Ethno-national Orientation Among Lemkos in Poland

Susyn Yvonne Mihalasky

The following article appears here courtesy of the author - Susyn Y Mihalasky and is copyright 1998 by International Council for Central and East European Studies

Unauthorized use or duplication is forbidden

The collapse of communism in East-Central Europe in 1989 created more political space for ethno-national minorities to assert themselves. For these minorities, issues left unresolved since the onset of communism have re-emerged with remarkable speed. The Lemkos of Poland are one such case. Since 1989 this small ethno-cultural group has experienced the swift re-emergence of the ethno-national identity question, namely, who are the Lemko: are they a part of the Ukrainian nation, or of a newly re-emergent Carpatho-Rusyn people?

During the communist era, the Ukrainian identity was the only non-Polish ethno-national identity under which the Lemkos could organize and manifest their cultural and community life. With the fall of communism, however, a Rusyn 'orientation' has re-emerged among the Lemkos, both preceding and inspired by the resurrection of a Carpatho-Rusyn ethnic identity in other former communist countries where they had lived without group recognition: Slovakia, Ukraine and Hungary. The founding of an independent Ukraine in August 1991 has similarly energized the Ukrainian identity option. Thus, the Lemko population has once again come face to face with the vital but unfinished business of establishing its own ethno-national identity.

What does it mean to be a Lemko in Poland today? What role do such ethno-cultural markers as language and geography play in determining the parameters of present-day Lemko ethno-national identity? How do Lemkos understand and define what it is to be 'Lemko', 'Rusyn', and 'Ukrainian'? What impact is the revived ethno-national identity question having on Lemko community life?

In this chapter I will answer these questions by drawing on data collected from a written survey distributed among Lemkos residing in Poland in 1991-92. The survey is part of a larger study on the long-term impact on the Lemko community of their expulsion from their Carpathian homeland in 1947. A brief background section provides a historical and ethnographic profile of the Lemkos. The survey section that follows concerns the questionnaire itself and focuses on the sample and how it was collected. Next comes a discussion of each of the seven questions asked and the tabulation of the responses (where applicable), followed by respondents' illustrative comments. Finally, the cumulative results of the seven questions will be examined to see what they suggest about the ethno-national identity question among Lemkos in present-day Poland.

Historical Background

The Lemkos are, by virtue of culture, language and religion, classified as East Slavs. Before their expulsions in 1944-47 from their Carpathian homeland, Lemkos possessed a rural, agrarian culture; they made their livelihood primarily in farming and shepherding or in the forest-related professions. Lemkos are primarily of Greek Catholic or Orthodox Christian religious background. The Lemko dialect as yet uncodified is considered by most linguists to be most closely related to Ukrainian. Despite the lack of a universally accepted grammatical standard, Lemkos have produced a rich vernacular-language literature, especially remarkable for its poetic expression.

The Lemkos' historical homeland is bounded on the east and west by the rivers Oslawa and Poprad; on the north by the cities of Nowy Sacz. Gorlice, Jaslo, Krosno, Sanok; and on the south by the crests of the Carpathians. Most Lemkos reside at present in Silesia, to which they were resettled in 1947. While the Lemkos' ethnographic origin is the subject of some debate, scholars generally agree that by the fourteenth century their ancestors were already present in the Carpathians.

Lemko ethnographic territory has been under continuous foreign rule and has changed hands frequently throughout its history. As part of the Galician Kingdom, the eastern Lemko region was under the hegemony and cultural influence of Kievan Rus' until 1340, when it joined the western Lemko region under Polish rule. After the first partitioning of Poland in 1772, the Lemko region became part of the Austrian empire's Galician province, where it remained until 1918. From 1918 until the present day, the Lemko region has again been under Polish rule, except for a brief interval during the Second World War (1939-44), when it was ruled by Germany.

In 1945-46 approximately 70,000 Lemkos then residing in Poland were resettled to Soviet Ukraine as part of an international agreement between the two countries on the exchange of minority populations. An estimated 35,000 Lemkos remained in their homeland until 1947 when, in retaliation for acts committed by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, Lemkos along with the entire Ukrainian population of Poland were resettled en masse in the northern and western territories of Poland.^ During the late 1980s, approximately 10,000 Lemkos have managed to return to their former Carpathian homeland. Since the 1980s, the Lemko community has undergone a resurgence of ethnic pride, which emerged into the open only with the advent of democracy in Poland. An estimated 60,000 Lemkos now live in Poland^ The survey below was conducted among this group of people.

