The Polish failure to take into account Ukrainian aspiration in the inter-war period led to a situation in which the centers of Ukrainian political activity ended up outside of Poland and functioned on foreign soil up until the Second World War—great political blunder.
From the translator: It is worth noting that this monumentally grim recollection on Ukrainians and Polish statehood, written by Major Henryk Krzeczkowski, begins from the plain statement that there exists a deep hatred of Poles by the Rus people who are now called “Ukrainians” and that democracy was introduced in the region that would become modern Ukraine. The tendency of Western citizens to presume that non-democratic orders exist at the expense of inter-national order and harmony is often a result of our ignorance of real history and a failure to account for human imperfection in the form of deep-rooted stupidity and hatred which must be tamed by strong political power. For Poles, this is a dire warning—if Mr. Krzeczkowski is correct in his analysis, then the nexus around which the destruction of Poland in 1939 was built was the failure of Polish statesmanship to intelligently resolve the Ukraine question. Given that the destruction of Poland in 1939 was a prelude to the destruction of Eur-Asia, this is not merely a matter of Polish concern. Now, as modern Poles once again struggle with this issue, it is my belief that failure will eventually lead first to a shift in Western opinion towards the idea that only the Great Powers can reconcile this difficult situation and eventually to a wider war in which said powers will resolve it through force. Thus far, it appears that ignorance is the greatest obstacle to intelligent policy. This ignorance was at the root of the Western support for the Maidan revolution. Anyone who reads this essay will surely recognize that the last thing any thoughtful human being or serious statesman would do is rejoice at the news that “The People” of this region have organized to violently overthrow a government. To prevent further errors of political judgment, it is necessary to go beyond Churchill’s sentiment that the Ukraine question is a matter for pygmies; and instead to recognize—as Henryk Krzeczkowski did—that it is the central question to the future of Eur-Asian political order. The failure to resolve it will lead to a catastrophic war. The matter cannot be resolved unless we take a cue from the author and put away all sentiment, all emotion, all hope, all pretenses to wishful thinking—and look at the cold, hard facts of history.
“The Rus people hate Poles with the hatred of a tribe, of a language, of a faith; the hatred of a slave, a slave so oppressed, so belittled, and despite this—or perhaps because of this—the Rus people are so apt to honestly accept the word of salvation, and recent events have given the Rus people the opportunity to focus its hatred to a lesser extent than others, towards the propagators—towards the Emmigrants, or even to display a greater favoritism for them, a favoritism that effectively displayed their capacity to sacrifice themselves.” These are the words we read in a memorandum written by Goszczyński to the Polish Democratic Association 130 years ago; on 27 December, 1838.
The Ukraine question, above all the question of Halicka Rus in Galicia, was the outgrowth of the spread of democratic convictions. The Ukraine question was an acknowledgement of the right of the people to self-determination, of the equal, communal right to partake in social-political affairs. It is another matter that the Gołuchowskis and Stadions, made of the Galician question something of the “Schwarz-gelb” mold, as W. Budzynowski—one of the later Russo-Ukrainian publicists would write with bitterness: “Not even in my wildest dreams would I have been capable of conceiving something so disgusting as the political stance which the leaders of the Rus movement have taken in 1846… The Ruses—the infamous Tirols of the East—took a stance agains the national-political movements of other nationalities , even those nationalities which had never done harm to the Rus, such as the Italians.”
Vienna, all the way up through the 1920s, was in fact a Mecca which drew to itself all of the great leaders of Ukrainian nationalism. In 1919, the Imperial Kingdom of the Habsburg Monarchy was turned to dust. At this time, in Lvóv, the Ukrainian National Council was constituted under the auspices of Eugeniusz Petruszczewicz. This Council appealed to the right of nations to self-determination as the basis for its legitimacy. It announced to the world that the entire ethnographically Ukrainian territory of the former Austro-Hungary (Galicia all the way to the San river, Lemkovina, northwest Bukovina, Subcarpathian Rus) was heretofore to constitute the state of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Council called upon all national minorities in Ukraine to organize themselves and send representatives to the Ukrainian Council. The Ukrainian Council also announced that it would draft a constitution for the entire state, and that the constitution would create a commonwealth based on equality of the vote and a secret ballot, with proportional representation guaranteed to national minorities. The Ukrainian Council further refused to be represented by the Austro-Hungarian ministry of foreign affairs, and insisted upon sending its own delegation to the peace conference. Despite all of this, the Ukrainian Council was compelled to evacuate Lvóv on 21 November; first for Tarnopol, and then by January 1919—made its way to Stanisławów. When the June offensive of the Galician army began to collapse and the army began to win against the Ukrainians, the high commission of the peace conference decided to recommend that Poland should occupy Galicia through the Zbrucz river, and use the Haller army (freshly arrived from France) to secure this territory.
At the very same time, the Polish government was given full authority to create an administrative government over the Rus Halicka and to enter into agreements with the principal allied powers as well as those powers admitted into the alliance, which would guarantee a broadly understood level of regional autonomy to the entire territory of Rus Halicka, as well as political, religious and personal freedom to the Ukrainian people. This entire agreement was supposed to be firmly rooted in the right of the Rus Halicka to self-determination, and of the people to become citizens of the state. On 20 November, 1929, the High Council ratified a project for a treaty between the allies and Poland regarding the matter of Galicia. On the basis of this treaty, Poland would occupy Rus Halicka with a Polish administration for the duration of 25 years. Following 25 years, the League of Nations—not the people of Galicia—were to decide the fate of the region.
For a short time (August-September 1921) there had been a tendency in the Polish government in Warsaw to seek a friendly solution to the problem at the cost of the self-liquidation of the émigré government in Vienna. A proposal to hold a conference was made by the Ukrainian leader E. Petruszewicz to the Polish leaders Piłśudzki, Witos, and Skirmunt. The Poles refused the offer of the Ukrainians claiming that the Ukrainians have no right to speak for Galicia because “on the basis of article 91 of the treaty of St. Germaine, the Galicia question can only be decided by the Great Powers.” The Poles decided to exploit the psychology of the Ukrainian émigré government in Vienna for Polish advantage. The Ukraine question was, at the time, an inconvenience for Polish statehood because the Ukrainians, as voters, could have elected around 20 people from three southeastern regions into the Polish parliament (along with Ukrainians from the lands that were previously Russian territories) – this possibility could have introduced a new element into Galician matters in 1922-23 which were maturing on the international arena towards some sort of conclusion. E. Pietruszewicz was unable to understand that elections in the fall of 1922 were inevitable and that the lack of Ukrainians coming out to vote would warm the hearts of the Polish right and bury the Ukrainian question for a long time coming.
Pietruszewicz did not manage to engage in any meaningful political activity in which the government he represented would have been an objective force, acting on the basis of the national interest of Ukraine. It is true that the Ukrainian imagination at the time was consumed with memories of the lost war of 1918-1919, and a great faith in the Entente powers—a faith that the Ukrainians of Halica held fast to until 15 March 1923, hoping (for no good reason) that the Entente would eventually grant Ukraine the status of an independent nation-state. Above all, Ukrainians, from the time of Chmielnicki, were cultivating a noteworthy hatred of Poles and Poland. Ukrainians began to feel that Ukrainian patriotism was duty bound to oppose the Versailles treaty, independent of whether such opposition would lead to any practical benefits. At the same time, the entire effort of the Halica Ukrainians was used up by thinking or dreaming that someone somewhere would simply grant them different terms and conditions than those agreed to at Versailles. It really did not matter what those new terms or conditions might be, only that they be different from those set by the Allies. Amongst Ukrainians, it became a matter of duty to always be opposed to anything that Poland was for, and to always stand with those who stood against Poland. The treaty of Rapallo excited Ukrainians because it held out the prospect of German-Soviet cooperation against Poland. As for the great moral pressure exerted upon Ukrainian nationalists by the Germans, its main effect was to prevent any type of realistic political thinking amongst the Halicia Ukrainians. The reality of Polish-Ukrainian relations in the inter-war years were never a source of satisfaction to anyone except foreign powers.
The treaty of Riga set the Polish-Soviet border at the Zbrucz river. The Entente agreed to this and the council of Ambassadors, in a resolution dated 14 March 1923, acting under the prerogative of article 87 of the Versailles treaty and article 91 of the Treaty of St. Germain, acknowledged Poland’s eastern border as that indicated in the Treaty of Riga. It was from this moment on that Ukrainians began to argue that Polish statehood was illegitimate. The Ukrainian refusal to acknowledge the Polish state was first manifested by the Ukrainian boycott of elections to the Parliament and the Senate in 1922. The Ukrainians took the bulk of their political activity outside of Poland; to Paris and Vienna, later to Berlin and Prague. Ukrainian political activity soon became Terrorist activity. The operating vehicle for Ukrainian Terrorism against Poland became the Ukrainian Military Organization. Long before coming to power in Germany, Adolf Hitler was enthusiastic about the prospect of creating an independent state of Ukraine in Europe. The terrorist Ukrainian Military Organization was later put under the care of a Hitler loyalist: Alfred Rosenberg. The German secret services also entered the fray in the person of Colonal Nicolai, who was intent upon using Ukrainian extremists functioning in colonies established in Canada and the United States. It was Hitler’s loyalist, Rosenberg, who initiated the international organization which came to be known as the Ukrainian Nationalist Movement. In Germany, special schools were opened in the German free city of Danzig (Polish Gdańsk) to train Ukrainians in techniques such as espionage, blackmail, diversion, black-ops, poisoning, and looting. The German ministry of the army opened this school in Gdańsk in 1928.
The Ukrainian Nationalist Movement was at its peak when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalist (OUN) was elated and excited, they hoped that any moment now, with the rise of Adolf Hitler, a Polish-German war would erupt during which time the Ukrainians would be able to execute a beneficial policy of diversion against the Poles. The Ukrainian nationalists hoped that an anti-Soviet crusade was in the making. They hoped that this crusade would destroy Russia and lead to the establishment of an independent Ukraine with a population of 40 million people. It was from this moment on that the Polish police noted higher levels of activity amongst the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in Rus Halicka. For the moment, a Polish-German pact is signed and the USSR joins the Leage of Nations. These events convince the more moderate elements in the Ukrainian National Democratic Union to reconsider their intense anti-Polish sentiments. The leadership elements amongst the Ukrainian National Democrats decide to attempt to de-escalate Polish-Ukrainian relations and normalize them. The hope to create the conditions for Piemont in the lands of western-Ukraine, the conditions for the development of “creative Ukrainian nationalism.” To this end, the Ukrainian National Democrats ally themselves to the Polish sanation government under the banner of legal political struggle for territorial autonomy within the Polish republic.
The Ukrainian society is then torn by internal struggle on account of ideological differences. A wave of radicalization comes over them in their national and social conduct. On the one hand, some Ukrainians tend towards radical Communism. Other Ukrainians tend towards radical nationalism. The end result is that the Ukrainian people as a whole become radical Nationalist Communists. The Nationalists believe that only those powers in Europe which oppose the Versailles treaty and have a revisionist view of things can effectively help create the conditions for the rise of Ukraine as a state. Ukrainians see Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany as the best chance for the realization of their ambitions. Ukrainians see their future in Rosenberg’s dreams of renegotiating the Treaty of Brzesk. Ukrainians no longer held out any hope for Poland to help them, because of the Polish-Soviet pact which solidified the status quo at the Zbrucz river and thus negated any chance for Ukrainian independence over the Dniepr river. This view was clearly elucidated in the monthly ideological magazine of the Ukrainian National Front “Peremoha” (March 1935) by Z. Pełeński in his article “The Iron is Hot.”
He took a negative view of all of the stances taken by subsequent Polish governments and by Polish public opinion as being a poorly thought out set of solutions to the Ukraine question—not counting one exception: the negative assimilation program of extermination brought to the fore by the National Democrats. This fantasy of a program had no chance of ever being put into effect. “We Ukrainians are politically hungry—In all things, we are totally set upon conquest.” Polish statehood was seen as a negation of Ukrainian dynamism. Polish statehood was tending towards a total integration of western Ukrainian lands on the basis of the national-assimilation principle, forcing the assimilation of Ukrainians in Volyn, in three southeastern regions. Polish statehood aimed to effect a political impotence amongst the Ukrainian intellectual classes. The tragedy of Polish political thought rests in the fact that Poles recognized that they would be incapable of liquidating Ukrainian dynamism—a dynamism that could not be satiated with any level of cultural or material largess. A positive solution to the Ukraine question could only be reached by the Ukrainians if the historical-creative goals of Ukrainians were met with understanding, by “the proper ordering of Eastern European affairs and the intermarium in general, and of the Baltic and Black Sea areas in particular. Practical life has demonstrated that Poland will not be capable of making such decisions, and thus Polish politics evokes disbelief amongst Ukrainians, as if it were a dull thud. On the other hand, all legal Ukrainian political activity is viewed by Poles with suspicion; Poles spy hints of separatist sentiments in any Ukrainian thought or action. Poles treat legal Ukrainian opposition as a double-edged sword and sense duplicity in it.”
