The region nowadays referred to as home to the Limanowa Lachs is another one in the long belt of “Lach” regions in Polish Subcarpathia, and it is ethnographically varied. Many earlier authors (e.g. S. Udziela, J. Flis) would find its eastern (generally speaking) part, located within the historical Sącz district (along with Limanowa itself) to be the western edge of the Sącz Lachs’ reach; the environs of Dobra, which are so culturally distinctive, are often regarded as inhabited by a distinct group: the Lachs of Dobra. However, the above-mentioned areas are currently combined under one umbrella name of Limanowa Lachs (cf. J. Wielek). The link that formally connects these diverse parts is the town of Limanowa, which in 1867, under the autonomy of Galicia, was elevated to the status of a new county capital (along with Nowy Targ and Grybów) and ever since has remained one. The ethnoHOMESTEAD map shows, between the Sącz Lachs and the Limanowa Lachs, both the overlapping versions of the reach in order to draw attention to the ambiguity of ethnographic group demarcation.
The Limanowa Lachs (within the broader reach, according to Jan Wielek) inhabited the northeastern part of the Island Beskids, that is the valleys of the Łososina, Sowlina and Słopniczanka rivers. In the northwest, the group bordered on the Szczyrzyc Lachs; in the north – the Krakowiaks; in the east – the Sącz Lachs; in the south – the Sącz Highlanders (of Łącko and Kamienica); in the west, across the villages of a transitional culture (Jurków, Chyszówki, Półrzeczki) – the Zagórze Highlanders.
The first written records about a village in the region of the Limanowa Lachs date from the 13th century (concerning Ujanowice and Strzeszyce). The 14th century saw an intensification of the settlement campaign; it was then that a number of villages were founded under the Magdeburg law, with participation of the Polish settlers coming mainly from the Cracow district. Those were, inter alia, Łososina Górna and Męcina (1326), Słopnice (1337), Dobra (1361). In 1335 the town of Tymbark was founded; the first information about the village of Ilmanowa dates back to the end of the 15th century; in 1565 it was granted city rights. The contemporary name – Limanowa – appeared only in the 18th century.
The lands in the region belonged to the Church, the Crown and knights (were private). Economically, the strongest demesne was that of Strzeszyce-Żbikowice and it belonged to the Order of Saint Clare in Stary Sącz. The royal domains comprised the leasehold Tymbark land, including Tymbark itself and the surrounding villages. Among the privately-held estates, the most distinctive one was the Limanowa demesne, which in the 16th century belonged to the Jordan family, and the Dobra demesne, which originally belonged to the Ratułd family. Administratively, until the Partitions of Poland, the lands belonged to two counties: the Sącz county (the eastern part) and the Szczyrzyc county (the western part).
The region inhabited by the Limanowa Lachs is steeped in agriculture. In affluent social strata – wealthy peasants and homestead owners – agriculture was generally self-sufficient. Any excess produce was sold at local fairs. Traditional methods of farming, and wooden tools persisted for a long time here. The popular crops included mainly rye, barley, oats and only little wheat. The bulb and root plants grown here included swede and turnip, and later on also potatoes. In addition, large quantities of cabbage, carrot, onion, broad beans and peas were grown. Vegetable growing thrived particularly well in the northeastern part. Also, flax and hemp were grown, mainly for own use (for thread making). Agriculture was supported by husbandry of mainly cattle, and in the southwest of sheep as well. The thriving crafts included carpentry, cabinetmaking, cooperage, blacksmithery, wheelwrighting, weaving, clothmaking (that is manufacture of thick garment cloth from wool fabrics at fulling workshops). It used to be the pride of the village of Żmiąca. Basketry, manufacture of small, wooden appliances, flax processing and yarn spinning were occupations commonly pursued at home, the idea being to make the homestead as self-sufficient as possible. The regional industry was primarily concentrated around the petroleum refinery in Limanowa-Sowliny, the brewery in Limanowa and the wood processing plant in Dobra. Demand for work, especially from young people from fragmented farmsteads was much higher. Hence, a common phenomenon at the beginning of the 19th century was emigration “in search of work” to Hungary, Prussia, France and North America, the effects of which were to be observed as early as the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries (in the spheres of material culture and attire).
The Lach villages in the Island Beskids were typically characterised by a multi-road and linear development. In the south of the region, in a number of scattered settlements, solitary homesteads were a frequent thing. There was a predominance of multi-building homesteads, with a detached residential house (often combined with a stable), a barn and a threshing floor, sometimes a granary or a coach house. Older developments also included homesteads with residential and farming sections housed under one roof. Buildings were wooden, with little stonework (e.g. underpinnings, cellars, sometimes granary parts). Cottage walls of a framework construction originally used to be quoined and made of whole spruce or fir logs; later on, they were worked do kantu (flush with the edge). Roofs, of a rafter construction, were typically hipped, covered with straw, as well as with straw and shingle, or just shingle (by the Lachs of Dobra). In the second part of the 19th century also gable roofs were constructed, with a gable covered with clapboards, or the so-called polski facjat (‘Polish façade’), that is gable roofs with gable eaves. Cottage walls were covered with clay and limewashed. The cottage house usually comprised an entrance hall and two rooms (chałupa and izdebka) located at the sides. Rich farmstead owners used to have two rooms, an entrance hall and a cold larder (serving as a granary). In the times when houses were not fitted with chimneys, cows and calves often used to be kept in the rooms with stoves all year round. By the First World War most chimneyless stoves had been given up.
