Written by Andriy Dokla. Born in 1893 in Ansonia, CT.
was taken to Lemkovyna from the US as a young child at the turn of the century. This
document was handwritten and is dated Shelton CT, Sept. 27, 1967.
Short Biography about the life of Ivan Bohachyk, a teacher in the village of
Bortne, County of Gorlice, and about his family", as told by Andriy
Translated by Walter Maksimovich on 11/17/2001
Ivan Bohachyk, was born in the village Vafka, in the county Gribiv, in
Lemkovyna. He was a man, who in those days was considered to be an educated man.
He was of Rusyn and Orthodox convictions. In those days there was no division
within Lemkovyna along political lines, i.e., Lemko/Lemko, Lemko/Ukrainian. All
our Lemkos considered themselves to be Rusnaks. An even the name Lemko was not
widely accepted or known.
What schools he had graduated I do not know. But he
still belonged to what was known as taught or educated people. He could read and
write in Rusyn and Polish, which in those days was a rarity. Ivan Bohachyk had a
beautiful tenor voice. In his youth he was studying to become a dyak, a deacon.
The first job as a deacon was assigned to him in Doshnytsia, in Yaslo county. An
there he married Eva Shchurko, a village girl. Among the village folks, and the
intelligentsia in the county of Yaslo, he had great respect. He was a religious
person and familiar with the bible. He knew about the life of the Saints and he
knew the bible almost by heart. He knew the Evanhelia and Poslania
One time when he was in the town of Zmihorod, he entered a pub
to have a beer and started to tell his friends stories from the bible. There
were several young Jewish boys delivering beer to tables, who were eavesdropping
and listening to his stories.
As Bohachyk with his friends were heading out
of the pub, these young Jewish boys conveyed everything they had heard to their
father, that Bohachyk is well versed about the Old Testament. His stories from
the Bible barely differed from those same stories in the Jewish Talmud. The
older Jews were curious about this and asked Bohachyk, to deliver to them a
lecture from the Old Testament.
Bohachyk agreed to it and the Jews picked the
day, time, and place where they would meet. When at the appointed day and time
Bogachyk arrived, there he met several older Jews who were waiting for him.
Among them was even a rabbi. They sat down around a table and started a
discussion of the Old Testament from the beginning of the world. Starting at the
beginning of the world, Bohachick progressed chronologically from Abraham,
Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Moishe, Salomon, until he reached Christ.
Jews were listening carefully and were nodding with their heads, as a sign of
agreeing. And the rabbi from time to time would say "geet, geet", meaning
"good, good". Having reached the time of Christ, Bohachyk concluded his
presentation. The rabbi told him about Jewish view of Christ according to their
Talmud. That Christ was an unusual man, but the elder Jews, the religious
hierarchy, were not friendly towards his teachings because of his claim to be
the Son of God. The followers of Moses (Jews) forbid anybody to call himself God
or Son of God because God is a single entity. That God did not have any sons and
Jews considered such claims offensive to the supreme being. According to the
followers of Moses (Jews), any human being who was putting down God should be
killed. Because Christ called himself the Son of God then the elder Jews
considered him to be sacralegous and thus had him killed.
At the conclusion
of the bible lecture, the Jews with satisfaction thanked Bohachyk, hosted him
and then went to their houses. From that time onward, Bohachyk, (with) Jews in
Zmihord, had great respect. Whenever he appeared in Zmihorod, the Jews
front of him would take off their hats and greet him with "Good Day Mr.
These were times when our Lemko villages had no schools.
Only some schools were conducted by the village deacons but it was not
compulsory at that time to send children to school. Whichever family wished to
send a kid to school, it would. Whoever didn't then he
teaching in schools was conducted mostly in winter, before springtime , because
of spring work that takes place on farm fields at that time. Sometimes the
teacher did not show up even when the kids came to school because their teacher
was a deacon. And at times he was preoccupied with a funeral, or similar event.
The deacon would go to church and from church he would go to a wake and he
wouldn't come to the school house until noon.
