Stone-Masons from Bortne


   The Lemko Beskid chain is known for fields and paths full of stones, and in general for stones wherever one turns. In general, no stone houses were ever built, due to the availability of large quantities of high-quality lumber from the forest. However, there was another reason - there was just about no good building stone, although it is true that the cellars, the water wells, stoves, and also foundations for houses were built of stone.

   Such stone was collected from fields, small rivers, and streams. In the area around Hrybiv, there was one small stone-quarry named "Shipot" in Florynka, and if one needed a larger stone, for a threshold or steps, then that is the place from where it could have been obtained. This type of stone however was not used to build roads, because it tended to grind down early, and in rain would turn into mud. A good "all purpose" stone could only be found in the village of Bortne, which is located south of Horlytsi.

    Historians claim that the name for the village Bortne comes from the words "bor tne", referring to the tool that is used in cutting of rocks and stones. It is not known when or by whom this high-quality stone was discovered. However, it is known that from time immemorial, mill stones of different sizes were being produced here. Certainly, not every resident of Bortne had this skill, and there also existed a well organized family clan ( "saha"), which guarded its secret well.

    Stone-cutters had their own verbal cipher and other magic items, which by superstitious means, managed to frighten away unwelcome dabblers from this profitable handicraft. It was even being said that they sold their soul to the devil, and one better not cross their way. Sometimes at the beginning of the 19-th century, inhabitants of Bortne discovered a new business - producing tomb stones and wayside crosses, which initially were being ordered by the rich class, but with time, even by well-to-do farmers. Sometimes other craftsmen attempted to break Bortne's tight hold on the business, and even though their wares were similar, and considerably less expensive, an experienced eye was always able to tell the difference. *
Even prior to the deportation of Lemkos from their native soil, one could see the stone-masons from Bortne at fairs in Horlytsi, Hrybiv, and even in Novyj Sanch.
Relatively many inhabitants of Bortne returned to their village [after the deportations of 1947], but the beautiful handicraft did not regain its popularity - it was no longer needed.

   * Editor's note: A prominent and well known master stone-mason, author of many works of art in stone (sculptures, tomb stones) was a Lemko, Ivan Kavka from the village of Polyany Surovychni, the most talented pupil in the Rymaniv school for carvers, during the late 19-th century.

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Copyright © 1997 Jon W. Madzelan
This Home Page was created on Tuesday, April 15, 1997
Most recent revision Wednesday, January 14, 1998