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Austrian cemeteries in the Low Beskids

Did you know that the Low Beskids region was the site of one of the largest battles ever fought by Habsburg Austria?

During World War I, more than 200,000 soldiers of the Imperial and Royal Monarchy broke the offensive of the Tsarist Russian army here. The part of today’s Poland and Ukraine then belonging to Austria, known as Galicia, became a battlefield for the survival of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The low mountains were perfectly suited to deliver the fatal blow – if the Russians had succeeded in making their way down into Hungary, the fate of the multicultural monarchy would probably have been sealed, and today’s map of Europe might look very different.

The bloody fighting lasted from the harsh winter of 1914 until May 1915, when troops led by Field Marshal August von Mackensen led a decisive offensive. Representatives of more than a dozen nations of the empire fought in the ranks of the Austro-Hungarian army: Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Hungarians, Austrians, Romanians, Croats or Jews, almost 100,000 of whom remained in the mountains forever. Adding to the tragedy of the whole story is the fact that the great Habsburg Empire, in which several generations of Central Europeans grew up, finally disintegrated just three years later.

A reminder of the Battle of Gorlice are the cemeteries scattered in various, often inaccessible places, many of which have been restored through the efforts of the Austrian government. In few places can you feel the senselessness of war so clearly as in a nameless, numbered cemetery on a map, surrounded by multilingual plaques bearing the names of Austro-Hungarian soldiers. One of the most beautiful is cemetery number 60 on Magura Małastowska, picturesquely nestled in the forest. You will find it right next to the serpentine winding road, which crosses the pass in this section. The second, even more impressive, stands on the Rotunda mountain above the formerly depopulated village of Regietów Wyżny and is marked with the number 51. You will reach it from the bottom of the valley in 45 minutes via the black trail.

Near the Magura cemetery there is a Magura Ski slope and a moutain shelter where you can eat and stay overnight. The tiny, secluded facility is distinguished by an original technical solution – the kitchen is located under the dining room in the ground floor of the house, so meals are ordered… by calling down to the hosts, and the food goes upstairs in a special, manually operated elevator.

Magura Małastowska is a great place for a bike trip in summer or a cross-country skiing escapade in winter. Trails lead from here toward the charming village of Nowica, with its historic Orthodox church, or in the opposite direction, toward the villages of Banica and Wołowiec, where an acclaimed Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk lives. Together with his wife, Monika Sznajderman, they run one of the largest publishing houses in Poland, Czarne, which specializes in reportage and literature of Central European countries. Czarne publishes Polish translations of books by many German-language authors, including Austrian journalist and historian Martin Pollack.




Magura Małastowska

Austrian cemeteries in the Low Beskids