Oh how merry were these Lemkos, who without exception, house to house, village to village, mountain to mountain, lived as good neighbors on this earth for ages. And there were many children at that time - six to ten children per family was a normal occurance. Children often became sick, died, but nobody considered it a tragedy. The rest of them grew like yeast dough and finally found their place under the sun. Parents were reluctant to further sub-divide the farm and routinely handed it down to their eldest son. Other children had to get along based on the amount of their inheritance and marry into whatever family they wished, or travel beyond "The great mud puddle" in search of happiness.
The Holy Sacrament of Baptism, "Sviatoi Taini", was the same from the Poprad River to the Don. Even the names given to the christened children were the same as in Poltava or Vinnytsia: Serhyis and Nastias, Kuzímas and Motrias, Vasyls and Orynias, Ivans was entered on his birth certificate as "Ivan" (ee-vun) but locally was referred to as "Vanio". It is possible that a christening in Lemkivshchyna, locally called "kstyny", differed in some respects from the ceremony in letís say nearby Lviv, since Lemkos were very inventive and themselves differed in some ways from the rest of the Ukrainian people. The reception following the christening was not difficult to prepare, for the guests, the godparents of one's child, neighbors and close family members would on the eve of the event drop off all kinds of goodies, and it sufficed for the parents to slaughter a ram and as usual purchase the beer, wine or vodka, so called "horilka" (home made vodka was not known here prior to WW II). Up to twenty pairs of godparents were invited. They promptly dropped off at the church a piece of white fabric, so called "krizhma" or pieces of freshly spun linen. Only two persons from the immediate family were named actual godparents.
Often a christening celebration was accompanied by music, so called "hrany kstyny", and the guests ate, drank and danced until morning. I had such a christening - music was provided by Gypsies hired from the distant Ustieh Ruskieh, as told to me later by my mother and "baba" Maryna. My parents got married as emigrants in Pennsylvania and after WW I brought home with them a couple of little "Hamerykans". I was born on a Lemko "pets" 1 and that is perhaps the reason my parents were so happy that for my christening they gave me a one dollar ["tallar"] gold coin. I was given a typical Lemko first name Semeon, which in our dialect sounds like Seman. My brothersí names - Vasyl and Mykolai. All typical names from a Lemko village.
1"pets" - special kitchen stove which consisted of the cooking area - the range, bread baking oven, water heating kettle and a drying surface, which frequently was utilized as bed for sick family members during cold weather.
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Copyright © 1997 Jon W. Madzelan
This Home Page was created on Tuesday, June 17, 1997
Most recent revision Wednesday, January 14, 1998