Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Account of the Village of Losye and the Losyeans

Written by I. P. Jevusjak (Immigrant to the U.S. from Losie, PL in the Gorlice region.)
Edited by Corinna Caudill
Special thanks to Father Jonathan Tobias, American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese

This interesting memoir was written by a Lemko gentleman from Pennsylvania who immigrated to the U.S. in the early twentieth century from the village of Losye (Losie in Gorlice County, Poland.)  Note that Mr. Jevusjak was a Russian-oriented Orthodox Lemko.  A few years ago, this handwritten memoir (obviously translated from Russian or Rusyn into English) landed on the desk of a Russian Orthodox priest, Fr. Jonathan Tobias, who graciously shared it with The Lemko Project.  I compared this memoir version with a brochure published by Richard Custer and Greg Gressa in 1988 to obtain the correct name of the author (this was unclear in Fr. Tobias' version) but I have not used any additional material that appears solely in the copyrighted brochure.  I have attempted to edit and add context to the article through footnotes to make this more readable and understandable to an English-speaking audience.  Throughout the article, alternative toponyms are placed in parentheses and when necessary, comments or clarifications are added.  If anyone has more information about Losie, this author, or these events, please feel free to comment on this article thread or contact us at  

When I still lived in the old country, I occasionally listened to how the old Losyeans talked to one another by the church and at dinners about our village, discussing what they had lived through.  They talked about the cholera, which took many lives.  They also talked about the history of Losye and surrounding villages, but nobody knew the story well, because no one had ever written about the history.  It was said that our neighboring villages of Prislop (Pryslop/Przyslop) and Vafka (Wawrzka) were the oldest villages - but how old no one knew.  But concerning Losye, it must be old because the Loyeans already had built another church and at a different location than where the other had been.  And it was difficult to find a person who would know the history of our village.

Wooden Lemko Church in Losie, Gorlice County.
Photo from Wikipedia.PL Commons
There was one home that was built on posts (stumps or stilts).  It was said that surely it had been built when the village was begun, at the wood clearing stage, that stage was called Kurilivka.  The river Locunka flows through our village, but it's not known whether the river took its name from the village or the village from the river.  Furthermore it was said that Losye was (originally) established and settled by roving people, like the Swedes, Polish and Rusnaks and its obvious that (they preferred) Russian (Rusyn) language, (and because of) this (they then) became Rusnaks, even though our village is a neighbor of the Polish village of Ropom.[1]

Other waters which flow from Bliknarki (Blechnarka), Visovi (Wysowa), Hanchovi (Hanczowa) and Ustya Russkovo (Uskie Rus’kie now called Uscie Gorlickie), Klimkovi (Klimkowa) and flows through Losye, that is the river Ropa.  It received its name from the village of Ropa (Ropki) and (it's) possible (that) the village (got its name) from the river Ropa, I don't know that, but in our village it had no name...they (just) called it “River.”

With the neighboring Poles, the Losyeans[2] lived in accord.  Poles from Ropa came to us on holy days and reunions.  Even their churches had three cupolas, the same as ours.  Sometimes you would see these (types of) churches in neighboring Polish villages, which were Russian churches.[3]   You can still find traces of Russian ones, or Russian church books.  Our neighboring Russian villages were these: Dolina (Dolyna), Belyanka (Bielanka), Lischina (Lishchyny), Kunkova (Kunkowa), Klimkova (Klimkowa or "Klimkivka" alternatively) and Vafka (now called/spelled “Wawrzka”).  But all of these were small, although one - Klimkova, was rather large.  None of these had (even) 100 people but our Losye was a small place.  In my time, there were 242 people.  (Of) Hebrews (Jews) there were 20 families; among them tradesmen, merchants, cobblers, tailors and etc.  You could buy anything, as in Horlucsah (Horlytsi/Gorlice) all neighboring people came to buy that which they needed in Losye.[4]

We had 18 lineages and relatives.  But many housekeeping families in the lineages died out, there remained only the Dolinskys, Furtaks, Fekulas, Kirils, Telechs, Karls, Chomas.  Only seven families remained, and eleven died out.

