ISSUE 2-2009
Богдана Костюк
Геназдь Саганович Михаил Видейко
Тарас Шульга
Grzegorz Motyka Petr Vagner
Владимир Воронов
Pavel Vitek

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles and/or discussions are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of the publisher.

By Grzegorz Motyka | Historian, Poland | Issue 2, 2009

Recently have appeared two albums – one in Poland, the other in Ukraine which comparison display how the Polish and Ukrainian opinions on common past can be distant from each other. The Ukrainian album titled “Armija bezsmertnych” refers to the Ukrainian underground OUN and UPA and constitute a parallel to published in Poland album “Anathematised soldiers” [1]. Its main purpose is to pay homage to the Ukrainian partisans. Aleksander Korman’s album ”The UPA genocide on the Polish population. Photography record” try to evidence the Ukrainian underground felony [2]. A balance of this two items makes a thrilling impression. Watching the first album we see typical partisans’ photos like armed youths sat for a memorial photography during a brief respite. We see them resting and eating by festive table or participating in church parade. There are also a few photos of dead partisans taken for NKWD’ inquisitorial requirements. In the Polish album prevail photos of killed by the Ukrainian partisans during anti-Polish action performed between 1943-1944. The majority from 130 photos placed in the album present body of murdered civilians, some very drastic show massacred or dead body with chopped limbs. This two radically different standpoint delimit (demarcate) Polish and Ukrainian discussion (debate) on UPA.

The OUN and the UPA activity has already an extensive case study [3]. Published in the latest years Ukrainian academic treatise of the OUN and the UPA subject, concentrate one’s attention on the underground struggle with Nazis and Soviets. If the Polish-Ukrainian problem is mentioned there, it’s rather marginal and authors’ attention focus rather on the Polish underground operation then on the UPA anti-Polish action. By contrast, the Polish academic dissertation on the UPA history strongly concentrates on the Polish-Ukrainian relationship during the II World War. Mass murders of the Polish population in Volhynia and in Galicia are shown in details, we can read there eventually about the Ukrainian underground activity in 1945-1947 years on the Polish contemporary (today’s) land and deportations of the Ukrainian population while “Vistula” action. It is hard to find the book which treat the collective past in different way.

This situation makes Ukrainian reader think that the anti-Polish action makes up only a marginal part of the UPA history. In turn, the reading of the Polish works suggest that the killing Poles by Ukrainian nationalists was the only one zone of their activity.

Described above two points of view come from different valuation of history. During the war Poles and Ukrainians were founded themself in the separate geopolitical situation.

The Polish allies were democratic country like England, United States of America. USSR and Germany were the enemy.

For the Ukrainians the first enemy was USSR, even through a lot of eastern Ukrainians were USSR patriots and fought for the Red Army. The second occupant to be fought was Poland. Germany was perceived as the only state in Europe interested in the sovereign Ukraine, but 1941 showed how deceptive this expectancy was. In spite of the German occupation regime, some of the Ukrainians had a hope that, this kind of treating may change one day and became involved with the German side (SS “Galizien” is an example). With conflict with German stand Bandera group and the UPA.

The UPA was created by Bandera group. As a symbolic day of its creation is regarding the 14 th of October 1942 – the day of Saint Maria orthodox festival (Saint Maria is the UPA’s patroness). In the beginning of 1943 the first UPA squadron started a fight with the German, Soviet and Poles on Volhynia at one time. On the OUN-B military counsel in the autumn 1942 already was resolved to eliminate all the Poles from the originally Ukrainian territories. The OUN-B decided to give a chance to Poles to take their belongings or to kill every body whose would’ t move [4].

