Nationalities Papers, Vol, 25. No. 4. 1997


Susyn Y. Mihalasky

The following article appears here courtesy of the author - Susyn Y Mihalasky and is copyright 1997 by Association for the Study of Nationalities

Unauthorized use or duplication is forbidden

From May to August, 1991, the author distributed 250 questionnaires among Poland's Lemko minority. The questionnaire is part of a dissertation being written on the long-term impact on the Polish Lemko community of the 1947 "Vistula' Operation population resettlement. To date, 52 questionnaires have been returned.

The questionnaire focused on the present state of the Lemko community, particularly on the matter of the Lemko ethnonational identity. Some questions asked respondents to reflect on the situation of Lemkos in Poland, their personal experiences and expectations for their community's future. In this brief report, discussion will he confined to the eight questions which generated the most responses indicative of how Lemkos perceive Poland and Poles. Where internal Lemko community concerns are relevant to interpreting results, these will also be briefly discussed.

Most questions offered a choice of answers to select from, as well as space to add comments. As respondents are anonymous, they will be identified only by their randomly assigned number and by classification data. Included in this article are only those classifications which are relevant to the topic: age, level of education, profession, religious persuasion or the province in which the respondent lived.

First there will be a brief discussion of how the total sample was collected followed by a profile of that sample. Each of the eight questions discussed will be treated separately, with brief consideration or the tabulated result (where applicable), followed by respondents' illustrative comments. The conclusion will summarize what the cumulative results suggest about how Lemkos view Poland and Poles.

The Sample

No statistical records on Lemkos (or on any other minority communities living in Poland) have been kept since the Second World War. Of course, the existence of statistical records do not ensure that a representative sample would automatically be generated. The author attempted to generate a stratified random sample based upon her knowledge of the Lemko community. This was done by distributing questionnaires at various Lemko cultural festivals and religious holidays. Lemkos of all ages come from all over Poland to attend these events, providing a concentrated, yet mixed population of both "traditional" faiths (Greek Catholic and Orthodox) and ethnonational "orientations" (Ukrainian and Rusyn). Lemko community events at which questionnaires were distributed included the Summer Solstice, the LemkoVatra "in the Homeland" (in the Lemko village of Zdynia), and the Vatra "in Exile" (in the Silesian village of Michalow).

A variety of distributional methods were utilized. Questionnaires were distributed directly by hand or in multiple mailings to organizations and individuals. Lemko organizations contacted included the Association of Lemkos, the Union of Lemkos, the Organization of Lemko Citizens, the Ruska Bursa, and the Organizational Committee of the Zdynia Vatra. Questionnaires were also distributed "by proxy." Recognized Lemko community leaders of both Greek Catholic and Orthodox background and of both Ukrainian and Rusyn orientations were requested by letter or in person to distribute questionnaires on the author's behalf among their like-minded associates.

In terms of age, the breakdown appears as follows:

The breakdown by level of education appears as follows:

In terms of profession, the skilled trades predominated, followed by the professions and educators. Respondents described themselves variously as accountants, electricians, technicians, engineers, doctors. economists, schoolteachers, teaching assistants. farmers or homemakers. Individually represented were a woodsman, choir director, cleric, veterinarian, university student, high school student, philologist/translator and ethnographer.

In terms of religious persuasion.

Returns from provinces were divided into three categories: territory of historical Lemko settlement (the Lemko region); the territory to which Lemkos were resettled in 1947 (Silesia and Pomerania); and lastly, all other parts of Poland to which Lemkos have migrated from one of the first two regions. On this basis, 50% came from historical Lemko region,5 44% from resettlement territories,6 and 6% from territories of new settlement.7

The Questions

Question #1: How do you feel about being Lemko in Poland?

As the above results suggest, approximately two-thirds reported having generally positive feelings about being Lemko in Poland. On what are these feelings based? These respondents' comments suggest the presence of a pragmatic connection between geographical location and political loyalty. Inasmuch as the Lemko region has historically been part of Poland, these respondents regard Poland "by default" as their "second home."

The comments of the 35% with negative feelings or who reported feeling "indifferent," did not differ from one another in any significant way. Both groups held views of Polish government and society as unsympathetic to the minorities within their midst. This 35% also felt a pragmatic loyalty to Poland, but apparently gave more weight to their negative perceptions when answering the question.

