Lemkos - The forgotten folk

Lemkos (Ukrainian: Лeмки,

Polish: Łemkowie, Lemko: Лeмкы,

translit. Lemky; sing. Лeмкo, Lemko) is/was a small ethnic sub-group inhabiting an area of the Carpathian Mountains known as Lemkivshchyna.


The term "lem" is a neologism of the 20th century, by which "lem" means "only" in its language.


Many Lemkos identify themselves as a minority of Ukrainians. Ukraine has signed but not honored the Copenhagen agreement granting self-identified Lemkos minority rights in Ukraine.


The spoken language of Lemkos is uncodified. It has been variously described as a language in its own right or a dialect of the Ukrainian language.


The Lemkos' homeland is commonly referred to Lemkivshchyna (Ukrainian: Лeмкiвщина, Lemko: Lemkovyna (Лeмкoвина), Polish: Łemkowszczyzna).


Up until 1945, this included the area from the Poprad River in the west to the valley of the Oslawa River in the east. These areas were situated primarily in present-day Poland, in the Lesser Poland and Subcarpathian Voivodeships (provinces). This part of the Carpathian Mountains is mostly deforested, which allowed to run an agrarian economy.

The Lemkos' region became a part of Poland in Medieval times. Later in 1772, Lemkos were made a part of the Austria province of Galicia. This area was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its dissolution in 1918, at which point the Lemko-Rusyn Republic (Ruska Lemkivska) declared its independence. However, the independence did not last long and the Republic was incorporated into Poland in 1920.


As a result of the forcible deportation of Ukrainians from Poland to the Soviet Union after World War II, the majority of Lemkos in Poland were either resettled from their historic homeland to the former German territories in the North-Western region of Poland or to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.


Only those Lemkos living in the Prešov Region in present-day Slovakia continue to live on their ancestral lands, with the exception of some Lemkos who resettled in their homeland in the late 1950s and afterward.


Lemkos are/were neighbours with Slovaks, Carpathian Germans and Lachy sądeckie (Poles) to the west, Pogorzans (Poles) and Dolinians (a Rusyn subgroup) to the north, Ukrainians to the east and Slovaks to the south.

The Lemko-Rusyn Republic (1918-1920)

There was the Lemko-Rusyn Republic in the Galician Florynka (near Grybów), which lasted from December 1918 to March 1920. Its self-administration initially proclaimed unity with Russia, then aimed to join Czechoslovakia.

The leaders of the Republic were arrested by Polish troops in February 1919. Afterwards, the entire region was under Polish control in early 1920.

The flag of the Lemko-Rusyn Republic is depicted in the picture above.

Spiritual culture

Lemkos as a sub-ethnic group is/was characterized in different spheres of life. On the one hand, its features inherent traits of other eastern Slavs. On the other hand, Lemkos have lost their archaic features. The differences were caused especially by the Polish and Slovakish neighborhood. It is noteworthy that contacts with Poles and Slovaks influenced Lemkos' culture enormously.


Lemkos are renown for their strict piety and morality. They are people who live in silence, far from the storms of life and passion, constrained by their faith. This folk finds refuge and its life wisdom in church. Lemkos like a rite to build churches and bring willingly their work in order to sacrifice to church.


Lemkos' religious spirit is also reflected in their daily life and customs. They begin and end every work with God. Due to this it is clear why Lemkos have so little crime.

Lemkos' church

Church has played a major role in Lemkos' ethnic unity with the Ukrainian folk. As a result, Greek Catholic Church came to the forefront.


By the end of the 18th century Lemkos built exclusively wooden churches. Later they used brick and stone. Asymmetrical composition with a distinct decline in elevation from west to east laid at the heart of Lemkos' churches. The main difference Lemkos' type of Slovak and Polish is that churches were with pyramidal shaped ceiling over the central and eastern constructions.


The architectural structure of traditional Lemkos' church, which was started at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, was divided into three parts: altar, nave and babinet. This corresponded to the notion of the separation of the Universe into three parts:

  • the Divine Heavens,
  • the world of people who seek God
  • sinners.

