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Lemko churches

Lemko churches

Jerzy Żak - photographs

Andrzej Piecuch - text

English translation: Piotr Leoniak

Layout: Zbigniew Karaszewski i Iwona Mi¶kiewicz

Bilingual edition: text in Polish and English

LEMKO CHURCHES is the original publication whose authors made an effort to present and to describe all historic Lemko churches which have endured the tragic times of the 1940s displacement and post-war demolition. Most of them are used now as Catholic churches, and few of them became museum buildings. There are 111 historic churches described in the album along with some contemporary ones. The beauty and the variety of the church interiors can be seen on numerous photographs of iconostases, saint icons and polychrome decorations. The album captured also the beauty of roadside chapels, effigies and crosses in their natural surrounding.

Selection of book pages

From the Editor
Lemkovyna is a land lying along the border between Poland and Slovakia, for centuries inhabited by the Lemkos until 1947. It stretches along the Beskid Niski and part of the Beskid S±decki mountain range. In Poland, its western boundary is marked by the Poprad River Valley and the eastern one by the Wysoki Dział mountain range and the basin of the Osława and Osławica rivers. Ru¶ Szlachtowska, a tiny region surrounding only four villages in the Pieniny Mountains, is also recognized as a part of Lemkovyna. Ruthenian highlanders who used to live in Lemkovyna called themselves Rusnaks or Rusyns, and that is what they were called by Poles and Slovaks. The term ”Lemkos” was used for the very first time to describe them only in the 2nd half of the 19th century. It is believed that it was derived from a common word in these lands ”lem”, ”len”, meaning ”only” or ”but” as used in Ruthenian and Slovak dialects. Later the word “Lemkos” became widespread as the name describing all Ruthenian, Greek Catholic and Eastern Orthodox inhabitants of the region. The Lemko identity is not homogeneous. Some of them feel they are just Lemkos, more precisely Lemko Rusyns, and they often refer to old Ruthenian traditions. Others describe themselves as Lemko Ukrainians. In spite of differences, however, all of them cultivate and develop their traditional spiritual and material culture. The most striking and characteristic elements of the mountain landscape of Lemkovyna are the wooden and brick Greek Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. They are the most valuable proofs of the faith, culture and achievement of their Lemko founders. Their beauty is appreciated by both tourists and present inhabitants of these areas. One of the long string of admirers of Lemko church architecture is Jerzy Żak, the renowned artist-photographer from Krynica Zdrój, whose photographs we can see in this album. Another is Andrzej Piecuch from Gorlice, the author of the texts describing the churches as well as the villages and towns in which they were built. All historical Lemko churches in the Polish part of Lemkovyna are shown in this album – from Jaworki in the west, through the villages of Wierchomla Wielka and Milik on the Poprad River, Izby and Brunary on the Biała River, to the churches in the valleys of the Osława and Osławica rivers in such settlements as Komańcza, Turzańsk and Szczawne. Nearly all churches presented in this album are located in their original surroundings. Wooden and brick Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches represent different architectural styles and periods. The oldest one from the village of PowroĽnik was erected in 1600. The newest churches were erected before World War II, and there are also a few completely new ones, which were built in Gorlice, Kulaszne, Krynica Zdrój and Zyndranowa. Next to the photographs depicting the beauty of the church architecture, there are photographs showing important religious ceremonies of the Lemko community, which are connected with the sanctuary on Mount Jawor in the village of Wysowa, the Jordan Feast (Epiphany) in the village of Pętna, the kermesz church fair in Olchowiec, as well as the annual Feast of the Dormition of the Virgin in Nowica.

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