Very few Lemko families (although such cases do exist) can brag about their extended genealogical tree [lineage], with written documents in hand, because there was no one then to handle such matters, who among them cared about these matters. We Lemkos lost our nationhood with the fall of Kyivian Rus' many centuries ago, followed by the fall of the Halych Rus'. For certain few of our great grand-fathers held the position of Boyar - the overwhelming majority were just plain peons, who, according to the laws of nature, would depart for eternity as illiterate simpletons. But this had no bearing on their national identity. For ages, their rich oral traditions were faithfully passed on from generation to generation. The greatest treasure, which we inherited from our ancestors, is our own language and traditions. That is the most convincing "documentary" proof of the Lemko tribe having been once a part of Kyivian Rus' - in other words - part of the great Ukrainian people. Each one of us has the right to imagine our great-grandfather as a proud Rusyn Boyar and lawful proprietor of our native villages in Lemkivshchyna, or as a free person with a flock of sheep in a Carpathian glen, wearing the patriarch's "chuha". Lemko clans, like for example the Halaydas from Zavadka, Bilitsas from Tilyava, Repelas from Bil'tsareva, Rusnaks from Berest, Kuzmiaks from Perunka, and many others, can he proud of their Cossack last names. According to legends recounted by our grandparents, these names originated from the descendants of the Zaporozheh Cossacks, who after marching with King Sobieski [against the Turkish onslaught) to Vienna, stayed behind and settled in our villages. Our grandparents and great grandparents were not only warriors or shepherds, but also participants and preservers* of rich cultural rituals - Lemko weddings, christenings, "kermeshes", or celebrations of "Rusala"** (Pentecost). They were also poets and composers of Lemko songs, and builders not only of wooden houses, but also of beautiful religious structures, which even today amaze the scholarly world.
From our modern history, one recalls such famous Lemkos as Semen Trokhanovskyj from Bil'tsareva, (former member of the Austrian Parliament), the well known writer Volodymir Khyliak (pseudonym Yeronim Anonim), who authored the novels "Shibenitshiy Verkh"("Hangman's Peak") and "Rus'ka Dolya" ("Rusyn Fate") and others, the great singer and poet -- Bohdan-Ihor Antonych, national poet and painter Ivan Rusenko from the village of Krasna, national poet Yakiv Dudra from Losyeh, world renown primitive-style painter - Nikifor Drovnyak, and many others of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers who are part of the great, though tragic, history of Ukraine.
The entire scattered Lemko tribe is proud of its famous ancestors.
According to Lemko culture and tradition, at various social functions, specially talented and trained person had to conduct the ceremony in accordance with the requirements of the event, be it match-making ("svatannya"), wedding, christening, or funeral, or an invitation to a specific event ("zaprosyny"), greeting or honoring of a person ("privitanya" and "poshanovanya". None of these rituals were conducted impromptu, but followed according to the tradition. Such person, referred to by the author as dramatist "dramaturh", followed previously established procedures and to some extent was an actor himself.
** The holiday of "Rusala" is actually the celebration which combines Spring festivities with the Memorial Day church service for the departed ancestors. Here we have a mixture of Pagan ritual integrated into Christianity.
Copyright © 1997 Jon W. Madzelan
This Home Page was created on Monday, May 19, 1997
Most recent revision Friday, May 08, 1998