The comment of respondent #26, a 35-year-old teacher, is illustrative of those with positive feelings: "I consider myself a Lemko, but Poland is my second home ... I'd always like to live here [Lemko region] and have the possibility to practice the traditions of my Lemko ancestors without fear." Respondent #48, a 26-year-old doctor from Zielona Gora, wrote: "I don't see a possibility of preserving our [Lemko] traditions outside of Poland, without direct contact with our homeland." Respondent #12, a 5l-year-old farmer from Nowy Sacz, wrote simply, "... most Lemkos have for centuries lived within Poland's borders."

Respondent #36, a 37-year-old teacher of Greek Catholic faith, wrote with mixed emotions: "After all, I live in Lemkovyna [the Lemko region] and it has been part of Poland for a long time. It is a pity only that Poland treats my Lemkovyna so harshly."

Representative of respondents with more negative feelings about being Lemko in Poland is respondent #8. a 50-year-old from Nowy Sacz province. He wrote: "Not all Poles are tolerant of minorities. The slogan 'Poland for Poles' is chauvinistic." Respondent #52, a 26-year-old physical therapist from Zielona Gora, wrote without elaboration: "I'd rather live in a Lemko state."

Question #2: How do you assess the present state of the Lemko community in Poland?

Of immediate interest about these returns is that not one respondent assessed the present state of the Lemko community as being "very good." A majority of 42% saw the present state of the Lemko community as being "difficult" to varying degrees, while 39% felt "uncertain."

Based on respondents' comments, this pessimism arises out of two sources. The first is concern over the internally divided state of the Lemko community. Secondly, respondents perceived Poles' attitudes toward Lemkos to range from indifference to hostility. Briefly on the first point, respondents' comments on their own community reflected a belief that internal divisions over ethnonational and religious identity hindered possibilities for their community's future development. This same concern arises as well in responses to other questions.

Secondly, respondents assessed the situation of Lemkos as difficult or uncertain within the context of challenges facing Poland as a whole. Political and economic changes then taking place were seen to hold both danger and opportunity for Lemkos.

Illustrative of this is respondent #32, a 33-year-old electrical engineer: "... the political situation in Poland gives a lot of freedom to unified minorities like the Germans, who know how to take advantage of this. Lemkos, on the other hand, are a divided minority and divide even further in the presence of such freedom." Respondent #27, a 44-year-old civil engineer, felt that "In the event that Poles' troubles increase, ethnic minorities will begin to experience more discrimination."

In contrast to this is the 12% who saw the situation of Lemkos in Poland as "good." Among these is respondent #41, an 18-year-old high school student from Nowy Sacz province. He wrote: "I think that at the present time, we can live here in Poland with our heads held high, developing our culture ..."

Some respondents' perceptions of Poland and Poles were colored by their "orientation" on the Lemko ethnonational question.8 How does orientation affect a respondent's perception of Poland and Poles? The Ukrainian orientation regards Lemkos as a regional subculture or branch of the Ukrainian people. The Rusyn orientation looks upon Lemkos as a branch of a recently reemerged (1989) Rusyn ethnic group straddling the Carpathian mountains.

With regard to how Poland and Poles are perceived, the Ukrainian orientation is more likely to view Poland from the context of Ukrainian-Polish relations. Lemkos of Rusyn orientation frequently take this same perspective inasmuch as all Lemkos, regardless of ethnonational orientation, were regarded officially by the Polish government as Ukrainians. However, the Rusyn orientation assumes that while Lemkos share many common interests with the Ukrainian minority, they also have distinct interests. Thus, in terms of the perceptions of Poland and Poles, "Lemko Rusyns" are more likely to see the Polish government as indifferent or pro-Ukrainian. "Lemko Ukrainians" would more likely describe the Polish government as indifferent or (particularly in the past) as anti-Ukrainian.

Respondent #5 is a 67-year-old industrial economist of Ukrainian orientation. In his comments to this question about the present state of the Lemko community in Poland, he suggests that the Polish government is practicing a "divide and conquer" strategy against the Ukrainian minority: "The basic demand of the Ukrainian people - including Lemkos- is the redress of the evils arising out of the barbarous forced resettlement.9 Keeping to the present status quo serves the interests of assimilation and creates divisions, such as "Ukrainian," "Rusyn," and "Lemko."

In contrast, respondents of Rusyn orientation made comments which implicitly suggested that they regard the Polish government not as anti-Ukrainian, but as pro-Ukrainian or indifferent.

