Welcome to the most beautiful village in Bieszczady*
The village of Strzebowiska is one of the most attractive places in Bieszczady when it comes to sightseeing. It is situated near the Bieszczady Ringroad, halfway between Weltina and Cisna.
History of Strzebowiska
Strzebowiska was mentioned for the first time in writings from the year 1561, as a village that possessed the privilege of “wolnizna (which means that the inhabitants could use the manorial lands without any fees for a period of time). The previous name of the village was Zrubowiszcze (from Ukrainian “zrubowaty” - a place deforested for farming). From the very end of 19th century to the year 1967, the village was called Strubowiska, which was later on changed to Strzebowiska to sound more Polish. It was built on the instructions of Lex Antiqua Valachorum and situated on the very south-east corner of the land belonging to the Bal family from Hoczew. Ukrainians, Poles, Jews, and also gypsies were the inhabitants. Until the year 1945 a wooden orthodox church, with a cemetery, was the central point of the village. There was also a forge, a mill and an inn there.
Between the years 1900-1904 a segment of a narrow-gauge railway (going from Majdan to Kalnica) was laid in Strzebowiska. The rails go in many curves and turns, as most of the villagers did not agree to have the railway cross their fields. At present, the only reminder of this original railway is a curving forest path going north from the village. After the World War II another line of narrow-gauge railway, cutting the village in half, was laid, but unfortunately it does not operate any more either.
In the year 1921 the village consisted of 53 homes and had 278 inhabitants overall. The people lived in wooden, thatch-roofed cottages called “chyża”. Near the cottages there were usually stone cellars, roofed with canopies, and stone wells, where people drew water using a bucket attached to a long pole.
In the 1930s a school was established in Strzebowiska, although in the beginning the classes took place in a rented house. In the autumn of 1935, with the help of their neighbours from Przysłup village, the inhabitants build an actual school. Even though additional classes for adults were organised in 1936-1937, there were still many illiterates among the inhabitants.
Until the year 1785 there was an autonomous Greek Catholic assembly in Strzebowiska, but later on it was incorporated in the Kalnica assembly. In the first half of the 19th century both the assemblies were attached to a bigger Greek Catholic community in Smerek. The first orthodox church of Birth of the Holy Virgin Mary was built in Strzebowiska in the year 1700. In 1843 it was replaced by St. Michael's church, which was built in the very same place. The latter was destroyed in the year 1945. Until a couple of years ago you could still find three iron crucifixes that crowned the St. Michael's church in the local cemetery.
Only a clump of trees covers the place where the churches used to stand. You can get to it by taking a path east from the houses in the northern part of Strzebowiska. A ruined orthodox cemetery is situated on a large hill, also mostly covered by trees. No gravestones remained in place. Only some of the graves, overgrown with moss and grass, are visible on the ground. In the year 2008 the former inhabitants of the village erected a cross on the abandoned cemetery, where candles are still often lit in memory of people buried there.
Opposite the old church ground there is a whitened shrine with a figure of the Virgin Mary, build circa 1920, and founded by Wasyl Podolak. It replaced the wooden cross that used to stand there throughout the 19th Century.
During World War II a unit of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, led by commanding officer “Weseły”, was stationed in Strzebowiska. On the 21 of March 1945, the village was surrounded by two battalions of NKVD, supported by a unit of the Polish Army and militia-men from Cisna. It was one of the biggest battles with the Ukrainian partisan army in Bieszczady. After a few hours of fighting the Ukrainians fell back into the forest, leaving the village burnt down. Only a handful of houses were left intact. The remaining villagers undertook to rebuild their houses, but most of them were soon to be deported to the Ukraine. During the Operation Vistula another 30 inhabitants were forced out of the village, which was now left completely empty.
Today, there are only new-built houses in Strzebowiska, some of which were erected on the foundations of the old ones. The present inhabitants came to Strzebowiska after World War II from all over the country: e.g. from Zakopane, Silesia, Pomerania, Rzeszów and Warsaw. None of the previous inhabitants returned to live in Strzebowiska, but those who still live in the Ukraine or in other parts of Poland still visit the village every year to celebrate “Lemko Bonfire”. Memorial candles often burn next to the shrine.
You can read more about the history of Strzebowiska (especially about the tragic period of 1945-1946) on this website – www.strzebowiska.pl (Polish language only)
* - according to consumer polls among tourists visiting Strzebowiska in January - June 2012;