Sometimes, the kids would come
to school and the teacher wasn't there so they were doing pranks, were jumping
over the benches, sometimes would knock down the blackboard. Sometimes he would
show up very late, say a prayer with them and then he would send them home. Boys
were the only ones to attend the school. Girls did not. There they would learn
how to read and very little how to write. If someone was very skillful, then he
might have learned how to write.
They were only reading from church books, so
they would learn the church alphabet, i.e., the Old Church-Slavonic alphabet. As
a result such students later in life could read from the Psalter, or from the
catechism and other church Slavonic books. Because of such teaching methods, the
students who left such schools did not know how to write. But they would read
from the Psalter. I myself remember people who could read from the church book
but could not write. And as far as math goes, they could not count to large
numbers because no one in the village had a need for such large numbers. The
richest farmer (gazda) would have hidden in his chest maybe 100 or 200 korunas,
an average gazda might have had 5 or 10, and a poor one might have 1 or 2
korunas, because it was impossible to get a paying job in the area.
days, when young Bohachyk was already a deacon in a tserkva (church), an order
was issued by Franz Joseph, the emperor of Austro-Hungary, that in every village
in Galicia new schools should be erected. And all children who are 7 years old,
without and difference as to nationality or religion, should attend 6 years of
The teaching in school was to be conducted in the language of the
kids and their parents. In Polish village, they would teach them in Polish and
in Rusyn village they would teach them in Rusyn. For refusal to send kids to
school the parent or a caretaker (guardian) was penalized with monetary fines.
Even though the emperor issued such an order, there still was a shortage of
Rusyn teachers. Because, whatever Rusyn intelligencia there was, it was heavily
Polonized. These teachers did not know our Rusnak language. For this reason, the
emperor's edict called for all deacons, who up to this time were teaching at
schools within the church, that they would go for training as teachers. And then
they would be assigned as teachers to villages, wherever there were school
buildings. Ivan Bohachyk took advantage of this emperor's edict. He passed the
preparatory courses and became a teacher.
He left the duties as deacon in
Doshnytsia and the school council in the county of Gorlice assigned him a
teacher post in the village of Ropytsia Ruska, in the Gorlice county because
Ropytsia Ruska already had a school house.
At that time a school was built in
Bortne for teaching two classes. Bohachyk was then transferred to Bortne, in the
same county. How long he was a teacher in Ropytsia Ruska is not known to me.
Having taken over the teaching position in Bortne, he moved himself and his
family, which by that time consisted of five, maybe more souls.
The viyt, a
village elder man, made an announcement to the community that they had a new
teacher, and that teaching classes would start. Whoever would not send their
kids, who were of school age, would be fined. At that time there were about 50
kids of school age.
Teaching in school was conducted in this manner: the
elder kids would come to school at 8 in the morning and teaching was conducted
from 9 to 12. And the younger kids would attend from 1-4 in the afternoon. The
teaching material was printed in the phonetic Ukrainian and all Church Slavonic
texts were removed from schools.
In those days, a new priest was assigned to
Bortne, a young widower named Father Volodymir Koluzniatskiy. He was with us
from 1892 till 1931. In the village he met rampant drunkenness. People would
spend their last greitzar to get a drink. There even were cases where
individuals would spend all their farming land. So he took upon himself a
challenge, as a task, to uproot this drunkenness. He founded a sobriety
brotherhood, but the boozers would not join this brotherhood, it consisted
mostly of younger men and several wives.
Bohachyk, even though he was now a
teacher, did not abandon the church. On Sundays and holidays he would assist as
a deacon by singing at the kryllos. I remember that at every big holiday,
he would with great piety, come out to the middle of the church, and sing from
ermalogion, long notes, so called zadostoyny. He had a beautiful and endearing
The teaching in school was conducted on Mondays through
Saturdays. Only Sundays and holidays were free from teaching. If there was an
emperor's holiday, maybe his name's day, then the kids would still come to
school, from school they would walk in pairs, along with the teacher, and head
for the church. And from the church they would again go back to school and would
sing Bozheh budy pokrovitek. They would say a prayer and then they would
Every Saturday and Tuesday, the priest, Father Volodymir
Kaluzniatskiy would come to school to teach religion, from 11:00 till noon. By
11:00 the teacher would stop his duties, because the priest was about to come.