Pre-war Poland was a nation-state saturated by ethnic minorities (36% of citizens were ethnic minorities). If the Ukrainian minority had become a partner of the Polish nation, then it would soon turn out that the nation-state which would shine the brightest amongst foreign tribes in the Carpathians and Bukovin would be the Republic of Poland. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists journal, published in Czerniowce, “Samostijnist”, editorialized on the subject of normalization between Ukrainians and Poles: “The only type of normalization possible is Judgement, and the only sovereign Judge can be Blood and Iron.” The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists looked for support in Prague and in Bucharest. The OUN temporarily ignored the problem of the Romanization of Bukovina and of the Russification of the Carpathian regions so as to gain a free hand in its ambitions to pursue its goals in Poland to the greatest extent. On the other hand, Ukrainians who could not find any support in Poland sought cooperation with other nations; those in Subcarpathian Rus sought cooperation with the Chechs against Poland. It was there that, in 1938, the so-called “Carpathian Ukraine” was created in order to speak for the Ukrainian people as the only non-Soviet Ukrainian political entity in Europe.
The very fact of the creation of this microcosmic political organism electrified Ukrainian intellectuals who had been educated by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists; they grew in their hysteric hatred of Poland and their hysterical love of all things German. A portion of a letter to the editor, written in those times and sent to a journal, says it all: “A chasm of hatred divides Poles and Ukrainians. We will never take the side of Poland. We will forever take the side of Germany. Hitler and Ribbentrop, during their meeting with the Chechoslovakian minister of foreign affairs, Chwalkowski, and with the Minister of Carpathian Ukraine, discussed plans to use Carpathian Ukraine as a military staging ground against both Poland and the USSR. The sentiments of the Polish Ukrainians to the question of the Carpathian Rus has made it so that even the Poles centered around the Polish-Ukrainian bulletin have begun to question their stance,” with Wł. Bączkowski at the head—for whom the idea of an independent Ukraine on the Dnieper river had been an immutable guide post in Eastern political affairs. The idea of territorial autonomy of those areas inhabited by Ukrainians eventually came to be seen by Poland as definitive nonsense. Poland protested against the artificial political entity that Germany maintained along the Danube. Poland was joined in this protest by Italy and by Hungary. Half a year prior to the outbreak of World War II, the Subcarpathean Rus is assimilated into the territory of Hungary. Poland was no longer capable of playing a leading political role regarding the Ukraine question.
Parallel to the Western orientation, Ukrainians also began looking East, towards Russian support. Both the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later the Ukrainian Nationalists had made efforts to instill the Ukrainian working class with a hatred of the Russian nation—and both had failed in their efforts. The volunteers brought together by the Ukrainian nationalists in the Ukrainian legions “siczowe strzelcy”, who fought in Rus Halicka, and the “kurenia huculsko-bukowińska” were at best able to run away or surrender to the Russian army. In 1915, thousands of people suspected of sympathizing with Russia were either shot and killed, hung or shipped to the Thalerhof internment camp. Ukrainian nationalist propaganda that attempted to influence Ukrainian prisoners of war in Austro-German camps also failed. The Ukrainian prisoners in Austro-German camps were enraged and refused to take up arms against mother Russia. Even Lenin, in 1917, called this “an amazing fact.”
Other examples in the vein of Pietruszewicz and Penejko’s nationalist democratic tendencies in the inter-war years were not rare. Nor were examples of numerous Ukrainians returning to their Russian roots. A good example of the mood in those times, characterized by the idea of the one, indivisible Rossiya was to be found in the “Poslednije Nowosti” (dated 1951), a journal run by the likes of Milukow, W. Panejko, the former Minister of Foreign affairs of “The People’s Republic of Western Ukraine”: “The thing is that in 1772 the last hour of the Russian nation has struck! By giving up its possessions in the Galicia region, Russia has thereby loosened the bonds that tied it to the Rus peoples in those areas with the one and indivisible mother Russia.” Under the influence of the Poles and the Austrians, the people here have been educated to hate everything Russian (continued Panejko, who himself was a former representative of the Ukrainian-Halicka community)—and today we see how Ukrainian national sentiment is reborn as an instrument of both German and Polish imperialism. This hatred to all things Russian was not, however, very deep, given that the Pope of Halicz [translator’s note: Russian orthodox priests are called “Popes”] accepted a declaration dated 17 July 1934, presented on behalf of 300 citizens of his town, all of whom declared their heartfelt desire to convert to Russian orthodox Christianity. Analogous situations took place in the most Roman Catholic areas of Stanisławowczyzna as well. The love of Russia by the people of Lemkow defended itself against Ukrainian political identity by recourse to Orthodox faith. One of the great Greek-Orthodox writers, Father Kostelny, was himself more inclined to cooperation with the East. In his view, any attempt to cooperate with the West always ended in an overall loss of Ukrainian prospects. In this way, almost spontaneously, one of Iwanow’s opinions from the “National Voice” began to take hold, an opinion which was based on the mission given to Russians who occupied Lvóv in 1914: to abolish the union.
