by Bronislaw Gustawicz
This is a translation of excerpts from the article written by Bronislaw
Gustawicz for the gazetteer Slownik geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego.
Gustawicz, a teacher at St. Anne's Gimnazjum in Krakow, wrote
this about 1880; so it should offer insights into the state of affairs
in Galicia at roughly the time our ancestors were leaving it for America.
Space limitations precluded printing the whole article much has been omitted.
"Galicia, " the standard form in English, is used throughout;
in the original the author used the form "Galicya, " and one
also sees "Galicja " (common in Polish) and "Galizien "
(the German version). The name comes from the Latinized form of Halicz,
a town in Ukraine, in the I Ith-12th centuries capital of the Duchy of
Halicz and a military center in the 14th-17th centuries.
I. Location, size, borders. Galicia, since 1772 a crownland
[Translator's Note-a kraj koronny, a Polish rendering of
the German term Kronland] joined with the Austro-Hungarian monarchy
and formerly part of the Commonwealth, lies between 36 degress 36'50"
and 44 degress 6'40" east longitude (per the Ferro meridian), and
between 47 degress 35'30" and 50 degress 48'20" north latitude.
[See note in the East Prussia entry regarding longitudes based on
Ferro] ... The country is 531 km. long from west to east at latitude
49Ä40'. At its western border it is 91.03 km. wide, at the eastern
border about 151.72 km., and in the center of the country 227.58 km.
It is widest, 341.37 km., at longitude 42 degress 35'.
To the west Galicia is bordered by Austrian and Prussian Silesia; to the
north and northeast by Russia and, primarily, the Kingdom of Poland, Volhynia,
and Podolia; to the southeast by Bukowina; to the south by Hungary...
The country is most exposed from the north, toward the Kingdom of Poland,
because for a distance of 531 km., from the mouth of the San to the sources
of the Zbrucz, there is no barrier in the form of a river or significant
In these boundaries Galicia covers 1,364.06 square Austrian miles or 78,496.77
sq. km. [1 mila austryacka = about 7.6 km.]. It is the
largest of all the monarchy's crownlands represented in the national council.
[Omitted: Sections II "Formation," and III. "Hydrography.
IV. Climate. Galicia lies in the very center of the northern
temperate zone, in the band of summer rains. Galicia's northermost
point lies in the very middle of the Wisla between the village of Chwalowice
in Tarnobrzeg powiat and Zawichost in the Kingdom of Poland,
at 50 degress 48' 20" north and 39 degress 32' east (from the island
of Ferro), almost even with Opatow, Checiny, Luck, Zytomierz, Kiev, Brussels,
Calais, etc. Its southernmost point, at the source of the Bialy
Czeremosz at 47 degress 45 degress 40" north, is almost even with
Komorne and Estergom in Hungary, Hallein in Solny Grod district [now
in Slovakia], Zurich in Switzerland, Besanaon in France, and Jassy
w Multany. Despite this position its weather is incomparably harsher
than in other regions, not only those located at the same latitude as
Galicia but also those farther north, especially in the western areas.
This is because the Carpathian Mountains deflect the influence of southern
air from Galicia, and to the north and east it is exposed not only to
the influence of harsh northern winds but also to the deflection of winds
around the Carpathians; for this reason Galicia has a harsher climate
than the Kingdom of Poland.
Winter usually begins, as in all of Poland, in mid-November, and lasts
to the end of March. Spring is short and cold; the flora's growth
is delayed because of the ground-frosts which usually predominate in April
and often in May. Summer, which is difficult to distinguish from
spring except for the lack of frosts, is exceptionally hot in the second
half of July and first half of August; it is, however, mostly rainy.
This is because all of Poland is in the summer rain band. These
rains begin around the 8th to 15th of June and last to the end of the
month or to mid-July. In general there are up to 90 rainy days a
year; during summer heat the temperature usually reaches +24 degrees C
[75 degress F], and the summer heat from 15 degress to 20 degress C [59
degress to 68 degress F]. Fall is most often sunny but cool.
