.......more about Walter Maksimovich.........

sketch by Vasyl Madzelan

My mother, Maria Hranyczny (1931-1998), was 16 years old when she was deported for the second time from her native village of Hyrowa. This time, the deportation by the Poles in 1947 was part of a military operation code named Akcja "Wisła"/Operation "Vistula" to what was until 1945 a German territory called Lower Silesia, now called Dolny Sląsk. This area was given to Poland as part of the Yalta Pact as compensation for the Polish territories in the east (ethnically predominantly Ukrainian) which were claimed by Stalin in September 1939 as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement. Today the eastern half of the divided land is within Belarus and Ukraine.

The first deportation occurred in the fall of 1944, when my mother's entire family was forced to leave their native village of Hyrova, near Dukla in Poland, and were among the first transports of Lemkos who headed for Ukraine. This desperate move was precipitated by very heavy and protracted military operations that took place in this region, better known as the Battle for the Dukla Pass. They settled on a cooperative farm in raion/county Pokrovy, oblast/district Dnepropetrovsk, in the middle of devastation created by the Germans in Ukraine. There they lived in Soviet Ukraine for just one year. Meanwhile, their native village of Hyrova suffered very heavy damage during the three month long Battle for the Dukla Pass. However, a few houses and the Uniate church survived, unlike other villages that/which are no longer on the map. Through correspondence with those who had stayed behind in Hyrova, and being disillusioned with their living conditions in soviet Ukraine, my mother's oldest brother, Ivan Hranyczny, decided they should try to return home. Therefore, in the fall of 1945 ---- they just left everything behind and tried to illegally cross the border, in an attempt to reach their native village in Poland. As fate would have it, their attempt to cross the border was successful, but others, who tried this shortly thereafter, failed. They and their descendants are still residing in western Ukraine till this day.

My father, Jan Maksymowicz (1917-1995), was born in a little village named Woltuszowa by Rymanów Zdrój. In 1940 he was designated by the village elder--- (his brother Mykhal) to leave for Germany (then the German-occupied Austria), and he became part of a human wave of cheap labor from central Europe. Called "Ost-arbeiters", these people toiled on German farms and in factories during WW II. Shortly after the inhabitants of Woltuszowa, together with the residents of nearby Doszno and Balucianka left for Ukraine (in June 1945), Woltuszowa was burned down, most likely by units of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), as part of their scorched earth policy. They settled in a village of Teofipilka, county Kozova, district Ternopil. By the way, residents of these villages were known for their wood carving skills, craftsmanship that was practiced by my father and several of his brothers and is still practiced by a few descendants of the other families who now reside in Ukraine.

My father returned to Poland from the British zone of Ally-occupied Austria in 1947 but never made it back to his native village. Polish acquaintances warned him in Sanok, not to proceed to his native village or he would never be seen again. He heeded the warning and headed instead to Kraków where he worked as a barrel maker. Within a year he contacted friends in Lower Silesia, who were deported there as part of Akcja "Visla", and shortly thereafter moved there and married my mother, Maria Hranyczny, in 1948. A year later I was born in a hospital in the town of Lubin, which is 15 miles from Legnica, followed by my sister Anna, who was born in 1952.

There were Poles, especially those who were resettled to these formerly German territories from areas which in 1945 became part of Soviet Ukraine, whose attitude towards these dispersed Lemkos was very unfriendly. They would call them Ukrainians (yes, being Ukrainian still holds a negative connotation in Poland) or "Banderovtsy" (members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.)

I visited my 30-40 relatives in by that time independent country of Ukraine in 1993, 1995 and July 2000 and enjoyed it a lot, especially since I speak Ukrainian and always carry a camcorder with me. I experienced a deep emotional impact when the KLM airplane was touching down in Kyiv in 1993, because I was aware that millions of people gave their lives so that Ukraine could become an independent country and not just be a colony of Poland or Russia. While visiting, I got to see with my own eyes that some of my first cousins are better off than others, are well educated, have good positions, cars, etc., and to see how the country was sliding down economically during this post-communist period.

My uncle, Paul Hranyczny, was also an Ost-arbeiter, and he chose not to return to Poland, but instead headed to the United States. Having no desire to live in Poland, which was slowly becoming a Stalinist country after WW II, he took a slight detour to England, where he lived from 1950 until 1960. It is thanks to him that we as a family emigrated from Poland in 1964 and settled in New York City. He was our sponsor, the person who signed the Affidavit of Support, an action for which I and later others that we in turn sponsored, are very grateful.

I visited the areas of my parent's birthplace in Poland in 1968 and then together with my wife, Tania, in 1979. Again, this time with my neighbor, George Warholic, in July of 2000, when we spent three days at Vatra 2000 in Zdynia, and visted the Lemko Museum in Zyndranowa. An experience which I repeated in July 2002. Vatra 2002. Zyndranowa 2002

After obtaining a Bachelor of Engineering from City College of NY in 1973 in electrical engineering, I worked for NASA, in suburban Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. until my retirement in 2005. I was baptized as a Uniate, i.e., Catholic of the Eastern Rite (Ukrainian Catholic), and my wife and both children, just like my mother, are Orthodox Christians.

From 1964 to 1973, while I lived in NYC, I visited Lemko Park in Monroe, NY for picnics, festivals and celebrations of the Holy Trinity / "Zeleny Sviata" holiday. Assimilation works very well on both sides of the Atlantic; however, a shrinking base of support resulted in this property being auctioned off in October 1997.

I have many Lemko friends who continue to reside in New York and New Jersey and through the miracle of the Internet, with Lemko-Ukrainians/Lemko-Rusyns from all over the world. Realizing the great potential that/which the Internet was offering back in 1996, I decided to publicize the plight of the people who hailed from the Carpathian Mountains utilizing this medium of information. The http://www.lemko.org internet site is designed primarily for anyone whose roots come from that part of Galicia known as Lemkovyna, or Lemkivshchyna in Ukrainian. These people are mostly descendants of the turn-of-the-century "Ruthenian/Rusyn/Ukrainian" immigrants, particularly English-speaking North Americans, who wish to learn more about their heritage.

As a result of the first partition of Poland in 1772, Galicia was occupied by Austria, eventually ending up in the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the empire's disintegration in 1918. Prior to that, and from 1918 until 1939, Galicia was administered by Poland.


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Date Posted: December 12th, 2000
Last Revision: January 11th, 2015

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