All-Russia opinion was heard legally and freely in other countries as well. In 1938, W.W. Szulgin’s brochure “The Anschluss & Us” was printed in 1938 in Belgrade. The author, a White Guard patriot of Great Russia tried to prove that the original Anchluss was in fact executed on 8 January 1654 by Chmielnicki in Parejsław where he united the northern nation with the southern rus nation. The entire affair could not be summed up better than with the words “Ein Volk.” The Hetman combined Greater Rus with Rus Minor into one state: “Ein Reich.” Bohdan then put one Tsar with absolute power at the head of both “Rus” nations: “Ein Fuhrer.”
One other element which influenced the Russophilism in Wołyń, Polesie, Podlasie and Chełmszczyzna was the militant neo-Union missionary work of the Catholic Church, intent upon conquering the schismatic Eastern Orthodox Church and bringing it under the patronage of St. Józef Kuncewicz and the Blessed Andrzej Bobola. The Unification movement, which continued all the way through to the last years prior to World War II was energetically pursued by both the Redemptorists and the Jesuits. It was also actively supported by Bishop Przeździecki and Fulman, as well as silently supported by certain circles of Halicka Ukrainians. It was seriously resisted by Orthodox Christian Ukrainians from the previous Russian partitions. It was also the subject of severe criticism by Ukrainians living in the United States of America.
The rise of the Eastward orientation in Western Ukraine was thus the logical consequence of Polish policy and sullied the reputation of Poland insofar as, following 1930, there was a rise amongst the old Ruses of a yearning for Moscow. True, the Old Ruses (10% of the Ukrainian population in those times) were by and large loyal to the Polish state, and thus also lent themselves to great hopes on the part of Poles that Ukrainians would maintain conservative tendencies, and Poles hoped that it would yet be possible to turn Ukrainians into “Old Ruses”—despite the fact that the evolution of the Rus peoples was tending in the opposite direction (translator’s note: towards Ukrainian nationalism). The failure of Poles to find any good reason to support the development of Ukrainian culture effected a total separation of Ukrainian national culture and Ukrainian science from Polish influence. To give one example: in 1931, the Soviet Republic of Ukraine printed 6218 Ukrainian scientific-cultural publications. Meanwhile, in the Republic of Poland, over the course of 11 years (1924-1934), the number of Ukrainian language publications of cultural and scientific worth was 3104. Statistics (Mały Rocznik Statystyczny) show that there were 223 journals in the Ukrainian language published in Poland with a print run of 300,000 copies. It is therefore not hard to understand why the Ukrainian people were less prone to support Poland.
Many reading groups of the educational association Prosvita and even Prosvita itself were eventually overtaken by the Soviet spirit. The reading groups became hubs of radicalism, even communism. This all led the Polish sanation government to shut down all Prosvita associations in Wołyń and all “Red Houses” in Chemłsczyzna (Ridnej Chaty). Following 1933, Poland banned the publication of 595 books and 242 periodicals in the Ukrainian language. Amongst the banned works were Szewszenko’s Kobzarz, Młoda Ukraina by Iwano Frank, P. Doroszenki’s “History of Ukraine”, Kulisza’s stories and Ukrainian theatre plays. There were cases where a general rule was adopted to simply ban all written works in the Ukrainian language.