The Survey

The questions on the survey raised several issues, including the ethno-national question, the situation of Lemkos in Poland and respondents' expectations about their community's future within Poland. At the start of the questionnaire, respondents were asked to provide basic information for the purpose of generating a statistical profile of the sample, including age, educational level, profession, religious persuasion and place of residence (province). Inasmuch as respondents were anonymous, only these classification data, along with a randomly assigned number, are used to identify them.

No statistical records on Lemkos have been kept since the Second-World War. Without the benefit of such a statistical guide, the author chose to generate a stratified random sample by distributing surveys at Lemko cultural festivals and religious holidays. Lemkos of all ages from various parts of Poland attend these annual events, providing a concentrated yet mixed population of both traditional faiths (Greek Catholic and Orthodox) and ethno-national 'orientations' (Ukrainian and Rusyn). Surveys were distributed at the Rusalia (held in the Lemko village of Zyndranowa), the Lemko Vatra 'in the Homeland' (held in the Lemko village of Zdynia), and the Vatra 'in Exile' (held in the Silesian resettlement village of Michalow).

All Lemko organizations in existence at the time of the survey received multiple mailings with requests to distribute them among their members. These included the Stovarysh'inya Lemkiv (Lemko Association); Ob'ednannya Lemkiv (Union of Lemkos); Rusynskij Demokratychnyj Kruh Lemkiv "Hospodar" v Pol'shy ('Hospodar' Rusyn Democratic Circle of Lemkos in Poland); Ruska Bursa; and the ad-hoc organizational committee of the annual Zdynia Vatra Folk Festival.

Of 250 questionnaires distributed, fifty-two were returned. The sample breaks down as follows:

Age Percentage
Born before 1947 resettlement 44
First Post-resettlement generation 54
Second Post-resettlement generation 2
Level of Education Percentage
College Diploma 52
High School Diploma 44
Grammar School 4
Religious conviction Percentage
Orthodox 50
Greek Catholic 38
Pentecostal 4
'Atheist' 4
Roman Catholic 2
'Christian' 2

Returns by province are divided into three categories: the historical territory of Lemko settlement (the Lemko region); the territory to which Lemkos were relocated in the 1947 population resettlement; and lastly, all other parts of Poland to which Lemkos have migrated from one of the first two regions. In terms of location, the breakdown appears as follows:

Location Percentage
Historical Lemko region 50
Resettlement territories 44
Territories of new settlement 6

In terms of profession, the skilled trades predominated, followed by the professions and educators. Respondents described themselves variously as accountants, electricians, technicians, engineers, economists, schoolteachers, teaching assistants, doctors, farmers or homemakers.

Individually represented were a woodsman, a choir director, a cleric, a veterinarian, a university student, a high school pupil, a philologist-translator and ethnographer.

The Questions

Question 1. This question sought to define the outer limits of Lemko identity by asking respondents to think about what in the post-1947 Lemko community is a common phenomenon: a Lemko extensively assimilated into the Polish, Roman Catholic mainstream. Is he in the respondent's view 'still' a Lemko? If so, what makes him so? If not, why not? The question appeared as follows:

Is it possible for someone who does not speak Lemko, does not live in the Lemko region, is married to a non-Lemko and of a non-traditional religious faith, to be regarded as a Lemko?

Response Percentage
a. Yes 53
b. No 35
c. Difficult to say 12

A small majority was willing without reservation to accept the hypothetical assimilated Lemko as one of their own. Forty-seven per cent (the 35 per cent answering 'no' and the 12 per cent answering 'Difficult to say') either rejected the possibility or at least did not look favorably on the hypothetical Lemko's chances of maintaining his or her Lemko identity.

Most of those respondents who accepted the possibility that the assimilated Lemko could still be considered a Lemko based their determination of Lemko identity on one of two characteristics: the individual's parental heritage and the presence (or absence) in the individual of an emotional attachment to his or her Lemko heritage.

