The Secrets of the village of Wolosate
written by Leszek Mnich
Licensed Mountain Guide
Polanczyk, Poland
printed in volume 1 of Carpatho-Rusyn Studies, Paul J. Best - editor
Carpatho-Russyn Studies Group
Political Science Department
Southern Connecticut State University
New Haven CT 06515 USA

While I am not an historian as such, my obligations as a guide require me to take up the history of the Village of Wolosate. Certainly there are still facts to be uncovered and views to be changed in regard to the past. Many volumes of documents in the Ministries of National Defense and Internal affairs, now covered by dust and buried in with other materials, await the light of day, but I will take up the story based on what I know now.

Until 1946 Wolosate was one of the largest and most heavily populated Bojko villages [of the Bieszczady Mountains, in present-day South-East Poland]. Today all that is left are a few fruit trees, lonely roadside crosses and shrines and, in Kepa, some tall trees that surrounded the former church structure and its associated graveyard. Up to now it is possible to find reminders of the past --water dippers from old wells can be found in a few cellar holes, the land in the valley of the Wolosadka River is littered with the shards of old dishes, old tools and other artifacts. Someone might find a bayonet, another a hoe which served the former populace. Wolosate met the same fate which touched nearly every village in the Bieszczady. The same fate, only differentiated by place and exact time of occurance.

The theme of Wolosate first appeared in the 1970s when local guides started to tell various versions of the fate of the inhabitants of the village. One version was that the Germans, due to developments on the Eastern Front, decided to fortify the mountain passes and that they proposed that the locals resettle to territory in the Zamosc region. Further, it was said, the village leaders went to inspect the proposed land and when they returned everybody packed up their belongings, put them on carts and left and nothing further was ever heard of them.
Another version propagated by Eugeniusz Lenart, a very old inhabitant of the town of Leszko, is that Wolosate was pacified by the Germans because its people had been recruited into "the Szlachta Zagrodowa" movement [a pre-war organization that forwarded the idea that certain border dwellers, Wolosate was on the border with Hungary-Czechoslovakia, were really Poles who had been settled there by Polish kings for defense purposes and who later had become Rusified], and they did not want to accept a German issued identity card with the letter "U" (or "Ukrainian") on it. Yet another version was that the pacification occurred because of denunciations in regard to smuggling Polish officers and soldiers across the nearby "Green Border" into Hungary. In each of these versions there may be some element of truth but based on documents found in the archive of the former county government in Leszko as well as interviews with Michal Szymczyszyn former inhabitant of the neighboring village of Berezka, and the veterinarian, Mr. Huzarski from Ustrzyki Dolne, one discovers a completely different version of the story. Let us begin with the oldest information.

Wolosate.. .Wolosatka Village -- this village is situated in the meadows before the mountains, 12 miles from Sanok, in which the Prince himself in the year 1557 settled two people, with freedom from taxes for 20 years, but both of them are thieves and have done very little there as God knows....

Thus reads the first mention of Wolosate in the Survey of 1565 [Lustracja] and its history begins with a couple of thieves.
The oldest mention of settlements based on Pastural Law [Prawo Woloskie] in the Sanok region dates from the second half of the 14th century. Later these settlements were made deeper and deeper into the mountains and in the 15th and 16th centuries they take on a mass character and during these times nearly every Bieszczady village first appeared in the records.
The Geographic Dictionary of the Polish Kingdom (Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego) of the year 1893 states:

Wolosate--a village on the stream 'Wolosatka', a left bank tributary to the San River. This mountain village on the Hungarian Border, is built along the stream. At its lowest it is 705 meters above sea-level and on both sides of the village are forested mountains. In the village is a wooden Eastern-Rite church, 104 homes and 706 Greek-Catholic inhabitants plus 30 Israelites.
The dictionary also mentions that there were 943 morga of agricultural fields, meadows and gardens consist of 542 morga and pasture of 1206 morga [a "morg" is approximately 5,600 square meters].
Thus we learn how many inhabitants were Greek Catholics and how many Israelites (hence, where does the Lenart from Lesko find the Polish Szlachta Zagrodowa?).

Wolosate was settled, in the second half of the 16th century by pasturalists ["osadnicy pochodzenia woloskiego"-Wallachians or Slavic pasturalists? a problem that we cannot resolve here] and it lay along the ancient trade route to Hungary. Along this route came wine "which was placed in towns having the right to maintain cellars for maturing the wine." It was said about these wines that they were "in Hungaria natum, in Pollonia Educatum" (born in Hungary and matured in Poland). Many mountain bandits were said to come from Wolosate. They attacked and looted travelers and rich merchants who traversed the Carpathian passes. Well-known in the Bieszczady were the famous characters Janosik and Ondraszek. These bandits when caught were destroyed by the authorities without mercy. Their activities were justified by W. Lozinski who wrote in his work about mountain banditry that

"the guilt of these people is mitigated by those times when factually the burden of the peasant was not light.. and often they took to the bandit road not being certain either to the day or the hour when they might be attacked by war, deserters, thieves and other groups and lose their whole life's work and even life itself . . ."

