Founded in 1470 on the banks of the San River, Lesko had a mixed Polish-Ruthenian population for centuries, a reflection of the region’s history. From the 16th century, many Jews arrived from Spain, fleeing the Inquisition. Their migration continued and by the 18th century Jews made up nearly two-thirds of the town’s population.
WWII and the years that followed changed the ethnic picture altogether. The Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis, the Ukrainians were defeated by the Polish military and the Lemks were deported. The town was rebuilt and, without having developed any significant industry, is now a small tourist centre. While it may not be the ‘Gateway to the Bieszczady’ as it likes to call itself – that distinction really goes to Sanok – it is a pleasant stopover on the way south.