If the priest did not arrive on time then the teacher would sit in a chair and
kill time by smoking a pipe. He would tell one of the boys to stand a guard at
the window and look out for the approaching priest, the yegomoshch. When he
heard that the priest was coming he would quickly get up from the chair, hide
his pipe in the closet, comb his hair and beard with his fingers and position
himself by the door.
When the priest turned from the main road to the school,
the teacher would open the door. When the priest entered the room we would all
stand up and say Slava Isusu Christu - Praise Jesus Christ. The
priest would respond Slava na Viki - For ever and ever.
the priest, the teacher would take the priest's cane and take off his coat. They
would chat for a few minutes and then the teacher would head for the kitchen.
The priest would start the lessons in religion. The teaching of religion would
start with a prayer. Then from memory he would tell a story from the bible or
the catechism. When it was over, he would head home. Then the teacher returned
and we would sing "Bozheh Budy Pokrovitel", or "Ku ku ptichko mala" or "Hop Hop
Hey Syvi galop", or "Mir vam brati vsim prynosim" and then they would head for
When the students started to leave, each one would bow to the
teacher and say "Slava Isusu Christu" and then they would head
Charging outdoors, some would head uphill and others to the lower
end of the village. In the winter they would have snow fights, upper villagers
against the lower villagers.
There were times when the priest missed showing
up for religion lessons, in those cases the teacher would tell us ancient
stories. He told us about the feudal times, the panshchyzna, how the Polish land
owner, a pan, exploited us, his peasants. How our ancestors were forced to work
in the pan's fields, how guards/the haiduks were beating up people with clubs,
how every boy or girl after they became 16 years old had to work in the pan's
Pan's foreman, a didych, held a decisive fate over their lives. He
could even kill one of the peasants and have no fear, there was no penalty for
the pan if he did this. Pan would not allow a boy to get married whoever he
wanted to but only there where the pan decided. The pan had the right to take
the wife away from her husband and a daughter from her parents and there was no
penalty against this. And if there was a beautiful girl and pan liked her, or
developed a liking towards her, then pan would send his guards/the haiduks, and
haiduks would bring this girl to the pan and pan would assign this girl to
become his maid and not let her go home.
The didyches of these pans were
normally leasing entire villages to Jews, for them to manage from day to day.
Thus the Jews were the local masters in the village and thus even access to our
churches were controlled by the Jews. The land that these churches stood on was
part of the village property that they managed. The Jew, while running the
village pub, held the keys to the church and the ropes to the church bells. If
somebody had a church need, for example a funeral or christening, first of all
he would not go to the priest but to the Jew in the pub. By bowing low, very
low, to the Jew, he would politely ask the Jew to issue the keys to the church
and ropes to the bells. That's when the Jew would tell the gazda how many
bottles of horivka (vodka) he would have to buy from him for the funeral or for
something else, well known form of taxation at that time. If the local peasant
agreed to the terms that the Jew stated, then he would get the keys and ropes
and would proceed with them to the church. The deacon would unlock the church,
tie the ropes to the church bells and ring the bells. Hearing the chime of
bells, the priest was made aware that the church has been unlocked and would
proceed to the church and conduct his services. After conducting the service,
the deacon again would remove the ropes from the church bells, lock up the
church, and the big key, along with the ropes, would be returned again to the
Jew in his korchma, his pub.
When the Easter holidays were approaching,
people would carry heir paska in baskets to the church. First they would come to
the korchma and each one of them would have to purchase from the Jew a quart of
vodka and place it in the basket to have it blessed in the church. Those who
didn't have horivka/palunka in their basket, because he had no money to pay for
it, the Jew would place a black mark on their paska with a piece of charcoal,
and for those who had bought the required palunka, he would place a white mark
on their paska with a piece of chalk. When the priest was about to bless their
paskas, he would first look at the paskas. The priest would tell those that had
a black mark to take their paska out of the church, behind the fence. He was not
allowed to bless any paska with this black mark on it inside of the church.