Our Losyeans weren't much for tilling the land, most traveled about the world as wheeler-dealers.  They traded in grease and oils.[5]  They hauled the products in special wagons and carriages throughout Europe and had a thriving business.  They knew all about Rumania, Hungary, Czech lands, Moravia, Germany/Prussia, Poland and European Russia.  To the Kingdom of Poland, which was in Russia[6], was transported 120 wagons: to Hungary - 80 wagons, to Galicia - 10 wagons and so forth.

In this trade, the Losyeans made a (living?) but they didn't know how to handle it, either the money ended up in banks that failed or they squandered their wealth on the road returning to Losye for winter.  And often when it was time to take to the road in the spring, they had to go to the Jews to borrow money for the trip or for products.  But some saved their money even up to 10,000 kroners (note: Austrian currency) and this was big money before World War I.  When the war occurred, these monies were taken by the Austrian government for war purposes.

There were only four people in the village who knew how to read and that was the (illegible.)  Elias Telek was the cantor, he knew how to read, but not how to write.  They (those literate people mentioned) knew how to read but couldn't write and there was no one to write letters.  They had to pay a koruna (kroner) to a Jew[7], by those who wanted to write a letter to their relatives and this so angered the Losyeans that they began to send their sons to school in the city.[8]  The first to go to school in the city was in blessed memory Alexis Shlanta, then Mark Hisea, who was a teacher in Visov (Wysowa) then in blessed memory Rev. E. Fekula, Moses Dutka, Gregory Shlanta. 

All Carpatho-Russian immigrants know in blessed memory Alexis Shlanta[9] (note: alt. spellings are Aleksei Shlianta and Oleksiy Szlanta and various variations.)  He began to establish our beneficial organization in America, such as Russian Fraternal Union, now U.N. (note: probably Ukrainian National) with "Freedom (illegible) O.R.B. (Organization of Russian Brotherhood) and Orthodox Love.[10]  He was the leader of the whole immigration of the anthracite hard coal region.  Father U. Fekula also died in his early years, and Moses Dutka died young, and Gregory Shlanta: Even though these people had a little schooling they couldn't do anything progressively for our people because they learned to be wealthy and wanted to be wealthy, and here (in the U.S.) they were wealthy.

Our Losyeans, together with the Lemko patriotic clergy, founded the Russian School in New Sanchi (Nowy Sacz)[11], and at once were sent six students from our village to the school in Sanchi.  Of these students, Andrew and Gregory Karel, both completed university studies and are now in Prague.  Peter Karl, priest in Singet, N.Dzsz. (?), Theodore Hiscza, priest in Monessen, George Kondratik, was killed in France in World War I (post-war).  Nicholas Gal died, Dr. A Telech, and his brother Vladimir.

As the Losyeans wanted to educate their children from something, the war came and scattered the students over the whole world.  Rev. M. Fekula, O. V. Fekula, O.N. Gubyak, O.C. Paluch here already completed schooling and all are teaching their children.

Our neighboring fellow countrymen make fun of the Losyeans - that they are lazy and want to wander about the world.  But I want someone to show me such a nice group of students from another village in the old country and in America.  And how many good Losyean businessmen storekeepers there are!  Stop at any place where Losyeans live (and) everywhere you'll find Losyean businessmen.

The first Losie Kermesh (festival) in Pricedale, PA in August, 1941.
Found on
The first Losyean to come to America was M. Renchkovsky who came to Olyphant in 1876.  It's true, he was only half-Losyean, because he came to Losye from Kunkve (Kunkova/Kunkowa).  His son still lives in Charleroi and has a good business.  Another was Karl Fekula, who also came to Olyphant in 1877.  After them (came) Alexis Shlanta and others, but the Losyeans were not that fast to come to America - like others, they had trade in the old country.  But then, more and more began to migrate to America and now there is a huge crowd.  In Pennsylvania live 158 Losyan families in Ohio.  In Akron and Cleveland 3 families.  In Detroit a few (sic) 6 families, in Weirton W. Va. 18 families, in Connecticut about 10 families, in New York 16 families.  New Jersey 12.  In Canada, on farms - 8.  Of all the Losyean families in America there are 253 families.  But the most Losyeans live in Pricedale, PA - 55 families.  That's why the first Losyean reunion was held in Pricedale on August 31, 1941.[12]  You should know that before this that there never was a reunion, and they never came together as a group until this reunion.  Here is a photograph of our Losyean reunion which is good reminder for Losyeans. (Editor's Note: Photo was not included with the memoir I received.)  But this is a beginning because now the Losyeans are going to have a reunion every year like in the old country.

