Colours from Eden

Recollections about the remembered Lemkovyna passed down from generation to generation present it as a fairy-tale land of milk and honey, Arcadia – the legendary land of eternal happiness, symbol of peace, beauty, wealth and social order. Heaven on earth. The contemporary tourist brochures on the picturesque Carpathian mountains describe what can be found here: silence, quietening, village idyll. Advertisements expressly declare that tourists (or artists) can find their heaven here. Although, actually, it is the role of artists: to create or paint such a beauty and harmony that would be an ideal and has to be associated with something supernatural.

When  we ask our people: what does it mean to be a good Lemko? We will get a clear answer that will be rather idealized. A good man is a man who speaks Rusyn on a daily basis, has Lemko background, sticks to the Eastern rite, cares for mother customs. I remember that the Lemkos that used to live in Lemkovyna would also add – a good Lemko is the one who lives in Lemkovyna. Those who lived in the West did not even mention the last thing. However, when you ask them if they know any Lemko who does not speak Lemko anymore, who was born in a family mixed ethnically, does not attend the church nor celebrates as it used to be at home, leaves in the exile and if such a person can be their relative, after a brief moment of reflection, they come to their renses and call reality  to their minds. Indeed, everyone has such “good Lemkos” in their family who understand only few words in Rusyn, do not stick to the customs nor holidays, do not fast when needed, nor (as if they were orphans) have a full Rusyn background. Not once they will come to  conclusion and say, these are our good people.  Abstraction that has nothing to do with reality, the picture, according to them, is a description of good, honoured and right people without weaknesses and negative characteristics. In this way what we get is always only an opinion-wish. Finally, the artists are left with the only task of repainting the contemporaneous Eden people. The scientists, historicians, anthropologists (the physical and cultural ones) again have to show how it was and how it is in reality. What relations can be visible in the society that is definitively composed of Lemkos-angels. And then, very quickly, both the creators and the scientists, as well as the recipients, will get disappointed, lose the illusions and will get sober.

At the end of the XIXth, a French painter Paul Gauguin painted one of his most famous pictures Where are we from? Who are we? Where are we going? (D’où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous?). The other paintings of the artist are rather difficult for interpretation. Many have tried to do this. Let us make a Lemkocentric analysis of the painting. The inspiration for this was clear, it is the book of Genesis from the Old Testament and creation of a man described there. The people are presented in the bosom of nature. They live in the bush, at the edge of a forest, by a river that brings life, accompanied by countless number of animals – dogs, cats, goats, peacocs and a white bird. The colours on the painting remind of the symbolic nature of the “Lemko flag” that was made up in the 1980s. At the top: green forests, green bush and grass; at the bottom: cerulean, blue and whitish waters. In the middle of the picture there are sitting, standing and lying people in the foreground. There are old and young people, there is a child and a worried old lady; the skin colour of the people differs so much as the colour on the flag – diversified and not precised until nowadays – yellow-orange. The people are dominant by the artist against the Eden nature. They are the main heroes of the symbolic history on the human existence – from the birth to getting over with the agelong lot, to a quiet, peaceful and inevitable death. In the middle there is a big man painted. He could have had honest and beautiful life if it had not been for the fact that he dared to pick the apple from the tree. He sinned and only God’s punishment awaits him. His body sparkles with the brightest yellow colour. All the other situations perpetuated by the author are the consequence of this, leading one. We are sinful and this is our basic characteristics. Let us have a look on the right side – at birth we were given the chance, we were raised and formed. But we were not able to be happy about what we got. We wanted more and better. That is why it will be taken from us, and what awaits us is a degradation and deformation. Take a look at the left side. We wil not be happy with the earthly Eden, a bad lot awaits us, misfortunes, struggles and anguish. Old age and loneliness of an ill wife whose skin turned black through all the years of living. Our Eden is presented in details – the essence of our existence with all the stages in details. We are born, each of us as a unique being, we make mistakes and suffer as a consequence, we worry, think, we try to find “unity” with the Lord, we get older, we recollect and after the time, our journey ends with death.

Even if  we analyse the picture by Gauguin for a hundred of times, will we get answers to agelong Lemko questions: Where are we from? Who are we? Where are we going? Again, only a part of cognition will be given to us and we will corrupt it at the end to such an extent that there be little left from innocent beings that we appeared to be at the beginning. At the picture we will not find despoilers of body and soul, pervasive devils calling for the bad. Where are they? Presented nature is not the reason for the bad. It is people themselves who originate pain and cause anguish, although apparently everyone lives in the agelong Eden.

In Lemkovyna and in the declarations of Lemkos, the remembered Eden has been still ruling.


In the middle part of Greece drought started. Wells dried up, all the pools and most of the mountain streams as well. The oldet Greeks could not even remember such a misfortune. Since the time of establishing democracy in Athens, there was no such a situation that there be no food for goats even. The ears of wheat were so small that the only harvest was as much as had been planted. Oil trees and clusters of grapes were also little this year. Loud prayers to the gods of nature and sucrifices brought to the Temple of Demeter – the god of farmers, pastures, fertility of the land, abundance and farming did not bring any effects. Prayers did not help for multiplication of bread. The society was endangared with hunger.

It reached such an extent that someone started to steal fruits from holy trees, worshipped fig trees. The most honest and sticking to the laws people demanded to find the criminals Experts on guarding the old order, speaking on behalf of simple Greek people.

