THE LEGEND ABOUT THE FOUNDING OF THE RICHKA VILLAGE
Once the Carpathian Mountains were sparsely populated and covered with dense virgin forests. Only the Wallachian shepherds travelled with their flocks of sheep through high meadows called polonynas. The ancestors of modern inhabitants of Verkhovyna (the highland) lived then in the lowlands of our region. However, over time, people searched for new vacant lands and moved higher and higher into the mountains, cut down forests, ploughed new fields and founded new settlements.
The first attested appears of the village of Richka dates back to 1600. In the documents of those times the village is described as a small settlement in the north-western part of the Maramures County, whose inhabitants were engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding, grazing sheep in Polonyna Borzhava. A wooden church was built in the village, which belonged to the Eastern rite.
Ancient legends about the foundation of the Richka village have been preserved and passed from one generation to another. The legend says about two brothers – Richkai and Tyushkai – that used to live in Carpathian Mountains. They did not want to put up with the lord's power and joined opryshky[i]. The brothers gathered a detachment of desperate people in the woods and began to attack the possessions of the nobility, royal officials and rich merchants. They were hiding the money and jewels in caves far away in the mountains. Part of the booty was distributed to the poor, helping widows and the needy. The fame of the brave and just opryshky spread all over Maramures, far beyond the Tysa River.
Over time, the brothers married and decided to leave the dangerous life with opryshky. With the obtained money, they bought a flock of sheep and implements, and moved to Verkhovyna in search of free land together with their families, away from the power of the lords. After crossing the Pryslip pass, the brothers descended to the northern slopes of Polonyna Borzhava. Here, in the valleys of two mountain streams, they built huts close to each other and began to cut down and clear areas of forest for new fields, sowed oats and barley. They gathered mushrooms and berries in the forest. They depastured flocks to polonynas, where they grazed sheep all summer, made cheese and vurda of sheep's milk. Women were weaving beautiful wool hunyas, which were a nice protection from cold and bad weather in the mountains.
In a few years, Richkai and Tyushkai and their families built solid wooden houses for themselves. They were joined by other peasants looking for free land in the Verkhovyna. Gradually, two villages appeared nearby, which were named after the brothers – Richka and Tyushka. Descendants of opryshky still live near Polonyna Borzhava, keep farming in fields and working in forests, grazing sheep, making delicious cheese and preserving the ancient craft of making hunyas from sheep's wool.
[i] Opryshki are members of the peasant rebel movement in Galicia, Transcarpathia, Bukovina against the Polish gentry, the Moldavian boyars, the Hungarian feudal lords, and subsequently also against the Austrian administration