The Bukowsko Triangle

A photo of the San River near Sanok The San River as it looks on a cloudy day at the edge of Sanok

My father's family comes from a triangularly-shaped area southwest of Sanok that contains a cluster of Polish and, at one time Rusyn villages. The area has no particular name but it needs one, and now it has one. The triangle is roughly defined by Sanok at the upper-right vertex (remember your geometry terms?), one side running southwest from Sanok along the Osława River (a tributary of the San) or Route 892 if you have a road map to route 897 which runs northwest along the Wisłok River to Route 28 near Rymanów then east to Sanok. Well, I didn't say it would be easy. Here is a map that doesn't show the triangle but it gives you some orientation anyway. Bukowsko, by the way, is smack in the middle of all this.

The Bukowsko Triangle was historically an ethnically mixed area of Poles, Rusyns and Jews. I am an example -- my grandmother was Polish, my grandfather was Rusyn. There were some Germanic people here as well as a few other minority odd lots. Naturally this has all changed although some representatives of each population remain. It is a beautiful area of rolling hills and fresh air and a more relaxed pace than in the big cities.

If you are interested in this area you might want to join the free Bukowsko Triangle mailing list that discusses the genealogy of the towns and villages in the area.

The towns and villages below are those in this area that I know something about. Their appearance on this page shows only their relevance to me, it is not significant in any other way. In other words, this is a personal survey, not a geographic, historic or scientific one.

Bukowsko

Bukowsko is the administrative center of this area. In recent history the town's population was mostly Polish with a large Jewish minority (over 25% in 1900) and a very small Ukrainian minority (about 2% in 1900). In July of 2002 I toured the Catholic cemetery there and found about ten (of about 250?) gravestones written in Cyrillic. They were all pre-WWII, I think. Nevertheless a quick, unscientific tour found the names Bryła, Klepczyk and Rakoczy all of which I am pretty sure were Rusyn names so there was some intermarriage or Polonization going on which is no surprise, really. There is also a Jewish cemetery in Bukowsko that I've not visited.

Marek Silarski used several sources(28, 29, 30, 31, 32) to compile a list of names Bukowsko has had in its history. The name is derived from the word "buk" which means "beech". The names: Bukowsko (1361), Bucowsko (15th century), Bvkowsko (15th century), Bukowsko (1508), Bukosko (1785), Bukowsko (19th century - present), Bukivs'ko (1851, Ukrainian), Bukiwsko (1860, Ukrainian), Butiwsko (20th century, Lemko), Bukiwsko (20th century, Lemko), and Bukisko (20th century, Lemko). Debbie Raff also cites the names Bakavsk, Bikavsk, Bikovsk, Bukovska and Bukivs'ko and suggests that the first three of these come from Yiddish.

The Bukowsko civil archive has some books in it that could be of great interest to genealogists.

I can't explain why this seemingly random collection of books is in Bukowsko. Why are all of Kamienne's records here but only some Wolica's? It is a mystery to me and I have not discussed it with the archivist. (I sure wish I could speak Polish.) There are more church books available in the national archive in Przemśyl.

Wolica

A scan of a pressed flower from the Wolica graveyard A flower from the Wolica cemetery

There are many towns in Poland named Wolica. This one is a village right next to Bukowsko. It was mostly Rusyn before Operation Vistula. The church in Wolica also served the village of Zboiska which had no church.

Marek Silarski used a couple of sources(28, 29) to compile a list of names Wolica has had in its history. The name is derived from the word "wólka" which simply means "village". The names are Wolicza (1435, 1450, 1453), Wyrzchna Vola (1471), Magna Volycza (1477), Parva Volycza (1477), Wolycza (1515), Wolicze (1553), Wolicza (1589), Wolica (1678, 19th & 20th centuries), and Volyca (1851, Ukrainian).

I have transcribed a few of the tombstones in the Wolica cemetery.

Some of Wolica's church books are in the national archive in Przemśyl.

My grandfather Michał Semańczyk was born in Wolica in 1890 and I scattered some of my father's ashes in the cemetery there in 2002. That was the end of a long journey for me.

