Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
One would love to say that Janosik is Polish, however, Juraj Janosik (as that was his Real name) was Slovak. He died as an outlaw as he robbed the rich and, according to the legend, shared with the poor. Janosik is a popular character of many Slovak and Polish legends and stories. As he was active on the terrains on the border of Hungary and Poland, and his later on created group of outlaws consisted of Poles too, you may call him also a Polish hero.
Juraj was born in 1688 and grew up in a Slovak village of Terchova, in Habsburg monarchy's Kingdom of Hungary area. After having taken part in anti-Habsburg Hungarian rebellion, he was recruited into Austrian army. At some point of his life he got acquainted with chief of the outlaws, who retired soon, and took the lead of the forest robber group (at the age of 23). The group was especially active in today’s Slovakia but their activity extended also to Poland and Moravia. Although most probably (at least according to the records that withstood the time) Janosik stole the rich for his own prosperity, loads of legends arose around his person. Most probably, however, the group members never killed any of the numerous merchants that they had robbed. On the contrary, they would help the accidently injured. It is said that Janosik’s group would share their loot with girls from around villages (or with, as we now want to believe, the poor).
Janosik was caught couple of times but his cooperation with some of the magnates, who helped him to get out of troubles. However, in 1713 (during his visit to Tomas Uhorcik – previous leader of the group) he was captured and sentenced to death on the hook. The legend says that he was offered the death by being hung, in return for revealing the names of his companions, but refused and jumped on the hook himself.
Although the truth about Janosik might differ much from the truth, this highwayman was especially popularized in northern part of Kingdom of Hungary (today’s Slovakia) and by Polish Gorale (highlanders) and tourists visiting Podhale region north of the Tatras. He became the symbol of resistance to oppression.
In Poland Janosik became especially popular due to popular films that were based on his story. Juraj Janosik is believed to have been Slavic hero similar to Robin Hood.