The following article contains a brief history of the village of Peregrimka as well as personal recollections of life there during the very earliest part of the 20th century. It originally appeared in the 1941 Yearbook (Kalendar) of the Russian Brotherhood Organization.
This English translation was prepared by Dmitri Gallik and published in the February 23, 2004 issue of the "Carpatho-Rus" newspaper (Karpatska Rus).
The author of the article was Mikhail W. Duzey, born November 22, 1893 in Peregrimka. As a young man he completed Rusyn High School (Ruska Bursa) in Gorlice. He emigrated to the United States presumably sometime between 1911 and 1914 and seems to have settled somewhere in the New York area. With time, Mr. Duzey became both a machinist and semi-professional musician and his name appears on many recordings of Lemko folk music during the 1930's. Mr Duzey died on March 24, 1949.
Mr Duzey was Russian Orthodox and clearly highly opinionated in religious matters. In his article he has few kind words to spare for Unitate Catholics, Jews or Baptists. None the less, Mr Duzey was clearly a man with deep cultural interests and he carried out historical research quite impressive for a man in his circumstances.
Perehrymka is the loveliest village in all of Lemkovina. Of course, that's what everybody says of his own village.
A person's home town, the place where he was born, has lived, and was exposed to the world is the loveliest to everyone. So too, my Perehrymka is the loveliest village, situation as it is in spacious valleys which border on the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains to the west.
Passing through the village is a national highway, which on market days is traveled by hundreds of farm wagons hurrying to the markets at Jaslo or Zmigorod.
It should be interesting to take a glance into the bygone days of the village of Perehrymka. Of course, we don't know much of the village's early history, but still a few fragments have been preserved.
The village was already in existence in the 15th century. It was then just a small settlement consisting of 15 lots assigned to local officials - nine guardsmen, five cottagers with livestock, and one with no stock.
Those were the residents of Perehrymka in the beginning. There is no record or legend of where they came from or whether there was anyone living there before them. All we know is what was preserved in the ancient church in the time of medieval Poland.
We do know that long ago the Lemkovina region belonged to Russian princes. In 1340, the Polish king Casimir the Great annexed that region to Poland. And so Lemkovina was ruled by Polish nobility until 1772. That was when the old Austrian monarchy acquired Lemkovina, which it held until 1918. When Austria fell in November of 1918, Lemkovina reverted to Poland and came again under the tyranny of Polish nobles until 1939. As is well known, in the fall of that year the Germans smashed the new aristocratic Poland and, to our sorrow, our lands came under German domination for a while.
Our 600-year bondage came to an end in 1940. We do know know how long our brothers and sisters will remain in German servitude. Nor do we know when the present war will end or what that will bring - more oppression, or the end of 600 years of bondage. We can only hope that this will be the end.
Now let's take a look at what the records that have survived can tell us about our village.
The oldest records show that Perehrymka was in existence in the year 1500, and that it belonged to the Samokliask and Mrokow families, part of the "Sulima" coat-of-arms of the Hamrartovs. Later it became the property of the Mnishkos. Yuri Mnishko's daughter maintained a large castle in Perehrymka, and she lived there with her husband Dimitri the Pretender. Later on she and her husband moved to Moscow, where she claimed to be Empress. After her downfall, she sent to the Perehrymka church two valuable chasubles that had been kept in the Moscow Kremlin. These chasubles have remained in our church to this day.
Also in the Perehrymka church is a 1605 icon of the Mother of God, which is also supposed to have come from Moscow. In front of the church stands an old stone holy-water basin with the notation "Iwion Glodko, A.D. 1603" inscribed on it.
The present church in Perehrymka was built in 1870, and it is still in good condition. Many archival items from the ancient church are now in the museum of the Stauropegial Institute in L'wow.
It must not be forgotten that in addition to the church there was a large old inn in the village. There is no record of when this inn was built, but it can be assumed that it was during feudal times. Inside the inn was a large room containing the main bar, plus tables and benches. Attached to the inn was a huge carriage house. The was something like a large theater which could easily hold a thousand people, maybe even more.