In October the temperature falls to +4 degress C [39 degress F]. The strongest
frosts usually last from 15 December to 15 January, then diminish; but
they return in the first half of February, due to northern winds, and
often recur a third time for a few days in the first half of March.
There are, on average, 65 cold days, 25 less cold, and 15 without frost;
during the winter there is snow 100-120 days from 1 December to 15 March.
In all there can be up to 75 sunny days a year.
The eastern part of Galicia has milder weather. In the northwest
part of the country moist northwest, north, and northeast winds prevail
during spring and summer; in the southern part dry eastern and southern
In view of the country's varying elevation above sea level and the various
climatic conditions and consequent natural systems, we divide Galicia
into three climatic regions: the mountain region, the region of cool and
wet Baltic plains, and the region of dry steppe Black Sea uplands.
The first region includes the mountains and foothills with valleys cutting
through them. They are characterized by a lower annual average warmth
than in the plains; springs are later, cool, and wet; summers are short;
summer days are hot and the nights cold; the falls are sunny with morning
mists; the winters are early, long, and frosty. There are more cloudy
and wet days than clear in the summer, and more snowy ones in the winter.
It is a region of forest pasturage. We divide it by elevation into three
sections: 1) the Alpine section, of high mountains and mountain meadows
(fir and spruce forests; cultivation of oats and potatoes); 2) the section
of medium-height mountains (forests with pasturage clearings; cultivation
of spring rye and flax); and 3) the section of areas between the mountains-valleys,
fairly large rivers, and foothill watersheds (mixed woods and beech trees,
cultivation of winter rye, wheat, fruit trees).
The second region includes the whole Baltic flank and the Styr's Black
Sea drainage basin. It is characterized by prevailing northwest, north
and northeast winds, wet and cool, and wetter and cooler summers than
in the third region. It is a land of meadows and forests. The soil here
is mainly sandy and poorly drained, divided by fertile clays and dirt.
Beneath the surface layer of dirt at various depths are deposits of loams
and marl impermeable to water; that is where the bogs, peat-beds, and
brownish swamps come from. The overflowing of rivers onto coarse-grain
and finer-grain sandy soil leaves rich silt and forest mud and creates
fertile soil deposits. On sandy ground pine forests take root, and on
clayish ground hornbeam and beech trees mixed with oaks. All this moisture
is favorable for pasturage vegetation; the cultivation of rye and potatoes
predominates; and wheat can be grown in fertile areas and on clayish soil.
We divide this region into three areas by its various soils: 1) an area
of light, unfertile soil with pine and fir forests; 2) an area of sandy
soil, bogs, wet forests, fertile riverside spots, poorly drained soil
and rubble; and 3) an area of fertile clays.
The third region is formed by the Black Sea flank with the drainage basins
of the Dniestr and Danube. It is characterized by prevailing dry winds
bringing little moisture, fog, clouds, or rain. Thus the dry, hot summers
and cold, sunny winters. Characteristic of this region are: a scarcity
of forests-those that do exist consist exclusively of deciduous trees
(oaks), and a lack of water sources and less abundant irrigation than
in the western and northern plains regions. On the other hand, there is
an abundance of grass and broad-leafed green flora. it is a region of
agriculture, winter crops, the cultivation of wheat, corn, buckwheat,
sugar-beets, hemp, tobacco, anise, and broad-leafed gourd-bearing plants.
[Omitted: V. Mining Production, VI. Crop Production; V11. Livestock
VIII. Industry in Galicia is still at a low level. In 1857 Galicia
had in all 102,189 industrialists, i. e., factory owners and their working
crews; so only 2.2% of the population worked in industry. By 1870 the
number had risen to 179,626, or 3.3% of the population. Factory-based
industry has begun to grow in recent times. Today Galicia has several
dozen major factory plants of various kinds, not counting distilleries
and breweries, but there are still too few of them in relation to the
production of raw materials. Galician factories cannot consume all the
raw material the country produces or satisfy the needs of its craftsmen
and inhabitants in general. So a significant portion of this material
goes to foreign factories and returns to us as a foreign product, in which
process the country obviously loses out, since it sells the raw produce
cheaply and buys it back, processed, at a higher price.
