Vlachs and Wallachians in Poland

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Vlach shepherds migrate

Poland was a major European power from the 10th century through to the 16th century and its influence stretched from Scandinavia to the northern borders of Transylvania and Moldavia. The oldest and most notable foreign influences are seen in the mountain regions of southeast Poland. One of these foreign peoples are the nomadic Wallachian shepherds who wandered through the Carpathian mountains in the 15th and 16th centuries. They have left an imprint on the pastoral culture of all peoples whose lands they crossed. This gives rise to the similarities in costume, music and culture of the highland peoples of Poland, Czech, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia and Hungary. The Polish regions with Wallachian influence are:

  • Rzeszow - This region has been inhabited by Polish peoples since the early middle ages and being at the crossroads for trade from Scandinavia to Hungary, and Europe to Asia has been exposed to foreing influences. The folk culture flourished during the 14th to 17th centuries with the richness partly due to Wallachian shepherds. The northern part is known as Lasowiacy after the central Polish workers who came here to clear the forrests. The southern area is inhabited by Lemkos and Rusyns.

  • Laccy Gorale - The mountain culture is influenced by Wallachian shepherds from the 15th century and remained separate in folk culture from the Sacz Lachy whose culture comes from the Krakow region.

  • Podhale (Goralski) - The Wallachian shepherds have left a strong and profound effect on the mountain peoples (Gorale) and as the Gorale is isolated from the rest of Poland these influences have been retained. The peoples of this region have an appearance closer to the Vlachs with dark hair, dark eyes and pointed features differing from the typical Slavic Pole.

  • Beskid Silesia - Wallachian shepherds settled in Beskid mountains in the very south of the region. Their culture is similar to other Carpathian mountain peoples with urban influences from the neighbouring regions. The farming peoples at  the foot of the mountains further north are now called Wallasi from the Polish for Wallachians.

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    © Eliznik2005, First issue 2002, Last updated Dec-05