Greaseman from Losyeh


    Every elderly Lemko, regardless of where he spends his golden years, remembers the far-flung publicity that emanated from this quiet Carpathian village. When the long-awaited "yar" (the Spring) had already arrived in our mountains, and icy "sanytsee" (sleigh marks) had been melted by the sun, the farmers dragged out wagons from the storage sheds, and in their place stored sleighs, sleds, "kopanytsi1" and "hlaky2". Worn out and broken parts were replaced ("obertni3", "kvanitsi4", "svory5", thills, "snitsi6") and the axles were lubricated with grease, to reduce their wear, the screeching noise, and provide a smoother ride. As a rule, each farmer had to have at least two carts: a light one for everyday use and a heavy duty cart for transportation of heavy material. Wealthier farmers had fancier carts made in town. These carts were even often painted with artistic designs, so called "vasanky" or "brychky" (small carriages), and were used to ride to the "yarmak7", pilgrimages, "kiermesh8", weddings, or to a distant tserkva (church). Such light carriages, pulled by a couple of horses, accommodated four passengers, and if necessary even eight. From times immemorial this wheel grease was supplied to the Lemko farmers (but not only farmers) by the grease-men from Losyeh, who were the only ones who knew that handicraft. Therefore the village of Losyeh, by Horlytsi, had the reputation as being the richest village in Lemkivshchyna. Their forests and fields did not differ from surrounding areas, but their homesteads were significantly wealthier. The residents of the village spoke the same language as the rest of the Lemkos, but they dressed very differently. Husbands and wives wore exclusively only factory made clothes, even though it was their own village fashion. At a fair or on a pilgrimage they could easily be recognized by their fancy dress. During the working day, a grease-man from Losyeh dispensed the wheel grease in barrels throughout the various villages, from time to time loudly exclaiming: "Mahzi-mahzi, kolohmahzi, koopteh mahzi!" (Grease, grease, wheel grease, buy the grease!). He wore corduroy clothes, high sheepskin cap, high black boots, and in winter a long black fur coat. His horses were very tall, of a good English stock. This lubricant was sold for cash or bartered for grain, which they then resold for a profit. Their good commodity was known not only in Halychyna (Galicia), but also in Hungary, Silesia, Prussia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Certain residents of Losyeh departed in early Spring, and did not return home until Winter. Very seldom would a native of Losyeh abandon his village in order to earn a living elsewhere, and also rarely would he marry into a strange village. It was next to impossible for a "stranger" to marry into their proud community. The residents of Losyeh were by far more crafty than the rest of the Lemkos. When resettlement actions began (following WW II), they scattered to various corners of the Earth, as if on business, and when the threat passed, were the first ones to return to their own houses. I had a chance to become acquainted with the famous Losyan named Yakov Dudra, who is well known in our literature. Often his poetic works were printed by the (Warsaw Ukrainian language newspaper) "Nasheh Slovo" on its "Lemko Page". There, as a formerly successful grease-man, he sung the praises of the fortunes and misfortunes of his generation and our Lemko culture.

Click on Translator's notes: for a sketch of the carriage.

1 - "kopanytsia" - short, heavy duty sled.
2 - "hlaky" - wooden frame skid used for transporting long timber logs, and to negotiate sharp turns.
3 - "obertnia" - turning wooden plank to which side support [klanitsia] is attached.
4 - "kvanytsia" - wagon body side support attached to planks and axles - the front "kvanitsia" turns along with "obertnya", while the rear "klanytsia" is fixed.
5 - "svora" - wooden plank to which side supports are attached. The front "svora" would turn, while the rear "svora" stayed fixed.
6 - "snytsi" - a "V" shaped wood planks that fasten the wagon thill/shaft to the front of the wagon.
7 - "yarmak" - public market, usually scheduled for particular time and locality.
8 - "kiermesh" - special seasonal and church festivities.

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Copyright © 1997 Jon W. Madzelan
This Home Page was created on Monday, May 19, 1997
Most recent revision Wednesday, January 14, 1998