Among the more important branches of factory industry, the following are
best represented in Galicia: distilling, brewing, sugar production, milling,
production of matches and various products from mineral oil and wax. Unsufficiently
represented are: production of machinery and paper, tanning, and especially
the manufacturing of cloth and fabrics, even though the Galician people
has the most aptitude for the latter two branches, and the country supplies
an abundance of material. Galician factories process either minerals and
non-organic products of the earth, or forest products, or products of
The handicraft industry is more developed in Galicia than that of factories.
The products of the best craftsmen are in no way inferior to anything
foreign, and it is only due to inadequate factory production, which compels
them to buy materials from abroad, that they cannot compete with foreigners.
The trades best represented are: baking, butchering, hulling, weaving,
tailoring, tanning, dyeing, coopering, carpentry, turning, woodworking,
masonry, smithing, metalwork, tinsmithing, printing, and the crafts of
making candy, cloth, rope, shoes, furs, gloves, saddles and harnesses,
brushes, combs, soap, varnish, pottery, cutlery, and jewelry. Clock and
watch making are limited to selling and repairing products made abroad
and imported. What Galicia has least of is engravers, wood-carvers, sculptors,
mechanics and opticians.
IX. Population: According to the 1869 census Galicia had 5,418,016
inhabitants; that is 3,972 souls per square Austrian mila, or
69 per square km. But the western part is more densely populated than
the eastern; in the west there are 4,905 people per square Austrian mila,
in the east 3,596. The plains are more densely populated than the mountains,
and in the mountains the part belonging to the Baltic flank is more populous
than that of the Black Sea flank. Finally, the western and eastern ends
of the country are more populous than the middle.
A look at the degree of population in individual powiaty gives
the following numbers in the northwestern part of the country: Wieliczka
7,444 per square mila, Biala 7,144; Tarnów 6,542; in the eastern
part of the country, Sniatyn 6,079, Czortkow 5,714 per square mila.
The least populous powiaty in western Galicia are Nowy Tag (2,934
per sq. mila) and Nisko (3,303 per sq. mila). In eastern
Galicia they are Nadworna (1,618), Kosów (1,811), Lisko (2,122) and Turka
The population of Galicia is scattered in 11,373 settlements, of which
6,134 are villages and hamlets, 4,925 are manoral estates, 230 are small
towns, and 90 are cities. With annual population growth at 1.49%, by the
end of 1880 we would have 6,311,986 souls. Since the last census in 1869
the average growth in population is over 11 years is 893,970. The census
taken at the end of December 1880 will soon show the actual population
of the country.
In terms of ethnic origin, Galicia's population consists of natives and
foreigners. The native or original population consists of Poles and Ruthenians.
Poles comprise 45.9% of the country's entire population, Ruthenians 42.6%.
The Poles live primarily in the western part, west of the San, and the
Ruthenians in the eastern part; however in western Galicia there are Ruthenian
settlements in the mountains up to the Nowy Sacz area on the Poprad river,
and in the eastern part there are Polish settlements.
The foreign population accounts for about 12% of the whole. Among them
are Germans who settled as farmers in colonies scattered in various regions
of the country (see Zehlicke's article "Die deutschen Kolonien in
Galizien" in the periodical Im Neuen Reich, 1876, vol. I)
and in cities as officials, industrial workers, tradesmen, and factory
workers. They account for about 1% of the whole population. Next come
the Armenians, kinsmen of the Slavs, of whom there are 2,400, settled-besides
in Lwow-mainly in Pokucie [Translator's Note: Pokucie, in Ukraine
on the upper Pruth and Czeremosz rivers, was the southeastern corner of
Poland's territories]. Then there are: the Mennonites, who immigrated
from Friesland long ago and settled in the powiaty of Lwów (Einsiedel,
Falkenstein, Mostki) and Gródek (Neuhof and Kiernica); the Jews, who comprise
10% of the population and live mainly in the cities and small towns, but
in the villages as well; the Karaites, a Jewish agricultural sect in Halicz;
and the Gypsies, bands of whom wander the borderlands of Bukowina and
In terms of religion the entire population, except for the Jews, Karaites,
and Gypsies, is Christian. The Poles are Roman Catholic, the Ruthenians
Greek Catholic, and the Armenians have their own Armenian Catholic rite.
