July 5, 2013

Ukrainian-Polish Relations: the Truth and Myths. "Zakerzonia". Part 2

Zakerzonia Part 2.

The Insurgency of Ukrainians in Zakerzonia: Its Aims and Organization

The objectives of the insurgency of Ukrainians during World War II can be divided into two categories: objectives of distant and near future.

The objectives of a distant perspective were an expression of the main centuries-old aspirations of the Ukrainian people. They were to a certain extent “permanently operating factors” of the Ukrainian nationalist movement and were accepted by members of the underground (OUN, UPA) and those social strata, which were not directly involved in the insurgency, because they professed a legal way to achieve the goal. Here's how these goals may be formulated:

1) The establishment of an independent Ukrainian state by any means necessary — legal or revolutionary.

2) Achievements of if not full independence, then of the national-cultural autonomy, making it possible to preserve and strengthen national values and institutions that promote the development of national consciousness of the people and thus laying the foundation for future independence.

However, the revolt of Ukrainians of Zakerzonia did not come out by itself — from different points of view, it was a continuation of the liberation movement in the Soviet Ukraine. That is why the long term, or strategic, prospect of fellow — fighters for freedom on both sides of the Polish-Soviet border was the same: in the fight to get independence of Ukraine.

Aims of the near or immediate future for Ukrainian insurgents of Zakerzonia reflected specifics of the region in which they operated, and the situation there. They had to:

1) Prevent the Polish authorities from deportation of Ukrainian population of Zakerzonia to the Soviet Union or to other regions of Poland, thus preserving national and ethnic characteristics of the region in anticipation of a future agreement on the territorial demarcation between Ukraine and Poland.

2) Prevent deportation of Ukrainian population in order to maintain its ability to support UPA subunits and combat operations — without this you cannot rely on long-term activity and existence.

3) Establish, maintain and expand political and military organizations in order to use them during emergency situations (for example, during the East-West conflict).

4) Assist the rebel movement in the Great Ukraine:

a) secure communication channels between insurgent in Ukraine and the free world (for example, courier services through Poland and Czechoslovakia to West Germany and Austria);

b) ensure, in case of need, a temporary shelter along the Polish-Soviet border for rebel troops;

a) report to the rebel forces intelligence about the situation at the border;

g) be a reserve for the UPA units, which operate at the territory of Ukraine.

Structure of the Ukrainian insurgency of Zakerzonia, as a part of the rebel movement in Ukraine, copied its organizational structure. Despite the fact that the fighting was on both sides of the border, each of the two components of the liberation movement, the OUN and the UPA had the same organization. The general structure of the Ukrainian liberation movement looked like traditional or "standard" models of rebel formations, successfully operating in the years 1940-1970 (Yugoslavia, China, and Vietnam). Basically it consisted of four components: the secret political organization (OUN), military units (UPA), the center of military commandment and control (the Chief Commandment of UPA) and the National Coordination Body — (Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council —“Ukrainska Holovna Vyzvolna Rada”— UHVR).

The Ukrainian rebel movement in pre-war Poland emerged with the advent of the secret political organization in Western Ukraine — Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which in 1929 came from the midst of the radical organization of veterans of liberation movements of 1917-1920 — Ukrainian Military Organization (“Ukrainska Viyskova Organizatsiya”—UVO). The first phase of the insurgency, the stage of its clandestine activities, had lasted for 13 years, from 1929 to 1942. The second phase, the military one, began in 1942.

OUN was the only political organization in Western Ukraine, which supported the idea of revolution as a means of liberation of Ukraine and formation of an independent state. It contributed to the formation of an armed Ukrainian insurgency and headed it. This movement existed from 1942 to 1948 in Poland, and until 1954 — in the Soviet Union.

This was carried out in several ways:

1) with the help of the system of difunctional leadership: most members of the Chief Commandment and command structures of the UPA were members and even high-ranking officials of the OUN;

2) OUN formed, led and was responsible for the infrastructure of the insurgent and auxiliary (half-guerrilla) groups;

3) OUN developed relationships and established channels of communication in both, political and military echelons of the underground (i.e. a system of courier services and a network of communication through messengers, who transmitted information "from point to point");

4) The Security Service of OUN (“Sluzhba Bezpeky”— SB) functioned also within the UPA as counter-intelligence, and controlled the Military Police;

5) OUN was responsible for formulation of the political doctrine, ideological propaganda in the ranks of the UPA and had been providing subunits of UPA with political educators.

OUN at the territory of Zakerzonia had, in general, the same structure as in the Great Ukraine, but had been adapted to local conditions and requirements of combat operations. The highest body of political authority and control was called Zakerzonsky krayovyi provid (Zakerzonia Regional Leadership). It was subject to the OUN Provid (Leadership) of Ukraine, but was functionally autonomous and consisted of units of traditional management (organizational and staff, security, military, propaganda and intelligence).

OUN was responsible for the development of an organizational infrastructure in Ukrainian communities. The main link was “Kushch” (literally “bush”), modeled according to the scheme of “typical” “kushches”, founded in Ukraine in 1943 during the German occupation. “Kushches” performed primarily administrative functions in communities (in fact, many of them were shadow bodies of local authorities), and were responsible for supplying rebels. Each kushch had its own self-defense unit of 30-40 armed peasants. They legally lived and worked in villages, but as members of the Organization had a certain range of duties: to collect intelligence information on government troops, to guard those bunkers of UPA where there were hidden supplies, and to guard UPA units when they were staying in the village for rest and replenishment of food supplies. Their functions also included participation in special military missions (acts of sabotage), and from time to time providing armed support to rebel forces. After having performed a task, they would return to normal life.

The basic organization of the UPA had evolved through the years of the German occupation of Ukraine
The basic organization of the UPA had evolved through the years of the German occupation of Ukraine

The basic organization of the UPA had evolved through the years of the German occupation of Ukraine. Ukraine's territory was divided into three main regional governances, or General Military Groups (HVO-Holovnyi Viyskovyi Okruh) ): UPA-North, UPA-South (although sometimes it was called UPA-East, but it never had become operational due to peculiarities of military actions and the political situation in Central and Eastern Ukraine), and the third HVO — UPA-West (included Eastern Galicia along the Carpathian Mountains and the territory of Zakerzonia).

Each of the three HVOs, in its turn, was divided into Military Districts (“Viyskovyi Okruh”- VO). When UPA units were cut off from the main Organization in Western Ukraine because of the newly formed Polish-Soviet border, ethnic Ukrainian lands that went to Poland, became Military District VI, code-named "Syan", which included Zakerzonia. The lowest links in the territorial division of the UPA were "tactical segments" (sectors) (TV-“Taktychnyi vidtynok”), into which military districts were divided. District VI had three such tactical sectors. The UPA of Zakerzonia subordinated to the UPA-West in Western Ukraine. However, because of the border having been guarded very well, and due to the specifics of warfare in the South-Eastern Poland, this District had been functioning autonomously.

Unlike other guerrilla rebel troops, Ukrainian nationalists acted on traditional military canons. Perhaps because in their ranks were Ukrainian officers and non-commissioned officers, that at one time served in regular armies of other countries (the Soviet Union, Poland, Germany), and also because they met the age-old desire of Ukrainians to have their own armed forces.

The highest military units of the UPA were “kureni” (“kurin -“hovel”), groups of different fighting capacity, with the number up to a battalion — from 300 to 600 insurgents. The organizational structure of the UPA was supposed to establish regiments (8-І0 companies), but this had never been achieved. Kurins (battalions) consisted of “sotni” (sotnya — “a hundred"), numbering 60-200 insurgents each. They, in turn, were divided into "choty" (platoons), and choty— into “Roi” (Riy — "swarm”) (branches). The traditional military structure varied depending on the conditions of warfare.

Common soldiers of UPA were mainly young peasants, and in some places students and civilians. First, among the rebels there were many veterans of different armies, but because of combat losses, soon in the ranks of the UPA dominated completely inexperienced or with insufficient military experience recruits from local communities of Zakerzonia.

There was a shortage of experienced officers, but there were lots of non-commissioned officers. These people were highly disciplined and fanatically devoted to their work. The issue of security was under a strict control of the Security Service, political educators of the OUN and the UPA Military Police. Each member of the UPA had a pseudonym by which he was known to fellow insurgents. Each unit and area of ​​operations had been coded — this created some difficulties for the state security forces in determining the order of operations and, especially, in planning of the first stages of struggle against insurgents.

The UPA forces in Zakerzonia in 1945-1946 totaled about 1600 — 2400 insurgents, forces of infrastructure and reinforcement (such as self-defense units) — another 5,000 people or so. They were armed with equipment for light infantry, taken from warehouses of retreating armies, or got in combats with security forces. Each unit had a decent arsenal of automatic weapons and was a strong firepower. According to Polish Veterans of counter-insurgency operations, the initial insurgency (1945 — 1946) UPA units, actually, had more fire power than units of the Polish regular Army.

The movement of political and military resistance of Ukrainians, in contrast to the primitively organized and non-coordinated Polish resistance movement (there were 28 separate Polish rebel formations there), had its national coordination center — Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council (Ukrainska Holovna Vyzvolna Rada) (UHVR), founded in 1944. It provided political management of the liberation struggle up to the time of its liquidation by services of the KGB in 1954. All of the OUN and UPA subordinated to UHVR, and so did their respective units in Zakerzonia.

UPA’s Activity and tactics

The period of the activity of UPA in Zakerzonia in 1944-1948, can be divided into four main stages:

1st stage: October 1944 — July 1945: the initial period of the UPA’s activity, when Communist power in Poland was just being established and the country was destroyed.

2nd stage: July 1945 — May 1946: the first use of regular units of the Polish army against the UPA and the first period of large-scale fighting.