The Ukrainian psyche was dramatically affected by the fact that Poles destroyed Ukrainian grave stones, crosses and memorials honoring the soldiers of the Galician Army who died fighting against both the Poles and the Russians in 1914-1920. Poland also banned the singing of songs of thanksgiving for the soldiers. One of the principle causes of Ukrainian hatred towards Poland was the Polish manner of underscoring at every step the notion that Poland was culturally superior as a civilization to Ukraine and of Polish claims that the Jagielonian dynasty was proof of this superiority. Every act of arson, every brawl was used as an excuse to excite Polish public opinion against Ukrainians. The effective end of any assimilationist policies could be seen as the declaration of the Sekretariat Porozumiewawczy polskich Organizacji Społecznych dated 9 November, 1937, signed by Prof. Grabski. The authors of this declaration, though inspired by chauvinistic sentiments, nevertheless came to the correct conclusions that the Ukrainians must be allowed to develop their own culture. “The interest of preserving Polish cultural and national expansion against un-Polish nationalism in Eastern Lower Poland…do not require of the Ruses or the Ukrainians the resignation from a struggle for their own national-cultural expansion, because our people will certainly not give up our fight.”
Yes… Poland! We have many a score to settle with Poland. Here, there and elsewhere. Yet these are all local conflicts. Despite their tragic nature, these conflicts will never be able to live up to the notion of collective national ideals, not only its portions, but its entire totality….The most extreme Jagielonian ideologues do not reach—in their dreams—farther than Zbrucz and Słucz… it would be naïve of us to focus our politics on these aspirations when right next to us we have a nation which claims for itself the right to the entire territory of Ukraine, even to this part—Galicia—which never belonged to her… The concept of this ancient and vast conflict between Europe and Russia seems to compel us to be on that side of the barricade. Either we support all of what used to be “western” Russia (and the new countries on its frontiers) and take the appropriate temporary measures and suffer the necessary losses on our path towards Ukrainian sovereignty, or—we opt for anti-Polish, anti-Romanian politics in order to destroy the Frontier (Kresy)/Western nation-states and attempt to conquer the Ukrainian portions of Poland and Romania at the cost of then uniting ourselves in full with Russia and thereby loosing for all time in favor of Russia, thereby helping Russia bury forever all hope of Ukrainian independence.
The Polish government, acting on the basis of the agreement with Petlura from 1920 which left Rus Halicka within the borders of the Republic made contact (via Father mitrata Wojnarowski) with the Western Ukrainian government in August-September 1931 with the following proposal: first the Petruszewicz government will acknowledge the existence of the Polish government and abolish itself. Following this, negotiations on the nature of regional autonomy may proceed. One year later, the Polish parliament will pass the bill dating 26 September 1922 for three regions of Rus Halicka which will allow for separate religious curias for each national group. This bill was never passed into law because the government in Warsaw faced the following alternative: either it would pass the law and allow the Ukrainians in the southeastern Kresy region to constitute the majority relative to Poles, or to enforce government by commissar and therefore disenfranchise the Ukrainians. The second option was chosen in 1933 and a law on the homogenization of local government was passed. Ergo, a restoration of at least the outward forms of self-government in Galicia would have been welcome by the people of Ukraine.
However, by 1923, the Polish government made it impossible for moderate elements in Ukrainian politics to have even the slightest chance to formulate a realistic political program. It was then that Podhorski declared the stance of the Ukrainian parliamentary representatives from the tribune of the parliament: they demanded autonomy within the borders of the Polish republic and in return the Ukrainian senators and peers would vote for the state budget. The government of Sikorski did not live up to his part of the bargain, which led to a split in the Ukrainian parliamentary representation. The men responsible for Poland did not find the capacity to improve relations amongst the national groups making up the republic; they ignored the Ukrainians within their polity. They limited themselves to exploiting individuals who were co-opted for tactical gains relative to foreign powers. This was the case with the chliborobów group of Father Ilkow (The Ukrainian Farmers Club) which was placed on the steps of the Polish parliament in 1922 in order to swear a loyalty oath to Poland; an event Poland then used to their benefit on the international forum.
Then came the language laws of 31 July, 1924. These laws completely destroyed the excellent Ukrainian popular education system. Civil servants of Ukrainian descent were ostracized even further. The number of colonialist laws and directives multiplied. National policy was made the sole domain of the Polish National Democratic party. Under the circumstances, the Ukrainian society began to turn its faith towards the idea of “self-reliance” rather than reliance on aid from foreign powers. In terms of relations with the outside world, Ukrainians were isolated—simply separated from matters of Polish government and from Polish society as a whole; limiting itself to manifestos on the floor of the parliament, which Ukrainians treated as a bully pulpit from which to voice their grievances to the world at large. Tending towards self-reliance, Ukrainians opened a secret university in Lwów, organized underground schools and a prosperous mode of communal ownership. It is at this time that Sel-Rob makes its debut. Sel-Rob is the largest pro-Soviet group active alongside the official and formal Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) which is a crystalized form of militant nationalism.
