Ivan Bohachyk

Written by Andriy Dokla. Born in 1893 in Ansonia, CT.
He 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.
Subject: "A 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 Dokla.

Translated by Walter Maksimovich on 11/17/2001

Our teacher, 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 Apostolskie.
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.
The 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 in
front of him would take off their hats and greet him with "Good Day Mr. Bohachyk".

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
wouldn't. Anyway, 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.
In those 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 school.
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 tenor voice.
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 head home.
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.
Having greeted 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 their homes.
When the students started to leave, each one would bow to the teacher and say "Slava Isusu Christu" and then they would head outside.
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 field.
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 brat,
ide, ide Zellmanova
i vsia yoho rodyna/

The Zellman is coming,
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 were safe.
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 strangle hold.
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...

Bohachyk 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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