The Talerhof Concentration Camp

On the eve of World War I, the Austro-Hungarian government was suspicious of the Russian Empire. The Orthodox movement was gaining strength in Galicia, especially in the Lemko Region, especially as some Lemko immigrants were returning from the United States where the bulk of them had joined the Orthodox Church. The Austrian government suspected these new Orthodox adherents to be Russian sympathizers.

During the war, Russia came to occupy the Lemko Region by March 1915. The region was the scene of many bloody battles during the winter of 1914-15. The Russians were friendly to the Orthodox and Russophile Lemkos they encountered in the region, but persecuted pro-Ukrainian activists. Meanwhile, the Austrian officials had begun to persecute the Russophiles and others (both Lemkos and other Galicians) who simply declared themselves to be of Rusyn (ruskyj) or Russian (russkij) nationality. Many of these "Russian sympathizers" (mostly peasants or clergy) were rounded up and sent to concentration camps in the western part of the Austrian empire, the most notorious of which was Talerhof, near Graz.12

The Lemkos, although they were only 2% of the Galician population, made up 30% of the prisoners at Talerhof, that is, about 5000.13 It is claimed by Lemko activists that between 1914 and 1917, almost all the Lemko intelligentsia perished or had their health ruined at Talerhof or other such camps.14

After the war, the Lemko Region was being more strongly affected by the Ukrainian movement. Some Lemkos had fought with Ukrainian units of the Austro-Hungarian army and became sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause. Other Lemkos however, especially the survivors of Talerhof, blamed the Galician Ukrainians for delivering the Rusyn/Russophile Lemkos to the Austrian authorities.15

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