Respondent #21, a 45-year-old Orthodox teacher of religion, wrote: "After Ukraine became independent, Poland began to look after the interests of the Ukrainian minority and, in order not to offend them, pushed Lemko matters to the side. In addition to this, the politicized Polish clergy is working against Orthodox Lemkos."10

Respondent #23, a 32-year-old Greek Catholic teaching assistant of Rusyn orientation wrote: "The present situation is not the worst, but it is uncertain. Ukrainianization pressures are powerful, and Poles don't defend Lemkos much against this. The times are uncertain-every day there are new political developments, also ethnopolitical developments. The situation is very fluid."

Question #3: Is the new approach to minorities-tolerance of minority political and cultural activity now visible in Poland-genuine and permanent or merely temporary?

At first glance, the results suggest that a small majority consider the new politics to be only temporary. In fact, however, the comments of the "No opinion" 27% in no way differ from those of the "Temporary" 54% group. Taken together, these respondents' comments suggest that the full 81% question the veracity and longevity of the new politics.

What is the source of this doubt? Of the 81%, 18% specifically mentioned the "Vistula" Operation population resettlement and the failure of a 1991 attempt to have the resettlement condemned by the Sejm. This was taken as proof that the Ukrainian and Lemko minorities were still treated as second class citizens. Representative of this sentiment is respondent #5: "... I cannot believe that the situation is 'sincere and permanent' as long as current Ukrainian demands regarding the barbarous 'Vistula' Operation are not met. The situation of Ukrainian minorities in comparison with other minorities is specifically the result of the forced resettlement and scattering of Ukrainians (with Lemkos as a part of this....)."

Respondent #51, a 28-year-old theologist from Krosno province, wrote: "Lemkos can't get back their lost churches, forest properties, or educational facilities. Pretty words and publications are just not enough to speak of 'sincerity'." Respondent #8 wrote with brief passion: " the government of Poland isn't doing anything to make amends for the injustices of... the Vistula Operation!!!"

Other respondents saw genuine tolerance of minorities, but accounted for this by arguing that Poland is only doing what is politically expedient vis-a-vis Western Europe and Ukraine. Respondent #24, a 30-year-old engineer of Orthodox background, wrote: "I think that the new approach toward minorities is in part being forced by other democratic states; there isn't much tolerance in Poland." Respondent #23 concurred: " long as Poles want to enter Europe, they will have to be tolerant [of minorities], because that is the European model." Respondent #28, a 41-year-old electronics engineer from Wroclaw province, offered an American analogy: "I think that this [tolerance of minorities] is dictated by the existing state of affairs. President Bush came to Paderewski's grave, but I doubt that he knew before hand who Paderewski was. However, he knew how to gain the favor of the Polish-American electorate."

The comments of respondent #36, who is of Ukrainian orientation, illustrate his orientation's conception of Polish motives: "... Poles support Lemko separatism in order to... separate Lemkos from Ukraine."

Several respondents felt that democratic changes had ushered in real tolerance but feared that possible economic and political crises might lead to the "scapegoating" of ethnic minorities. Respondent #40, a 23-year-old student from Gorzow province, wrote: "In the face of many threats, chauvinistic groups negatively inclined toward minorities will gain greater influence." Respondent #49, member of a minority faith (Pentecostal) within a minority group, was particularly concerned about religious tolerance in Poland: "In times of growing economic and political problems, Poland might blame Orthodox, Ukrainians and other non-Roman Catholics, because, after all, the Jewish question doesn't exist . .."

Those 19% who did see tolerance of minorities as being genuine and permanent, did so because they believed that democracy had successfully taken hold in Poland. Respondent # 35 felt that "the democracy growing in Poland is inseparable from tolerance of and aid to minorities." Respondent #45 agreed that "the new government's tolerance of minorities is a hallmark of democracy, and the government will prove this."

Respondent #34, a 45-year-old agricultural technician wrote more concretely: "There is more tolerance in regard to holding [non-Roman Catholic] masses, religious classes; you can get off work for holidays."