As a first were murdered people of Parośle countryside - in February 1943. Many anti-Polish attacks took place in this region in March and became more intensive in July. Mugging and massacre of inhabitants of 99 countryside took place at this some time. From 1943 to 1944 anti-Polish action extended on Eastern-Galicia. Although, the official order was not to kill before warning and persuading to leave, in practice the Ukrainian partisans attacked the Poles many times without alert, burnt off their houses and killed everyone captured, even women and children. The UPA activity outreached all Eastern-Galicia country (poviats) till June 1945. Home Army started to defend the Polish people, but sometimes had taken also a retribution. For example, in revenge the Polish underground divisions burnt off houses from over 20 Ukrainian countryside on Lubelszczyzna in March 1944. Many of Ukrainian countryside were burnt off between Lubaczów and Sanok from February to April. Among these places was Pawłokoma, where several hundred of the Ukrainians were murdered. Just there, in Pawłokoma the Polish president Lech Kaczyński and the Ukrainian – Wiktor Juszczenko in 2006 year, paid homage to the killed Ukrainians (Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Leonid Kuczma have met in Poryck/Pawlice in 2003 year and paid homage to the murdered Poles).

         The bloody progress of the anti-Polish action became highly controversial, even among the OUN-B members. On the third the OUN-B’ congress in August 1943 appeared opinion that the UPA lost its authority because of banditism and violence during the anti-Polish actions [5]. In spite of this, the leader’s behest forbidding the anti-Polish action was proclaimed just after the trespassing of the Red Army and became obvious that, the Polish and Ukrainian aspiration to be an independent were (comparable) alike to the Soviets and meant nothing to them. Some of attacks on the Polish countryside in Tarnoplosk took place yet, but in the end the agreement of stooping the aggressivity among both of undergrounds was made between April and May 1945 and last till 1947 on Lubelszczyzna. Home Army and the UPA’s squadrons managed to lead even some of the military actions together. The recapture of Hrubieszów in May 1946 was the famous.

During 1945-1947 the UPA tried to contradict of the Ukrainian people displace to USSR and keep communications between USSR and Western-Germany, but were too week. The rest of the Ukrainian were removed by force to “Recovered Lands” by the Polish Communistic authority. The anti-partisan actions between 1947 and 1948, finally eliminated the UPA in Poland.

            The memory of the Ukrainian felony (outrage) on the Polish population under the Communistic authority was maintained in the Polish families even though it was legally forbidden. Under USSR authority in Ukraine obtained the Polish and Ukrainian eternal friendship’ version.

The Poles and Ukrainians could started to freely talk about the jointed history just after the Communism collapsing, but the Ukrainian debate on the UPA focused only on its struggle with the Communistic authorities and fighting Germans.

From 1944, the main enemy of the OUN and the UPA were Soviets. When the Red Army took Volhynia and Eastern-Galicia, the UPA sat up military attacks with the main purpose not to let to came into existence the local administrative structure of the Communistic authorities. An opportunity to success was seen in the beginning of the Third World War or in USSR dissolution.

The Ukrainian underground succeeded many times in struggle with the Soviet repression system. The UPA’s squadrons fought NKWD’ Internal Army, disorganised the Soviet administration and some times introduced even twin-authority. The Communistic activists were killed, small divisions of the Red Army and NKWD were eliminated. During the UPA action on 29 th of February 1944, the Ukrainians wounded commander of The First Ukrainian Front – General Nikołaj Watutin (finally he died from the numerous wounds in April). Mugging on railways, bridges and rail stations were frequent.

The UPA movements impeled USSR authority to use NKVD’ soldiers on its activity region. The Western-Ukraine became territory of the anti-partisan military operations and repressions of civilians. Suspicious of favour with the underground were deported with all family to Siberia and Kazakhstan. The open processes and the public executions of the captived partisans were arranged to intimidated the Ukrainians people. NKWD’s Internal Army had held total 39 773 anti-partisan operations from February 1944 to 1 st of January 1946, killing 103 313 and captured 110 785 “bandits”. 8 370 “active members of the OUN” and 15 959 “active partisans” were arrested. The most of the above-named casualties were civilians. Only during two days in autumn 1947, the Soviets deported over 76 thousands people while “West” operation!