When people came to the church at Easter with their paskas, they would first
wait outside the church for the Jew to come with the key to unlock the church.
At Easter, the Jew would come in person to unlock the church. He would come with
his wife and their children. People impatiently waited for them to make their
appearance so the younger children, especially boys, would climb the fence or a
nearby hill and look out to see when the Jew would appear with they key. When
they saw the Jew approaching with the key, they would start shouting and
screaming that the Jew is now coming.
Because of this occurance, our people
have created this song:
Ide, ide Zellman,
ide, ide Zellmaniv
ide, ide Zellmanova
i vsia yoho rodyna/
The Zellman is
with his brother
and his wife,
and all his family.
Now I will describe to you a typical court case during panshchyzna.
Most smaller cases were handled by the viyt or soltys, and the more important
cases were handled by the shlakhta's courts, where the shlakhta/feudal lords
would pass their judgement. The smaller cases were similar to these: if a
neighbor had his cattle or horses graze on somebody else's clover, if he cut
down a beech or fir tree on a neighbor's property, if a man or boys had a fight
at a dance or while drinking, or if a woman spread malicious gossip through a
village, they were handled by the viyt. The proceedings usually took place at
the Jew's korchma (inn or pub). The viyt would summon the guilty party and the
accuser to the pub and the village council (his Rusnak cronies) would hear the
case. When the guilt was established through the testimony of the witnesses,
then the viyt would pass the judgement, i.e., how many times the guilty party
would be whacked on his (or her) behind with a stick. It was usually from 5 to
25 times. Usually, when the viyt announced the sentence, his assistants would
take the guilty ones to in front of the church. There, they would stretch him
and the punishment was administered. The one who carried out the sentence was
the village policeman and the viyt would count.
But if the guilty one was
some relative of the policeman, then the policeman would not administer it as
hard so it wouldn't hurt as much. Women were also subject to such punishment,
mostly those that gossiped. However, a husband could receive the punishment in
lieu of his wife. But if the guilty one was some close relative of the viyt,
then the viyt could change the punishment to a monetary fine because the viyt
was the one who decided the punishment.
So viyt would call his entire council
to the village pub to hear the testimony in the case, around a large table.
These councils consisted usually of 10 to 15 men. The viyt would tell the Jew to
bring a quart of palunka, for which the guilty one would have to pay, and when
they finished the first quart, the Jew would being the second, third, forth, and
so on. They would drink until midnight.
Such councilmen would even spend the
night in the korchma because they were in no condition to walk. Only on the
following day would they go home. The one who lost the case would have to pick
up the bill for the liquor that was consumed by all these councilmen.
Our teacher would tell us stories of different gangs that were active in
Lemkovyna. At that time the territory of Poland was divided between their
immediate neighbors: Russians, Prussians and Austrians. But the patriotic Polish
shlakhta did not want to lose their priviledges, no matter who the highest
ruling authority was.
There were always rebellions and uprisings in the
region lead by the upper classes, commonly referred to as confederates. There
was no order in the country. Neighboring Polish villages would also organize
gangs and raid our Rusnak villages to steal our cows and oxen. The center for
these activities was located in the hamlets of Pohorena, Dobrynia, Motarka, all
near Zmihorod. Each gang consisted of from 12 to 15 members. These thieves held
a meeting where they would decide to which village they would go to steal a
peasant's bull or cow. To determine which peasant has a fat bull, they would
first sent spies dressed as beggars for recconnesance. They would usually come
to our villages at harvest time when people were away in the fields. When they
were passing through the village they would look around and when they saw a barn
with a big pile of manure, then they were sure a big animal was inside, which
the gazda is fattening and will soon run it to Grybiv or Novy Sanch, to a fair
where he will try to sell it for 150 rynskies.
