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THE HISTORY OF LEMKO PEOPLE

Lemko people, called 'Rusini'or 'Rusnaki' belong to The Eastern Slav. They have lived on the southern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains in Poland. In Lemko's national consciousness there is a conviction that they come from the tribe of White Croatian who lived in the Carpathians in the 5th century and it was well organized and developed. In the 7th century most of the tribe moved to the Balkans and the rest of the tribe was conquered by Ruthenia in the 10th century. The prove of the existence of the tribe of White Croatian you can find in works of modern historians.

It is caught on that the name 'Lemko' was formed on the language base and it came into being in the first part of the19th century on lemko - bojkowskie borderland. At first, it was a nickname for those 'Rusini' who used the word 'lem' . With time it lost its nickname meaning and became a neutral name used in popular science literature. Lemko people themselves (using the names 'Rusin', 'Rusnak') began to adopt this name, although it was unknown until World War I. During the period of interwar the name Lemko was used by Lemko activists and after World War II it dominated the existing name 'Rusnak'.

Lemko people are the followers of Eastern Christianity. Many of them are proud that they were baptized by Saint Cyryl and Metody in the 9th century. Winding roads caused that they have been divided into Orthodox and Greek Catholics. Te common fact is that old wooden churches, the Greek rite, Julian calendar, singing, psalterium written in the Cyrillic alphabet are the most permanent stamps of their autonomy.

The territory considered by Lemko people as their local motherland (called Lemkowyna) reaches to Pieniny in the west (villages: Szlachtowa, Jaworki, Biala Woda, Czarna Woda) and to Oslawa mouth with San in the east

Lemko people lived in more than 300 localities before World War II. After the War - according to the idea of transformation Poland from multinational into mononational country - they decided to liquidate Lemko minority.Lemko people were displaced to Ukraine (1945-1946) during the first stage. In the spring 1947 rest of them (40 000) were brutally deported to Regain Land and spread so that they could not live in bigger cluster. Those who were disobedient they placed in Jaworzno camp (Vistula Action).

In 1956 there was a short - lasting possibility of coming back into the motherland. Only some of them knew about it. Some of the villages disappeared from the map.

Displacing and separating from 'roots' caused that many historical places were distroyed, Lemko tradition and culture disappeared. Many Lemko activists have been trying to save the relisc of their native tradition and culture. The refreshment started in the 80s: 'Lemkowyna' - The Group of Singing and Dancing came into being, Polish - Lemko little poetry volumes of Peter Murianko, Wladyslaw Graban, Stefania Trochanowska and Pawel Stefanowski were published.

In 1983 there was organized for the first time 'Lemkowska Watra' - a great festival of Lemko culture and a meeting place of all Lemko people from all over the world. New folk groups came into being, in cycles there are cultral events, teaching Lemko language is developing. You can study Russian Philology with the specialization of rusinski-lemko language. It is possible from the academic year 2001/02 on Pedagogical Academy in Cracov.

Webmaster: Bogdan Matała     

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