It was popularly said that Kuba Dobosza was a brave, cunning bandit but just. The presence of bandits was discovered directly in 1639 by the Lady Wislocka who, when returning from Bardejov [on the Hungarian side of the border] through the Beskid pass, was stopped by bandits and robbed of everything. We can thus think of just what elements occupied Wolosate, especially when we find out that the village had the right to protect runaway serfs. During the period of the Polish partitions the Austrians systematically repressed banditry and it disappeared around 1848, that is, during the "Springtime of Nations."
The Bieszczady, like the rest of Poland, suffered during the tragic "Flood" (Potop) of the Swedes and the forces of Colonel Douglas got as far as Przemysl but the army of the Hungarian Prince Rakoczy came to the relief of the Swedes, crossing through the Carpathian passes and leaving a wide swath of destruction. This defeat did not spare Wolosate. The Royal Survey (Lustracja) of 1665 records that many villages were burned and deserted, in a few places -- including Wolosate--only a small part was cultivated. The village only very slowly returned to life. This history of Wolosate continued to be stormy. Part of the inhabitants took part, for example, in the uprising of Bogdan Chmielnicki.
The main activity of the villagers was the pasturage of cattle frequently brought from the Hungarian steppe and fattened during the summer on the mountain meadows and in the Fall sold at the famous Fair in Lutowiski. The largest area of pasturage was on the high meadows in the area of the Ustrzyki Gorne and Wolosate. At the trade fairs these
"Bojko" people were noted by their style of dress and dialect and were popularly known as "Hyrniaki."
Their clothing was made of raw flax and sheep wool and was produced during the fall and winter in home workshops. In the summer clothing was very simple, a shirt or blouse and pants or a skirt of homemade flax. Men wore linen pants with straight legs, a flax shirt outside the pants tied in by a belt and, depending on the weather, a vest and if necessary a cape or a jacket. The head was covered by a straw hat and on their feet were homemade leather boots (chodaki). Winterwear was simply thicker material. Women in the summer wore short blouses with embroidery on the sleeves and breast, white skirts of flax with added ornaments of a handmade variety. Over the blouse might be worn a corset or vest interwoven with colored wool and in colder days thicker clothing. On the feet were also worn chodaki of domestic production. In the winter the women wore kerchiefs.

At the beginning of the 20th century, according to ethnographic research, these people were universally called Bojkos, a name which apparently stemmed from their frequent use, in their local dialect, of the term "Boj."
We should mention here, though, that the pasturage of cattle was not the only means of support. Many inhabitants of Bieszczady villages left in the summer to work in the harvests in Hungary. The younger and stronger village youths left at the beginning of June in groups of 10 and 20
in the pursuit of work. They worked until the end of July, returning with wheat and rye as payment. In August they worked their own harvests because in the mountain climate growth is delayed 3-4 weeks.
In 1939 the village of Wolosate numbered 464 individual farms and one can judge that about 2,000 people inhabited the valley of the Wolosatka River. According to information obtained from Michal Szymezyszyna, who had family in Wolosate, the village was rich. In the middle was a school and an inn and not far away was a wooden church with a tin roof. On the river was a water mill which ground flour not only for the village itself but for the surrounding area too. In 1940 the Germans came into the village and assembled everyone on the area near the inn and selected the youngest and strongest for work in Germany. How many were taken is difficult to say but the selection started from the age of 12. Otherwise the occupation for Wolosate, as for other Bieszczady villages, was relatively quiet. However, at the beginning of 1944 the Germans started to build fortifications and to lay out mine fields in the area of the Beskid and Rawka passes. In October 1944 the situation was the following: October 14 the 18th Infantry Corpus of the 18th Soviet Army appeared in the area of Ustrzyki Gorne and Wolosate. The next day this unit was ordered to seize the mountains to the northeast of Wolosate, Tarnica an Halicz and to continue in a generally southerly direction breaking the enemy's resistance. The assault along the road through
Wolosate took place on October 16th, after a 30 minute artillery preparation. By the end of the day the Soviets had penetrated 10 km through mine fields and barbed wire. In Wolosate and Ustrzyki Gorne a few buildings were burned but otherwise the villagers did not suffer much and as the front moved on south the village returned to normal. Still in existence were 182 farms and in the school were 6 teachers and 240 pupils. However, the quiet did not last for long. After the establishment of the new Polish frontier on the river Bug -- more or less the famous Curzon Line -- units of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) crossed into Poland. Only at the end of the war, however, was the 8th Infantry Division of the Polish Army sent to guard this new frontier and in late Fall 1945 the first battle with a unit of the UPA took place -- the 34th Rifle unit of Budzisynski. This was part of the dramatic events which brought about the fall of Wolosate.
But stepping back a bit, on September 9, 1944 the new Polish communist regime and the Soviet Union signed an agreement concerning an exchange of Polish and Ukrainian populations. This "voluntary exchange" ran into some difficulty. Units of the UPA attempted to prevent by force the transfer out of, as they saw it, Ukrainian farmers while at the same time the new Polish Administration was not yet working well. However, by June 30, 1946 the evacuation was definitively completed. From Wolosate 1,128 were resettled. However, there was a difference for Wolosate. Other villages were evacuated through "Repatriation Points" while the villagers of Wolosate were simply driven by force to the border and handed over to Soviet authorities. Buildings were burnt by the army and the village ceased to exist.
From April 4 to April 31, 1947 during the so-called "Vistula Action" (Akcja Wisla) which came after the death of the Polish General Karol Swierczewski at the hands of the UPA [but was not caused by it], all inhabitants of territories in which the UPA operated were resettled to Western and Northern Poland. Two hundred and seventy three places disappeared from the face of the earth and owners were deprived of 300,000 hectares of land. The Bieszczady were completed emptied of inhabitants. Only border protection troops were left and in Wolosate and Ustrzyki Gorne units of Internal Security forces were also based.