The barn with the big pile of
manure would get more inspection to see how it was locked, whether it is a lock
or a stick, what kind of door it has, what gates, from which sides it is easiest
to approach the barn and then head home. Back home they would hold a meeting
where they would report their observations and would decide on the best night to
steal and which tools they would take with them. They would force the door,
drill holes in locks and with these instruments they would come late at night to
steal the bulls. They would lead the fattened animal out of the barn, head
uphill through the forests and take it to the barn in their village. Right away
they would see the soltys in their village to get a passport for the bull and
then drive it to Grybiv, or Novy Sanch. The proceed of the sale they would then
divide among themselves. At that time there was no control over these Polish
thieves. As long as they managed to lead the bull out to the next village they
The teacher also told us about Lemko bandits, because that is how
the Polaks would refer to them. But these were not bandits but our ethnic Robin
Hoods. They would seek revenge on landowners for the horrible things that were
being practiced on peasants. Together with Jews, the shlakhta foresaw demise to
their heavy handed rule over our peasants and were very reluctant to relax their
So they would organize punitive military units in order to
preserve the status quo. These armed units, or confederates, established their
hiding places in the Carpathian Mountains, in the forests near Gorlice, Grybiv
and Novy Sanch. They wanted to save the honor of Poland and so they would raid
our villages and pillage and steal. They would beat us, arrest us and take our
people to the town of Biech, Mushyna and there they would hold public courts,
and then they would chop off everybody's head.
In the environs of Gorlice,
Biech and Grybiv, a well-known Robin Hood, called Sitko would hide with his
associates our legendary Rusnak revenge-seeker. Sitko was a Lemko from Metsyna
Velyka. With his cohorts, Sitko roamed through the county side and attack the
estates of the nobility, large Polish land owners and Polish priests. From Jews
he would steal whatever he could find. Land owners were being beaten. He would
conduct these raids so swiftly that the pan's army (forces) was frequently
caught off guard. The land owners organized armies to defend themselves. But
their dragoons could not capture Sitko and his associates. He would quickly
change direction and one day her would attack and estate in Marianpol, the next
day in Dubovitsa and the following day near Mushyna. These land owners could not
get him in their hands even though their horse mounted dragoons were constantly
chasing him. One time Sitko with his group attacked and robbed a Jew in
Zmihorod, who had a big warehouse with beer, wine and horivka. They took
everything that was worth and hid in a forest called Kornuta. Kornuta was for
Sitko his best shield for defense because this forest stretched from Rozdilia
near Gorlitse all the way to Bukovyna near Rumania. If Sitko had to hide, he
would head to Kornuta and this forests streches over the mountain called Prehon
and on to Bortne. One day two of Sitko's guards got drunk, while on duty, while
the rest of the gang was drinking. Fifty Polish dragoons surrounded them and
Sitko was captured and taken to the town of Biech, delivered while all tied up.
A court was held and then Sitko's head was chopped off.
There are still
certain topographic features carrying the name of Sitko, like Sitko's meadows
but they now are overgrown and have turned into forests. Now one hears a lot of
different versions of this story and some think that this is all just a legend.
But how come we still have places carrying Sitko's name?
What I am all
telling you now is what our teacher Ivan Bohachyk told us...
lived in Bortne until 1914 when the war started. As we all know that when the
war started, all the Rusyn-Lemko intelligencia, the enlightened ones, were
charged by the Austrian military authorities for being Russophiles, in another
words leaning towards imperial Russia, an enemy country, and thus enemies of the
system in power at the time. They were all arrested and sent to a camp in
Tallerhof, near Graz, in Austria.
The arrests did not miss Bohachyk. One day
the police arrested him, along with several other priests, and on a horse
carriage they were taken to Gorlitse, and from there sent to Tallerhof by train.
Ivan Bohachyk survived confinement in the concentration camp of Tallerhof
and returned with weakened health back to Bortne. He resumed teaching but
coughed a lot, he had pneumonia contracted in Tallerhof and was unable to
continue to teach the village's 130 children. His son Titko (Titus) was allowed
to help him in school but this didn't alleviate the situation. His health
quickly faded and shortly thereafter he died. He died in 1920 or 1921 and is
buried in the village cemetery in Bortne. He taught in Bortne for over thirty
years. He had four sons and two daughters. Vichnaya yomu pamiat - may a
memory of him live with us forever.
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Date Posted: November 17th, 2001
Last Revision: May 27th, 2002
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