The only Rusyn matriculant in Poland
Celestyna Miłoś: How was it, being the only person taking the exam?
Ania Szmajda: Before the exam I had no idea I would be the only one taking it. A few other people declared they would as well.
Would it have been stressful, if you’d known earlier?
Maybe a little, but it has always been my goal to take it. As soon as I heard it was possible to choose Rusyn as a final exam, I made my decision straight away. I did it for me, to test myself and have the satisfaction. I also showed my friends that it’s not difficult. The Rusyn exam looks exactly like the extended level Polish exam.
Do you ever wear your traditional regional costume?
It’s typically worn during special celebrations, like weddings. I always wear it during my performances.
What does it look like?
A woman’s costume consists of a corset, a skirt (kabat), an apron (zapaska), a blouse (oplicza), a flower crown or a flowery scarf and moccasins. In addition to that, married women wear bonnets. A man’s costume is a shirt, a black or navy waistcoat (łajbyk), moccasins and partially embroidered trousers (nohałky). Almost all of the elements have some sort of embroidery on them.
Usually young people don’t pay much attention to tradition or their heritage...
I owe a lot to my parents. I see how much they care about our culture and I mirror it. When I was younger, they signed me up to be in folk groups and I realised that I wanted to protect my heritage. Now that I’m at university, I have less time to be involved in promoting my culture. But I still sing in a folk group and I attend various events. If I chose a different degree, I’d probably have more time to read in Rusyn or study the history.
You didn’t want to study cultural studies?
I wanted to study archaeology, which would suit my interests better. In the end I decided to go with something with better prospects and I study geodesy.
How does taking care of Lemko culture look when it comes to young people?
Many organisations take care of cultural heritage and young people gladly take part in their actions.
If you were to encourage me to get acquainted with Lemko culture, what would you recommend?
There are many folk groups. In Western Poland, near Legnica, we have song and dance ensemble “Kryczera”, it’s a Lemko equivalent of famous Polish folk groups such as “Mazowsze” or “Śląsk”. They are a great example of showing Lemko culture through dance and song. You can find their performances on the Internet.