The raftsmen, also known as bargemen or lightermen, are representatives of a professional group dealing in the old practice of rafting, that is, transporting (floating) goods by rivers. As a rule, raftsmen were peasants living in riverside villages, for whom this was an additional, seasonal occupation.

Over time, they created a specific folklore including: dialect, nomenclature, songs and rafting ceremonies. The period of the founding of the rafting fraternity, i.e. the 18th century, was a time of intense river transport and trade in various goods, which also brought riches to the village of Ulanów and the residents of the surrounding area. Ulanów’s boatmen and raftsmen of those times delivered many different goods from the depths of the country to markets in Gdansk, including wood, wood products, e.g. pitch, tar, and potash; while returning home, they brought colourful sewing threads, needles, scarves, beads, etc. The money earned at that time had to be enough for the raftsmen and their families for the whole year. They returned home for the feast of Saint Barbara, who they worshiped as their patron, protecting them from sudden and unexpected death. The disappearance of the rafting craft was certainly the result of the rapid development of the railways in the second half of the nineteenth century, although due to the sparsity of the railway lines near the upper and middle course of the San in this region rafting trips continued with an almost unflagging frequency.

After the Nazi occupation, the water transport of wood was resumed in limited volumes, but after the Second World War it had little to do with free market trade. The old traditions where re-established in 1991, when an Association was founded under the name of the Brotherhood of Lovers of the Ulanów Territories under the invocation of Saint Barbara in Ulanów. The main goal of the association's activity was to recall historical rafting traditions and to develop and cultivate contemporary forms of this heritage.

The biggest success of the brotherhood was the reactivation of rafting after a break of almost 50 years. Ulanów can also boast of one more unique custom, which is the cheering barrel used during major ceremonies. There are townspeople of Ulanów in the Brotherhood that promote the rafters’ food and traditions of women in old Ulanów. Currently, raftsmen offer a chance to spend free time in bosom of nature, by rafting on a scow or bateau, and the opportunity to learn about the history of Ulanów rafting in the form of a walk around the town and a visit to the Chamber of Rafting Traditions. They also recreate traditional rafters’ dishes, of which rafters’ bread, shortbread, Ulanów Christmas Eve‘ finger-licking’ sweet pancakes and Ulanów forest blackberry tincture are included in the list of traditional dishes maintained by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The information and photos included in this article are from the Brochure "POLSKA - PODKARPACKIE VOIVODESHIP. INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE" prepared by Rzeszow Regional Development Agency – ARTISTIC project partner.