It is sufficient merely that he [the hypothetical Lemko in the question] is of Lemko parentage', suggested respondent 2, a 65-year-old Lemko of Roman Catholic background. 'Lemkos typically set great store by their family roots', suggested respondent II, a 49-year-old Greek Catholic. Respondent 36, a 33-year-old Greek Catholic teacher, wrote that 'One becomes a Lemko only once - by being born as one'.

Respondent 8, a 50-year-old Lemko of Orthodox background, wrote that It depends on him [the hypothetical Lemko]. A feeling of belonging is born and lives in the heart.' Respondent 15, a 52-year-old economist from Wroclaw, also based her understanding of who is and who is not a Lemko on an individual's emotional attachment to his or her heritage. She wrote that one is a Lemko 'when one's heart beats faster at hearing the mere word "Lemko".' From that initial emotional attachment, 'everything else will follow', wrote respondent 25, a 44-year-old factory worker from Zielona Gora.

Representative of those who questioned whether the hypothetical Lemko could truly be considered Lemko was respondent 22, a 40-year-old Orthodox cleric. He remarked that 'A Lemko who does not meet the listed requirements [language, religion, Lemko home life, area of residence] would be a pretty strange, contrived Lemko'. Some respondents felt that a Lemko so far removed from Lemko traditions would simply be unable to resist the forces of assimilation. Respondent 35, a 33-year-old Greek Catholic veterinarian, wrote. If he doesn't speak Lemko, is not an eastern rite Christian ... with time he, and definitely his children, will lose connection with the Lemko community'. 'Lack of Lemko language skills', argued 26-year-old Orthodox respondent 44, 'is a barrier to interacting with other Lemkos and to understanding Lemko culture.' Respondent 12, a 51-year-old farmer from Nowy Sacz, concluded 'He'd be a renegade.'

Respondent 14, a 49-year-old Greek Catholic from Tarnow, offered a brief history lesson tracing the political and social climate which brought about many examples of the hypothetical Lemko in the question:

Question 2. The second question asked: How can one return to one's Lemko roots?

Respondents' answers emphasized the need to become reacquainted with Lemko culture, history and language. Respondent 15, a 52-year-old economist, wrote that one must 'grow to love [Lemko] culture, customs, traditions - and above all love the mountainous Lemko homeland'. Respondent 47, a 27-year-old ethnographer of Greek Catholic background, wrote that a Lemko seeking to rediscover his roots must 'make contact with other Lemkos, learn to recognize Lemko things and maintain distance from non-Lemko things.' Respondent 31, a 40-year-old electrician from Legnica province, wrote that it is necessary to 'use the Lemko language on a daily basis'.

It comes with age - a return of interest in the culture, longings ... recharging one's batteries in the mountains', wrote respondent 16, a 47-year-old doctor. 'Don't be ashamed of your people and your religious faith', advised respondent 33, a 33-year-old woman of Orthodox background. Respondent 27, a 44-year-old technician from Legnica province, wrote that one way to return to one's Lemko roots is 'to work for the growth of the Lemko community'.

Seven respondents doubted whether an assimilated Lemko could ever return to his roots. Respondent 44, a 26-year-old farmer, wrote that It's difficult to count on a miraculous conversion'. Respondent 22, a 40-year-old Orthodox cleric, noted wryly that: 'There aren't many ways [to return to one's Lemko roots], none of them is ideal; there is no set recipe. It's hard to "become" someone. It's better simply to "be" him.

Question 3. Language plays a key role both in shaping and reflecting a group's culture and identity. Question 3 inquires into the status of the Lemko vernacular, seeking insight into the state of the Lemko ethno-national identity debate. This question asked:

Can Lemkos have or do they have a distinct language and literature?

Response Percentage
a. Yes 78
b. No 14
c. No opinion 8

The tabulated results suggest that, for a large majority, Lemkos either already do or could have a distinct language. A smaller component of 14 per cent indicated that Lemkos either cannot or do not have their own language.

