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The Gorals of Slovakia

The Goral people, and especially their origins, are one of the small mysteries of Slovakia. They live mainly in the north of Slovakia, in 56 villages, most of them in Spiš and Orava, close to the Polish border. However, Gorals also live in some rather distant villages in the Slovak interior, such as Liptov, Horehronie, and even in the Slovenské Rudohorie Mountains. They live on both sides of the Slovak-Polish border and consider themselves either Poles or Slovaks.

The Goral people, and especially their origins, are one of the small mysteries of Slovakia. They live mainly in the north of Slovakia, in 56 villages, most of them in Spiš and Orava, close to the Polish border. However, Gorals also live in some rather distant villages in the Slovak interior, such as Liptov, Horehronie, and even in the Slovenské Rudohorie Mountains. They live on both sides of the Slovak-Polish border and consider themselves either Poles or Slovaks.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Poland claimed some parts of northern Slovakia and following a decision at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, it was awarded 26 Slovak municipalities, most of them Goral. The people in these areas came under great pressure to adopt Polish identity. Despite this, 98 percent of them still claimed to be of Slovak nationality in 1945. But the Czechoslovak state again surrendered them to Poland, where they were subject to severe persecution. As a result, shortly after World War II around 6,000 Slovaks returned to Slovakia. Those who stayed had to endure more harassment, including religious persecution. Today, Gorals are known especially for their folklore. On this postcard from 1955 we see a wedding in the Goral village of Ždiar.


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