Zboiska

A photo the the church in Zboiska The church (as of April 2002) with my cousin's trusty Citroën in the foreground

Alternate names: Zbojs'ka / Zbojśka (Rusyn)(1)

Zboiska is right next to Wolica. This is not the Zboiska near Krosno, Poland. According to the priest I met in 2002, there is no cemetery in Zboiska and old records state that there was no church in Zboiska (villagers went to the church in Wolica). There is a church there today which I am told was built in 1999.

There were a few Bończak families in this village including the family of my g-grandmother.

Ratnawica

A photo of the remains of the cemetery in Ratnawica This is mostly what remains of the cemetery in Ratnawica

Alternate names: Ratnavyca (Rusyn)(1)

Ratnawica is nestled in the hills at the end of the road leading out of Zboiska. It may have been a busy village at one point; my 1877 map shows that it was about the same size as Wolica and the rough numbers in the birth records from that period back this up. But this village was nearly obliterated in Operation Wistula although WWII may have damaged it before that. Today there are two inhabitants remaining and I suspect soon there will be none.

I spoke (through an interpreter) to a native of Ratnawica who was also an eyewitness to the events that took place there. He had nothing kind to say about the Polish Army nor the UPA. His villains were painted not as Poles or Rusyns or Ukrainians but as men armed with guns and a poisonous self-righteousness. I see a lot of people in genealogy groups online drinking from that same bilious cup and all I can say is I am not about that.

What remains of the Ratnawica graveyard as I write this in 2002 is a field of daffodils and periwinkles in the woods. They were originally planted as grave markers and they are doing their job beautifully. Aside from the flowers and some scattered pieces of iron, the photos below are the of the three markers that remain.

A photo of one of the three remaining grave markers in the cemetery in Ratnawica a spacer A photo of one of the three remaining grave markers in the cemetery in Ratnawica a spacer A photo of one of the three remaining grave markers in the cemetery in Ratnawica
The center tombstone indicates that Joannes Naykov died Feb 20, 1903. There is other text there including the word "survived" but the letters seem to be a mix from both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets making it hard to decipher.

At one time there was a church in Ratnawica but what's left would fit in the back of a Honda Civic (although you'd have to tie the cross to the roof). According to my eyewitness, people from Nowotaniec (presumably Poles) came and disassembled the church for building materials. This was perhaps after Nowotaniec was burned by the UPA. I know from personal interviews that Nagórzany was burned and it seems likely that Nowotaniec was as well.

Bełchówka

Alternate names: Belchowka (English), Biełchówka / Bielchowka (Polish)(4), Bochivka (Rusyn), Belkhivka (Ukrainian)(1), Bołechowka / Bolechowka (Rusyn/Polish)(5) and endless variations of the above.

I don't know much about this village except that it appears as big as Ratnawica on my 1877 map. I think it was heavily Rusyn. It is no longer in existence although traces of a settlement remain. I went there in July of 2002 and found apple, pear and cherry trees, oregano and a number of ornamental plants. I was looking for the graveyard there which is not indicated on my 1877 map but is indicated on the 1986 topographical map shown below.

Belchowka is in the middle of the woods as shown on this topo map.
The graveyard is the small green box containing a cross just to the left of center.

Agnieska, Irek, my cousin Aśia and I spent six hours looking one day, one hour driving and five on foot. We thoroughly criss-crossed the area where the graveyard is supposed to be didn't find it (although we feasted on the ripe cherries for which we thank Bełchówka's former gardeners). July is not the best time to look -- in places the grass was up to my shoulders (!) and the heat, horseflies and undergrowth kept us from covering as much ground as we could have.

The glory of finding that long-lost graveyard was to go to Jaromir Wilusz and his wife Aśia who found it in November 2002. They were kind enough to share their photos.

