A group formed three decades ago to promote its ethnic minority culture is celebrating its 30e birthday.
The group called “Kyczera” came together to keep the Lemko culture of their parents and grandparents alive in Poland.
Historically originating in the Beskid and Pieniny mountains around Beskid Sądecki, Beskid Niski and parts of the Pienin mountains, the Lemkos were displaced from their homelands in 1947 and resettled in western Poland as part of “Operation Vistula ”, the forced resettlement by the Communist authority of several ethnic minorities from post-war south-eastern Poland to the reconquered territories in the west of the country.
Based on the 2005 Law on National and Ethnic Minorities and Regional Language, the Lemkos are one of the four ethnic minorities in Poland, without their own nation. Their status as an ethnic minority distinct from Poland was the reason they were targeted by Operation Vistula, while the mountain people of Podhale or Żywiec, who were considered ethnically Polish, were not.
In the last Polish census in 2011, 9,641 Polish citizens declared themselves of Lemko ethnicity, the majority now living in Lower Silesia and only a minority still live in the land historically called “Lemko country” in Małopolskie.
“Kyczera”, which means “mountain” in the Lemko language, is the main institution of authentic Lemko culture in Poland.
Since 1996, he is also the organizer of one of the biggest annual international folk festivals in Poland, “World under Kyczera”, which encompasses dozens of venues across Poland, including towns in Lower Silesia, Little -Poland, Pokarpacie and the Slovak city of Kurov.
“Living in an ethnic minority forces us to redouble our efforts to protect our traditions,” said Olga Starzyńska, who, along with her brothers, promotes her indigenous culture through performances in Kyczera under the direction of her father Jerzy. Starzyński, original founder of the group.
“When I put on a traditional Lemko outfit, I feel a lot of pride, but I also feel that it is my duty and I consider it a point of honor,” added Daniel, Olga’s brother.
Lemko culture is characterized by a strong emotional connection to the highland region or “Lemko country”, a distinct language, colorful and embroidered traditional clothing for women and men, distinct from other traditional Polish clothing, and a passion for singing. and dance as well as for the Orthodoxy or Greco-Catholic religion.
In 2018, Kyczera reconstructed a set of eye-catching traditional Lemko outfits from archival photographs and is currently raising funds for the reconstruction of other outfits as well as historical books for their library catalog.
Although initially a dance group, “Kyczera” evolved into much more, today forming a cultural organization bringing together over 400 young Lemkos engaged in the local community and their own cultural center, the only Lemko cultural center in Poland. , which organizes workshops, exhibitions, conferences and has the largest collection of books in the world devoted to the Lemko culture.
The organization serves an important educational purpose, and the young people who are part of ‘Kyczera’ do not only dance, “it is a place where young people learn the Lemko language and they discover the traditions, culture and history of their ancestors, ”said Jerzy Starzyński.
“We also organize workshops in the historic lands of Lemko, taking children to where their parents and grandparents came from”
“We are driven only by crazy enthusiasts like me who dedicate their entire lives to trying to preserve what remains of the Lemko culture.”
“Poland has been our homeland for hundreds of years and I would like Lemkos to survive in Poland as long as possible.”