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  celebrating its fifth anniversary. What have we accomplished in these five years?
(1) The Lemkivskyj Narodnyj Teatr (Lemko National Theater) was born under the auspices of the Stovarysynja Lemkiv and is under the direction of Andrij Kopca. the Chairperson of the Stovarysynja' s Founding Committee. The Lemko National Theater has premiered four original [Lemko language] works and has staged dozens of performances.
(2) At the Seventh Annual Lemko Vatra Folk Festival (in Bortne village) which was in fact the last truly Lemko Vatra - the Stovarysynja Lemkiv organized one day of the [three-day] program.2 Among other activities and events on that day was the staging of the Lemko National Theater's; first original play, "Odtjaty Koreni" ["Severed Roots"].3 Andrij Kopca both directed and played in one of the lead roles.
(3) Since 1989 we have been publishing the Lemko-language quarterly,Besida. Besida's Editor-in-Chief is Petro Trochanovskij, our greatest living poet and recipient of the S. Pietak Literary Prize [laureat literackiej nagrody im. S. Pietaka]. Trochanovskij is one of the world's premier students of Lemko literature, history and geography. He also teaches Lemko language classes.
(4) We held a successful fund-raising event within the Lemko community, the purpose of which was to raise money for the purchase of a computer and printer for the Besida editorial office. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to all contributors, who are listed in Besida.
(5) Since 1989 we have assisted the organizers of the Lemko Vatra in Michalow. In each year since then, the Stovarysynja Lemkiv has cooperated with residents of Michalow in making our Vatra an increasingly enjoyable and moving experience.
(6) In 1990, the Stovarysynja Lemkiv held its First Congress [in Legnica]. At the Congress we elected our National Committee, which consists of the following officers:
Andrej Kopca - Chairperson
Petro Trochanovskij - Vice Chair
Jaroslav Horoscak - Second Vice Chair
Stefan Kosovskij - Secretary
Pavel Stafiniak - Treasurer
National Committee Members: Miroslava Chomjak; Ol'ga Kania; Stefania Dubec; Mikolaj Paduchovic; Mitro Rusynko; Slavommir Molodcak
During the First Congress, we also organized a successful Lemko folk cultural exhibition.
(7) In 1991, we participated in the First World Congress of Rusyns, held in Medzilaborce [in former Czechoslovakia]. The Stovarysynja Lemkiv became a member of the Founding Committee for the World Congress of Rusyns. The USA, Hungary and former Jugoslavia [the United States is represented by the New Jersy based Carpatho-Rusyn Research Center]. The Stovarysynja Lemkiv's chairperson became a member of the Interregional Council of the World Congress of Rusyns [the Interregional Council comprises the chairpersons of all of the Rusyn member organizations and meets twice a year to address and assess developments and issues of interest to Rusyns.]
(8) In 1992, the Stovarysynja Lemkiv sent delegations to an academic seminar on Rusyn history held in Svidnik [then former Czechislovakia] and to a language-codification conference held in Bardejovske Kupele [Slovakia].
(9) In 1993, the Stovarysynja Lemkiv acted as organizer and host to the Second World Congress of Rusyns, held in Krynica. The Stovarysynja Lemkiv bore the many challenges and financial costs of this undertaking without outside assistance. The [Polish] Ministry of Culture and Art, which normally funds such activities, did not provide a single cent. The success in planning and hosting the World Congress was entirely our own. More than 150 Rusyn (Lemko) delegates and guests from Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, USA, Hungary, Jugoslavia, Rumania, Germany and Canada were welcomed to this most beautiful of Polish health resorts. They were housed in Krynica's best guest accomodations. Among other things, the Congress passed a resolution that the Interregional Council of Rusyns should call on the Polish government to condemn the "Vistula" Operation population resettlement, and compensate Lemkos for injustices suffered as a result.
(10) We have published a four-part series of works by our greatest poet, playwright, artist and painter, Ivan Rusenko. The series, arranged by Jaroslav Horoscak, includes: Baiky ("Fairy Tales"), Versy ("Poetry"), Rysunky ("Sketches"), and the play Vertep w Karpatach. Another collection of Lemko folk tales, Vasil' Chomik's "Carodijskij husli', was compiled by Petro Trochanovskij. Olena Duc-Fajfer completed an academic essay, Lemkos In Poland.4. We are currently working on the following projects: a Lemko grammar for adults, another for children, and a two part school text for learning the Lemko alphabet. These projects are being undertaken by Miroslava Chomjak, the first person since World War I to teach the Lemko language. A Lemko-Polish dictionary pilot project is being undertaken by Jaroslav Horoscak and a collection of Jaroslav Merena's poetry, Moi versy, is being compiled by Jaroslav Zvolin'skij.
The following projects are already completed and await publication: a Lemkivskij bukvar ("Lemko primer"); Antol ' ogija lemkivskoi literatury ("Anthology of Lemko Literature"); and Antol ' ogija lemkivskoi literatury ditjacoj ("Anthology of Lemko Children's Literature"). These projects are the efforts of Petro Trochanovskij. Jaroslav Horoscak's Korotka historija Lemkiv ("A Brief Historu of the Lemkos") is also completed and ready for publication.
Other much needed projects are still in the planning stages, including Rozmowki polsko-lemkowskie ("A Polish-Lemko Dialogue"). As the above projects attest, the preservation, development and codification of the Lemko language has been and is presently one of the main and ongoing goals of the Stovarysynja Lemkiv. The publication of these projects, however, carries considerable costs; we hope for funding from the Ministry of Culture and Art.
(11) In 1993, we revived the wonderful old tradition of printing Lemko Calendars. The annual publication is under the editorship of Petro Trochanovskij. Aside from the actual calendar displaying the dates of holidays according to both the old and new calendars, the Lemko Calendars carry information on Lemko history, huorous essays, stories, academic articles, poems, biographies of notable Lemkos, reproductions of photos and folk art, folk songs and short dramatic pieces.
(12) Since 1992, we have more or less regularly conducted Lemko-language classes in a number of locations: Uscie Gorlickie, Krynica, Maiczyce and Legnica. In the first three locations language classes were held on official school premises and the children received their Lemko class grades on their regular report cards. [The last time that Lemko language classes were taught with official sanction and on school property was in the 1930's]. In legnica, we have not received permission from the INspector-General of Schools to teach Lemko classes on school property. We are planning to extend Lemko classes to other locations, among them Gorzow [capital city of Gorzow province].
(13) During their study of the Lemko language, children are at the same time exposed to Lemko history, geography, traditions, customs and folk music.
(14) Members of the Stovarysynja Lemkiv have for several years organized a Lemko Vatra Festival in Lugach [near Gorzow]. It was launched amid a considerable amount of interest and is increasing in popularity. We wholeheartedly wish them success and hope that they will come to achieve the popularity presently enjoyed by the Michalow Lemko Vatra.
(15) In 1994, the "First Annual Encounter with Lemko Culture" was organized in Gorzow. It was made possible by cooperation between the Stovarysynja Ljubytel ' iv Lemkivskoi Kultury (the Association for Friends of Lemko Culture) in Lugach and the Wojewodzki Dom Kultury [government sponsored community cultural center.]
(16) The Chairperson and members of the NAtional Council participated in various types of meetings of importance to the Lemko community. Among these was a meeing with the Helsinki Group.
(17) We champion the condemnation of the "Vistula" Operation population resettlement and the return of Lemko properties (mainly forested lands in the Lemko region) confiscated [by the Polish Communist government] in the wake of the [1947 "Vistula" Operation] population resettlement. One of the petitions comprising this effort was printed in Besida, issue #3.
(18) We work to promote a positive image of the Lemko people in the Polish mass media and among the general public.
(19) During all five years of our existence, we have organized dances and New Year's Eve celebrations in Lemko communities.
Are these accomplishments during our first five years of existence substantial or modest? They are modest if we think in terms of our Lemko community's needs, aspirations, and desires. But when we consider our community's limited resources - the complete lack of assistance from the Polish government, the fact that all of this was accomplished at cost to our lesiure and family time, by burning the midnight oil and drawing on our own modest financial resources - then, this list of accomplishments is quite remarkable.
(1) Our next project will be to organize summer camps for children and young people, which would enable them to improve their language skills, knowledge of Lemko folk songs, and familiarity with their Homeland. At the summer camp, young people will also have the opportunity to participate in efforts to restore and preserve cemeteries, material cultural artifacts and monuments.
(2) Drawing on our own contacts with Rusyn (Lemko) organizations around the world, we would like to organize exchanges of young people between us and organizations located in countries of interest such as the USA. We invite interested young people to join our Stovarysynja Lemkiv.
(3) We would like to make some capital expenditures at the Vatra site in Michalow. This is a high priority project.
(4) We would one day like to be in a position to provide financial assistance to the "Lemkovyna" Folk Song and Dance Ensemble (Bielanka); the "Kyczera" Ensemble (Legnica); and the Museum of Lemko Culture (Zyndranowa).
(5) We would like to erect here in the west[ern part of Poland to which Lemkos were forcibly resettled in 1947] a Lemko Memorial Room to serve a purpose similar to the Museum of Lemko Culture in the east[ern, former Lemko region of Poland].
These projects require time and the accumulation of greater financial resources. Nevertheless, theu must be accomplished while the eldest generation still lives. They are the only ones who saw with their own eyes and recall from their own personal experience how our community and culture functioned in their original homeland environment.
The Stovarysynja Lemkiv maintains that Lemkos (our own name for ourselves: Rusnaki; the Polish name for us: Rusini) are a distinct people. Nevertheless, we respect those who hold differing opinions and who in turn respect our right to hold our own opinions..... To those who think as we do: we invite you to join the Stovarysynja Lemkiv and participate in our activities. Our Address:
Zarad Glowny Stowarzyszenia Lemkow
ul. Roosevelta 1
To those who hold views different from our own, we welcome the opportunity to cooperate with you in a friendly, equal basis on matters of critical concern to all Lemkos.
National Council of the Lemko Association
and Residents of Michalow Village
5 August 1994r.
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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