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Ruffian’s valley

Punkt na szlaku: On the ruffians’ paths

One of the most beautiful Tatra Mountains’ valleys – Kościeliska Valley –has the strongest relation to ruffians from among all the valleys. They often looted local metal works (pl. harmenia) and the tradition indicates their hiding places where they were preparing the ambushes; the shrine standing there is believed to be founded by them. read more

One of the most beautiful Tatra Mountains’ valleys – Kościeliska Valley –has the strongest historical and traditional relation to ruffians from among all the valleys. One of rare written relations (apart from court acts) describing authentic ruffian’s raid is connected to this valley.

In 1783, at the Stare Kościelisko meadow, located in this valley, copper works processing the ore mineral extracted in Starorobociańska Valley was founded. Next to the copper works, buildings and huts for workers, there was also an apartment of the manager of the copper works (forester’s cottage – today the location is indicated by two old bass trees). During 1805 to 1809, Franciszek Klein was the manager of the copper works, later he became the forester in Bukowina (present-day Bukowina Tatrzańska). He is the author of the manuscript in German dating back to 1827, titled Short description of the Tatra Mountains composed of description of customs of local people, lakes, Kościelisk Valley, minerals, mining industry, forests, plants, animals and ruffians. He included here memories of Ignacy Franciszek Blumenfeld – forester in Witowo and Poronin, who provides a report of his and F. Klein’s struggle with ruffians in the Tatra Mountains.

F. Blumenfeld was pursuing ruffian’s companies in the Tatra Mountains for 22 years, and his reports contain unique information about them. In July 1809 he suffered a wound in a skirmish of the so-called social guard with ruffians on the Huciska Meadow in the Chochołowska Valley, during which Andrzej Siuty, the Vogt of Witowo, was killed.

The first attack on F. Klein’s seat, the copper works’ manager, took place in full daylight, in July 1805. Apart from him, in the house there were several friends of him, including a young lady and a six-year old girl. The aggressors searched the house thoroughly, and they demanded a meal. During the boozy feast they forced the present women to dance, they shot the guns in the air and finally they cooked ruffian’s delicacy – sheep meat in fresh milk in the cauldron over the bonfire in front of the house.

The same year, on the 19th and 20th of August, they attacked F. Klein again, and having robbed him, they organized a feast on the spot with a lot of alcohol. This time, apart from the host, there was only his elderly mother and servants in the house. He managed to kill two aggressors, the remaining ones ran away.

During the coming years there were several more attacks against the management of the copper works. Finally, F. Klein, discouraged by the whole situation, left the valley.

Another ruffians’ story from the Kościeliska Valley is connected to the chapel standing at the edge of the Stare Kościelisko meadow. Most probably it was constructed on the place of the wooden church providing service to former large village, connected to local copper works. It is made of brick, covered with shingle, cone-like, slim roof. Above the door there is the inscription “Ave Maria”. Allegedly, its construction was founded with Paweł Gąsienica, the local ruffian’s money, who also purchased liturgical vessels and liturgical clothes for the chapel. According to another version, ruffians buried treasures next to it, and the shade casted by the cross’s tip on the chapel’s top on the night of Saint John (24th of June) indicates the place where the treasure is hidden. In reality, it was constructed by local people on the spot of older chapel built by the copper works workers employed in local metal works. The miner’s emblem visible in the helmet’s scarf was placed here thanks to the efforts of the Association of Engineers and Technicians of Siderurgy Industry (pl. Stowarzyszenie Inżynierów i Techników Przemysłu Hutniczego) in the beginning of the 70s of the 20th century.

Another souvenir of the raids and ruffians hiding in the vicinity are numerous topography names in the surroundings of the valley, such as Zbójnickie Okna Turnia (eng. Ruffians’ Windows Turnia), Zbójnicki Przechód (eng. Ruffians’ Passing) Zbójnicki Stół (eng. Ruffians’ Table). The most interesting among them, Zbójnickie Okna (Niżne and Wyżnie) (eng. Ruffian’s Windows) are two small caves with limestone walls on the eastern side of the Kościeliska Valley in rocky peak of Organy, where, according to the legend, ruffians had their hiding place and Zbójnicka Turnia (eng. Ruffian's Rocky Peak) located in the western slopes of Gubalec, separated from it with a mountain pass called Wyżni Zbójnicki Przechód (eng. Upper Rufffians’ Passing). Allegedly, ruffians lived in those caves and they buried treasures there, searched nowadays for by treasure hunters.

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