Some respondents felt that there is no minority policy to speak of. Respondent #2, a 65-year-old Roman Catholic from Tarnow, wrote: "[t]he situation in Poland is currently so bad, that nobody pays any serious attention to Lemkovyna." Respondent #19, a 40-year-old chemist from Legnica province, felt that "... the current politics of the Polish elite is unfriendly toward minorities. I'd say that there is none. But the government is one thing and the people are another. Lemkos live among Poles, and, bluntly, the majority of Poles do not welcome Lemkos. Maybe in other parts of Poland it is different, but here in Lower Silesia, where most Poles come from the eastern border regions, Polish-Ukrainian relations still carry the scars of 1941-45. Lemkos are identified with Ukrainians. Breaking down these barriers will take many years."

Question #4: Have you ever felt discriminated against on the basis of your ethnonational heritage?

The most visible trend in this result is that virtually all of the 76% who answered "Yes'' mentioned school, teachers, and their fellow pupils as sources of their first experiences with discrimination. Respondents reported being subject to rock throwing, ridicule, negative stereotypes, stories and jokes. Many reported frequently hiding their Lemko identity out of shame or fear.

Respondent #26, a 35-year-old teacher, recalled: " children ridiculed me when I was walking home from school, sometimes using Lemko words which they could not understand but which sounded funny to them.... sometimes it seemed that a Polish friend received the same high grades as I did despite not having the same level of competence. I often heard various horrible, prejudicial stories Poles told about how Lemkos are cruel and primitive.... These stories were told among my friends, who didn't know that I was a Lemko. Out of fear, I didn't tell them."

Was this sort of experience confined to the past, when tensions between Polish and Ukrainian communities were more immediately fresh in peoples' minds, or does it still occur in the present? Examination of respondents' ages suggest that while discrimination is still felt, it is on the wane Of the 76% who had reported experiencing discrimination, 58% were 45-years-old or older. Of the 24% who had reported no experience with discrimination, 92% belong to the two post-resettlement generations (aged 44 or younger).

The remarks of respondent #39, a 27-year-old student from Legnica province, illustrate this generational difference in perception of discrimination: "I personally, no. I sometimes was even more respected precisely because I am a Lemko. My parents frequently told me about how they were hassled at work." Respondent #47, a 27-year-old ethnographer of Greek Catholic faith, wrote that while running across some prejudice, he also "... encountered acceptance of my heritage."

Respondent #38, a 3l-year-old bookkeeper, is representative of the younger generation who still do experience discrimination: "In grammar school ... when they wanted to tease me they called me 'Rusyn' and presently my daughter complains of the same thing. Of course it is true [that she is a Rusyn], but they continually treat us differently and pick quarrels."

Of the 76% who felt that they had experienced discrimination, 32% mentioned the work environment. Respondent #24 (an engineer) implied that it was possible to be treated equally, but only for a price that he was unwilling to pay: "... I never did achieve a status appropriate to my abilities. Nobody ever officially told me this, but certain positions are open only for Poles, particularly for those who conceal their ethnonational identity."

Eight percent of respondents mentioned feeling discriminated against by local government authorities. Respondent #5 offered a short list: "office of the city registrar (until 1950),'people politics' at work, some Roman Catholics (unfortunately also priests)."

Question #5: In your opinion, which political parties, organizations or social movements presently active in Poland are most interested in, sympathetic or aware of Lemko concerns-and why do you feel this way?

Fully 75% of respondents felt that there was no mainstream Polish political party, organization or movement which could be described as interested in or sympathetic to Lemko concerns. Of these, 28% indicated that only Lemko organizations are concerned about Lemkos. This outcome suggests that, despite democratization within Poland, these Lemkos still feel that their community does not have a voice.

Representative of this majority are respondents #1, a 67-year-old retired economist, and #41, an 18-year-old high school student. Respondent #1 felt that if any mainstream party, organization or movement was interested in Lemko matters, this was only "... to get votes." Respondent #41 lamented: "Only Lemkos are interested in Lemko concerns-the political parties are debating abortion!" Respondent #30, a 40-year-old bookkeeper of Orthodox faith, felt that "Parties and large organizations" were not interested because of "... the difficult problems of accepting responsibility for the wrongs done to Lemkos and finding the willingness and means to rectify these wrongs.