The rise in extremism alongside the forces propagating work at the organic level caused great social divisions, but also led to violent internal conflicts within the various groups. Ukrainians succumbed to extremism to the extent of allowing all of their institutions; economic, educational—even entertainment—to be saturated with political ideology. All the institutions of Ukrainian life acted as if loyal to a prime directive: the ideal of political sovereignty. Ukrainian institutions subsidized political journalism, education, the arts, political activity—these institutions took on the façade of government ministries of an anonymous state within the state. The end result was a slow but steady process of ghettoization of Ukrainians living in Poland. The tensions in Polish-Ukrainian relations grew, as did the tensions between Ukrainians themselves, until finally—in the summer of 1930—these tensions reached their peak.
Already by 1924, we see diversionary combat in Wołyń. Armed Ukrainian bands attack police stations and rail way stations, burning them down. Armed Ukrainian bands attack tax offices and take back the taxes collected by the state, as well as taking back wheat which was collected as tax. Starting in 1927 with a farmer’s strike in Samborszczyzna, there is a general conspiracy of Ukrainian farmers who refuse to go to work their master’s fields. By 1929, 120 farm communities strike. From 1920 onward, numerous Ukrainian farm communities go up in flames; the Ukrainians burn their crops. In the day, the Ukrainians burn the manor houses of the landowners, the homes of the colonists, the Orthodox Popes and the rich farm proprietors. At night, the Ukrainians attack military outposts. What starts as 1-2 acts of arson per day reaches its zenith in September: from 12-18 acts of arson per night. The UWO and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists attempts to tie their efforts to those of Ukrainian farmers. They tear down statues, rip Polish state emblems off of buildings, murder local magistrates and set fire to Polish buildings. At this point, a state of unofficial martial law commences in the lands of Western Ukraine.
The Polish government takes the initiative and begins to conduct reprisals against the local people, rooted in the principle of collective guilt. “Show them no mercy” was the banner under which police squadrons and Polish cavalry charged into western Ukrainian farming villages. Western Ukraine had never in its history undergone such rape. Farmers saw their houses completely destroyed, cultural and economic institutions were devastated, the Prosvita, the Cooperatives, even the local schools were all closed down. The schools in Tarnopol, Rohatyn, Drohobycz—all of them were shut down. The Ukrainian boy scouts “Płasta” were disbanded. 30 Ukrainian members of parliament were all jailed. 5 of them were sent to the Brzesk prison. Libraries and monuments were ravaged. Whenever the local people would hear of Polish forces nearing their village, they would flee into the forrest and stay there for many days. Polish forces had a habit of returning to villages they had already destroyed once before.
For the first time—all of the bourgeois parties in Ukraine condemned the anti-Polish uprisings; the Union of Ukrainian Democrats, the Catholics, the Radicals, even the Social Democrats—all of them called for an end to the strikes, but also condemned the Polish reprisals which were conducted indiscriminately on the basis of collective guilt. Proof of this can be seen in the Ukrainian bourgeois press: Diło, Nowyj Czas; the declaration of the UNDO-USRP party, and even a pastoral letter from the metropolite Szeptycki as well as Greco-Catholic priests (13, October 1930)—all denouncing acts of sabotage and reprisal on the basis of collective guilt. Nevertheless, the personal intervention of the Metropolite Szeptycki with the government in Warsaw and the Ukrainian Democrat’s appeals had no effect: the pacification of the Ukrainian uprising continued. Mass arrests, deportations to the Brześć prison—all of this continued. The time for talk had come to an end.
The political division of the Ukrainian problem into a number of separate geopolitical Ukrainian problems continues—each given a different hue according to the interested party and region. Events at the time caused a great rise in Russophilism as the Old Rus began to look to Moscow for aid. At the heart of the Ukrainian’s grievances is the “Sokalski cordon” and the law on communal ownership—a law which did great harm to Ukrainian entrepreneurship. The rise in tensions in the Halicka Rus in 1933 almost leads to an explosion of passions on both sides of the divide.
