Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wysoczany: A Lemko Village and its People

by Corinna Wengryn Caudill (based on the recollections of Anna Kachmar Homick)

Wysoczany in Fall, 2011.  Photo by C. Caudill
Wysoczany (Wysochany) is a village currently located with the gmina (administrative district) of Komancza (Komancha), in Sanok county in the Subcarpathian Voivoidship (province) of southeastern Poland, close to the border of Slovakia.  It lies approximately 14 km (9 miles) northeast of Komancza, 12 km (7 miles) south of Sanok, and 66 km (41 miles) south of the regional capital Rzeszow. 

Lemko choir group in Wysoczany
before the deportations in 1944-1947
Recent census estimates of Wysoczany record a current population of 110, but former resident Anna Kachmar Homick recalls that 59 families totaling more than 424 residents had lived there as of 1945. German wartime census records enumerated 377 residents, including 174 males and 203 females, and a majority of those residents were Lemkos.  (Note: German figures may not account for individuals who went to Germany for forced labor.)  Before the war and subsequent deportations, Wysoczany was comprised of mostly Lemko families, a few Polish families and one Jewish family.  From memory, Mrs. Homick sketched the map that appears below.  In the key below, buildings (most of them homes) are depicted by numbers and descriptions, and family surnames are listed for households.  (Note: An English translation of the key is also included.)  

Below, we have provided an English language translation of the above key.  Note that some hyphenated names reflect the fact that Lemkos often had "household" names in addition to their specific surnames, and their neighbors often referred to them by the household name.  Also note that some surnames may have alternative spellings in the Latin alphabet.  The list below has been phonetically transliterated from the cyrillic spellings in Mrs. Homick's list above:

(1.) Kachmar; (2.) Holovatyi (Holowaty), (3.) Mashlyanyk; (4.) Ochych; (5.) Vostafiv-Bodnyk; (6.) Didzhyk-Priadka; (7.) Pikhova; (8.) Sakhar; (9.) Karpa; (10.) Sukhyna); (11.) Symtsova-Levchak (alt. Lewczak); (12.) Korchma-Levchak; (13.) Hulova-Haidush (Haidosh, Gaidosh, Haidush, Guydash, and many alternative transliterated spellings exist for this surname); (14.) Haidush; (15.) Khotskova; (16.) Yurkova-Haidush; (17.) Sekelik; (18.) Tsalova-Ochych; (19.) Basova-Ochych; (20.) Haidush; (21.) Sheremeta-Leshkova: (22.) Lukacheva; (23.) Dudzhyk-Kostyk; (24.) Kachala; (25.) Huzepa: (26.) Sakhar: (27.) Hvozda: (28.) Levchak-Karpakova (Lewczak is alt. spelling); (29.) Tsinova; (30.) Dodzova: (31.) Sakharova; (32.) Mashlyanyk; (33.) Luchkanych; (34.) Mashlyanyk; (35.) Kavankova-Mycio; (36.) Yatsyla; (37.) Yatsyla-Sakhar; (38.) Shkola (School building); (39.) Tsirkova-Bodnyk: (40.) Tsinankova; (41.) "Korchma"-Shlomko (Store run by Jewish owner by the name of Shlomko); (42.) Tsopova-Varholyak (Warholyk, Warholyak); (43.) Lekhmaitsyova-Krolyak; (44.) "Tserkva" St. Paraskevia Greek Catholic Church (now nonexistent/destroyed); (45.) Horonova; (46.) Khlibyk; (47.) Horonova-Sekelik; (48.) Onushkova-Mashlyanyk: (49.) Petrunyova; (50.) Baitsova-Hrytsko (alt. Hrychko, Hrycko); (51.) Sass; (52.) Sass; (53.) Sekelik-Hrytsko; (54.) Sasyk-Yatsyla; (55.) Shertsova-Tymko; (56.) Shertsova; (57.) Baida; (58.) Tsapova; (59.) Tsapova

Number 41 depicts the location of the Jewish family's store ("korchma") that was located in the village.  Mrs. Homick told us that during the German occupation of the area, the store owner (with the family name "Shlomko") and his family were arrested by the Gestapo when they were discovered hiding at a neighbor's house in Wysochany.  As a school-aged child at the time, she personally witnessed the family's arrest from the nearby schoolyard.  Mr. Shlomko's neighbors had attempted to hide him and his family in bails of hay that were tied to the outside of their house (in the Carpathians, homes had no central heating and this was a common method of insulation used in the winter months.) 