The Germans are primarily Protestant. The Mennonites are a Protestant
sect that left Friesland with the Anabaptists in the 16th century. The
Karaites comprise a separate sect of Judaism, rejecting the Talmud and
its traditions. The percentage of Catholics is 46%, Greek Catholics 42%,
Jews 10%, Protestants .73%, and other faiths about 1%.
In terms of occupation the Galician population is agricultural.
Those living by agriculture and from agricultural income comprise 83.5%;
those employed in industry and trade 9%; those employed in personal services
4.8%; owners of homes and possessions of pensions 1%; and those supporting
themselves on acquired learning and devoting themselves to the sciences
only 1.5% (!).
The Galician people, Polish and Ruthenian, are generally well-proportioned,
robust, handsome, with engaging facial features and indefatigable strength
and endurance. The Galician is characterized by a clear, healthy, inborn
intelligence and circumspect courage. By nature possessing more good than
evil inclinations when not subjected to depraving influences, he is religious,
loyal, obliging, and hospitable. He is attracted to those who have treated
him well and knows how to be grateful, but is, on the other hand, rarely
vengeful. These good qualities are tarnished by sloth, indolence, a lack
of liking for and persistence in work, a lack of education, and the often
nasty habit of drunkenness. He only works as much as he must to satisfy
his most essential needs, very few in number; he cares little about the
elevation and improvement of his farm, about a more orderly, comfortable
and healthy dwelling, about saving money or securing grain reserves. Thus
when the expected harvest proves disappointing, or a natural catastrophe
afflicts the area, he falls victim to need, hunger and illness, incurs
usurious debt, and often gets into such a plight that, dispossessed of
his house and land, he becomes a proletarian. He preserves old customs
and manners, and does not like change of any sort, whether in life style
or in the way he runs his farm, and most often rejects with suspicion
and mistrust the most salutary advice, allowing himself with child-like
gullibility to be exploited by leaseholders and usurers.
Under the influence of different living conditions dictated by nature
itself, different styles of living and earning a living, and the influence
of neighbors of different ethnic origins and contact with various foreign
influences, the Polish and Ruthenian people has divided into many groups
differing in dress, customs, and even dialect, and bearing various names,
adopted from nature or from the names of their dwellings or from certain
characteristic traits of dress or speech, as well as from other circumstances
that are hard to make out today. We distinguish two main ethnographic
groups, the goral, i. e., the mountaindweller, and the podolak
or rowniak, the plainsman. The goral peoples are the
Zywczaki, Babiogorcy, Rabczanie or Zagorzanie, Kliszczaki, Podhalanie,
Nowotarzanie, Pieninski and Sadecki Gornie, Spizaki or Gardlaki, Kurtskis
or Czuchoncy (the Lemkes and Rusnaks), Bojkos (Werchowyncy), Tucholcy,
and Huculs (Czarnogorcy). The most prominent peoples of the Galician
plainsdwellers are the Krakowiacy, Mazury-including the Grebowiacy (Lisowiski
or Borowcy), Gluchoniemcy, Belzanie, Buzanie (Lapotniki and Poleszuki),
Opolanie, Wolyniacy, Poberezcy or Nistrowianie. The reader will find detailed
descriptions of these tribes under their respective entries.
