Dziady Śmiguśne in Dobra

A group of disguised men
The village of Dobra in the Limanowa District is famous for its tradition called Dziady Śmiguśne. Their history dates to ancient times, when Tatar invasions oppressed the Polish lands in the 13th century. At that time, captives released from Tartar captivity arrived in the Limanowa area from a camp that was broken up nearby. The captives were wandering, dirty, neglected and without languages. They communicated with inarticulate sounds. The villagers of Dobra showed mercy and gave shelter to the unfortunates. The name of the village is derived from the inhabitants' good hearts and good deeds.

Every year on Easter Monday, costumed men, called Dziady Śmiguśne, appear in the centre of Dobra to commemorate that event. Local bachelors play them. They wear straw hats on their heads and coats or waistcoats they made themselves from strings of straw. Their faces are covered with furry masks. They do not speak but only murmur and trumpet on a tin horn. Such a costume originates from the enslaved people's faces that were mutilated, and their tongues were cut off, so they could not speak. Dressed in rags, they were also covered in straw.

The masks would go from house to house in the past, knocking on doors with sticks. Gesturing and pouring water on the house, they asked for food. Today, they appear in the streets and at the market square, stopping passers-by and cars to ask for donations. The central place of the custom is occupied by dousing ladies with water, which is linked to śmigus-dyngus (pouring water on people at Easter) and is supposed to bring good luck to the girls. Another interpretation of the tradition is that it refers, among other things, to the biblical motif of the Jewish emissaries who did not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus and, as a result, lost their speech.

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