Sunday, January 13, 2013

Costume of the Komanche region, Lemkovyna

Hello all,

Today I need to make myself clear. I am NOT  going to talk about the Native American nation known as the Comanche, but a Lemko village and region which is currently within the borders of the Polish State. In Polish it is spelled  Komańcza, in Ukrainian and in Lemko it is written
Команча or Команчe. 

Ethnic identity of the Lemki is somewhat controverted. Ukrainians consider them to be a branch of the Ukrainian Nation with very distinct dialects and customs. The Polish have at various times tried to alternatively suppress, cleanse, or assimilate them. Some insist on calling them Carpatho-Russians. Some claim that they form a micro-nationality who call themselves Rusyny, usually translated into English as Ruthenian. You will find individual Lemki who identify with each of these camps. 'Lemko' is a tern coined by their neighbors, referring to a word used in the Lemko dialect 'lem', which Ukrainians and Poles do not use. Some Lemki have accepted this term. This term is not used by the Rusnaks who live south of the Carpathians or by the neighboring Slovaks. 
In any case, they form a distinctive group of people with a distinctive group of dialects, whether they are considered to be a branch of the Ukrainians or a closely related brother nation.

The painting at the top of the article was made by O. Kul'chytska, an artist who went around in the 1930's painting the traditional clothing of villagers in many parts of West Ukraine. Her work has been invaluable for those of us who came after.

I have rewritten and expanded this article, Please look at the new one here

Here is an interview with an old lady from Komancha, telling how things used to be. She is wearing a modern Ukrainian blouse, but has Lemko embroidery and costume pieces around and shows them off towards the end

Here is a link to a website showing various Lemko costumes made by Vasyl' Jula
He has asked me to point out that these were made for the stage and real costumes would be somewhat more subdued.

Here is a flicker page showing various Lemko garments. 

Source Material:
Bohdan Struminsy, Editor, 'Lemkiwshchyna -The Lemko Land' New York, 1988
Tamara Nikolajeva, 'Ukrajinskyj Kostium, Nadija na Renesans' Kyjiw [Kiev], 2005
Iryna Hurhula, 'Narodne Mystetstvo Zakhidnykh Oblastej Ukrajiny', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1966
Oksana Grabowycz, 'Traditional Designs in Ukrainian Textiles', New York, 1977
Stanislaw Gadomski, 'Stroj Ludowy w Polsce', Warsaw, 
Oksana Kosmina, 'Traditional Ukrainian Clothing', Kyjiw [Kiev], 2007
V. Kubijovyc, 'Lemkos', article in Encyclopedia of Ukraine, Toronto, 1993
V. Bilozub et al, 'Ukrajins'ke Narodne Mystetstvo - Vbrannia', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1961
Peter Odarchenko et al, 'Ukainian Folk Costume', Toronto, 1992
Ewa Frys et al, 'Folk Art in Poland', Warsaw, 1988
M. Bilan, H. Stel'mashchuk, 'Ukrajinskyj Strij', L'viw, 2000
O. Kul'chytska, 'Folk Costumes of the Western Regions of the Ukrainian SSR, 1959


  1. Thank you for this post. I'd like to add that there's a private museum of Lemko costumes in Komańcza, so if anybody is going to Bieszczady mountains, it's worth to see.
    You should call the owner before coming (ask local Polish native speakers for help as she may not speak English :) )

  2. I have photo of 2 krivulka to add. My mothers from Czystohorb and another relatives. Also photo .of traditional costume This is nearby to Komancza My family from Komancza too

  3. This is a beautiful piece. I commend you for it. I am an American of Ukrainian descent and can certainly appreciate this. My parents emigrated to the US after World War II. I own a lot of embroidery that I inherited from my mother and her mother. This is really and truly Ukrainian art. I also have an aunt that is a Ukrainian embroidery expert that verifies that this in indeed Ukrainian art. Unfortunately as you mentioned, the Ukrainian population was forcefully moved from their homeland, including Komancha, and other nationalities were brought in. Thus the confusion of the nationality of the people.

  4. I have some fantastic colour photos of the traditional clothing from village Czystohorb near Komancha. Let me know how to send to you

    1. Thank you very much. I am always glad to have good photographs, especially when their exact origin is known. You may email them to me at the above address: