Occupations and Industry

Farming was the basic occupation in the region, even though most of the area was hilly and had the worst soil. Before 1880, ox grazing and shepherding were also important. After serfdom was abolished and grazing in the forests was restricted, animal husbandry declined, and dairy farming and crop growing expanded.52 Until World War II, wooden wagons, wooden plows, and wooden harrows were in general use, although machinery and factory made tools were already appearing. Straw and hay were cut with a homemade knife; grain was cleaned of dirth with a blower and thrashed with flails.53

Mushrooms were picked in large quantities, dried in the sun or above the stove, strung on thread, and were sold or eaten during the winter. Many of the mushrooms were sold to local health resorts (such as Krynica and Zegiestow/Zhegestiv in Nowy Sacz county) and commanded a good price. 54

The most important industry after farming was wood and timber based. The village Nowica/Novycja (Gorlice county) was the center for this industry. Products such as utensils, boxes, chests and children's toys were made there. Spoonmaking soon spread to nearby Leszczyna /Lishchyny (Gorlice county) and Banica/Banycja (Grybow county); after World War I these goods were exported to America and elsewhere.55

Woodcarving developed in the towns and villages of Sanok county, especially Rymanow, Balucianka/Bavtjanka, Wolka/Vil'ka and Woltuszowa/Voltushova since the second half of the 19th century. A school for Lemko boys in Rymanow offered a three-year course in woodcarving, and produced a number of highly skilled carvers (who taught the generations after them), who produced boxes, trays, chests and plates. These items were sold at the health resorts and marketplaces. Other woodcarvers, especially in the village of Bielanka/Biljanka (Gorlice county), specialized in church furnishings like icon screens and altars.56

Stone cutting was another specialty in Gorlice county, but declined in the 20th century. In Bartne/Bortne were made millstones, grain mills, and sharpeners for knives and other tools. The villages of Przegonina/Perehonyna (Gorlice county) and Krempna/Krampna (Jaslo county) were sources of roadside stone chapels with figures of saints.57

"Traveling" industries, though not widespread, in some cases provided Lemkos with a relatively large amount of wealth. In villages of Nowy Targ county, "wiredrawers" traveled throughout the region, fixing cracked pots, basins, and pitcher pots. They also sold mouse traps and children's toys. A far more profitable venture was the cart-grease trade. Producing and selling the grease for wagons and carts was the main occupation of the people of Losie/Losje (Gorlice county), and by some in neighboring Biljanka, and Ropki/Ripky. They would travel throughout Europe from May to late autumn; some went as far as the Ural Mountains of Russia or to Germany. The industry was so profitable that Losje became the wealthiest village in the entire Lemko Region and contributed more intelligentsia to Lemko society than any other village.58

The village of Pielgrzymka/Peregrymka (Jaslo county) was known for its brooms, sold at local fairs. Chests and cases were made in Shljachtova; the village of Swiatkowa/Svjatkova (Jaslo county) produced juniper bush-root baskets. From Wroblik/Vorobik (Krosno and Sanok county) were exported wagon whips and large baskets pleated from twigs.59

Other products from the region included cloth woven on handmade looms -- Lemkos made their own clothing which was of very high quality; making linseed oil for cooking and to feed cattle; and honey from the Beekeeping industry.60

continue on]
Return to Table of Contents