The Rise of Cultural Organizations

The two leading Lemko organizations in Poland today are the Society of Lemkos (Stovaryshynja Lemkiv --SL) and the Union of Lemkos (Ob"jednannja Lemkiv --OL). The Society of Lemkos was founded April 15, 1989 in the town of Legnica in southwestern Poland (where a large Lemko community has existed since 1947). Today the organization has branches also in the Lemko Region. As of late 1990, it had 270 members organized in 14 branches. Its leaders have been for the most part, of the post World War II generation, in contrast to the pro-Ukrainian Union of Lemkos (formed (1990), whose directors are mainly of the prewar generation.139 The Union of Lemkos is most active in the Lemko Region itself. The Society of Lemkos feels that the Lemko culture can be preserved and promoted among the younger generation of Lemkos without having to tie it to the Ukrainian nationality. Members of the Union of Lemkos have criticized SL for this view, stating that its "organizers have abandoned their mother -- former Kievan Rus', present day Ukraine."140 These organizations have made the sponsorship of the festivals their primary activity; OL the Lemko Vatra, and SL the Vatra in Exile.

With the rise of pro-Rusyn organizations elsewhere, particularly in neighboring Slovakia, the Society of Lemkos has moved from just a Lemko-specific to a more broadly based pro-Rusyn viewpoint, actively participating in events like the World Congress of Rusyns and the "First Congress of the Rusyn Language." A primary goal of SL is the codification of the Lemko language. The Society of Lemkos began to publish in 1989, on an irregular basis, the magazine Besida mostly in Lemko with a few articles in Polish. SL has expanded its publishing activities, especially since 1992. It has published Lemko-language cultural booklets, such as Vasyl' Chomyk, Charodijsky hushli: Lemkivsky legendy, trans. Petro Murjanka (1992); Olena Duc'-Fajfer, Lemky v Pol'shchy / Lemkowie w Polsce (1992), a popular historical survey of Lemkos in Poland; and the annual cultural / historical journal, Lemkivskij kalendar (1993).

Poland's Lemko activist include a number of prolific poets who have worked for many years in their own language. The foremost of these is Petro Trochanovskij-Murjanka ( a founding member of the SL), who has published two anthologies of his Lemko and Polish poetry.141

A new Lemko organization was founded in 1991 in Biljanka - the Hospodar Rusyn Democratic Circle of Lemkos in Poland. Its goal is to lobby the Polish government to return property to the Rusyns who were forced to leave their homes during the Vistula Operation of 1947. Its leader, Pavlo Stefanovskij, started a new Lemko-language bulletin, Lemko, in January 1993.

continue on]
Return to Table of Contents