A survey of the comments of the 78 per cent who feel that Lemkos can or do possess a distinct language suggests that they base their opinions on one of two lines of reasoning: personal familiarity with an already extant body of Lemko vernacular writings, or belief in a theoretical 'right' of Lemkos to aspire to having their own language. The comments of the 'no' group base their opinion on the belief that establishment of a distinct Lemko language undermine'; the unity of the Ukrainian community. Others in the 'no' group saw what they felt to be the simple impossibility of formulating a distinct Lemko language.

Most respondents' comments, whether in opposition to the idea that Lemkos can have their own language or whether in support, reveal a strong sense of the practical problems in codifying a vernacular. Respondent 9, a 50-year-old woman from Nowy Sacz province, answers that in her opinion Lemkos do have their own language, 'because the Lemko language, in contrast to the prototypical village dialect, has for a long time functioned in many spheres of contemporary life.' Yet respondent 3, a Greek Catholic electrician from Legnica, used the same practical reasoning to answer in the negative: If a resident of Tylich village has difficulties understanding someone from Dubne village ... twenty kilometers away, how can one speak of a unified language? Given the present scattered settlement, it is not likely and probably impossible.

Other respondents considered the question in the light of concerns about unity within the Lemko community. Respondent 44, a 26-year-old farmer, argued that It is important at the present time to create a language and literature, in order to strengthen and unite our community.' Respondent 10, a Greek Catholic teacher from Zielona Gora, saw forces of division to be so strong as to prevent the codification of a Lemko language: 'The intelligentsia is too small and the clergy - I mean both Greek Catholic and Orthodox - work to divide people.' Respondent 22, an Orthodox priest from Nowy Sacz, like respondent 10, felt that divisions within the Lemko community would prevent codification of a Lemko language: 'Lemkos have both a distinct language and literature, but detractors diminish their value. As a result, it's very difficult to raise them to a higher level.'

Respondent 19, a 46-year-old chemist of Orthodox faith, expressing the Lemko Ukrainian perspective, wrote: 'Lemko is a dialect of Ukrainian in much the same way that Silesian speech is a dialect of Polish language.' 'You can't build a language out of a dialect,' maintained respondent 5, an economist from Gorzow.

The comments of respondents 13 and 26 merit special attention inasmuch as they reveal how some Lemkos view the language codification process now being undertaken by Lemko Rusyns. Respondent 13, a 48-year-old Orthodox schoolteacher, comments briefly that it is possible for Lemkos to have their own language, 'on the basis of the Yugoslav [Vojvodin] Rusyn model'. Respondent 26, a 36-year-old schoolteacher from Nowy Sacz, wrote:

Question 4. Lemko folk culture has been inspired by and celebrates their mountainous Carpathian homeland. As with other agrarian cultures, the connection between land and identity was for Lemkos a strong one. During the years 1944-47, Lemkos were resettled away from their homeland. Those who have since returned found that depopulation of the region, coupled with directed in-migration of ethnic Poles, has changed the ethno-cultural landscape of their homeland. How has the traditional tie between the Lemko region and Lemko cultural identity been altered since the resettlements? Question 4 asked:

Is living in the Lemko homeland necessary in order to preserve the connection with one's Lemko heritage?

Response Percentage
a. Yes 22
b. No 78
c. No opinion -----

The overwhelming majority of respondents thus feel that living in their homeland is not necessary to preserve the connection with their Lemko heritage, whereas a smaller number feel that residence in the homeland is necessary.

The answer of respondent 36, a 33-year-old Greek Catholic teacher living in Nowy Sacz province, was representative of the 78 per cent 'no' group:

Respondent 39, a 24-year-old student from Legnica province, suggested that

Respondent 30, a 40-year-old accountant of Orthodox religious background, lamented: 'Where you live doesn't always depend on your desires. It depends on the past political environment and the present political and economic conditions,' which was seconded by respondent I, who did not return owing to 'a simple lack of funds'. Respondent 24 found comfort in the thought that 'there are many distinct nationalities without their own countries - one day their dreams may be fulfilled.

The 22 per cent of respondents who felt it necessary to live in the Lemko region did so for two reasons. A strong fear of assimilation was foremost. Secondly, these respondents found that they felt 'at home' only in their own ethno-cultural community and homeland.