By the Soviet official account made in 1944-1951, from 445 to 500 thousands Western-Ukrainian citizens were killed, arrested or deported while the Soviet repressions of the UPA combating. The total amount is: 155 108 killed and 203 662 deported. Consequently USSR lost over 30 thousands killed during the OUN and the UPA actions [6].

The Western-Ukrainians reluctance against the Communists has a lot in common with the other anti-Soviets actions in USSR. Similarity are showed by the Lithuanian historian – Arvydas Anuśauskas. He claimed that “the largest in all Europe resistance movements were in Lithuania and in Ukraine, even though the different base” [7].

After the independence obtaining, the discussion on veteran privilege for the UPA’ partisans in Ukraine had began. The Poles often don’t perceive that, a valuation of postwar UPA history and controversy on the whole Communistic period constitutes the main point for today’s discussion in Ukraine. An estimate of postwar situation for the veteran privilege for the UPA’ partisans supporters is easy. Jurij Szapował wrote: “There were patriots whose fought for the freedom and independency of one’s nation. And there were also colonists whose smothered this struggle by the violent methods” [8]. On the other side, the UPA’ opponents describe this organisation as a fascist formation, many times treat it also as a creature made by the German security services. In their opinion, the UPA didn’t fight with Germans and didn’t have even the Ukrainian public support. The UPA partisans should be treated like the German collaborationists and war criminals. It is important to notice that, the UPA’ opponents revile the UPA felony but justify the Communistic outrage (like Stalin’s persecution in 1930-1940) at this same time. A distinction about the UPA activity valuation divides Eastern-Ukraine and Western-Ukraine citizens and covers with political division between pro-Russian and pro-Western followers.

Unfortunately, the fact of murdered Poles is often forgotten in the Ukrainians debates, contemporary conflict is brought eventually in the ordinary partisan’s war, where people were killed and the number of murdered is a subsidiary thing.

The Ukrainian historians raised an issue of the anti-Polish operations very rarely in the short records, before 2003. The most frankly about the Ukrainian actions wrote emigration historian – Iwan Łysiak-Rudnyćkyj: “... The Polish-Ukrainian contemporary shambles in the Western-Ukraine were a remarkable tragedy during the II World War (...) the Polish political establishment redounded to provoke a catastrophe by the lack of respect for Ukrainians rights to be free (...) But in this case, we talk about the Ukrainian responsibility. There is a background to think, that the main purpose of the Ukrainian military operation was a “ground’ cleaning” from the Polish people. (...) The OUN bearing with the Poles and the Jewish minority didn’t make the Ukrainians proud” [9].

The mentioned point of view is very uncommon. More often we can read in publications about the Polish government and underground tenacity. Petro Mirczuk and Łew Szankoeśkyj, for example, wrote only, that the Ukrainian underground eliminated series of the Polish outposts. Because of the Polish stubbornness the Ukrainian underground had to make a “third redundant front” [10]. In the Encyclopaedia of Ukraine in the entry (a keyword) of “the UPA” is conceded only that, “a victimize against the Polish combating groups” took place [11]. In the entry of “Poland and Ukraine” a short record says that, when Germany lost their power in 1943, military fights between Ukrainian and German took place. It brought on thousands of victims among rural communities, especially in Volhynia and in the Southern Chełmszczyzna, less in Galicia. After the German fallback (retreat) destruction of part of the Ukrainian people took place on the Polish-Ukrainian boundary line, especially in Western Nadsań and Northern Łemkowszczyzna [12]. It’s pay an attention that, “Encyclopedia” authors use a general wording like “victims” while they are writing about murdered Poles, but when the Ukrainian suffering is the matter they do not hesitate to use sharp tongue and write about “human destruction”.