On the other hand, 25% did feel adequately represented. These respondents were able to name specific groups which they felt were interested in Lemko concerns. The Democratic Union (Unia Demokratyczna- UD) received the most support; 11% out of this 25% minority specifically mentioned this party. Senator Krystyna Kuratowska received explicit mention several times. Respondent #26 wrote: "... Senator Kuratowska has attended the 'Vatra' [annual Lemko summer folk festival] several times, speaking about her liking for Lemkos. During the election campaign [1991 elections to the Polish parliament] Lemkos signed petitions in support of UD senatorial candidates and they [in turn] supported Lemko causes." Respondent #43, an unemployed 2l-year-old, wrote: "probably the UD; this is the non-nationalistic party of the intellectuals."11

Other respondents among this 25% group provided "laundry lists" of political groups and individuals whom they considered interested in Lemko concerns. Respondent #35, a 33-year-old veterinarian, wrote: "UD, Ruch Demokratycznospoleczny, Partia Pracy [Aleksander] Malachowski, [Ryszard] Bugaj)12; Konfederacja Polski Niepodleglej, Kongres L-D [Liberal-Democratic]. These are democratic organizations and this obligates them [to represent minority interests.]"

Conspicuous by its absence was Solidarity, which was mentioned by only one respondent. This apparent departure from Solidarity and its (at the time) unique liberal minorities policy suggest that these respondents feel that they have real alternatives among the various parties which emerged since democratic reforms were undertaken.

The political left was favored over the right. Respondent #24 preferred "the Center-Left ... which take minorities under their wing." Respondent #22, a 40-year- old Orthodox priest felt that "right wing and Christian parties" were not friendly toward minorities. This remark probably reflects concern among some Lemkos of both Greek Catholic and Orthodox background over the increasingly high profile of the Roman Catholic Church in Polish governance and legislation.

This same 25% which felt that Lemko concerns are represented in mainstream Polish political groups, are quite well educated and young in comparison with the 75% who did not feel Lemko concerns to be reflected in the Polish political mainstream. A full 69% of this 25% group is made up of individuals 44-years-old or younger. Sixty-one percent held college degrees and 31% held high school diplomas. This suggests that the younger and better educated Lemko is more likely to feel that he/she has a "voice in the system" than older, less educated Lemkos.

Question #6: How do you see the future of Lemkos in Poland?

Respondents were simply given space in which to comment. All 52 respondents expressed an opinion, with only ten of these being relatively positive in nature. Comments suggest that this pessimism stems, as noted previously, from concern over internal community matters and perceptions of Polish government and society as being unfriendly to minorities. Reflecting these dual concerns is respondent #26, who sees the future of Lemkos in Poland, "Rather pessimistically, because Poles are not tolerant of minorities and, on the other side, because Lemkos themselves are divided . . . ."

It is interesting to note that of the ten relatively positive assessments of the Lemkos' future within Poland, all based their optimism on positive feelings toward Poland. This suggests that, however pessimistically the respondents may view Poland, they are that much more pessimistic when viewing their own community.

Turning first to the majority pessimistic opinions, what is the root of this pessimism and what is the expectation for the future of Lemkos in Poland? The absence of official condemnation of the "Vistula" Operation population resettlement by the Sejm and of compensation to Lemkos for their material losses, were seen as continuing evidence that Lemkos are "obywatele drugiej kategorii" (second class citizens). These respondents' expectations are for the imminent assimilation of the remaining Lemko remnants into the Polish or, if of Rusyn orientation, Ukrainian communities. They attributed this inevitable assimilation to the Lemkos' forced removal from their cultural. linguistic and historical homeland.

Respondent #7, a 52-year-old forester from Krosno, wrote: "I see no future [for Lemkos in Poland] if the conditions aren't created for the return of lost [Lemko] properties [confiscated by the communist government after the Lemkos were resettled in 1947]." Respondent #30 proposed a radical solution: "The goal of the [1947 'Vistula' Operation] resettlement has been attained. Recreating a dense Lemko settlement in the Lemko region is now impossible. Aside from scattered remnants, the region is now ethnically Polish. The Lemkos are dispersed and their assimilation is assured. The only hope now is to set up a separate Lemko region, combining villages to which reverse migration has already occurred, with villages [which were and have since remained] abandoned since resettlement. This region should receive government aid, and full rights of cultural autonomy and self-government."

Despite regarding their resettlement as unjust, Lemkos take pride in considering themselves loyal citizens of Poland. Some, in oral conversations with the author, expressed their hurt and resentment of the implication that they behaved traitorously during the Second World War. Reflecting this attitude is respondent #13, a 48-year- old teacher from Nowy Sacz province, who wrote that: "Lemkos can be born again only if the Polish government takes away from us the stigma of traitors... it's necessary to remove negative stereotypes of Lemkos from school texts and guidebooks."