The folk attire in the region in question was varied. In the eastern part, a less ornamental version of the Sącz Lach outfit used to be worn. The Sącz-style outfits (especially women’s one) persisted the longest in the environs of Pisarzowa (see M. Cholewa). In the villages in the southwestern part of the region recognised as representative of the Lachs of Dobra (Dobra, Porąbka, Podłopień, Gruszowiec), the attire used to be distinctive, with strong influence of Cracow (of the Dobczyce variety) and the Szczyrzyc Lach styles. In the first part of the 19th century it also featured a lot of highland-style elements such as the gunia-like cloth outer garment, white, cloth trousers and kierpce (just like in the borderland with the Highlanders, inhabited by the Sącz Lachs). In time (and especially after the Second World War) the elements of the Dobra Lach costume became widespread in the central part of the region, gaining particular popularity with members of many folk ensembles established in those days.
The festive attire worn by Dobra men at the end of the 19th century included: a dark-blue or navy, sleeveless tunic, close-fitting around the waist, with four loose kalety (tooth-like flaps) at the back and two little pockets with decorative flaps. The edges were trimmed with red cloth, the front was embellished with two rows of brass buttons horizontally connected with red wool loop patterns (pętlice), the front corners were decorated with an embroidered zigzag and a little bunch motif. The tunic was worn over a white, linen shirt, sometimes decorated with modest, whitework embroidery. The whole was complemented with grey-blue or navy trousers of factory-made cloth, along the leg seams decorated with red string. The function of a festive outer garment was performed by a white, Cracow-style sukmana overcoat, similar to the Dobczyce-style sukmana, but embellished with red cloth appliqués and triple-loop motifs. The so-called płótnianka (a type of linen overcoat), also called górnica, served as a summer outer garment. It was similar to górnica overcoats worn by other Lach groups (Szczyrzyc and Sącz Lachs), had red lining on the collar, front facings and sleeve flaps. It was girded around with a decorative belt called sros. The outfit was complemented by a black hat with a small brim, wrapped around with a leather band. Young people used to stick hawk feathers behind the band. The festive attire was complemented by węgierskie (after the Hungarian fashion) calf-length boots with two seams.
The Dobra women’s outfit used to be made from homespun linen – white and dyed, or imprinted with bright patterns against a navy background (just like throughout the Carpathians and Subcarpathia). It comprised a long, loose, white, linen outer skirt and several bottom skirts; a white, linen white-embroidered zapaska apron; a linen blouse with a ruff or ząbki (little tooth-like flaps) around the neck; a dark (often green) linen bodice (worn by unmarried women) or a dark cloth, cropped jacket with sleeves (worn by married women) and a long, white reńtuch sheet or a linen łoktusa scarf flung over the shoulders. In addition, married women used to wrap white chusty czepcowe (mob-cap headscarves) around their heads. Genuine red coral beads were the accent of colour, but in time colourful, plain or patterned, factory-made fabrics used to make skirts came into use. Also, linen sheets were superseded by a variety of factory-made scarves. Gradually, cropped jackets and bodices began to be more ornately decorated (with haberdashery items, colourful embroidery, appliqués).
In the centre of the Limanowa Lach region the ancient folk costume fell into disuse the fastest. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, in summer, men would still sometimes put on “for church” white, linen płócionki trousers and long, white shirts worn outside the trousers and girded around with a belt. This was complemented by navy waistcoats of a more modern type, with turndown collars and lapels, trimmed with a variety of coloured edgings (depending on the parish, a red, blue or green one). In places, linen górnica jackets were worn over them. The only ornamentation of navy or black cloth trousers of the urban cut was red string along the leg seams. In winter, rich farmstead owners used to wear ornamented sheepskin coats, pleated around the hips. They were made in Pisarzowa or Stary Sącz.
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries women would still wear long, loose (made from 5-6 półek – units of fabric measurement corresponding to the width of the loom) and gathered skirts, most often of factory-made fabrics. Unmarried women used to have them made of batiste, muslin, patterned percale or floral tybet (a fabric originally made of wool of Tibetan sheep or goats, hence the name); older women – of cotton or wool in darker and more subdued colours. It was still customary to put underneath several bottom skirts and a falbaniarz – a white, linen slip with a serrated bottom, embellished with white broderie anglaise. Apart from white aprons decorated with embroidery or shop lace, also black, alpaca, flounced zapaska aprons ornamented with a broad border of floral, multi-coloured, raised embroidery were fashionable. Around that time, bodices were most often made of black or navy velvet, trimmed with decorative haberdashery items, or embroidered with beaded flowers. Apart from linen or cloth katanka cropped jackets, pleated around the waist, looser and simple wizytka jackets, embellished with strips of darker appliqué, and serrated edges. Linen sheets were already out of fashion; a variety of factory-made shoulder shawls were worn instead. Wealthy housewives would readily wear expensive, woollen, paisley-patterned duffel coats. At the beginning of the 20th century, black, laced, calf-length boots came into fashion
Jan Wielek, Strój Lachów Limanowskich [The Costume of the Limanowa Lachs], Atlas Polskich Strojów Ludowych [Atlas of the Polish Folk Costumes], bull. 13, Warszawa 1988; ks. Edward Wojtusiak, Kultura ludowa w dolinie górnej Łososiny [The Folk Culture of the Upper Łososina Valley], Dobra – Kraków 2011. Katarzyna Ceklarz, Babcyne korole. Z etnografii południowej Polski [A Grandma’s Coral Beads. On the Ethnography of Southern Poland], Kraków 2012