Debate on the murdered Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia during the II World War took place in Ukraine just in 2003. The main newspapers, the television and radio stations participated in this subject. Next to the undoubtful opinions which decried acts of murdering appeared this which said that the Ukrainian fought on “one’s land” and never hurt civilians. However, a discovery of the tragedy mostly caused abashment but also its range obscurity. That’s why, among the Ukrainian historians prevailed conviction that there was the Polish-Ukrainian war in 1943-1944 where crimes were convicted by the both sides. And this crimes were coequal in the moral light.

           In an interview with Wołodymyr Kosyk for “Szliachu Peremochy” we read: “about butchery of the Poles in Volhynia in 1943-1944 we can talk for a long time, but above all, it must to be said that there wasn’t an odd one-sided bloodbath, but mutual violence and destruction. Between different roots of the conflict, the main was that the Poles wanted transform the Ukrainian land into the Polish one. If the Poles saying that “butchery” was held by the Ukrainians nationalist, we can say that a Ukrainian butchery was organized by the Polish nationalist. [...] The number of victims from the both sides were the same” [13].

That notion is hard to accept from the Polish view. In unison the Polish historians value the UPA’s anti-Polish actions as a crime without excuses, though they quarrel about its origin (“an incorrect nationalistic politics of Poland before 1939” or “a radically national the OUN’ ideology”) or its legal characterisation (“a genocide” or “a war crime” only). Although there was a Polish revenge and sometimes was a really cruel, the scale of events is unequal. As a result of the Ukrainian actions in 1943-1947 were killed 80-100 thousands Poles, meanwhile 2-3 thousands Ukrainians. The loss rapport in Volhynia is enormous: 50-60 thousands victims by the Polish side, 2-3 thousands by Ukrainian one.

No doubt, the appraisal of the basic facts from our past always will cause an argument. Different valuations are natural and they shouldn’t outrage but under one condition – they can not involve instances of breaking the human rights and simples of committed crimes. The Polish civilians’ felony caused a bloody defect on the Ukrainian underground. The UPA activity against Poles was very cruel and from the beginning became inherent a part of its history. The UPA independency’s fight with the Communistic authority lasted for many years and became part of the Western-Ukrainian identity, but this remembrance shouldn’t go together with an abeyance a vindication of the anti-Polish purges.

[1] Armija bezsmertnych. Powstanśki switłyny, red. Wołodymyr Wiatrowycz, Wołodymyr Moroz, Lwiw 2003. Por. Ukrajinśka Powstanśka Armija. Istorija neskorenych, red. Wołodymyr Wjatrowycz, Lwiw 2007.

[2] A. Korman, Ludobójstwo UPA na ludności polskiej. Dokumentacja fotograficzna, Wrocław 2003.

