Part 3, Section 10 - The Battle of Gorlice.

The Gorlice area of Lemkovina was a cauldron in which half the Russian forces fighting in Sub-Carpathia were caught. These units, numbering nearly 20,000 men, were being pursued by five divisions from the east through Krempna and Zhydowske, by two divisions and a brigade of cavalry from the Dukla pass, three divisions from the north on the Zmigorod-Iwlia-Dukla line, and a cavalry division from the east on the Yaslo-Cheremkha highway. In attempts to break through, the Russians became scattered and surrendered in small groups in the area between Dukla and Gyrow. The well known General Kornilov was captured.
The last action of the fighting in Lemkovina was the formation of an 80 kilometer fronton a line from Harishny Wislok to Fryshtak on May 8 by twenty divisions, and counter attacks by the Russians on the following day. After this day, the Russians were no longer able to withstand the increasingly strong enemy forces.
It must be realized, however, that the Germans and the Austrians had expected an easier victory. Despite excellent preparation and superb strategy, they found it hard to bring down the Russians, who fought with uncommon bravery. The battle of Gorlice opened up great possibilities for further action by the Central Powers. Important events now followed each other closely. Lviv fell on June 22, Warsaw on August 6, followed rapidly by Brest, Vilnius and Lutsk. By the fall of 1915, the Russians had lost, in addition to Galicia, all those parts of Poland they had previously controlled, plus Lithuania; they halted at the border of prewar Poland. The action between May 2 and May 12 that took place between the Dunaiets and San rivers was the turning point in the war between Russia and the Central Powers.
The brutal plowshare of war had torn up Lemkovina from end to end. The name of almost every village there is a synonym for at least onebattle. The flames of war had scorched this formerly peaceful land and left memorials in the form of cemeteries all over Lemkovina. Even as late as 1938, church services were being held in temporary chapels in some Lemko villages, such as Gladyshow, Zhydowske, and others, because churches had not yet been rebuilt. Remnants of trenches dug during the great war can still be seen in the hills, and in many places there are roads paved with fir logs that were used for moving cannon into position. In all of Lemkovina there are 54 cemeteries where soldiers were buried. One of the most striking of these is close by the road from Gorlice to Konechna, while the largest is on Putski Hill near Gorlice. Others are spotted thickly all along the Ropa River and its tributaries, on both sides right up to the border. There are seven such cemeteries between Ropitsa Russka and Senkowa, indicating how fierce the fighting was there.
Austria kept on fighting until 1918. Little by little the front lines of the Central Powers began breaking down, and in November 1918 World War I came to an end on both the eastern and southern fronts. Rebellious Austrian troops, seeing the futility of further fighting, threw down their arms and returned to their homes in chaotic disorder. New nations rose out of the ruins of the Austrian empire.