3d stage: May 1946 — February 1947: the so-called "bunker period” of the UPA’s activity, when insurgents were forced to move to more inaccessible areas and develop a wide network of bunkers.

4th stage: December 1947 — October 1947: the last battles of UPA and its complete defeat.

In autumn of 1944, during the advance of the Red Army to the West, the Supreme Commandment of the UPA realized that almost all of Ukraine would be a part of the Soviet Union. However, the future shape of Poland at that time had not been formally determined, and the fate of the Ukrainian ethnic enclave of Zakerzonia was unknown. To the Supreme Commandment of UPA, this situation seemed favorable for building a base for future activities in Zakerzonia. The reasons were as follows: these lands were a potential refuge, especially in case if Poland escaped communization; they were inhabited by a supportive community; were suitable for the conduct of insurgent activity; were close to the area where the main UPA’s activity was conducted in the Great Ukraine.

The first determined attempt to expand the insurgency in Zakerzonia was made by the Supreme Commandment of the UPA in October 1944. To this region had been sent a special detachment for inspection, re-organization and coordination of all the smaller UPA units already operating there. The overwhelming majority of the network of OUN in Zakerzonia, which had stayed since 1940 (see above), had survived, that is why the task of its reorganization and formation of the necessary infrastructure to support the armed struggle, was relatively easy.

At the end of 1944 — beginning of 1945 the shifting of the front line westward and the advance of the Red Army and the pro-Communist Polish Army, together with the state Security Forces only for a time suspended the activity of UPA in Zakerzonia. Then within a few months there was no systemic or large-scale attempt to fight the forces of UPA, if not to take into account the newly formed units of the Polish Secret Services and Police. But they had no experience of combat operations against the insurgents, so their activity was to no effect.

During this period, the UPA did not have places of permanent deployment (bases) in Zakerzonia, its units had been camping in forests. Their bases, place for combat training and rest, mobilization points and food warehouses were Ukrainian rural communities. Virtually under every hut and farm in the village were dug bunkers (“kryivkas”). UPA units operated semi-legally, relocations were carried out during the day, often using major and minor roads. According to one of the Polish officers, a veteran of battles with insurgents, in many regions the Ukrainian underground formed their own illegal bodies of local public administration. They used the difficulties of the “newly born people power” of Poland and were often the only real power, both for Ukrainian and for Polish population in the region.

Another veteran of battles against the UPA, General Ignacio Blum, describes the then situation as follows:

UPA units broke the routine of life in the areas of their activity. Thus, in Rzeszow province in 1945 were completely paralyzed bodies of rural governance. They were functioning only in two areas, in some villages they had been appointed four times, but the UPA kept destroying them… Most of Local Defence (civilian Police) have been liquidated ...

Deluded by increasing their ranks and freedom of action in the first months of 1945, insurgents had become unnecessarily arrogant, complacent and they even neglected security measures. So for them it was a total surprise when in July 1945 in the region arrived first detachments of the Polish regular Army, from which the insurgents suffered heavy losses. The Polish government sent to the South-Eastern province almost three divisions to strengthen the security of the local population, to ensure a successful implementation of the resettlement program and the fight against insurgents. They gradually pushed the UPA units out of villages. And they were forced to move to more suitable for guerrilla activities foothills. There they built new places for camping and bunkers, as well as improved tactics and strengthened discipline. Zakerzonia was territorially divided into areas of action of kurins (battalions) and sotnyas (companies), and the main efforts were directed at disrupting of the deportation of Ukrainians of Zakerzonia to the Soviet Union—attacks on relocation offices, intimidating or kidnapping of their employees, destroying documents.

In 1945, the UPA mainly used the tactics of combat by units numbering up to a hundred and sometimes up to a “kurin” (battalion). They often organized ambushes on small units and patrols, attacked local Police stations, Security Services management and of local governments. But, as a rule, they avoided open clashes with large formations of the regular Army. UPA units damaged communication lines, stopped trains with deported Ukrainians, and blew up trucks, bridges and railway stations. Sometimes they attacked local industrial objects: oil storage tanks, sawmills, food storages.

Against the leaders of the local scale, Communist Party functionaries and civil servants was used selective terror.UPA units had a large arsenal of automatic weapons and a good mobility (some of them were on horseback.) They knew the area and had an excellent intelligence network. Sometimes insurgents put on the uniform of the Polish Army, disorienting both, local population, and government Security Forces, who were forced to develop special system of recognition and take safety measures. UPA units often crossed into the territory of Czechoslovakia, to avoid meeting government troops, and there they had combat trainings, rest, or just were trying to buy time. In general, their confrontation (fighting or avoiding it) with regular Army units had been successful. Since the latter still did not have sufficient experience in conducting operations against insurgents, were not familiar with the terrain, were widely dispersed and needed a lot of personnel to perform the tasks (improving security for the local population, resettlement plan, operations against partizans). From time to time units of UPA managed to suspend the resettlement plan at certain intervals — when government troops had to temporarily switch to counter-insurgency operations.

To be continued