Number 44 is the location of St. Paraskevia Greek Catholic church, which was built in 1805.  According to Oleh Iwanusiw's Church in Ruins, "'s width was 6 meters, length was 17 meters and was 12 meters high.  It had three large domes with brass crosses.  The bell tower was wooden with one dome and four bells."  St. Paraskevia had been a filial (subsidiary) parish to the larger church in neighboring Polonna (Plonna), named "Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary."  St. Paraskevia was destroyed in the autumn of 1944 by the Red Army, and its bells were stolen.  Many former residents, like Mrs. Homick, believe that the bells were stolen by bandits from Niebieszczany, a neighboring Polish village.  Today, the only evidence that can be seen of the 1805 church is a few tombstones and the stone wall surrounding the cemetery.  Despite the wartime destruction of the church, the priests continued to hold liturgies until 1947, when all of the remaining inhabitants (who had not been deported to Ukraine) were forcibly deported to former German territories acquired by Poland as a provision of the Yalta Agreement.  

Wysochany Today

Men walking outside Kachmar homestead
in Wysoczany, Late 1930s (pre-war)
Most of Poland's Lemkos, including those living in Wysochany, were deported either to Ukraine (1945-1946) or to former German territories that were attached to the north and west of Poland as a provision of the 1945 Yalta Agreement. Mrs. Homick's family was deported to a village near Lubno in Northwest Poland in the 1947 Polish ethnic cleansing campaign called Akcja Wisla (Operation Vistula.)   For more information about Akcja Wisla and ethnic cleansing campaigns in Poland, please see our link here.

After World War II and the subsequent deportation actions, many Lemko villages were destroyed.  In Wysoczany, many of the structures that once stood there no longer remain.  However, Anna Homick's childhood home is still standing at #1 Wysochany, near the border of neighboring Mokre.  The structure is no longer occupied and has been modified by previous owners.  

Kachmar Homestead in Fall, 2011.  

More information about the Kachmar family experience can be found in the book Sam's Story by Anna's brother Sam Katchmar (who spells their surname differently.)  The book is available at and a summary of the book can be found on Mr. Katchmar's blog:
Sam Katchmar's Blog.

Caudill, Corinna W.  Oral History Interview with Anna Kachmar Homick, November 20, 2011.
Caudill, Corinna W. and Richard Garbera Trojanowski.  Oral History Interview with Iryna Lewczak Mel'nyk.  September, 2012.
Iwanusiw, Oleh Wolodymyr.  Church in Ruins. 1987.
Katchmar, Sam.  Sam's Story: The Saga of an American Emigre-Immigrant. 2011


  1. Thank you for this extraordinary account of historical facts that were apparently hidden from the international public.
    Jeanne Simoncelli-Payne (descendent of a Lemko woman whose family I have yet to find.)

  2. My family is from Wysoczany and they are still living there.
    I have been doing research about this village for many years now.

    The information you have posted is nice, but it is not 100 % accurate.
    There are some names missing and the map is not right.

    Also I have read the book "Sam's Story" and that book gives a very bias view on how people used to live there.

    If you talk to the people living there today that lived there all their life, they would give you more information and they do not agree with the book.

    1. Hello Anonymous - finding any information on these villages is difficult, so I'm sure you can appreciate that we are doing what we can. Your comments are interesting, but what would be useful is if you could tell us what you think is wrong, specifically, and provide data or evidence on how/why it needs to be corrected. We did not write "Sam's Story" and are only citing it as a book that has to do with this village. Everyone remembers things differently, too - that's the nature of memory. But Mrs. Homick's map at least provides a good idea of what the village was like. If you have corrections to the map, please submit them. We're all eyes and ears. Thanks - Corinna Caudill

    2. Paragraph #44 "My corrections"
      5th line states that "St. Paraskevia was destroyed in the autumn of 1944 by the Polish communist army".
      I believe that is wrong. As a 11yr old boy living in Wysochany at that time it was the Russian-German front line moving through the village of Wysochany. There was no Polish soldiers in the area, only Russians.
      I remember people explaining about the church burning. Russians did it. I remember them,the people, talking about a Mr. Hvozda attemting to go save some part of the church but, there was a Russian soldier sitting on his door-step with a papashka in his hands and advising Mr. Hvozda, "go help your church, while patting his papashka, but I do not guarantee your life'.
      Submitted by
      Alex Kachmar
      9094 Trujillo Way
      Sacramento, CA 95826
      (916) 363-8143

  3. Hi Alex,

    Just wanted to let you know that we corrected the error. That certainly makes much more sense. How difficult it must have been to live in such circumstances!

    Thanks for your insight and help,

  4. Thanks so very much, Corinna! This map & list of names is nothing short of amazing! I come from the Sakhar line here & I count at least 3 homes, as well as the Hrycko line with even more. I really appreciate your sharing this story of Anna Kachmar Homick. I know it took time and patience to collect all this and make it available for the rest of us to wonder at. Just spellbound...

    Sherri Lipcius

    1. That's great, Sherri! I was hoping it would help with your research.