Oh Those Rusyns

By Stephen Ewashkiw | June 16, 2013

Last night, while researching a Lemko festival taking place near Łosie in July, Jane stumbled across information about a Rusyn (Lemko’s from the Slovakian side of the Carpathian Mountains) festival happening this weekend. The festival is in Svidnik, Slovakia, about 60 km from where we are staying, and today is the last day.

If we were on our bikes this would be a big detour, but since we have a car and free time, we decided to go. It took several text messages and translations to the various relatives we have been spending time with, but finally, last night, we got the plan sorted.

Side note: Andy Warhol is the most famous Rusyn. His parents were both Rusyn, from the Slovak town of Medzilaborce, only 25 km from Svidnik. There is a Warhol museum there, but we won’t get to it on this trip.

Where Is Everyone?

Today we all met up and drove to Svidnik to experience some of our family’s cultural heritage. Jane and I got to the festival first and were a bit confused. Hardly anyone was around, on the amphitheater stage there seemed to be a dress rehearsal, and there was no sign of a big cultural event like we had expected.

By the time the rest of the gang got there, about 40 minutes later, it was very different. There were stalls set up to sell admission wristbands, there were security people, there were people eating and drinking at the food stalls, and there was traditional music playing.

sausages in poland

Spiral sausages.

It turns out we had just been a bit early, even though the schedule listed events all morning. Maybe they partied so hard last night that the whole schedule for Sunday shifted.

Land Of A Thousand Dancers

We met up with Zenon, Vasyl (another relative), and my parents at the outdoor museum, which has a Lemko church and several homesteads on a hilltop over the town. One of the homes dates from 1905 and may be quite similar to the house my grandfather was raised in.

spires on a traditional wooden church in poland

A traditional Lemko wooden church.

stephen in a doorway

Stephen looking hot.

After lunch at the museum (skansen in Polish) we headed back to the amphitheatre where the main event was about to begin. Dancers from many lines of Rusyn (there were Poles, Ukranians, Slovaks, and Serbs) and many different age groups, performed in traditional dress for several hours. The clothes were intricate and so were the dances.

kids in traditional costume in poland

Smiling was a big part of every dance.

Funky Porcini

I’ve seen several people selling wild mushrooms the last few days as we have been driving around. Today I managed to stop and buy a few. It turns out they are local wild funghi porcini (you may know them as boletus). They helped make our vegan dinner of pasta, chickpeas, and porcini extra delicious.  

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