If you want to see for yourself, my advice is to get a good topo map and take one of the roads east out of Bukowsko. We traveled south out of Zboiska; the roads there are tricky and we wound up in Ratnawica once by accident. We were told (but did not verify) that the roads out of Bukowsko were good until the last kilometer where they turned into forest. This sounds simpler, shorter and no rougher than the route we took. We were travelling in Irek and Aśia's intrepid Daewoo Tico which was far from the best vehicle for those roads but even a jeep would not have gotten us all the way to our destination.

Oregano still exists in Belchowka's gardens!

Nowotaniec

A photo of the church in Nowotaniec The late afternoon sun on the church in Nowotaniec

Nowotaniec is just up the road from Bukowsko. Historically it has been a mostly Polish village. There's a large cemetery there that contains lots of my ancestors and relatives. It's across from the church which looks fairy-tale beautiful to me, and I don't even like churches. The church's charm is considerably enhanced by the indolent cats on the grounds. The church serves as the parish archive.

I scattered some of my father's ashes in the cemetery in April of 2002 in honor of him and all of his Polish relatives and ancestors resting there beneath the warm April sun and indolent cats. That was the end of a long journey for me.

Nagórzany

A photo of the church in Nagorzany The ruins of the Greek Catholic church in Nagórzany

Nagórzany is a historically Polish village just near Bukowsko. It was the birthplace of my grandmother and is still home to an bewildering array of kind and generous cousins who stuff me to the gills with vegetarian pierogies and tea every time I visit. The Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich (Geographic Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Countries) published in the late 1800s had this to say about Nagórzany —

Nagórzany with Lipniki, Ludwikówka and Węglarzyska, village, Sanok district, it lies south of Nowotaniec, along the track (primitive road) to Bukowsko (3.7 km), in a hilly area 390 m. above sea level, on the divide between the Pielnica (tributary of Wisłok) and Sanoczek (tributary of the San River). Forming sort of a suburb of Nowotaniec, it carries a name in contrast to that of Nadolany, lying to the north of the town. Its population in 1880 was 446 people, ecclesiastical sematisms indicate 927 RC belonging to the Nowotaniec parish and 55 GC in the Seńkowa Wola parish. The adornment of the village is the masonry cerkiew p.t. Apostles Peter and Paul, to which belong 16 mórgs of fields and 16 mórgs of grubbing for fuel. Nagorzany borders with Jaworowa Wola and Bukowsko to the south.

Węglarzyska [Vol 13, page 252]: land (buildings) adjacent to Nagórzany, Sanok district.

That translation was provided by Roman Kaluzniacki who adds, "p.t. - the abbreviation is not defined in the Słownik but it likely stands for pod tytułem meaning having the title."

It is today and happy and prosperous village. At one time the entire village was burned to the ground by the UPA with the exception of two houses belonging to Lemkos. No one was killed but every house was destroyed. The fires were visible from Sanok(2). It must be just a wee bit awkward to face your neighbors when their houses are all smoking ruins and yours is still standing. What are you supposed to say? "Ha ha, what a remarkable coincidence that in these tense, strife–ridden times all the houses in the village mysteriously burned except for these two belonging to those of us who are of a different religious and ethnic background. The Lord sure does work in mysterious ways, eh wot? So, no hard feelings, right?"

A photo of the door of the church in Nagorzany

Given that this was a mostly Polish village, I am surprised that a Greek Catholic church existed there. The church has been abandoned for a number of years. The year 1861 is carved into the wood at the top of the doorframe which is I presume the year the church was built. I was told(2) that the church was maintained even after the Lemkos left this village. But one day, apparently on orders from some higher authority the icons and other decorations in the church were removed. The rumor was that they were taken to the church in Sanok. In any case, the church fell into disrepair after that. There's nothing of value visible there now. However, one of my cousins tells me that when she was very young (this would be somewhere in the mid-1960s), the basement of the church had not yet been closed off as it is now. On a dare, she and some other children went into the basement, looked in the sarcophagi and found human bones. So someone is down there, it just isn't clear who.

There's a small cemetery just outside the church. Only five of the stones are still legible; there's about ten altogether. The name Patrylak is on them and my Polish cousin tells me that there's some Patrylak in his background, but this is a Greek Catholic church, so hmmmm...