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The staff of beech wood, of hexagonal intersection, slightly flattened, even along its entire length. It is equipped with a brass handle, in the shape of a hatchet with a slightly rounded blade. On the top of the axe there is the so-called cone — a brass, oval shaped inscription inscribed in a rectangle, fastened with four nails.

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The staff of beech wood, of hexagonal intersection, slightly flattened, even along its entire length. It is equipped with a brass handle, in the shape of a hatchet with a slightly rounded blade. On the top of the axe there is the so-called cone — a brass, oval shaped inscription inscribed in a rectangle, fastened with four nails. The whole handle-ax is called bartka in the Hutsul region (hence the name bartka used in reference to the whole stick, along with the ax-handle, next to the name toporec) is richly decorated with a concave engraving, creating a geometrical, embossed ornament, composed of small circles and checkered triangles and lines crossing each other transversely and filled with red and green paint. The sections between the lines are decorated with the heads of iron nails surrounded with black. The edges of the hatchet are surrounded by a band of hatched lines.
The upper part of the ax-handle, under the ax-handle of the stick, along a length of 28.5 cm, is covered with a braid made of brass strips of sheet metal and wires forming a chessboard. Below this padding there are additional decorations in the form of inlays made of brass strips embedded in wood, arranged in a horseshoe motifs, 9 on each wider side and one on the narrower ones. The lower part of the ax-handle is covered with a sheet metal and stocked with a dull nail that digs into the ground while supporting with a stick.
The axe, hatchet, chopper are alike in the entire Carpathian highlands and among peasants in the lowlands in terms of their use as handy, multi-purpose, universal tools, also used as a combat and hunting weapon, as well as an element of a man's festive attire, a male attribute. Topir’ci and bartki accompanied the Hutsuls in almost every situation; they were never apart, apart from when they would leave them at the entrance to the Eastern Orthodox church. They were the products of local, specialized craftsmen — braziers and those dealing with wood-making items for everyday use. Most of them were anonymous, but they created a uniform style of ornamentation characteristic for the Hutsuls. This style changed somewhat over time, due to the gradual change of the recipient, and thus the function of products — from items intended for the local population to souvenirs for tourists and vacationers.
From the beginning of the 19th century, we can observe the development of interest in the Eastern Carpathians and the native culture of the region's inhabitants, including the Hutsuls, not only among travellers, excursionists and artists, but also among people visiting these areas for recreation and leisure. Hence, along with the development of the tourist movement and the growing demand from in-coming visitors for souvenirs, the production of such items also developed. This stick is exactly so, different from the Hutsul's topir’ci, with a more delicate structure — a smaller hatchet and a narrower ax-handle, and also the ending with a metal cover and a pin from a dull iron nail, facilitating support during mountain hiking.
This staff arrived in the collection of the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków on 13 March 1911, just after its foundation. A trace of this fact can be found in the museum's Book of Gifts, right on the first page. A whole group of 88 different items are listed here, except for 3 Hutsul staffs (among them the discussed stick with an axe). There are also 2 aprons, 2 belts, 1 bag, 1 gunmetal buckle, 2 pipes, 4 rings, 1 carved wooden snuff box, 16 Easter eggs and 14 photos from the Hutsul region, as well as 2 zbarask kilims, 16 embroidered shirts and 12 Russian embroidered towels and piterits, 2 embroidered Slovak shirts, 9 embroideries and one “old Świątnik padlock”. All these things were the first recorded donations to the newly created Ethnographic Museum in Kraków from Doctor Ludwik Dąbrowski (1862—1933) — “a staff doctor in Kraków.” The first of the museum’s donors came from Skawina and graduated from the gymnasium and the medical faculty of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków in 1889, receiving the title of doctor of medicine. At that time, he joined the Austrian army, despite family and personal ties with Poland. His entire later life was connected with the military and with the Polish army after the World War I until 1923, when he retired as a brigadier general. In the meantime, he worked as a sanitary chief and commander of a military hospital in Kraków, Bialystok, and organized the field hospitals on the Lithuanian-Belarusian front and fought with epidemics of dysentery and typhus.
In the collection of the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków in the Hutsul collection there are 13 staffs with axes, from heavy, original, but less decorated topir’ci, to elegant, richly decorated sticks intended for the urban recipient, which come from Zabi, from Riczka, from the district of Kosow or in general — from the Hutsul region, from 1899—1939. It is the largest part of the Hutsul sticks collection consisting of 25 objects, along with 7 pałycias and 4 kełefs.
More information on this topic can be found in the “Yearbook of the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków” 2008, vol. XV, entitled Guide to the Collection of the Hutsul Museum of Ethnography of Seweryn Udziela in Kraków.

Elaborated by Małgorzata Oleszkiewicz (The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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