THE TIME-HONORED WOOD-CARVING OF THE LEMKOs
The following article, written by Olga G. Bench (Кандидат містецтвознавства), appeared in the Kiev monthly "Українскій Світ"
(Ukrainian World) in Ukrainian and English. The English translation
was slightly modified as shown here by
The territory populated by an ancient branch of the Ukrainians - the
Lemkos, spread on both sides of the Carpathian mountains, i.e., Poland
and Czechoslovakia. Independent and freedom loving people, always at
peace with the nature, had a distinguished spiritual and material
culture. However in the mid'40s of the XXth century, the Lemkos were
deported to the distant parts of the former Soviet Ukraine. Up-rooted,
literally in one day, from their native land, the people gradually lost
the depth of their ethnic culture, and as time went by, the assimilation
was taking its toll.
One of the major traditions of the Lemkos, that has been preserved to
this day, is the wood carving. The imaginary world, plots and symbols
of the Lemko carvings originate from their attitude to the world
surrounding them. The mountain life of the Lemkos was in harmony with
the nature's rhythms, which provided inexhaustible creative energy,
which lead to wealth of variety in creative powers. The cultural
tradition, so much influenced by native surroundings, was dictated
by their persistence to survive. The inner kinship and interrelation
with everything under the sun, gave birth to diversity of creative
impulses and powers.
The principal sites of national folk carvings of the Lemkos were the
villages of Vilka and Balutyanka, near the health resorts of Ivonich
and Rimaniv, in Syanochina.
The older generation of the craftsmen recall that the Countess Anna
Pototska facilitated the development of the carving tradition in the
region. At the end of the IXth century, she founded the first Carver's
School in Rimaniv. Talented youth from nearby areas were taught the
The pupils studied the relief carving with floral design that at
first covered the household utensils. The round carving type was
represented by figures of animals and birds. This school graduated
a number of highly talented craftsmen, whose traditions are carried
nowadays by their grand-grand-children.
The craftsmen deported from the villages of Vilka and Balutyanka,
preserved their ethnic identity in a compact community, in villages
of Hutisko, Berezhany district, Ternopil region.
These picturesque parts of the Eastern Halichina region, resembled
the native natural surroundings of the Lemkos, which they left
behind. Currently a new generation of carvers works here, side
by side with the older generation of the craftsmen.
The most prominent of them are Sidor Odrekhivskyj, Ivan and
Mikhailo Mikhalishin, Stepan Pototski, the grand-children of
the famous Lemko carver Grigory Berdal - Mikhailo and Oleg
Berdal. Petro Dalinski, the son of the prominent carver Havril
Dolinski, has also started his creative work in Hutisko.
Unfortunately his early death did not permit to blossom the
talent of this craftsman. The majority of talented carvers
moved to live near the health-resorts of Truskavets and Morshin
in the late 50's, escaping from the kolhoz life.
In Truskavets were active such famous carvers as: Hrihoriy Bench,
Ivan Berdal', Ivan Krasivskiy, Markian Odrekhivskyj. Today a
large community of carvers, of different generations and diverse
manners, work here. Among them are brothers Andriy and Stepan
Orisik, sons of the most prominent craftsman and pedagogue
Mikhailo Orisik. Fedir Sinyutka and his son Yaroslav, Fedir
Stetsyak, Vasil Bench, Petro Pototskiy, Petro, Andriy and
Ivan Krasivski, Bohdan Odrekhivskyj - son of a famous craftsman
from Berezhany - Ivan Odrekhivskyj, Vasil Odrekhivskyj and his
son Petro, Mikhailo Ilyash with his son Vasil, son of Ivan
Berdal - Yuriy, Roman Orisik and his wife Anna Ilyash. In
Truskavets settled talented craftsmen family of the Dolinskyjs:
Dan'ko, Maria, Yaroslava, Mikola, Katerina - children of carver
Ivan Dolinskyj, and his children-in-law: Stefan Hirnyak and Ivan
The Morshinskty community is famous for its craftsmen. Among them:
Mikola Berdal, Ivan Bench, brothers Ilyash - Petro, Ivan, Vasil and
Mikhailo, Petro Kit, Mikhailo Pochinskyj, Ivan Dolinskyj.
The traditional skills of the Lemko carvings (relief, bas-relief,
round and flat techniques) were passed on to the professional
sculptural carvings, the most eminent representatives of which
are the sculptors from Lviv: Andriy Sukhorskyj and Vasil
The book list all Lemko carvers of the last generation along with
most characteristic samples of their works. The carving tradition
of the Lemkos that has come to us through the ages calls for a
thorough research and cultural nourishment.
B. Odrekhivskyj. Decorative Plate. Wood.
1991 - G. Nakonechna. Embroidery,cross-stiching, 1989. - Lemko Easter
I. Odrekhivskyj. Decorative Plate.
I. Berdal'. Deer Family.
H. Bench. Decorative Wooden Cane.
1985 - Yu. Berdal'. Decorative Plates. 1990.
Yu. Berdal. Lemko House with a
Stork. Wood. 1990
D. Dolinskyj. Lion. Small Foxes.
B. Odrekhivskyj. Decorative
Plates. Wood. 1989.
Andriy Sukhorskyj. Bandura Player.
and "Bambi". Wood. (Photos taken by
Oleh Iwanusiw in Lviv in 1993).
Thanks go to Andy Medynets
of Kiev for providing me with the original material.
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Originally Composed: April 8th, 1996
Date last modified: July 18th, 2010.