X. Division of the country. Galicia is divided into 74 powiaty
named for the towns which serve as their seats: Biala, Bobrka, Bochnia,
Bohorodczany, Borszczow, Brody, Brzesko, Brzezany, Brzozow, Buczacz, Chrzanow,
Cieszanow, Czortkow, Dabrowa, Dobromil, Dolina, Drohobycz, Gorlice, Grodek,
Grybow, Horodenka, Husiatyn, Jaroslaw, Jaslo, Jaworow, Kalusz, Kamionka
Strumilowa, Kolbuszowa, Kolomyja, Kosow, Krakow, Krosno, Lancut, Limanowa,
Lisko, Lwow, Mielec, Mosciska, Myslenice, Nadworna, Nisko, Nowy Sacz,
Nowytarg, Pilzno, Podhajce, Przemysl, Przemyslany, Rawa Ruska, Rohatyn,
Ropczyce, Rudki, Rzeszow, Sambor, Sanok, Skalat, Sniatyn, Sokal, Stanislawow,
Staremiasto, Stryj, Tarnobrzeg, Tarnopol, Tarnow, Tlumacz, Trembowla,
Turka, Wadowice, Wieliczka, Zaleszczyki, Zbaraz, Zloczow, Zolkiew, Zydaczow,
Zywiec. [Omitted: XI. Road systems and XII. Trade].
XIII. Administration. Galicia, as one of the constitutional crownlands
of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, has the same administrative institutions
as the other crownlands of the Austrian half of the monarchy... The representatives
and autonomous authorities are: 1) the national sejm and bureau;
2) the national council and delegates; 3) powiat councils and
bureaus; 4) gmina councils and authorities; 5) trade and industrial
houses. The Emperor summons the sejm yearly. The sejm's
sphere of activity-part legislative, part administrative, part supervisory-
includes all matters regarding the crownland ... in general everything
connected with the welfare and needs of the country, to the extent it
does not infringe on the imperial council. The Galician sejm
consists of eight clerical authorities, two doctors from the Universities
of Kraków and Lwów, and 141 delegates ... elected for a term of six years;
the country's president is appointed from among them by the Emperor himself
for the same term.
XIV. Spiritual authorities and institutions. In Galicia, as throughout
the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, there is complete freedom of conscience
and religion. Every citizen of age is free to convert from one faith to
another. Every legally recognized religion can celebrate its rites publicly
and administer its own religious affairs independently. The legally recognized
religions are: Catholics of all three rites, Greek non-Uniates, Protestants,
Unitarians, and Jews. Adherents of every legally recognized religion have
equal civic and political rights. Christian faiths: the Roman Catholic
church is under the authority of the Archbishop of Lwów and the three
bishops of Krakow, Tarnow, and Przemysl. The Greek Catholic Church
is under the authority of the metropolitan in Lwow and the bishop of Przemysl.
The Armenian Church is under the authority of the Armenian Archbishop.
The Augsburg and Swiss denominations are under the authority of the Galician
Superintendent in Lwow, whose jurisdiction also includes Bukowina.
The Augsburg Protestant Superintendent's office is divided into three
senioraty: the western (7 parishes), the central (10 parishes),
and the eastern (5 parishes), primarily covering Bukowina. The Reformed
Protestant Superintendent has four parishes: Andrasfalva, Koenigsberg,
Josefsberg, Kolomyja. There is a Greek oriental chaplaincy in Lwów.
The Jewish faith has a national rabbinate in Lwów and 26 powiat
rabbinates. In addition, each Jewish community has its own szkolnik
Omitted: Sections XV. Education, XVI. Social institutions,
XVII. An Overview of Galicya's History, and XVIII. Bibliography.]
[For more information on Galicia see Genealogical Gazetteer of
Galicia, Brian J. Lenius (Box 18 Group 4 R.R. #1, Anola, Manitoba,
CANADA R0E 0A0], and Gerald Ortell's Polish Parish Records
of the Roman Catholic Church, just re-published by the PGSA].
Source: Slownik Geograficzny
Krolestwa Polskiego - Warsaw
Submitted by: This translation, by William F. Hoffman,
first appeared in the August 1996 issue of "Rodziny, The Journal
of the Polish Genealogical Society of America" (Mar 1999).