The extensive assimilation which followed in the wake of the Lemkos 1947 dispersal, loomed large in respondents' thoughts, influencing their negative perceptions of their community's future in Poland. Respondent #31, a 40-year-old electrician of Greek Catholic faith, wrote: "If there is no mass remigration to the land of our fathers [the Lemko region] and deserved tolerance by the authorities, then in one hundred years there wont be a single trace of Lemkos in Poland." Respondent #10, a 57-year-old teacher from Zielona Gora, wrote simply that "We'll all become completely Polonized." Respondent #16, a 47-year-old doctor from Zielona Gora, likewise feared the assimilating affects of mixed marriages, writing that if Lemkos "... don't return to their roots, then they will dissolve into the majority."

Respondent #29, a 3l-year-old electrician of Pentecostal faith, took a broader view: "This [the future of Lemkos within Poland] depends above all on the fate of Poland herself. I most dread anarchy and, following in its footsteps, an explosion of hatred toward Lemkos.''

In contrast, those respondents who held more optimistic views, saw expanded opportunities for Lemkos within the overall context of Poland's democratization. They differed only on what Lemkos themselves could do to improve their future prospects within Poland.

The majority felt that Lemkos should participate more directly and often in the general political life of the country. Respondent #24 felt that "Since Lemkos have a concentrated enclave in the Lemko region, and a series of laws allowing for free development of cultural, intellectual and economic life, Lemkos should have their own representatives in the Polish parliament." Respondent #17, a 57-year-old farmer, felt that his community's future in Poland would be "Good. if [Lemkos] have the possibility of participating in government." Respondent #20, a 58-year-old construction engineer from Tarnow, saw a good future for Lemkos "in full and close cooperation with other nationalities." Respondent #44, a 26-year-old agricultural engineer from Legnica province, wrote: "With Lemko activism being like it is now, we can work our way into position as a respected minority." Respondent #34 felt that "We can expect that the unjust decree regarding the 'Vistula' Operation [population resettlement] will be condemned."

Respondent #28 differed with the above respondents, finding a good future in Poland to lie not with political activism, but with traditional Lemko modesty. Quoting the Lemko expression "Tykhshe idesh, dolshe budesh" (the more quietly you move, the farther you'll get), she wrote that her community's future will be "good, if they prove to be wise." Respondent #35. commented within the context of social change accompanying free market and democratic reforms in Poland that "... Lemkos will retain their identity, but the commercialization of life will result in less attention being paid to who you are than to what you have...."

Question #7~ In what forum does future Lemko community activity have the greatest chance for success-cultural or political?

Most interesting here is that none felt that political activity by itself would be successful and that 10% felt that neither held any potential for success. The large majority of respondents considered this question from the viewpoint of internal Lemko concerns, feeling that internal divisions weaken the Lemko community to the point where political activities are not possible. The comments of several respondents. however, shed light on how Lemkos imagine Poles perceive them and why fully 61% saw potential for success only in cultural activities.

Respondent #26 wrote: "As an ethnic group, Lemkos are in fashion and attractive; this is because of their interesting culture. For this reason today's ethnographers and the Polish government might be interested in them and help them to preserve their culture and distinctiveness. I don't believe, however, that the Polish government is particularly interested in the fate of ethnic minorities. It would rather not have minorities in its borders." Respondent #10 felt that "Poles won't allow Lemkos to act in any other forum but the cultural one."

Question #8: What is the role of Poles in the conflict between Rusyns and Ukrainians?

This question was asked in the context of beliefs encountered by the author among some Lemkos that the Polish government seeks to divide the Ukrainian minority by (1) promoting artificial "Rusyn" and "Lemko" group identities (Ukrainian orientation); or (2) that it is allowing the ukrainianization of the Lemko community in order to secure the fate of the Polish minority living in Ukraine (Rusyn orientation). The majority of respondents did agree that the Polish government has historically had and/or at present has an interest in dividing the Ukrainian community. There was no similar agreement, however, that a "Lemko" or "Rusyn" identity were manipulated to do this. In fact, many respondents of Rusyn orientation expressed a desire for more active support from the Polish government.

Among those respondents who felt that the Polish government had or has an interest in dividing the Ukrainian minority, 12% answered with one of the following expressions: "divide et impera"; "Where two fight, a third benefits" (Gdzie dwoch sie bije, tam trzeci korzysta); and "since the beginning of time, the Pole was never brother to the Ukrainian" (Jak swiat swiatem, nigdy Polak nie byl Ukraincowi [Rusinowi] bratem).