Normal human life returned to Wolosate only at the end of the 1950s. It was at this time the strangest and most secret period of the village began, all connected with financial manipulations of the new owners of the valley. From 1959 to 1973 the Tatra National Park based in Zakopane controlled the land and mountaineers (Gorale) from the Tatra region were allowed to pasture sheep there. For the next 4 years the land belonged to the "State Land Fund." In March 1977, however, 397 hectares, from 543 belonging to the Fund, were handed over to a cattle raising operation in Arlamowa which belonged to the Council of Ministers of the national government. At that time the first buildings of a future sheep farm were built at a cost of more than 400 million zloties. The head of this new investment was the chief of the "State Protection Service" Colonel Doskoczynski. However, this investment yielded no profits to the state.
In 1981 this farm passed into the hands of the local State Forests unit. It was simply handed over without formalities. In July 1982 the land was further passed onto the Agricultural-Industrial Combine "Igloopol" whose local agriculture directorate was situated in Smolnik and the head of the whole firm was (and is) the (now former) Minister of Agriculture Edward Brzostowski [currently under parliamentary investigation for suspicion of manipulation of public property for his private gain].
The land of Wolosate was to be recultivated and to this end the army was called in to prepare the fields for drainage and leveling by use of explosives. Unfortunately, as a result, the beautiful valley was reduced to a desert. Three hundred seventy seven hectares were designated for recultivation and an additional 200 for drainage. After two years only 139 hectares were put back into use however another 100 hectares which were used allowed to return to the wild. In the meantime, because of the changes rapidly taking place in Poland "Igloopol" was privatized and the head of the new company became none other than Edward Brzostowski, at that time Vice Minister of Agriculture. Of course this raised some interesting issues in the newly free press. Especially interesting was the balance sheet of profit and loss, environmental protection, etc. and the Supreme Control Chamber became interested in the problem of Brzostowski and Igloopol. Brzostowski quickly changed tactics and passed the Wolosate land to a company called "Karpaty" wholly owned by Igloopol. The result was a protest by the Igloopol workers in Smolnik.
On June 22, 1990, in the Polish Senate, Vice-Marshall Jozef Slisz, asked for an investigation of Igloopol. He stated that based on an agreement of July 27, 1989 between the Polish Treasury, represented by the Minister of Forests and Food Industry, and the stock company Igloopol an important piece of property of the State Agricultural-Industrial Unit Igloopol -- then undergoing liquidation -- was handed over illegally because of the extremely low valuation placed on the property. Further, this property was then passed over to a private stock company controlled by public officials -- which resulted in considerable losses to the state. (Dziennik Polski -- Krakow, June 23-24, 1990).

As was noted, the history of Wolosate began with thieves ....!

From January 1, 1990, the territory of the former village of Wolosate was attached to the nearby Bieszczady National Park but the directors of the park hardly know what to do with the land. The Wolosate Valley is a natural bowl for water. From its sides flow many streams and springs abound. This kind of territory ought to be treated with particular solicitude to increase water resources. Because of recultivation and drainage many springs have disappeared without a trace. The drainage of the damp meadows and high mountain peat bogs resulted in the lessening of water available for the "wild plant reserve" in the area. The dried out peat has been reduced to dust thus the many peat bog plants, unique in some cases in Europe, have been lost. High mountain peat bogs have much to offer for scientific research.

The above is but a sketch of the history of Wolosate. Much, much more work needs to be done to illuminate Wolosate's history. It is an example of the fate of the Bojko villages of the Carpatho-Rus area of Europe.

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Page prepared by Walter Maksimovich
© LV Productions, Ltd.  Originally Composed: April 8th, 1996
Date last modified: March 25th, 2012.