Respondent 22, a 40-year-old Orthodox cleric residing in the Lemko region, was representative of those fearing assimilation. He argued that 'no nationality living outside its homeland is able to completely preserve its ethno-national identity or culture.' Respondent 33, a 33-year-old also residing in the Lemko region, agreed: 'Every nationality ought to have its own homeland and the majority of that nationality should live there. '

The remarks of respondent 13, a 48-year-old Orthodox teacher living in the Lemko region, eloquently reflected the views of those who could feel at home only in the Lemko region:

Questions 5 and 6. Questions 5 and 6 together ask the respondent to define three ethnonyms which recur frequently in the discussion of Lemko ethno-national identity: 'Ukrainian', 'Rusyn' and 'Lemko'. Inasmuch as ethonyms are shorthand for broader identities and world-views, respondents' interpretation and use of these terms offers hints as to the evolution of Lemko ethno-national consciousness, and insight into what issues comprise the discussion. Question 5 asked:

Is there any real difference between Lemkos and Ukrainians?

Response Percentage
a. Yes 67
b. No 27
c. No opinion 6

As indicated above, 67 per cent of respondents did differentiate between Lemkos and Ukrainians, while 27 per cent felt that these were terms of reference for the same population. The respondents' accompanying comments suggest that both groups' views were frequently grounded in historical mythology and stereotypes. To a lesser extent, respondents mentioned material cultural traits (for example, musical traditions, geographic location) as evidence for the correctness of their beliefs.

Thus, respondent 50, a 29-year-old economist from Nowy Sacz, drawing on stereotypes widespread in the Lemko community, wrote: 'Lemkos - hardworking, gentle, peaceful. Ukrainians - hardworking, assertive, stubborn.' Respondent 28, a 41-year-old electrical engineer from Wroclaw province, wrote:

Respondent 22, a 40-year-old Orthodox priest, likewise felt that Lemkos and Ukrainians are distinguished by what he termed "separate mentalities.' Respondent 39, a 27-year-old student from Legnica, seconded this opinion: 'We can attend the same church, sing the same songs, but often cannot speak the same language. This is because we have different ways of looking at fundamental matters. '

A minority of the respondents couched their opinions in a historical discussion of Lemko ethnogenesis. Respondent 12, u 51-year-old farmer, sees no difference between Lemkos and Ukrainians because 'Ukrainians and Lemkos descend from the same root: Kicvun Run'.' Respondent 37, a 45-year-old physician of Orthodox faith, seconded this in a frequently encountered analogy: 'we are children of the same parentage'. Respondent 3, a 64-year-old electrician from Zielona Gora, argued that

Respondent 5, a 67-year-old economist from Gorzow, considering the matter of ethnonyms, wrote: 'Lemkos are a part of the Ukrainian people. At one time they called themselves and were called by others Rusyns.' Respondent 32, a 33-year-old engineer from Nowy Sacz, viewing Kievan Rus' and Lemko ethnogenesis from the Rusyn viewpoint, wrote: 'Lemkos descend from the Carpathians and the Ukrainians from Kievan Rus'.'

Respondent 45, a 29-year-old Greek Catholic from Wroclaw province, cited more recent historical occurrences among his reasons:

Respondent 43, an unemployed 21-year-old of Greek Catholic background, noted that 'Lemkos have had much contact with Poles and Slovaks. None the less, they have tried to maintain their distinctiveness. ' In this vein, several respondents referred to the role of Poland in accounting for any difference between Lemkos and Ukrainians. Respondent 25, a 44-year-old farmer from Nowy Sacz, wrote: 'Contemporary Lemko culture is closely tied in with Poland. '

In accounting for how Lemkos and Ukrainians differ, the comments of respondent 16, a 47-year-old Greek Catholic veterinarian, reveal the historical lack of group pride among Lemkos that, some Rusyns feel, propels troubled Lemkos into accepting a Ukrainian orientation:

Respondent 36, a 33-year-old Greek Catholic technician, attributed any difference between Lemkos and Ukrainians to inconsequential regional particularities: 'There are no real differences [between Lemkos and Ukrainians]. If there are, these would be similar to the types of differences found between Silesians, Kashubians and Poles.'