Respondent #14 wrote: "Poles always tried to provoke quarrels among minority nationalities in order to advance their interests," and respondent #16: " it was always so, and so it shall be-the interest of a state are in conflict with those of an ethnic minority." Respondent #43 wrote that "Poles fear a pro-Ukrainian sympathy among Lemkos." Respondent #5, of Ukrainian orientation, wrote: "The question is incorrectly structured. There is no conflict between 'Ukrainians' and 'Rusyns' in Poland. As far as I am concerned, there are only scattered individuals."

Some respondents of Rusyn orientation felt that Poles play or "should" play a more supportive role. Respondent #9, wrote: "Poles should be on the side of Rusyns, who haven't done them any harm and innocently suffered at the hand of Poles: the Vistula Operation, the Ukrainianization of Lemkos." Her implication is that the Lemko population did not support the Ukrainian Partisan Army (UPA), and was essentially loyal to Poland and therefore needlessly resettled.

The comments of respondent #23, of Rusyn orientation, are representative of her orientations perception of Poland and Polish-Ukrainian relations: ''As leaders of the country ... [Poles] at any given moment could provide Lemkos with legal protection against Ukrainian harassment, which most often works against Lemko interests. The Polish government can choose to tolerate or not tolerate Lemko aspirations. It seems to me that at the present time, they are doing too little to halt Ukrainian harassment of Lemkos, which they [the Polish government] regard as internal [Ukrainian community ] matters. Poles want to maintain good relations with Ukrainians.... Poles are often afraid to help Lemkos because Ukrainians accuse them of being anti-Ukrainian."

Eighteen percent considered the role of Poles in a Ukrainian-Rusyn conflict to be either minor, neutral or non-existent. Respondent #32 wrote: "Poles have a passive role; they have enough of their own problems. They associate the term 'Rusyn' with 'Russian.' There is a small group of Polish academics and amateur ethnographers who are familiar with these matters and stake out positions in newspaper columns or publications. If even a few of them heighten the Ukrainian-Rusyn conflict, this is probably not their intention."

Respondent #39 wrote that "Officially and privately they [Poles] can throw up obstacles in the way of one side or another, or they can remain neutral. They don't have a decisive voice, but can interfere here and there." Respondent #31, a 40-year-old Greek Catholic electrical technician, wrote that "[Poles] assumed a passive role in this conflict, hoping that they will win over Lemkos and, after ideological separation [from Ukrainians], absorb them...."

Summary and Conclusions

The collated results and respondents' commentary suggest the following about how Lemkos view Poland and Poles:

(1) There is both deep and widespread pessimism among Lemkos regarding their present and future within Poland. This is based in part on a perception of Polish Government and society as being intolerant of minorities, in general, and of Ukrainians (with whom Lemkos are associated), in particular. (2) The "Vistula" Operation population resettlement and the related matters of its official condemnation by the Sejm and the compensation question, emerge clearly as the most important issues affecting how Lemkos perceive Poland and Poles. Respondents of both orientations, faiths, and all generational cohorts, were virtually unanimous in feeling that there should be at least moral condemnation of the resettlement by the Polish Sejm, if not material compensation. The absence of such restitution is seen by respondents as proof that they still suffer discrimination.

(3) The majority of the respondents feel that there is greater openness and tolerance- toward minorities since the rise of Solidarity. Most, however, see this as political expediency compelled by the times, or if genuine, then not inclusive of Lemko concerns. A minority of Lemkos do find democratic reforms to hold much promise for Lemkos. They feel that Lemkos can have a voice. If they do not, then this is less the result of deliberate discriminatory practice than internal Lemko divisions which neutralize the community's influence. (4) Lemkos born after the 1947 resettlement and better educated Lemkos are less likely to feel alienated from Polish political life than are older and less educated Lemkos. Those Lemkos who do have explicit preferences, favor parties on the center-left. These are perceived as being more friendly to minority interests than right-wing parties. (5) Ethnonational orientation has some impact on how Lemkos perceive Poland and Poles. Lemkos of Ukrainian orientation tended to tie their community's fate more closely to that of Poland's Ukrainian minority and were more sensitive to the vicissitudes of Ukrainian-Polish relations. Lemkos of Rusyn orientation felt neglected by the Polish government. Some felt themselves to be the target of ukrainianization efforts, either as a consequence of perceived Polish indifference or as a consequence of efforts by Poles and Ukrainians to strengthen their relations.