Lemkos' altar of churches was usually in square or octagonal shape.

Another common borrowing was the construction of the bell tower from the west rather than the construction of a separate building.


The 19th century brought even more specific features of Lemkos' church architecture. They were developed in a design of the roof. Also a clear separation between the pews and the altar disappeared. At the same time, a rectangular tower as an Austrian architectural element began to penetrate into Lemkos' churches. 

Typs of Lemkos' churches

There is also a more detailed division of architectural types inherent Lemkos' churches.



For example, the Northwest type is the Classic Lemkos' type. It is featured by a three part design laid out of three squares. The nave is wider and higher than other parts. The tower above the pews is with sloping walls. 



The North type of churches is characterized by a two and a three part design. Faceted altar having a protruding sacristy. Dominant tower with sloping walls surrounded by wooden dams, which crowned tent's top pews, altar and nave.

The Northeast type is distinguished by variations without or with a tower including baroque decorative upper end.


The South type stands for churches with a two part design. Elongated rectangular nave with internally dedicated pews. Columnar construction of a tower.


The Southeast type is to be found in Carpathian Rus. Churches have a two part design, a bell tower with straight walls.

Find out how the Lemkos' culture is.


Enjoy the culture of the forgotten Lemkos' folk!


Enjoy yourself with Lemkos together!


Or are you Lemko/ Lemke/Лемки/Łemkowie/Lemky yourself?


Then, let's investigate your own genetic tree of Lemko/ Lemke/Лемки/Łemkowie/Lemky!

Do you really know it exactly?


                                       Live Stylish!

                                       Stay Healthy!

                                         Eat Organic!

                                          Be Natural!

Write a comment

Comments: 13
  • #1

    Uwe Lemke (Monday, 09 January 2017 16:38)

    Nice Blog and interesting for me to identify where my name comes from

  • #2

    ivana split (Tuesday, 10 January 2017 15:53)

    I love learning about Slavic cultures. It was really interesting to learn these things about Lemkos people.


  • #3

    Alice (Tuesday, 10 January 2017 15:57)

    Very interesting post my dear:-) I don't have their roots, but they are my neighbors ;-)

  • #4

    Karen (Tuesday, 10 January 2017 16:46)

    I really loved Reading this blogpost. I used to study history but I had honestly never heard of this folk.

  • #5

    Juli (Tuesday, 10 January 2017 17:10)

    Thank you for your comment dear!! The photos look great :D


  • #6

    Paola Lauretano (Tuesday, 10 January 2017 18:41)

    Really interesting place!!!
    Kisses, Paola.
    <a href="http://expressyourselfbypaolalauretano.blogspot.it/">Expressyourself</a>

  • #7

    Kati (Tuesday, 10 January 2017 21:24)

    Thanks for sharing, I had never heard of them!


  • #8

    viki baum (Wednesday, 11 January 2017 08:36)

    very nice blogpost , beautiful photos... <3

  • #9

    Kathy Leonia (Wednesday, 11 January 2017 09:14)

    wow so pretty place:)

  • #10

    'I am every woman' Margot (Wednesday, 11 January 2017 09:35)

    Thanks for visiting my blog www.iameverywoman.eu :) . Your blog is fantastic, I will sure be one of your followers - the article about Lemoks is realllllyyyy interesting. I am Polish and to be honest I didn't know a lot of facts you are talking about. The history of churches you've pictured here are indeed one of the typical features in many towns and villages in this part of Poland. Traditional clothes are still to be seen during various festivals, weddings and celebrations, but sometimes people simply wear them on Sundays or family does. Lovely post - :) have a great day - cheers - Margot :)

  • #11

    Rina (Friday, 13 January 2017 07:44)

    I'm loving the traditional garments of the Ukraine! Looks so colorful and happy! Have a great weekend babe!

    xoxo Rina Samantha

  • #12

    Marine (Friday, 13 January 2017 17:23)

    Very informative entry. I like it.

  • #13

    Lisa Isabella Russo (Sunday, 08 October 2017 22:00)

    I have enjoyed learning about their culture, thank you for putting this together.