A tinker from Bila Voda


   There is a popular saying: a pitcher holds water until the handle falls off. But those ingenious and thrifty Lemkos defied this proverb and proved that a pitcher with a broken handle can still serve people a long time and that it is not necessary to buy a new one.

   In order to do this, one must know how to solidly fuse the broken pieces of crockery together with a preheated wire. This applies to clay pottery and enamelware. Hence, when a vessel got smashed into pieces, the lady of the house did not throw it out, but patiently accumulated even the smallest pieces and waited, till she heard the booming voice of the merry tickman on the village road calling out "pots repaired!" So, just as inhabitants of Losye became famous for their lubricants, people from Bilianka —for tar, inhabitants of Novytsia and Lishchyny — for wares made of wood (spoons, spindles, caskets, children’s toys), people from Bortneh — for grinding stones for mills, honing stones and crosses, so the inhabitants of Shlakhtivska Rus’ (i.e., Shliakhtova, Yavirki, Bila Voda, Chorna Voda) rose to fame throughout the entire Carpathian region for their wire mending skills.

   Every tickman was of a merry temperament and while working entertained the household with different anecdotes, fables, singing and even fortune-telling from the cracked pieces of pottery provided by the lady of the house.

   In the evening, the neighbors, young men and maidens would converge on the house where the tickman was to spend the night, in order to hear something interesting.

   Tickman, by going from village to village knew a lot about distant events that did not reach the average person. Their language was surprisingly pure, not littered with Polish words. Unlike others, they never used foul language, nor did they curse as a habit. To this day I remember a very nice Lemko song which a tickman taught me, when he spent the night in our house:

   "Chiyee toty pavy, shto pasutsia samy v tiy zelenyi dubyni?"
   (Whose peacocks are these, that graze by themselves in that green oak tree grove?)

   "Oy moyee, moyee, shtom ikh vykhovala, oy yak ty byv na voynee."
   (Oh mine, mine, I raised them, oh while you were at war.)

   Yes ikh vikhovala, chom zhes ne prodala, toty svoyee paveechkee?"
   (You raised them, but why did you not sell them, these peacocks of yours?)

   Ya ikh ne prodala bom na tya chekala, koly priydesh z voynychky!"
   I did not sell them, because I was waiting for you, to return from the war!)

   This occurred just before World War II, I was then seventeen years old. And now I can still picture that tickman, as I am writing this short commentary which will accompany the wood block made by my dear brother Vasyl entitled "Tickman from Bila Voda". Similarly back then he sat at the table in our house, weaving wire around the cracked pot while singing "Whose peacocks are these, that graze by themselves in that green oak tree grove?"

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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