So that (is) our true Losyean history in America (which) begins with this first Losyean reunion in Pricedale.  Our fraternal organization Lemko Union helped us in this and the newspaper Karpatsky Rus'[13] through which we enabled us to find each other and to come to an understanding.  From the first Losyean reunion a telegram was sent to President Roosevelt and to Soviet Ambassador K. Umansky. 

So now Losyeans, don't forget about Losye and your fraternal organization - become members of L.C. (Editor's note: "L.C." stands for "Lemko-Soyuz" or Lemko Union - sometimes the author mixes cyrillic spellings with their Latin counterparts.)

Note: the following section appears to be a description that was referring to attached photos, though I have no photos to refer to. - CC

"Memorial 44 Martyrs"
Sabred to death by the Hungarian Hordes 14 August 1914 in Peremesyl (Przemysl).  At the cemetery, this photograph was taken in 1950.  Metal plate with the nams of the killed was torn off of the memorial during the time of the German occupation and no-one knows by whom and when.  After 1965 a new plate with the names was made and fastened in its place.

Editor's Notes:

[1] His use of English words and sentence structure was confusing, so I did some interpretation on his meaning, which I believe has not changed the original meaning intended – just made it more clear.

[2] He sometimes alternates between two spellings when discussing the villagers: Losyeans and Locians are the most frequent uses.  Throughout the memoir, I standardized it to the former, which is a closer transliterated phonetic spelling of the Lemko pronunciation of the village name.

[3] Some villages of Rusyn settlement were mixed Polish (Roman Catholic) and Rusyny/Lemko (Greek Catholic) in the Lemko settlement region, which includes the counties of Nowy Sacz; Nowy Targ (the so-called “Szlachtowa Rus’” region as described by Roman Reinfuss in “Sladami Lemkow”); Gorlice; Grybow (now part of Gorlice region); Jaslo, Sanok, Lesko, Strzyzow (only approx. 4 Lemko villages in that county.)  Though some might have considered themselves to be Russian during the period before and around World War I when Russophilism and a return to Orthodoxy was adopted by some, others would have simply identified themselves as “Rusyny” or “Rus’nak” – which is the Slavic form of “Ruthenian” – they were slavs who practiced eastern Christianity, as distinguished from Poles who practiced Roman Catholicism (western Christianity.)  Also among the population was a small contingent of ethnic Rusyny who practiced Roman Catholicism, and those people were referred to as “Latynyky” (or “Latinites”)

[4] Losye must have had its own market day.  These generally happened once or twice a week.

[5] According to Oleh Iwanusiw in his pictorial history book Church in Ruins: “Losye is known from its manufacture and sale of greases for wagon wheels.  Lemkos made these greases from local crude oil and traded the product for hundreds of years throughout eastern Europe.  Being accustomed to travel, more than 30 percent of the population emigrated to North America.  The tserkva (the Rusyn/Ukr. word for church, which was named “Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary” and consecrated 1810) is now used by Polish Roman Catholics.”  According to Bogdan Horbal in Lemko Studies (p. 237): “Producing and selling grease for wagons and carts was the main occupation of the people of Losie (Gorlice district.) while their neighbors in Bielanka sold wood tar melted in earthen dugouts.  They would travel throughout Europe from March to November, and some went as far as Latvia, the Ural Mountains of Russia, Odesa on the Black Sea, and the Balkans.”  According to P.R. Magosci's Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture: "The village of Losie near Gorlice was particularly renowned for the production of grease (for wagon wheels). Losie’s grease merchants were the most mobile element among the Lemkos, in some cases traveling on their wagons as far as Lithuania, Russia, Silesia, Moravia, and Transylvania."  According to Dmytro Blazejowsky's Historical Shematism: "The wooden church was built in 1819.  It was an independent chapel until 1855 when it became a filial church of Klymkivka.  In 1947, it was taken over by Latin Rite catholics."  (Note that clearly, Mr. Rodko emigrated before 1947, and at some point, it seems that at least some of the villagers converted in the "return to Orthodoxy" movement around the turn of the century.  The shematism itself is a record of Greek Catholic parish data so this information was not recorded.)