Since this inn stood right beside the national highway, everybody going to the markets in Jaslo or Zmigorod would drop in to that spacious room. They would drive their horses and wagon into the carriage house and tie up their horses to the manger. Then they would go into the inn to invigorate themselves and get a bite to eat.
In the old days this inn also served as the community center. All community affairs were conducted there, under the watchful eye of the Jew. Offenders were judged there and sentenced to beatings and payment for drinks. The guilty one would be placed on a bench and given 25-50 strokes with a cane, and then had to buy a jug of whiskey for the community officials.
Much could be written about this ancient inn, but all of that would be only a spatter of mud, or a bitter glance into those barbarian times that our unfortunate villagers endured with no hope of escape.
We cannot judge who is to blame for the wrongs committed against our poor peasants. The Polish nobles and the Jews considered them to be cattle. The called them "churls", which in their aristocratic lexicon meant beast.
The priest could not stand up for his brethren, not even in Christ, for he himself was completely subject to the will of the lord and the Jew. Many years went by and in time feudal Poland also disappeared. Under the reign of Ferdinand the Good, the feudal system was abolished.
Since that time, bit by bit, things have been getting better.
Austria established a constitution under which peasants could vote and elect their own representatives.
For a long time the people still suffered in darkness and in ignorance of how to determine good from bad, but more and more of them learned to read and step by step they slowly moved forward.
They began building public schools in the villages, and learning to read and write became mandatory. Russian books and newspapers appeared, and gradually the villager gained some understanding, began learning that he too was a human being.
The people of Perehrymka also learned that, and they realized that the greatest evil in the village was that old inn. In 1902 or 1903 they tore down that huge inn. For two years they worked at breaking up those massive stones walls and distributing the pieces throughout the village, wherever anyone needed some for a shed or basement.
In 1908 a two-room schoolhouse was built on the spot where that old inn had stood.
And so it can be said that a new life began in the village of Perehrymka in 1908.
A great many people went to America. Many of them returned after 2-3 years, bringing with them both dollars and news about life in the outside world.
The village priest at that time was Fr. Ioann Myshkowski. He was a good man, amiable, and aligned with the old Russian party, but he was still an implacable Catholic. He detested Orthodoxy, and strictly suppressed the slightest move in that direction. He handled the mail, and he watched carefully to see that no one got newspapers or books that might have something on the Orthodox religion or was of Ukrainian leaning.
I can see now that Fr. Myshkowski did a lot of good for the village with this attitude of his. As long as everybody held to the same faith and nationality, there were no quarrels or problems. Otherwise, if the people of the village had been divided into Orthodox and Uniate, Russian and Ukrainian, there would have been frightful turmoil to the detriment of the people and the delight of their enemies.
The villagers erected a Social Home beside the schoolhouse, and in this Home they set up a Community League for commerce. This League was registered to members of the Kachkowski reading room, and since almost all adult villagers were members the business belonged to the community.
To reduce the tax burden, the income from this business went mostly for community needs. There was also a community treasury in the village, where residents could get loans at low rates. The capital for this treasury came from Community League revenues. This treasury did not accept deposits and served only as an aid society for village residents.
When the European was broke out in 1914, the Community League fell into the hands of the local Jew. And the Jew continued doing business in the village after the war was over.
But then the villagers who returned after the was organized a boycott of the Jew and took him to court for illegally appropriating the League. Then it came to light that there were traitors in Perehrymka. The major himself supported the Jew, and many villagers sided with him. There was much argument, and the matter was taken to court. The legal proceedings cost a lot, but nevertheless the majority won out and the Jew was driven out of the Social Home. The Community League was then renamed Victory. Those people who had supported the Jew opened their own store and called it Liberty.
Now there were two stores in the village - the Victory and the Jewish Liberty, since the Jew was the real owner of this store. However, the Jew did not last long. He could not succeed with the few deluded people who had supported him and he soon gave up and left the village forever. But then a new problem, a new misfortune, a new calamity, came to the village.
Peter Danilo, a Perehrymka man, became acquainted with the Baptist religion when he was in America. It got to the point of a quarrel with the new priest, Fr. Mariyan Myshkowski, son of Fr. Ioann. To harass the priest, Danilo got some of his friends together and founded a Baptist group in the village, with himself as preacher. This group, consisting of a few families, managed to hang on, getting financial support from somewhere. The majority of the residents did not succumb to this. Then too, another world war and new troubles interfered, and that is the best teacher for understanding what is truth and what is falsehood.