From the initial role of guarding holy figs, with time the people became experts in charging and they became professionals in this. Also, the field of their interests extended. They were not guardians of the old tradition anymore. They smelled business and they got interested mostly in keeping order that was defined arbitrarily by themselves. They were also professional witnesses in any court cases. In the ancient Greece these kind of experts were called sycophants. Their aforementioned specialization and the role performed in the society that sticked to democratic rules, was increasing. Although not known how exactly. That is why the sycophants started to guard not only the fig trees from which one was not permitted to pick not even one fruit. They started to catch up those who wanted to sell their private figs, entirely non-holy, or expose them to the further lands. They would declare right and left that only them were dignified and that they were the only ones who could control and decide who is right and who is not. They made a profession out of controlling. I will only add that it was a well-paid profession. When it comes to such a court case, they could take over the wealth of an accused that would not be able to prove their innocence. And mostly such an  accused person would have to prove they were not a camel. In the antique Greece the “services” were paid with drachmas, in the Carpathian Rus’ – fame, vengeance for imaginary injuries and… authentic money.

Specialists – sycophants – dared even to blackmailing in order to achieve their goals. In the Xenophon’s Recollections on Socrates there is a talk of Kryton and Socrates on sycophants. Because Kryton is worried, he has been judged by experts – prosecutors, Socrates gives him a piece of advice – to find such a man who would like and be able to take away from you those who mean aggression. Then, they found a skillful and very poor man – Archidem. Kryton gave him shelter and fed him. He found misdeeds concerning one of the sycophants immediately and he found many enemies. Then he appealed to the public services that, based on the example of the sycophant, they determine what punishment he should receive for the crimes presented by Archidem. The sycophant, who knew that the presented crimes are only a part of his bigger misdeeds, did everything so that Archidem leave him in peace. Archidem did not yield until the sycophant left in peace Kryton and paid money to Archidem. And in this way, Kryton could live in peace, as well as his friends.

Why, after two anti-Bursa assaults of the contemporary sycophants there was no the third one? It will come. Our lot is painted in yellow. The first drought and here you are… In the Attic jurisdiction the situation was as follows: if a prosecutor did not gather 1/5 votes of the judgers considering true charges, he had to pay a thousand of drachmas himself. But this was not the worst thing. Such a sycophant would be deprived of the right to jujdge others in similar cases for life. For life! The sanction was tough, but what comes of it when there were enough false prosecutors, informers, blackmailers. Now think about the terrible lot of experts with the recommendation of a manager of the folk group from Legnica. For the luck of them, we live in a “liberal democracy” that came from the west. We do not stick to the Greek rights of democracy.

It is necessary to say that sanctions that were about possible punishments and losing honour for unsuccessful attacks or false accusing did not concern the prosecutors who were mostly real initiators of reaching the imaginery „crimes” themselves . Actually, the tie of the contemporary sycophants results mainly in damage for their patrons. Those who cannot believe such policy should carefully choose words themselves. Because also their policy may be the reason for judgement. Maybe because of this, provoked by the sycophants were only those who are gifted with the biggest polemic temperament and the smallest talent for self-judgement. And that the role performed  by them is reflected in the picture by Gauguin? They should be informed about it, but they should watch it carefully.

Opaque water

About one century before the mentioned big Greek drught, on the other side of the sea – in a land called Phrygia, a writer was born whom we know as Aesop. Writing about the real world, the author never referred to people nor real events concerning his and not only his relatives, he would present the world of nature instead. He would paint yellow with his pen in such a way that everyone see only green and blue. He would laugh at people, just to remain safe he would present them as animals.

One day a small lamb was drinking water from stream. Unfortunately, a wolf saw it. The wolf was extremely hungry. He has not eaten for a long time and the sheep was just perfect, young and succulent.

– Hey, you, stop walking on the water. You roil it and I would like to drink it now.

Although it was small and very afraid of the wolf, the lamb firmly said:

-Dear wolf, how can I be roiling your water when you are standing by the stream high above me? And the stream flows from your direction to mine. What you are saying cannot be true.

The wolf responded:

-Do you remember how you called me a fool, tom last year? I still remember this very well.

-Last year? This cannot be true. I was born half a year ago.

-I do not care. If it was not you, it was someone of your relatives and allies. And you are guilty as much as them.

This fable ends always the same. In the Aesop’s story the fed its face as he had to. Also Lemkos have always been guilty any big misfortunes of others. And those who have the nature of gluttons will always find the reason for which others cannot perform such a role as them. Roiling of water is a sufficient reason to admonish  those who have the nature of servants (whose task is to pasture). Both wolves and lambs are to be blamed equally. That is why similar life awaits them.

The painter Gauguin does not give us hope. We are going to stay a group of sycophants and water roiling people thar forever make excuses,and the wolves are going to admonish with us. The last “not eaten” sheep will be finally separated. Some of them will go to look for beauty and harmony with nature, some will think they have found a philosophical pure stone of wisdom that has been swept in the mountain stream for ages. Finally, elations of hearts will lead even them to loneliness.

Are Lemkos going to remain a group of water roilers and sycophants, prosecutors and victims forever? Or will they aim to create brotherhood, a unity, ensemble representing the same goals… An ideal nation, membership of which would create the feeling of safe future, order, peace.

Photography above Paul Gauguin Where are we from? Who are we? Where are we going? – Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

 In the programme an authorial song of Jacques Brel was broadcast entitled Les Marquises.


О авторі

Богдан Ґамбаль

Присутний. Народил єм ся в Польковицях, на Нижнім Шлеску. Люблю ходити там де мі боронят і радити тото чого не дозваляют повідати. Люблю переносити границі. В радию Лем.фм єм од початку. Окрем радия тых моіх початків было більше - Стоваришыня і улюблена - Руска Бурса. Люблю чытати стары русиньскы ґазеты. Зачал єм публикувати іщы в Голосі Ватры. Контакт: gambal@lem.fm