Northern Illinois University Press

Patrice M. Dabrowski on the Highland Borderlands of Poland and Ukraine

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We asked Patrice M. Dabrowski three questions about her new book, The Carpathians, and her research on select European highland ranges.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

Finding out what mostly illiterate highland peasants thought of the upper-class lowlanders who came to vacation in the mountains in the distant past was a challenge. I found a tantalizing trace of a highlander-lowlander encounter in a provincial newspaper. It concerned the 1912 visit to the popular high-altitude resort of Jaremcze (Yaremche) of Archduke Charles—who within the space of several years would become the last emperor of Austria-Hungary—and his wife Zita. While most guests arrived by train, the archducal pair apparently traveled by automobile. Preparing to depart, they were accosted by a Hutsul highlander, who hitched a ride with them to the next town—the Hutsul absolutely clueless as to the identity of his illustrious hosts, much to their amusement. This anecdote suggests that Hutsuls were hardly intimidated by the lowland visitors and perhaps even eagerly availed themselves of what the modern world brought into the Carpathians. 

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book that you know now?

I wish I had known how my topic would expand and evolve! What began as a Tatra Mountain topic in the period before World War I ended up incorporating two other mountain ranges in vastly different periods of time (the Eastern Carpathians in the 1930s and the Bieszczady Mountains after World War II), not to mention research in additional countries and languages. Once I learned that the term “discovery” was invoked in all three instances, I felt justified to write a book that countenanced all three.

3. How do you wish you could change the field?

Fields often seem to ride the waves of what is fashionable at any given point. My research has always taken me in different, and new, directions.  What happens at the margins—even in the remote mountains, as I’ve tried to show in this book—can also tell us plenty about the past. Also, I’d like to convince readers that there are interesting works on the Carpathians that do not include discussions of Dracula or vampires…

*Featured photo: Nadvirnyans’kyi rayon, Ukraine mountains. Credit: A G.

Cover image of The Carpathians.
Read more about this book.

Patrice M. Dabrowski was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 2014. She is author of Poland.

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