In the fall of 1939, a Russian immigration commission came to the village from Russia. Everybody signed up, along with the priest. But when it came time to go, the Germans let nobody out.
In writing about the past of Perehrymka, many details that might interest someone must be left out for lack of space. But something must be said about the cultural growth of the people of Perehrymka.
None of the village residents had any higher education, not because there were none who were well off or even rich, but mainly on account of the old tradition of "learning is torture". And there was also the notion that it's better to go to America and get rich.
But still, there was one member of a working family, Dzuhan, who became a teacher in Tylich, and later rose to the position of superintendent of schools in Tylich. He was of the Russian persuasion, and he often came back to his home village on vacation.
There were many talented people in our village, but because of poverty or for other reasons, they did not develop their abilities.
I will just mention here one of our villagers who had the gift of poetry. He taught girls, boys, and adults to sing. When anyone wanted to hear some song, he would just go to Maziarik, that was the man's name, and without stopping to think he would sing it or rhyme it. And it didn't matter who or what the subject was. Yet he could neither read nor write.
I once asked him, "How is it, Stefan that you can do this?" It was summer time, a hot steamy day after some hard work. A girl pulled a bucket of water from the well, and we all had a drink of fresh, cool water. Stefan took a drink, and poured the rest of the water over his head.
"Stefan", I said, "you got all wet"
He responded, "I just wet my shirt and pants. And I didn't do that by chance." (trans. - there are two rhymes in this phrase in the Lemko. I had to do some distortion just to get one).
This man Maziarik always talked like that. I often thought to myself, it's too bad that such a gift should be wasted.
Stefan Yurkowski was another man with a gift - this one of drawing. This was in 1904, when Japan and Russia were at war. We read about that war in the newspaper "Russkoje Slovo", which often carried war pictures. I used to take the paper to Stefan after papa had read it. He would read it and then reproduce the pictures on the fireplace.
His mother looked at those drawings and scolded, "Why do you always draw on the fireplace? You know I'm going to whitewash that."
He could draw on paper too, but the paper we had for drawing came from cattle receipts, which we called "libra". It was on this "libra" that he made lovely views of typical village life. However, he did less and less drawing as he got older. Everyday work took up most of his time, and on Sundays and holidays there were other things to do. And so, Stefan's gift was also wasted.
There also were other good craftsmen in the village - carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths. Even with the primitive equipment they had, some of them could produce very nice work.
We also had our own self-taught musicians, of which the best was Pawel Wasilets. He tells how he learned to play in a sauerkraut barrel.
"We had a big old barrel in the attic. My brother Andrei bought himself a fiddle, and when everybody was still out working in the fields and I would come home with the cows, I'd grab a quick bite and I'd take that fiddle up in the attic and get in the barrel with it. I just played and played, until one time they caught me, gave me a beating, and locked up the fiddle in a trunk. But you can't hold nature down, I fashioned a key to the trunk and went on playing."
I must also mention our old Perehrymka cantor. He was cantor for Fr I. Myshkowski. They said that he was a descendant of the Popovich family, and everybody in the village always called him "Popovich".
He was a sturdy and well-built man. And he was gifted with a beautiful voice. Such a strong and resonant voice can rarely be found. They say that everybody who went to that church learned to sing from Popovich. I remember his voice very well, and sometimes on Easter Sunday it seems I can still hear him sing, "Christ is risen".
This gift was lost too. Some kind of misunderstanding arose among the village fathers, and Popovich quit the position of cantor. From some personal grief or spiritual dissatisfaction, he took to drink and died at an young age.
In conclusion, I must note that Perehrymka is an ancient village or settlement of a group of people who have left very little history for such a long period of time. Some small cottages of the village's early days are still straw-thatched and leaning now as they were then.
Six hundred years have gone by since the village and its residents came under the domination of the Poles. May this 600 years of oppression come to an end in 1940.
I do believe that this will happen.
Mikhail W. Duzhiy
Translated by Dimitri Gallik
Transliterations of some names found in the original translation have been changed