Wartime Cemeteries In Lemkovina

In World War I, Lemkovina was the theater of a long-standing Austro-Russian front. Fierce battles were fought there in the early days of May 1915, which resulted in defeat of the Russian forces and their withdrawal from Lemkovina.
The land of the Lemkos was left scarred with trenches and cemeteries as memorials to those battles. Although much time has gone by since they were fought, military trenches, huts and a variety of other shelters, and roads made of poles that were used to move artillery into position can still be seen in the hills and forests. Most of the trenches were on Malastow Magura.
Many men fell in those battles, on both one side and the other. Their bodies were buried hurriedly in shallow temporary graves in fields and woods, near cottages, and even close to wells. Villagers often found uncovered and decomposing bodies in the forests. The most elementary principles of hygiene were violated in those burials.To prevent a variety of epidemics, the Austrian government organized in Krakow a special unit called the "Kriegsgraberabteilung", whose task it was to build the needed number of cemeteries, dig up the bodies, and move them into the cemeteries. Austria was in a hurry to build these cemeteries so it could use Russian prisoners for the work before peace was signed.
This special unit was divided into 12 crews, each of which was assigned a different Job. One was supposed to clean up the war's debris, another to establish the identities of the bodies, a third to find evidence of burials, and all the rest to do the technical work of building cemeteries.
Among the officers in this unit there were architects, masons, painters, and all the other professions that are needed in this kind of work. To speed up the work as much as possible, it was decided to start building simultaneously over all the territory wherever the debris of war was found. To this end, 10 cemetery districts (Kriegsgrabbizirk) were established within the region from Zmigorod to Tymbarka and Shchutsina. Lemkovina was divided into three districts: (1) Zmigorod, (2) Gorlice, and (3) Limanow. On the territory of Lemkovina there are 54 wartime cemeteries containing 1,260 individual graves and 617 mass graves, with each of the latter holding several score bodies of soldiers, mostly Russians.
Each district was headed by a "district chief". These chiefs were officers trained as architects or painters who designed the cemeteries for their districts. For some of the cemeteries, contests were held in which artists, painters, and architects from other districts took part. Because of this, all these burial grounds in Lemkovina look much alike. The most interesting of all the cemetery districts is the one at Zmigorod. The man in charge there was the welt known architect Dusan Yurkovich. He built his cemeteries in Old Slavonic style, and so they harmonize with the Lemko style and form. The most attractive of his cemeteries is the one on top of Malastowa Magura near the road from Gorlice to Konechna. This is in the form of an ellipse and is enclosed in a row of thick fir stumps topped with caps made of shingles, in the style of Lemko churches. Inside the cemetery are small wooden crosses, and on the back wall is an oratory (small chapel) also made of tree stumps. At the ends of the ellipse there are shingled caps, each carrying three crosses pined together with a copy of the Blessed Mother in between them. The whole gives the impression of being framed by the fir trees of the nearby forest. This cemetery reminds one of a small cozy Lemko village cemetery.
Not far from there is another cemetery on a hill that can be seen from afar on the road to Gladyshow. This one is also built of wood and is remindful of the one on Magura, except that instead of an oratory it has a steeple in the center of a round cemetery. The steeple is 15 meters high and rests on a massive stone base. The upper part is made of wood covered with shingles. There are five such steeples in a cemetery on top of Randulna Hill, east of Regetow. These steeples are arranged so that the one in the center is the highest with the other four around it being a little lower.
In Konechna, hard on the Slovak border, Is a third cemetery with a steeple built by Yurkovich similar to those on Randulna but made entirely of stone except for a cap of wood shingles.
Among the cemeteries built by Yurkovich mention should also be made of one at Grab. It departs in style from the others, but by a happy combination of stone and wood it makes a strong impression. A stone roof capped with wood shingles covers the cemetery in the form of a rosette, while the gateway is in the form of an oratory, also of stone and with a steep roof of wood shingles. There also are two other oratories in the side walls. At the back wall there is an altar-like structure above which rises a 19 meter steeple.
Not so good is Yurkovich's work where he built entirely of stone, for example, the cemetery in Krempna. In the center is a heavy memorial in the form of a round wreath of oak leaves, lying flat on four high pillars. If it were not for its overpowering massiveness, the whole thing would resemble a garden arbor. Around this memorial are circles of radially arranged graves, among which stand two large crosses.
In addition to those described above, there is a large number of cemeteries in various localities around Zmigorod.
In the southeast corner of Gorlice County,there is scarcely a single village without a wartime cemetery. These are in the form of a square with low walls and an iron gate. Within the walls are rows of graves marked by iron crosses. On the west wall is a stone structure shaped like a triangle or a throne from which rises a high wooden cross.
In the third, the so-called Gorlice district, which lays north of the Zmigorod district, the work was directed by Hans Mayer, who put primary emphasis on strength and impressive facades. Mayer built with stone. The cemeteries he designed can be recognized by their thick stone walls covered with stone slabs. The front walls and the driveways are decorated with high pylons that can be seen from a distance. There is one such cemetery on a hill east of Malastow. Others are located between Malastow and Ropitsa Russka and in Senkowa.
The ferocity of the fighting between the Austrians and the Russians can readily be discerned from the number of cemeteries. There are seven of them on the hills between Ropitsa Russka and Senkowa. There are mass graves in the fields in many places, e.g., in Biltsareva at the foot of Yawor Hill, in Waftsa on the side toward Kholm, as well as in Florinka beside the main road, and in other places.
Johann Eger, the builder and director in the Yaslo district, showed some originality in his approach to the task. On the "walakhy" hill near Tseklin, he found over twenty mass graves scattered through the woods. He did not move them, but just walled them around where they were and left behind a crooked little road about four kilometers long. From a distance, the place where these graves are located looks like a steeple oratory at the edge of the forest.
Similar to the Lemkovina wartime cemeteries are two large and prominent ones on Polish land, one in Gorlice and the other on Putski Hill near Luzhna. The Gorlice cemetery is situated on a high hill above the city and is visible from all directions. Leading up to it is a road lined with trees and some small benches. Its gateway is a large structure in the old style. This gigantic cemetery is traversed by little paths between which are stone crosses in straight rows. In all, there are 140 individual graves and 161 mass graves. In the center of the cemetery is a stone cross on top of a high steeple, designed by Gustav Ludwig; mortaredon to the cross are two tablets, one honoring the Poles who died for their native land and the other honoring Germans.
Another cemetery notable for its tremendous size is located north of Luzhna on Putski Hill. This hill was the site of the most stubborn Russian defense. There was a furious baffle here. This cemetery on Putski is by far the largest of all. In separate clearings in the forest lie Russians, Austrians, Germans and Hungarians. Each group has its own section with a stone memorial and a forest of wooden crosses. Throughout each clearing, there are paths, stairs, steps, handrails and benches. On top of the hill is a wooden tower 24 meters high, decorated with shingled canopies. On the tower is an oratory with a carved figure of Christ carrying a cross. In this cemetery, there are 829 individual graves and 46 mass graves, each of the latter containing a few dozen or a few score bodies.
The wartime cemeteries in Lemkovina are the fruits of fratricidal warfare among Slavic peoples fighting for the interests of dominating rulers - the old idiot Emperor Franz Joseph, the power-mad trickster Emperor Wilhelm, and the mystic Tsar Nicholas. The blood of the slaughtered soldiers cried to high heaven for revenge. And this revenge was not long in corning. Even before the final end of the war, the thrones of all three of these monarchs had crumbled to dust. The liberated people began a new life.

Originally appeared in the newspaper "Karpatska Rus'". Yonkers NY. Permission was granted by the editor for it to appear on The Lemko Page.

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Date Posted: August 27th, 1998
Last Revision: May 29th, 1999

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