[6] Since he doesn’t specify the timeframe he’s referring to, it’s hard to understand this sentence.  I believe he is talking about the region of Volhynia, however.  After the third partition of Poland in 1795, Volhynia was no longer part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (since Poland was dismantled and divided between the conquering empires of Austria, Prussia and Russia.)  At that time, Volhynia became part of the Russian empire.  That suggests that the author is referring to the early 1800s here in this part of the story, although Losyeans were trading wheel grease until the period following World War II when they were subjected to ethnic cleansing and deported.

[7] Many villages had a small Jewish minority – a few families who might operate a tavern or general store (korchma), etc.  Jews tended to live in the larger cities, or county seats.  Lemkos would trade/do business with them at the weekly market days there.  Orthodox Judaism places a focus on literacy because Jews must be able to read the Torah and Talmud.  Many Jews were comparatively much more educated than Lemkos, who were pastoral farmers, and because they were merchants, were comparatively more wealthy – something which caused resentment among other groups.  (Also note that during the Austrian period, many Jews managed the lands of Poles as hired landlords, collecting rents, etc.)  Finally, note that Polish elites under both the Austrian government and those in the interwar Polish state ("The Second Polish Republic") took repressive measures against Lemkos, preventing or limiting them from opening educational facilities where their native language could be taught.  Lemkos were also largely prevented from being involved in civic life (a privilege reserved for Poles/Roman Catholics) so farming remained their main occupation.  The exception were Lemkos who became priests.  This is the reason why many Lemko immigrants to the U.S. had such little education and low levels of literacy.

[8] Probably in city of Horlytsi/Gorlice, which is the county seat.

[9] As I compare notes that I have, it seems likely that this Alexis Szlanta was the grandfather of Wasyl Szlanta, who is an active public figure in the Ukrainian Lemko organization in Gorlice, PL.

[10] According to Bogdan Horbal in P.R. Magosci’s “Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture” on p. 309: “The Lubov Russian Orthodox Fraternity/Russka pravoslavna Liubov (was) a mutual benefit society founded in 1912 in Mayfield, Pennsylvania, by Lemko immigrants in the United States.  Organized by Aleksei Shlianta (1865-1923), the Lubov Fraternity grew to have 73 affiliates, mostly in Pennsylvania, with 1,080 members (1970s).  Its primary goal was to pay death insurance benefits to the survivors of its members (by 1937 the fraternity had paid $325,000 to the beneficiaries of 635 deceased members).  The organization supported the Orthodox movement among its members and promoted the view that Lemkos and all Rusyns are a branch of the Russian nationality.  These views were argued in the organization’s monthly and later bi-monthly magazine, Liubov, edited by Stepan Bendasiuk (1923-1925) and for many years by Stefan Telep (1925-1957).  The magazine was written in the so called “iazychiie”, in this case the Lemko-Rusyn vernacular with a heavy influence of Russian vocabulary.  Among the long-time chairmen of the Lubov Fraternity were Mytrofan Gambal (1912-1925) Ivan Badvak (1925-1934) and Ivan Gubyk (1934-1957.)"