[3] A.B. Szczęśniak, W.Z. Szota, Droga do nikąd. Działalność Organizacji Ukraińskich Nacjonalistów i jej likwidacja w Polsce, Warszawa 1973; R. Torzecki, Polacy i Ukraińcy. Sprawa ukraińska w czasie II wojny światowej na terenie II Rzeczypospolitej, Warszawa 1993; A. L. Sowa, Stosunki polsko-ukraińskie 1939-1947, Kraków 1998; G. Motyka, Tak było w Bieszczadach. Walki polsko – ukraińskie 1943-1948, Warszawa 1999; G. Motyka, Ukraińska partyzantka 1942-1960. Działalność Organizacji Ukraińskich Nacjonalistów i Ukraińskiej Powstańczej Armii, Warszawa 2006; W. Siemaszko, E. Siemaszko, Ludobójstwo dokonane przez nacjonalistów ukraińskich na ludności polskiej Wołynia 1939-1945, t. 1-2, Warszawa 2000; M. Łebed’, UPA, Drohobycz 1993; P. Mirczuk, Ukrajinśka Powstanśka Armija 1942-1952. Dokumenty i materiały, Lwiw 1991; Ł. Szankowśkyj, UPA, w: Istorija ukrajinśkoho wijśka 1917-1995, Lwiw 1996; W. Kosyk, Ukrajina i Nimeczczyna u druhij switowij wijni, Paryż-Niu Jork-Lwiw 1993; A. Kentij, Ukrajinśka Wijśkowa Orhanizacija (UWO) w 1920-1928 rr. Korotkyj narys, Kyjiw 1998; A. Kentij, Narysy istoriji Orhanizaciji Ukrajinskych Nacionalistiw (1929-1941 rr.), Kyjiw 1998; A. Kentij, Narysy istoriji Orhanizaciji Ukrajinśkych Nacionalistiw w 1941-1942 rr., Kyjiw 1999; A. Kentij, Ukrajinśka Powstanśka Armija w 1942-1943, Kyjiw 1999; A. Kentij, Ukrajinśka Powstanśka Armija w 1944-1945 rr., Kyjiw 1999; A. Kentij, Narys borotby OUN-UPA w Ukrajini (1946-1956 rr.), Kyjiw 1999; I. Iliuszyn, OUN-UPA i ukrajinśke pytannja w roky druhoji switowoji wijny (w switli polśkych dokumentiw), Kyjiw 2000; I. Iliuszyn, Protystojannja UPA i AK (Armiji Krajowoji) w roky druhoji switowji wijny na tli dijalnosti polśkoho pidpillja w Zachidnij Ukrajini, Kyjiw 2001; W. Dziubak, Taras Bulba-Boroweć i joho wijśkowi pidrozdiły w ukrajinśkomu rusi oporu (1941-1944 rr.), Kyjiw 2002; A. Rusnaczenko, Narod zburenyj. Nacionalno-wyzwolnyj ruch w Ukrajini j nacionalni ruchi oporu w Biłorusiji, Łytwi, Łatwiji, Estoniji u 1940-1950-ch rokach, Kyjiw 2002; J. Kyryczuk, Ukrajinśkyj nacionalnyj ruch 40-50-ch rokiw XX stolittja: ideołohija ta praktyka, Lwiw 2003.

[4] Polacy i Ukraińcy pomiędzy dwoma systemami totalitarnymi 1942-1945, [Polska i Ukraina w latach trzydziestych-czterdziestych XX wieku, t. 4] Warszawa-Kijów 2005, s. 205-213.

[5] Państwowe Archiwum Służby Bezpieczeństwa Ukrainy, zespół 13, jednostka archiwalna 372, t. 16, ark. 1-17, Protokół przesłuchania oskarżonego Mychajło Stepaniaka z 25 sierpnia 1944 r.

[6] G. Motyka, Ukraińska partyzantka 1942-1960. Działalność Organizacji Ukraińskich Nacjonalistów i Ukraińskiej Powstańczej Armii, Warszawa 2006.

[7] A. Anuśauskas, Ruch oporu na Litwie i metody jego działalności w latach 1944-1956, w: Aparat represji a opór społeczeństwa wobec systemu komunistycznego w Polsce i na Litwie w latach 1944-1956, red. P. Niwiński, Warszawa 2005, s. 55.

[8] J. Szapował, Armija bez derżawy, derżwa bez armiji, w: Dwi Rusi. Ukrajina incognita, red. Łarysa Iwszyna, Kyjiw 2004, s. 342.

[9] I. Łysiak-Rudnyćkyj, Istoryczni ese, t.2, Kyjiw 1994, s. 494-495.

[10] P. Mirczuk, Ukrajinśka...; L. Szankowśkyj, UPA...

[11] Ukrajinśka Powstanśka Armija, w: Encykłopedija Ukrajinoznawstwa, t. 9, Lwiw 2000, s. 3379.

[12] Polszcza j Ukrajina, w: Encykłopedija Ukrajinoznawstwa, t. 6, Lwiw 1996, s. 2250.

[13] „Szliach Peremochy” nr 20/2003 z 8-14 V 2003 r.


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