Respondent 4, a 60-year-old technician from Koszalin province, also sees no difference between Lemkos and Ukrainians, but attributes this not to inherent unity between the two, but to '... artificial domination of Lemkos by Ukrainians and Ukrainian nationalism. This is not in the best interest of Lemkos. '

These comments suggest that the matter of Lemko identity - whether Ukrainian or non-Ukrainian - is still very much undecided. How do respondents view the matter of Lemko identity relative to a Carpatho-Rusyn identity? Question 6 asked:

Is there any real difference between Lemkos and Rusyns?

Response Percentage
a. Yes 6
b. No 82
c. No opinion 12

The overwhelming majority felt that the terms Lemko and Rusyn are synonyms for the same population, suggesting at first glance a high degree of unity among respondents. In fact, this apparent unity hides substantial divisions over respondents' understanding of the idea of what it means to be 'Rusyn'. Some of the respondents of the 82 per cent group regarded the term Rusyn in the above-mentioned historical sense - as an earlier historical name for the Ukrainian nationality. Others in the same group interpreted Rusyn as the name of a contemporary distinct Carpatho-Rusyn people, of which Lemkos are seen to be a part.

The two most succinct and representative statements of the Lemko Ukrainian ideological perspective were provided by respondents 5 and 19, both of whom argue that any Lemko and Rusyn distinctiveness resulted from the deliberate manipulation of Lemko identity by local powers. Respondent 19, a 46-year-old chemist from Legnica, wrote: 'The word 'Rusyn' was invented by Poles (and maybe the Czechs) ... it is a historical concept which incorporates the peoples of Eastern Europe: Russians, Belorusans, Ukrainians, and others.' Respondent 5, a 67-year-old Greek Catholic economist, continues:

Other respondents offered a different explanation. Respondent 45, a 29-year-old Greek Catholic from Wroclaw province, wrote that

The respondents who interpreted Rusyn not as a historical term, but as a distinct modern nationality, answered by arguing that if there are differences between the terms 'Lemko' and 'Rusyn', this is due only to contemporary political boundaries which have divided Lemkos from their Rusyn cousins residing in Slovakia and Ukraine. Respondent 23, a 32-year-old Greek Catholic graduate student, wrote that

Respondent 21, a 45-year-old religion teacher in the Orthodox Church, likewise cited geopolitical differences, but 'spiritual' unity, between Lemkos and Rusyns:

Respondent 9, a 50-year-old retired school teacher from Nowy Sacz, wrote that Lemkos and Rusyns differ,

Likewise, respondent 39, a 27-year-old student of Orthodox background, looked at historical and present geopolitical circumstances as the source of only superficial differences between Lemkos and Rusyns:

Question 7. Born out of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century ethno-national question, Lemko secular organizations have in their worst moments inspired indifference or distrust in the common folk. Secular organizations have often been perceived as vehicles for self-interested and ambitious individuals, or as promoters of political 'agendas' far removed from local, everyday life. The post-1989 resurgence of the orientation question among Lemkos has again led to the establishment of new Lemko organizations (mentioned above). What are Lemkos' current attitudes towards these organizations? Question 7 asked:

Are you a member of any Lemko community organization? If so, which one(s)? If not, why not?

Response Percentage
a. Not a member of any organization 57
b. Member 43

Respondents' comments revealed the presence of a profound distrust of Lemko community organizations and of the motivations of these organizations' leaders. Attitudes towards and participation in Lemko secular organizations were strongly influenced by a respondent's own ethno-national orientation or religious background. Respondent 26, a 35-year-old teacher living in Nowy Sacz province, did not participate in any Lemko organization because

Respondent 29, a 31-year-old electrician who is a Pentecostal, likewise sees reason to condemn a perceived selective membership policy among Lemko organizations: 'Lemko organizations mobilize people according to religious background - Orthodox or Greek Catholic. People of different religious backgrounds are not accepted. '

A specifically Rusyn ideological perspective on Lemko organizations comes from respondent 38, a 31-year-old Orthodox accountant:

Respondents' reactions were equally strong on the subject of the leaders of Lemko organizations: 'Political opportunists', charged respondent 3, a 64-year-old Greek Catholic electrician; 'intolerant and short-sighted', inveighed respondent 45, a 29-year-old Greek Catholic residing in Wroclaw province. Respondent 13, a 48-year-old teacher, observed broadly that the leadership of Lemko organizations possesses the 'powers' formerly exercised by the leaders of Lemko organizations in the communist '... bad old days'.

