Historical Recollections of Vola Ceklynska

In a book called Naska Knishka (Our Book) published by the Lemko Association in 1945, there is an article on Lemko writers. One of the writers mentioned is Wasil Chernetski, who was born in Vola Ceklynska in Yaslo County in southern Poland. Wasil Chernetski was the author of "Zhadki s 1846 godu" (Notes on the Year 1846), in which he describes the rebellion of 1846.

Justin Balon, a Lemko immigrant living in Singac, New Jersey, was also from Vola Ceklynska, born there on June 11, 1888. Balon read Naska Knishka and wrote to the editors of the Lemko Association to make a personal contribution to the topic pursued by his fellow villager.

Balon's letter was included in the Lemko Association's 1952 Yearbook (Kalendar). His letter relates the stories about the 1846 rebellion that were being told in Vola Ceklynska during his youth, that is, about 1895-1905. An English translation of this letter was reprinted in the April 17th 2001 issue of the newspaper Karpatska Rus.

Mr Balon died September 24, 1965

In order to more fully understand the events being described, the following items of Polish history may be helpful. At the beginning of the 1800's Poland had been broken up and taken over by Russia, Prussia and Austria. The only "free" area of Poland was the Cracow Republic. The Cracow Republic consisted of the city of Cracow and the surrounding area. The Polish Democratic Society, Polish nationalists based in Paris, planned an uprising. The purposes of this uprising were the somewhat contradictory goals of independence for the Polish people and freeing the serfs from their slavery under the Polish nobles. The revolt was intended to take place in January 1846. These plans became known and quickly crushed in the Prussian and Russian sectors of Poland. Austria viewed the Cracow Republic as a haven for revolutionaries and eager to prevent an outbreak of the uprising on its own territories, it invaded the Cracow Republic. In November of 1846, Austria incorporated it into the Austria-Hungarian Empire, completely eliminating Poland up until the First World War and the Russian Revolution. Prior to this final annihilation of the Cracow Republic, a few peasant uprisings took place in the Cracow area.

Justin Balon's letter, in English translation by Dimitri Gallik, is reproduced here below:

"I was pleased to find Vola Ceklynska mentioned in Nasha Knishka, because that is my native village. I don't know what Wasil Chernetski wrote in his "Zhadki s 1846 godu", because I have never read any of his works, but in my youth I heard the old folks of my village talk about that killing of Polish nobles in 1846. So from those tales told by the old folks, I want to relate here the role my village played in those events of 1846 and how it was rewarded by its sovereign lord.

A message came to Vola Ceklynska to kill all the nobles. Not even the oldest people in the village could explain who brought that message to the village.

Our village belonged to the Lord Ceklynski, who ruled over seven villages: Ceklyn, Dilets, Pagorok, Radist, Vola Ceklynska, and Folush. Only two of these were Rusyn - Vola Ceklynska and Folush. All the rest were Polish villages.

About the time that rumors about killing Polish nobles were going around, Lord Ceklynski sent for our village mayor, a man called Dziama, and said to him something about like this: 'I have received a letter saying I should get all my peasants to come here to my courtyard, and each man should bring his scythe or pitchfork. Tell them not to worry, there will be plenty to eat and drink'.

Mayor Dziama couldn't read so he couldn't figure out why the lord wanted all the men to come to his place. Anyway, he went back to the village, called a community assembly, and told the men what their lord wanted. So our villagers picked up scythes, pitchforks, and other weapons, and led by deacon Pelak, went off to Ceklyn to protect their Polish lord from his Polish peasants.

I don't know which villages were against the lord or which were for him. But more of them must have been for him, because when those bent on killing him arrived there, they saw a large crowd of drunken men, and they backed off. The lord feasted those who had stood by him. He brought out kegs and kegs of hard liquor, and every man had all he wanted to drink.

In Wola Dubetska, not far from us, the lord didn't have any such protection. When he saw the peasants coming, he knew he was in trouble. He took to his heels and ran for the woods. He thought they wouldn't find him there. But they caught him in a field called Spaliunky, and there they cut his throat.

This story requires another story to be added to it. Our village defended the Ceklyn lord against his Polish peasants. Now read the story of how the the lord rewarded our villagers.

Adjoining our village is a community-owned forest called "Za Kichirkom". It is a lovely forest, all beech and fir. One time the Ceklyn lord invited some of his friends to a hunt. They wandered through the woods until they came to the Ksiendzha glade, and there they stopped to rest. His friends asked the Ceklyn lord whose forest it was that they just come through. He replied that it belonged to the peasants. They laughed at him, 'Why do peasants need a forest like that? Take it away from them'.

The Ceklyn lord summoned our mayor and said to him, 'Mayor, I am taking that Za Kichirkom forest from your village. You don't need such a forest'.

The mayor called a village meeting and reported what the lord had said. The men talked it over and decided that everyone should take what horse or oxen, or other draft animals he had, and go get what he could out of the forest, so that there wouldn't be anything left for the lord.

And so the entire village went into the woods and cut down the trees. Every night they would haul out whatever they could manage. Many animals were worked to death in that operation.

When the lord brought around his committee to survey and take over the forest, all he found was devastation. He then said he didn't want such a mess. So Vola Ceklynska retained its forest".

Justin Balon, Singac, New Jersey

Translated by Dimitri Gallik

Transliterations of some names found in the original translation have been changed