The Lasowiacy is a sub-ethnic group from southeastern Poland that lived between the cities of Sandomierz and just south of Kolbuszowa, in an area known as the Sandomierz Forest. While visiting Poland in 2017, I learned my ancestors descend from this group.
Who are the Lasowiacy?
There is, of course, the Wikipedia version of who the Lasowiacy are, and it’s a great place to start. However, if you were like me, I had no idea this sub-ethnic group even existed until I went to Poland.
I was doing research in Majdan Królewski and I heard there was a museum in Kolbuszowa, about 20 minutes south. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m a sucker for museums. On a Tuesday morning in June, I entered the world of the Lasowiacy.
The Kolbuszowa Skansen
I had no idea what I would find but the museum had an English audio guide. After walking through 2 buildings, the lightbulb went on – my Polish family were considered Lasowiacy, or in English, the People of the Forest.
The Skansen (Open-Air Museum) has been open since the 1970s and its aim is to preserve the heritage and culture of both the Lasowiacy and the Rzeszowiacy. Each house, barn or structure is decorated with items each cultures would have used in their daily life. The Museum even has their own animals that live there, including sheep, goats and chickens!
The museum locates the Lasowiacy section closest to the front while the Rzeszowiacy section is across the pond. The buildings are all original; each structure lists the village of origination.
History of the Lasowiacy
While walking through the museum, which took about half a day, I learned about the history of the Forest People. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the kings of Poland had settlers from other areas, largely from Masuria (northern Poland), move to the Sandomierz Forest to begin to colonize it. The King additionally ordered Tartar, Ruthenian and Turkish prisoners of war to settle the area as well. In the 1770s and 1780s, colonists from Germany arrived in this region.
Due to the isolation of the forest from other areas in Galicia, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Lasowiacy culture emerged. The people lived off of the forest but additionally were farmers.
My great-grandmother’s family, the Piwiński’s, are originally from the village of Cygany, in the parish of Miechocin. The Skansen has a barn from Cygany that was built in the second half of the 19th century!
Visiting the Skansen
If you’re in the area of Kolbuszowa, I would encourage you to visit the Skansen. If you’re not able to make it, the museum has published photos and videos online, as well as posting content on their Facebook page.
Stay tuned for future posts on cultural practices of the Lasowiacy.
Author’s note: this blog post was originally posted in February 2018.