphasized over "political" or "idealogical" disagreements on such questions as Lemko identity. Subsequent to 1989, however, the newly elected organizing committee adopted an openly pro-Ukrainian orientation and in later years voted in only like-minded colleagues. Lemkos of Rusyn orientation, who had favored a politically neutral festival, were effectively shut out of leadership positions in the management of the festival which, ironically, they themselves had founded. Hence, the Vatra in the Homeland (then in Bortne village) became steadily more "ukrainianized" in both form (Ukrainian national flags being flown where once no political emblems of any type were present) and in content (increasing numbers of Ukrainian folk artists/acts, decreasing numbers of Lemko folk artists/acts.) The Homeland Vatra (today held annually in Zdynia) is thus considered by the Stovarysynja Lemkiv to have lost its Lemko authenticity, making the 1989 Bortne Vatra in the Homeland, from their point of view, the "last truly Lemko Vatra."

3. Using the example of one Lemko family in the first half of the 20th century, "Severed Roots" portrays the fate of the entire Lemko people during this same time period. Both the family and the Lemko people are seen to be misunderstood and mistreated by their larger neighbors, and to have suffered unjustly from developments beyond their own immediate control (world wars, collapsing empires, population resettlements).

4. This informative introduction to the history and current situation of Lemkos in Poland, written from a Carpatho-Rusyn perspective was published in both English and Lemko. For the English version, see: Olena Duc-Fajfer. "Lemkos in Poland," pp. 83-103 in: Paul Robert Magocsi, ed. 1993. The Persistence of Regional Cultures: Rusyns and Ukrainians in Their Carpathian Homeland and Abroad. New York: Columbia University Press.

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