HOME OF A FORGOTTEN PEOPLE
Few peasant communities in Central Europe can vie with the people of Carpatho-Ukraine in the primitiveness of their habits, customs and beliefs. Twenty-five years ago, by far the greater part of their tiny country on the southern slopes of the Carpathians was little affected by civilization, and most of its shepherds, wood-cutters, rafts-men and small farmers could neither write nor read. Age-old tales of snakes stirred the imagination of the peasants, the robber-hero Oleksa with his fabulous riches was no mere fiction to them, superstitions were rampant. Witches had a firm grip on their simple minds, malicious fairies dwelt in the reeds of marshy streams and the devil haunted the uncanny depths of the vast forests which cover almost one half of this mountainous country.
CIVILISATION has gradually forced these powers of darkness to retreat to the less accessible and secluded valleys in the mountains. Here, too, some of the native peasant art has survived. The peculiar style and color effects of the traditional costumes, the geometric patterns of the embroideries, the designs painted on the local pottery or carved in wood, the odd wooden huts and the few unusual wooden churches - alI these relics of bygone traditions reveal the deep-seated artistic inspiration of these simple people and link them with their kinsmen beyond the mountains, in Galicia and in the plains of Southern Russia.
The developments of the recent past have interfered with the original pattern of life under the Carpathians. Very few of the interesting wooden churches have survived the war, the quaint Gipsy community and the old-fashioned Jewish minority have been largely destroyed.
In word and in picture the authors have tried to give an impression of this primitive and fascinating country and to preserve the memory of those of its features which may have disappeared forever.
East Slovakia Genealogical Research Strategies