Research for this article was supported in part by a grant from the International Research and Exchanges (IlREX), with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. the U.S. Information Agency. and the US Department of State, which administers the Soviet and East European Training Act of 1983 (Title VIII). The author also wishes to express gratitude to her anonymous respondents, members of a shy, gentle, reticent people, who went against habit to answer a stranger's difficult questions.

1. In 1991, when this survey was begun, this group would have been 45-years-old or older.

2. In 1991, this group would have been between the ages of 20-44.

3. In 1991. this group would have been 19-years-old or younger.

4. The results are reported under the term "Greek Catholic," because this term was preferred by the respondents to describe themselves. Three respondents who defined themselves as "Byzantine Catholic" or "Ukrainian Catholic" are also included in this category.

5. Breakdown by province is as follows: Nowy Sacz: 40%; Tarnow: 6%; Krosno: 4%.

6. Breakdown by province is as follows: Legnica: 21%; Zielona Gora: 10%; Gorzow: 6%; Wroclaw: 6%; Koszalin: 2%.

7. Breakdown by province is as follows: Bielsko-Biala: 2%; Cracow: 2%; Torun: 2%.

8. The ethnonational "orientations" presently viable in the Lemko region are the Ukrainian and Rusyn. Determining whether a particular respondent is of Ukrainian or Rusyn orientation is an art rather than a science. Lemkos traditionally shy away from "political talk' in general, and discussions of ethnogenesis in particular. Therefore, many respondents were likely to be reticent. Others were uncertain.

Where a respondent's orientation is certain and relevant to the discussion, it will be identified. Where not identifiable with certainty, or where not relevant to the discussion, a respondent's orientation will not be noted. How was a respondent's orientation determined? Respondents were asked questions attempting to identify orientation. as well as to acquire information on these orientations' ideological world views. Question #29 asked if there is a difference between Lemkos and Ukrainians and question #30 if there is a difference between Lemkos and Rusyns. It was assumed that the two orientations were likely to have two different response patterns. A respondent of Ukrainian orientation would likely respond to question #29 that there is "no difference" between Lemkos and Ukrainians, whereas a respondent of Rusyn orientation, is likely to state that there "is a difference" between Lemkos and Ukrainians. In response to question #30. a respondent of Ukrainian orientation will likely respond that Rusyn is the historical name for Ukrainian and Lemko a regional name. On the other hand, a respondent of Rusyn orientation is likely to respond to this same question that there is no difference between Lemkos and Rusyns, that these ethnonyms arc synonyms for the same people. Of course, determining a respondents' orientation in this manner is not perfect, but is helpful in many cases.

9. This is a reference to the 1947 forced resettlement of Ukrainians and Lemkos out of their homeland in the southeast corner of Poland and their subsequent scattering throughout the northern and western territories gained by Poland after the Second World War. The so-called "Vistula" Operation resettlement was carried out as the first phase of a two-phase military campaign to firstly deprive the Ukrainian Partisan Army of material and moral support and finally, to liquidate it. Most Lemkos, however, regard the resettlement as deliberate attempt to denationalize and assimilate the resettled populations.

10. The respondent's comment on the Roman Catholic clergy illustrates another way in which ethnonational orientation may affect a Lemko's perceptions of Poland and Poles. The author encountered among Lemko Rusyns (who are most often Orthodox) a belief that the Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic church cooperate to the detriment of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church. The key notion in this perception is that their common recognition of papal authority unites Roman Catholic Polish and Greek Catholic Ukrainian interests. In contrast, some Lemko Ukrainians (who are most often Greek Catholic) regard not religion but nationality to be the determining factor. The Roman Catholic church cooperates with the Orthodox church to the detriment of the Greek Catholic Church because of Polish 'ukrainophohia.' Thus, a Lemko Ukrainian would be less likely to make such a statement as this respondent did.

11. The Democratic Union apparently continues to enjoy support among Lemkos (as well as among Poles). In the September, 1993 elections to the Parliament, Mr. Miroslaw Czech, a UD candidate, became only the second openly self-described Ukrainian in post-war history to gain a seat in Parliament.

12. Deputies to the Polish Parliament from the Partia Pracy (Labor Party).

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