Early History

Fields of rye

Field of yellow rye, Zolynia.


A Frontier Town

Zolynia's early past is somewhat mysterious, and some details are sketchy. By the 15th century, Polish peasants and a small Tatar population lived in the area. Today, we often associate the word "peasant" with poverty, but in Europe it specifically meant a class of people who worked small plots of land for a landlord or noble, in exchange for direct payments or a portion of what was produced. The Polish Robot Patent bound most of Zolynia's peasants to their noble's land as serfs, working as fieldhands, lumberjacks and in some cases as craftsman in lifetime obligation, without rights, to the lords of Lancut.

A 1450 document mentions Zolynia, a "small settlement buried in the wilderness." The main settlement of Zolynia was originally called Machowice. Local chronicles from 1508 recognize Zolynia as a Solectwa or village of the area, and by the middle of the 16th century, there were 470 people and a Calvinist church there.

Stanislaw "Devil" Stadnicki purchased Lancut in 1578. A noblemen and brigand who led his mercenaries on raids of neighboring estates and his various political and religious enemies, Stadnicki supposedly tortured peasants and looted local towns. He also forced all residents to become Protestants (many Polish nobles had become Calvinists during the Reformation). In 1610, Stadnicki was captured and decapitated by the soldiers of Lukasz Opalinski, who had founded the famous basilica in Lezajsk, just north of Zolynia. Under ownership of Stadnicki's sons, there was more violence and more bad luck for the locals. The Calvinist church in Zolynia was struck by lightning and burned, which was taken as a sign from heaven by residents. This was also the time of the Counter-Reformation in Poland, when the nobility became almost exclusively Catholic. Wyladyslaw Stadnicki converted and replaced the old church with a new Catholic church, to the relief of many of Zolynia. Unfortunately, a few years later, in 1624, Zolynia was in the invasion path of a Tatar army and the entire town was burned.

In 1629, Lancut and its satellite settlements was purchased by the Lubomirksi family.

For over one hundred years, much of the story of Zolynia involves invasions and the destruction they brought to the community. The town was burned by the Tatars (again) in 1672 from 1701 to 1735 it was also in the path of a series of invading Swedish, Russian and Polish armies. The Lubomirskis were set on developing their estates and kept rebuilding Zolynia. A census taken in 1713 counted 45 weavers, four mills, four inns and two breweries, and there was an annual fair. Sometime between 1721 and 1735, the center of Zolynia was designated as the town of Zolynia Lubomierz, with its own coat of arms and a rudimentary municipal government made up of a small burgher class (middle class townspeople).

Jews in Zolynia Lubomierz

It is unknown when the first Jewish people came to Zolynia. There were Jews in the nearby towns of Lezajsk by 1521, Przeworsk by 1538 and Lancut by 1563. At some point, Jews were invited to move to Zolynia by the local nobility, and were organized by the older, established Jewish community in Lancut. Since medievel times, much of the Polish landed nobility saw the presence of Jews in their domains as a productive and effective way to grow their personal economies. Unlike most of the population, Jewish men were almost universally literate and often were employed to manage and administer the business operations of the large estates. The Jewish communities typically included experienced and skilled craftsmen, such as tailors, dyers, weavers, glaziers, butchers and leatherworkers, and experienced traders, dealers and brokers. Jews were seen as an economic stimulus, and were permitted to maintain their own customs and a degree of self-governance.

Polish law allowed Jews to engage in moneylending and trade, though they were banned from from owning land. However, Jews could lease land and manage businesses by lease, and this is what happened in Zolynia.

The system of leasing businesses to Jews for a specific rent or fee was called "Arenda." It provided landed nobles with a steady income and helped them to generate business that would grow their towns and create more income. Local records show that a man named Fensterheim leased a mill in Zolynia in 1730. By 1759, Jews in Zolynia Lubermierz had their own synagogue and their own cemetery, and members of the community leased six taverns, a bar, an inn and six out of ten residential buildings in the town.

Zolynia Dolne

A forest road in Zolynia Dolne. Small religious shrines are mounted on the trees.




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