[11] According to Bogdan Horbal in “Lemko Studies,” page 274-276: “For secondary education, the largest number of Lemko students attended Polish gymnasia in cities located just north of the region, where in 1892/1893 they constituted 25 percent of all students in Sanok, 8 percent in Jaslo, and almost 5 percent in Nowy Sacz.  Histories of these schools (were) usually published in jubilee books (ksiega pamiatkowa) and present limited information on Lemko students in Gorlice, Jaslo, Krosno, and Sanok…To assist students attending these institutions, student dormitories (bursa) were created in Nowy Sacz, Gorlice and Sanok.  Aside from providing room and board, the dormitories also sponsored a wide range of cultural and educational programs that contributed to the further development of a Lemko elite….Russophile Lemkos managed to establish several dormitories/Ruska bursa.  The first one, initially with twenty and later sixty beds opened in the city of Nowy Sacz in 1898.  This institution managed to help many Lemkos, some of whom later rose to prominence in the community.  The Nowy Sacz dormitory was closed by the authorities during World War I (note: The Russian Empire was the enemy of Austria) and, despite a number of attempts, never reopened.”

[12] Here is a newspaper article that refers to it, though I could not find the original article about that event.  Additionally, the photograph appears on the "Losie Kermesh" Facebook page (

[13] The Lemko Association/Lemko Soyuz is still in existence, but is no longer focused on a Russian orientation.  On its official documents, the organization leadership states that it is open to Lemkos of all ethnonational orientations.  The previous president, Alexander Herenchak, was Russian-oriented.  The Lemko Association still publishes it's quarterly newsletter “Karpats’ka Rus’”and the current president is Dr. Paul Best, a political scientist who studies and writes about Lemkos and the Carpathian region.  This is the website for the Lemko Association:


Sources used for contextual notes:

  • Blazejowskyj, Dmytro.  Historical Shematism of the Eparchy of Peremyshl, Including The Apostolic Administration of Lemkivshchyna (1828-1939)  L'viv, 1995.  ISBN 5-7745-0672-X (English language)
  • Horbal, Bogdan.  Lemko Studies: A Handbook.  Carpatho-Rusyn Research Center, New York.  2010.  ISBN: 978-0-88033-639-0 (English language.)
  • Iwanusiw, Oleh. Church in Ruins: The Demise of Ukrainian Churches in the Eparchy of Peremyshl. St. Catharines, Ont.: St. Sophia Religious Association of Ukrainian Catholics in Canada, 1987. Print. (Ukrainian and English languages.)
  • Krasovs'kyi, Ivan.  Surnames of Galician Lemkos in the Eighteenth Century.  L'viv, 1993.  ISBN: 5-7707-0948-0 (Ukrainian language)
  • Magosci, Paul Robert and Ivan Pop.  Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.   Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.  Print.  (English language) (Alternatively, see: 
  • Reinfuss, Roman.  Śladami Łemków.  Warszawa: Wydawn. PTTK Kraj, 1990. Print.  (Polish language)

Note: The Lemko Project does not adopt a single ethno-national orientation or viewpoint; instead, we look across the politically fractured history of Lemkos to provide insights into various sub-communities in Europe and diaspora.  Feel free to email us if you have a story or memoir that you would like us to consider for publication on this blog.

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  1. In the late 1990s with Greg Gressa I published a translation of this article as part of a small monograph "Losja, Gorlyci County." It was distributed at the revived Losia Kermeshes held in Bentleyville over several years.

  2. Hi Rich - do you mean that you translated it into Lemko? The handwritten copy that we have is in English.

  3. I visited Losie to track down the living "branches" of my family tree in 2012 and found this article so interesting - thank you! I don't have much information but have a lot of high quality photography of present day Losie if anyone needs it.

    A few photos are here (scroll down the page)

  4. The original (as far as I know) was published in Lemko in the Karpatska Rus' newspaper (or Lemko-Soiuz almanac, I forget which) and I worked with two other Rusyn Americans to translate it into English. We only put the English translation into the booklet. Interesting that you have it handwritten, in English! Was it the author's own handwriting?

  5. Hi Rich- ill send you the PDF tomorrow with the copy we received from Fr. Jonathan. Not sure if the author wrote it out in English or had a scribe.

  6. Rich - did you ever talk with Greg G. about the possibility of republishing the Losja brochure as a PDF so that people can have access to it?