The first mention of about folk avengers called “rebels” (“opryshky”) the researchers found in documents of 1529. A recent opryshok in the Carpathians is called either Nicholas Drahyruka-Bordjuk, who was executed in 1878 in Kolomyya, or Nicholas Jester, who acted in the Carpathian region in 1918-1921.
For four centuries they were going by slums of Carpathians doing vengeance of tears and misery of the people to the Polish nobility, the boyars of Romanian, Hungarian barons, Ukrainian nobility. By uniting in small groups, rebels were doing the armed struggle against all kinds of lenders, tenants, mandatory, graphs are selected from farmers fields, from shepherds – pastures, from hunters – forests with the beast, but instead brought them to the yoke of serfdom.
“Boon is for nice guy – wrote Ivan Franco – meant incessant injustice, ignorance and loss of sense of human dignity.” Transforming free peasants into “subjects”, arrogant nobles lived in luxury and debauchery. It also happens that one magnate family owned 25-30 villages and cities. Ownership of the land – the main means of production – defines the relationship between social groups, divided people into rich and poor, exploiters and oppressed. Farms had to work for the lord for free from 52 to 208 days per year, or 15 to 55 percent of the time. For the slightest disobedience – lash, beeches. Complaints of farmers of serfdom times often had a description of their “benefactors”: “We are nothing to them”, “they commit intolerable injustices”, “threat us”, “imprison us”, “sticks beat”.
Slaves fought in different ways for their economic and political rights – escaping from the evil lord to look the well in other lands, sent complaints to the king, refused to do serfdom, seized aristocratic forests and pastures, burned aristocratic estates, and the most desperate taken up arms. “Enslaved, beaten, subjected, not being able to find anywhere justice – wrote Ivan Franco – ran into the woods, the mountains, stuck to the same group of desperate people, even though felt threat of death everywhere, although was under threat he could at least live freely, even to get revenge on the abusers.”
Another evil for the farmer was conscription. Injustice in the recruitment of recruits, the duration of military service, drill, frequent wars made people angry and scared freedom-loving peasant boys, and they preferred to be outside the law, but to be in their places closer to home than meekly to die on the battlefield for the emperor and emperors in foreign lands. Fugitives from conscription and army units permanently joined the people’s avengers. Perhaps this explains that opryshki movement in the Carpathians from the abolition of serfdom never stopped, didn’t completely extinguished.
Opryshky movement emerged in the specific conditions of the Carpathians was the main form of class struggle of the peasantry against feudal oppression. Beskid and ridges of Montenegro borderland three feudal states – the Commonwealth, Moldavia and Austria-Hungary – made it possible to easily maneuver, were convenient to do guerrilla warfare. “In three parts it was possible to perform” attacks, to three parts to flee, but none of them were down”, – said with aphoristic accuracy about this Stanislav Vincenz in his poetic work” On the high mountain valley”. Strong tops, impenetrable forests, conspiracy, compassion and support of farmers, tactics of sudden shock strikes ensured the success of the struggle of the avengers against feudal oppression.
Landlords, noble historians have tried to interpret movement of opryshky consequently as rudeness, medieval darkness of the local population. The Russian writer V. Kelsiev making in the 60’s of last century journey to Halychyna, advocated the view that movement of opryshky dawned … from inactivity and boredom of hutsuls. This conclusion did not come without the influence of the then Polish official journalism. One of its representatives K. Vuytsitskyy in his writings in 40s’ of XIX century names People Avengers as “bandits”, “abnormal elements”. Polish noble historian A. Belovskyy in intelligence “Pokuttya” (1857) described the general highlanders as prone to break people. The ruling class also called opryshky “empty”, “arbitrary people” and tried to attribute them a bloodlust and brutality of ordinary thieves. They hoped to hide in this way the true purpose of movement of opryshky as one of the most terrible form of protest against the existing social order.
People clearly held the difference between those who by force of circumstances became to movement of opryshky, and robbers and murderers for profit. Collector of folklore K. Lysynetska at the beginning of this century, recorded by farmer Michael Paliychuk from Kosmach such a description of the thief Orshan: “Orshan – not that Dovbush that gave the poor. Orshan was terrible, took for himself all he stole.” The difference between the people’s avenger and a robber enshrined in the names: on one side – “opryshok”, “fighter”, “guy”, “betyar”, “Hayduk”, “Gaydamak”, and the second – “Thief”, “robber”. First – working people had a halo of glory, others – cursed. The documents were mostly fell with derogatory names that were given to national avengers by those in whose hands the reins of power, the army, the judiciary. In the mouth of labor the people some of these names were rehabilitated, became a positive value.
The origin of most names can be easily deciphered. “Beskydnykn” – as were in the forests of Beskid. “Spysaky” – because in the embryonic period movement of opryshky were armed with spears. “Black guys” – because wore black, boiled in oil, shirts … As for the dominant name “opryshok” there is no consensus. Linde S. in the “Dictionary of the Polish language” ties it with the Russian word “oprochnyk” which means “private person”. A. Petrushevych seeking its etymology in the Ukrainian language in words “beside” (“except”, “away”) and “oprichnyy” (“separate”, “separated”) – like rebels were “exiles who went out of their homeland”. B. Barvinsky displays the name of the Romanian words “opressor” (“forbid”, “stop”). B. Grabovetsky put forward a new statement: “opryshok” comes from the Latin word “opressor” in the sense of “offender”, “oppressor”, “Shredder” (masters). The word “opryshok” rooted in language of Ukrainian Carpathians population.
There were many famous opryshoks, leaders and rank members of the armed anti-feudal movement. In the four-volume “Soviet Encyclopedia of History of Ukraine” (1969-1972) there is a short article about the 16 leaders of the outlaw movement in the Carpathians: Bayurak, Boychuk, Boychuk-Klyama, Bordjuk, Voloshchuk, Verediuk, Dovbush, Kokosh, Marusyak, Orfenyuka, Pyntya, Pysklyvoho, Revizorchuka, Shtolyuka, Yakymyuka, Chepets. And were: Andriychyshyn, Bayus, Winnick, Hatala, Draharyuk, Leader, Zarinchuk, Ivancea, Cardano …- so for each letter of the alphabet. Hundreds of names preserved archival documents. And there are hundreds in people’s memory.
Landlord-feudal machine did everything to stop popular uprisings: priests from the pulpit sent curse to opryshoks, bailiff forbade peasants to leave the village without permission, gunners vigilant protected aristocratic mansion, set up gambling catch “forest boys”, torturers threatened recalcitrant inhuman tortures and gallows. And nothing could help it. Some rebels died – those paths that they walked were stepped by others. Colds and infectious diseases, wounds, treacherous balls, ropes executioners, shorted age of knights of Carpathian Mountains. Most people’s avengers were dying at a young age. And they inspires the masses for decades, if not centuries – the songs and stories of those who have not obeyed master, heard under a thatched roof, roofs of restaurant, near the shepherd bonfire, on valleys.