Apart from mistrust of Lemko secular organizations, other reasons for non-participation in Lemko organizations included the fact that none were available in the vicinity of the respondent (28 per cent) or simple lack of interest (7 per cent). Respondent 46, a 25-year-old philologist from Gorzow province, wrote 'Where I went to school ... there was no Lemko organization; I don't care to travel a long distance for a meeting just because it's a Lemko organization.' Eighteen-year-old respondent 41, a high school pupil in Nowy Sacz province, wrote with youthful direct-ness: 1 can't find any reasonable lLernko] organization; they're all made up either of old fogies or praying bigots.' Ten per cent of respondents indicated that they simply had no time. Respondent 22, an Orthodox priest, indicated that his profession required neutrality, obliging him to refrain from joining any Lemko organization.

Of those 44 per cent who did report participation in Lemko organizations, the one most often named was the Lemko Association, followed by the Union of Lemkos, the Ruska Bursa and the Union of Ukrainians in Poland.


The survey results suggest the following about the present-day understanding of what it means to be a Lemko in Poland:

(1) the minimal determinants of Lemko identity today are having Lemko parental heritage and an emotional attachment to one's Lemko family, heritage and homeland. The more 'concrete', material manifestations of Lemko identity, such as language or religious faith, while also very important for maintaining Lemko identity, are not absolutely necessary.

This degree of tolerance suggests that Lemko identity has as a result of the post-war dislocations and associated loss of Lemko cultural inventory, been artificially separated from Lemkos' traditional material and spiritual culture. This is seen in the respondents' high degree of tolerance on the matters of who is a Lemko (Question 1) and the possibility of reverse assimilation (Question 2). With their churches destroyed, their customs and culture made irrelevant in a new, foreign environment, Lemkos for many years had only family and 'feelings' to define themselves in their own minds and to one another. In this context, cultural tolerance becomes a necessary cultural survival strategy.

(2) The Lemko homeland still serves as a reservoir of past and present Lemko identity. Confronted by the harsh reality of resettlement, however, the way in which the homeland fulfills this function has of necessity changed. Short vacations to the Carpathians have become 'pilgrimages to Lemkovyna', during which the Lemko 'pilgrim' may reestablish contact with an almost lost ancestral past (Question 4).

(3) What it means to be Lemko in Poland is increasingly torn between the Ukrainian and Carpatho-Rusyn orientations. This is suggested by the fact that respondents, asked to define the terms 'Lemko', 'Rusyn' and ·Ukrainian', displayed a significant disagreement over the meaning of the key term 'Rusyn' (Questions 5 and 6). Some respondents saw it as a historical term for Ukrainian and hence regarded Lemkos as Ukrainian; others regarded the term as a name of a contemporary, distinct Carpatho-Rusyn people. This divergence of opinion is not based merely on ignorance or stereotype (many of the respondents are well educated), but on clear and well-developed world-views.

Inasmuch as a people's growing desire for their own distinct language might suggest the presence of a developing national consciousness, then a Carpatho-Rusyn consciousness has reasserted itself to some degree in the Lemko population. Respondents' comments exposed a strong conviction that Lemkos 'could' or 'should' have their own codified language, rather than simply adopting the Ukrainian language as their own (Question 3). The comments further suggest that the possibility of codifying a Lemko language is far from reality and faced with numerous obstacles, not least of which is division within the Lemko community itself.

(4) The stresses of the Ukrainian-Rusyn ethno-national identity question manifest themselves to detrimental effect in Lemko community life (Question 7). Lemko secular organizations were viewed by most respondents as divisive on both ideological (ethno-national) and sectarian grounds, causing more than half of the respondents to refrain from participation. However, the respondents' own prejudicial rejection of one organization or another suggests that, while Lemko secular organizations to some degree perpetuate division within the community, they also reflect divisions which ultimately originate with Lemkos themselves.