He experienced the horrors of two wars and during this time he also covered an immense geographical area. The trip described in this blog is an attempt to retrace his steps from Prague across the Eurasian continent to beyond Lake Baikal in Siberia. The first part of the trip will follow the precisely described route of Josef Švejk, Hašek's inspired literary creation. I left home on April 30 2010 and was back on October 29.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Across the Carpathians

The mountain passes in the Carpathians had been fought over through the winter of 1914/15 but after the Gorlice-Tarnów offensive started in May 1915, the Russian army was forced to withdraw. It is in this setting Švejk's 11th march company arrives in a Łupków-pass which still bears traces of the recent fighting. Švejk's laconic  comments about the enemy's abandoned night potties provokes Lieutenant Dub to the degree that he pulls his pistol. The Reichsdeutsche Brandenburger-regiment has already erected a memorial to their dead, made from melted-down Russian guns. Further down, by Szczawne and Kulaszne a Red Cross carriage has been riddled with bullets and derailed. The occultist cook Jurajda asks naively if things have gone that far that it is allowed to shoot at a Red Cross train. Švejk philosophically retorts that there are many things that are not allowed that still can be done.

Friendly people from Kraków.
The Łupków pass was on July 3 2010 a strikingly peaceful and idyllic place. After catching the afternoon train from Medzilaborce I changed trains at Łupków, and continued to Nowy Łupków. There I asked an unsteady local for a place to sleep. For once I was in a place where I was not sure if accommodation could be found. He pointed me back to where I came from, and said I had to walk three kilometres. Almost immediately I caught up with a nice couple from Kraków. They were going in the same direction and said there were two choices. One of them was Agroturystyka Szwejkowo, and the name alone determined my direction. After four sweaty kilometers I found it, right behind Łupków station at where I had changed trains just before! It was a happy anabasis though, and Szwejkowa was cheap, simple and adequate. Back in Medzilaborce I had read that Łupków only had 22 inhabitants, so not wonder I had given up finding accommodation there!

Švejk trail
It is a beautiful area. Not that the mountains are that high or spectacular, but the views across the Bieszcady are fine and the air fresh. The region is popular with walkers, and on the train up I  landed in a carriage full of Czechs who were to follow the Szwejk trail from Komańcza down towards Sanok. They took a keen interest in my undertaking and  the raritá from the  north was given a souvenir to carry, although a light one. The south eastern corner of Poland and adjoining areas in the Ukraine offers a unique cycling and walking route. Szlak śladami dobrego wojaka Szwejka, the only one of it's kind in the world. The track starts in Łupków and follows Švejk's route all the way to Velyke Kolodno. Along the route there are green Švejk signs and yellow posters with quotes from Švejk relating to the location.
The next day I took the excruciatingly slow train down to Szczawne-Kulaszne station and walked  the 20 km to Zagórz, where I caught a  train on to Sanok. Apart from the heavy backpack, the walk was a pleasure. There are fine views of the Beskidy mountains and the villages are tidy and well kept. It was a Sunday, so I had to suffer for a while without food, but finally in Czaszyn I found an open sklep (shop) where I got hold of some food.

This area was until 1945 mostly populated by Ukrainians but the ethnic cleansing after WW2 left the villages depopulated. The many Jews in the had suffered a grim fate even earlier. The Russian-orthodox church in Szczawne and the Greek-orthodox church in Kulaszne are still there. They are  well kept, a sign that the wounds are healing.


  1. The information here is inaccurate. It seems like you really don't understand the history of UPA and the Ukrainian population in this region. Ukrainians didn't "turn a blind eye" - the situation was more complex than that. Simple narratives like this are quite misleading.

  2. I never wrote that Ukrainians turn a blind eye (that would be tainting the whole nation with the same brush), but rather "elements within these organisations" (i.e. UPA and AK) and I think that statement is valid. It would be beyond the scope of this blog to discuss the history of UPA in detail.

  3. Yes, but you've already stated something that is misleading - and historically inaccurate. Did you not realize that UPA wasn't formed and operating in this region until 1944, and most of the local Jews had either been murdered *in situ* by the Nazis or taken to concentration camps by fall of 1942 (with only the exception of the few survivors who were sheltered by Poles and Ukrainians until the war ended.)

  4. I'll clean up this section, or even remove it.