METODYJ TROCHANOVSKIJ (1885-1947)
copyright, Carpatho-Rusyn American, Vol. XIX, No. 2, Summer 1996 and Bohdan Horbal - all rights reserved.
Metodyj Trochanovskij was born on May 5, 1885 in the Lemko Region village of Binczarowa (Rusyn: Bil'careva). After receiving his pedagogical education at the Teacher's Seminary in Krosno, he taught at the elementary school in the Lemko village of Uhryn. In 1913, he married Konstancija Durkot, daughter of a prominent Lemko priest and civil activist, Father Ioann Chrysostom Durkot, and became involved in Lemko-Rusyn educational and social concerns. World War I put a stop to these activities, however. Together with dozens of Lemko leaders Trochanovskij was arrested, accused of treason against Austria-Hungary, and sentenced to death during the Second Vienna Trial of 1916. Fortunately, the execution was stayed, and he was in 1917 released from the Talerhof internment camp where he was sent.
The fall of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy gave Lemkos an opportunity to try to decide their own political fate. Trochanovskij found himself at the very heart of the movement for the establishment of the Rusyn National Republic of Lemkos and was a founding member of the Russka Rada (Rusyn Council) in Krynica. His support for Lemko teachers who refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the Polish state was well known to his own people and was even admired by some Poles. Although such political activity ultimately proved to be fruitless, the effort nevertheless helped to unify and galvanize the Lemko population.
In 1930, Trochanovskij and others organized in Krynica a festival called the Days of Rusyn Culture. Over two thousand Lemkos participated in a procession, which concluded with the raising and blessing of a memorial Talerhof Cross. During this same year, several political meetings also took place in Krynica. On these occasions Trochanovskilj advised Lemkos to organize stores and credit unions in the region. He also underlined the danger of ukrainianization in the Lemko Region and advocated resistance against it. This matter was discussed at length at a meeting in Gorlice, where in October 1932 Lemko Region activists declared they should work to preserve and develop their own distinct Lemko culture and language. Trochanovskij advocated that this could be best achieved by introducing into Lemko schools a primer and readers written in the Lemko-Rusyn vernacular. Shortly thereafter, on December 8, 1933, the first ever Rusynophile oriented Lemko organization, the Lemko Sojuz (Lemko Association), was established in Sanok.
Trochanovskij became one of the most influential leaders in the Lemko Association. As part of his on-going cultural activity, he wrote the Lemkivskyj bukvar (Lemko Primer) and Persa knyzecka (First Reader), both of which would subsequently be introduced into Lemko Region schools. In order to provide the schools with professional teachers, Trochanovskij organized courses in the Lemko language at the Teacher's Seminary in Stary Sacz. He also became editor-in-chief of the Lemko vernacular newspaper, Lemko (1934-1939). Before long, the Krynica-based Lemko Association started successfully lobbying in Warsaw for financial support for Lemko-Rusyn interests and also expanded its horizons by corresponding with the Lemko Association of the United States and Canada.
Despite the Lemko Association's declared and proven loyalty to the Polish state, in 1936 a major shift in the Polish government's attitude toward the organization took place. Government financial support for Lemko-Rusyn activities was systematically cut back. Ethnic Lemko teachers were systematically removed and replaced by ethnic Poles. Beginning in 1938, Trochanovskij's primer was banned. These negative developments forced Trochanovskij and other Lemko leaders to lodge protests in Warsaw, where despite promises they were unable to attain an audience with the Polish Prime Minister. Finally, the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 interrupted the decade-long struggle for the free expression of a Lemko-Rusyn identity, and it marked the start of a decade of physical and cultural devastation throughout the Lemko Region which was incorporated into Nazi Germany's Third Reich.
The Ukrainophiles, who had made considerable advances in the Lemko Region in the late 1930s, were able to promote further their cause during the Nazi occupation. Dozens of Ukrainian refugees from Soviet-controlled eastern Galicia settled in the Lemko Region after 1939 and worked to strengthen the Ukrainian national movement. Ukrainian activists provided lists of Russophile and Rusynophile Lemkos to the Nazis, who viewed them as a potential pro-Soviet fifth column in occupied Poland. Among those on the list was Trochanovskij, who was arrested on June 21, 1941 and imprisoned in Kielce until the last months of the war. When Soviet troops entered the Lemko Region in 1944, he was arrested again, this time by the NKVD during a general sweep of Poland's intelligentsia. Upon his release, the entire Trochanovskij family was resettled to Wroclaw, where Metodyj died a few months later.
After Trochanovskilj death, Lemkos were dispersed to the Soviet Ukraine and to the far western regions of Poland. They were subjected to national assimilation and paralyzed by fear and apathy during the worse years of Stalinist terror. Any manifestation of Rusyn identity were considered illegal and counter-revolutionary. Despite the tragic times when Trochanovskij died, the traditions which he upheld are since 1989 in the post-communist era once again being manifested openly and with pride.
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