The internal conflict amongst Poles for the future nature of their regime and the geometry of Polish political divisions put the Ukrainians in a difficult position: who were they to support? The Polish government… or the Polish parliament? For the Ukrainians, it mattered little which political party governed, let alone what the nature of the regime was. All they cared about was the national minorities policy and the content, not the form of the regime. The first talks between the Ukrainian parliamentary representatives and the Sławek government commenced in 1931. By this point, it was not only political theorists, but statesmen themselves who had come to the conclusion that a strong Poland was in the interest of the Ukrainians. Yet if Poland was to be a strong nation-state, it had to make peace with the Ukrainians living in the Kresy, and the basis of this peace were to be certain reforms. These reforms were supposed to open up the prospect of cultural and economic development to Ukrainians, as well as allow for Ukrainians to serve in the Polish government administration. Unfortunately, the entire “normalization” process effectively ended on an election compromise in 1935—a compromise immediately broken after the elections. This compromise did not even take under consideration Wołyń, Polesie, Chełmszczyzna—these areas were not even represented.
Enter the impasse. The political process of normalization of Polish-Ukrainian relations had failed, and a sort of malaise set upon all Ukrainian life. This malaise gave off the impression—in the eyes of Poles—that the Ukrainians were backing off, retreating even. Poles decided that this was the moment of opportunity to strike, to go on the offensive. This was the source of the psychological lack of a desire for compromise amongst Poles. Proof of this can be glanced by surveying the press of that time, or by reading many of the slanted manifestos proclaimed in Lwów.
Following two-and-a-half years in which the compromise measures are not effected, the V Congress of the Ukrainian Democratic Organization opts, in 1938, for offensive measures in the form of effecting the organic union of the Ukrainian nation within the borders of the Republic and the abolition of the Sokalski Cordon. It further protests against the prohibition of the right of the Ukrainian people in Wołyń, Polesie and Chełmszczyzna to set up their own national, economic, cultural and educational organizations. It also protests against all attempts at Polonization of the Orthodox Church and for the regulation of the Orthodox Church in accordance with the desires of the faithful of the Ukrainian nation. The dissolution of the Polish parliament and the Polish senate in 1938 created a new internal situation for the Ukrainians. Palijew’s National Front calls for the immediate creation of a Ukrainian National Council made up of all independent, known political groups who stand for the struggle for national rights of the Ukrainian nation. The Ukrainian Democrats, despite all previous experiences, stand for elections in order to use the Polish parliament to fight for their basic postulate in Poland—the postulate for territorial autonomy for Ukrainian lands.
The events of 1938 initially taking place in Czechoslovakia in the Fall seem to demonstrate that all attempts to review and alter the Versailles treaty immediately bring the Ukraine question to the fore. The international press reflected this reality at the time. In the far East, articles were published about the Ukraine question in Chinese and Japanese. In Fascist Italy, many brochures were published and numerous persons undertook a voyage to the area in question to learn firsthand what it was all about. In the USSR, an experiment was conducted in the form of Leninist national-minority policies, but Stalin quickly put an end to them. Only Poland, which was at the center of the entire controversy, seemed not to concern itself with the matter at all.
A monument of constructive tendencies within the Ukrainian way of life will forever be their communal modes. Following the world war in 1914-1918 and the Polish-Ukrainian war of 1918-1919, the revised Cooperative Union numbered only 579 communes. Following 1925, the Cooperative Union extended its influence over the former Russian territories to 3370 communes. This state of affairs continued until 1954. The Ministry of the Treasury issued a directive on 9 November which removed the right of revision from the Cooperative Union over the Ukrainian communes in Wołyń, Polesie, Chełmska Lands and Lemkowszczyzna—its activities were curtailed and limited to only three regions of the southeast. The effect was that the Cooperative Union lost 430 facilities. Nevertheless, the Cooperative Union makes up for its losses the following year because of the effects of its political slogan “W kopperacji wychid z położennija!” up to 3013 cooperative communes.
Within the Halicka Rus, the greatest impact was felt from the Greco-Catholic church. There were 2121 parishes with 2002 priests. Tied in a union to Roman Catholicism, the Greco-Catholic church was more independent from the Polish government than the Orthodox Church. The clergy of the Greco-Catholic Church was already schooled in nationalism. It led the way in the organization of economic, educational and political associations. In October of 1930, the Metropolite Szeptycki founded Catholic Action and a nonpartisan Ukrainian Catholic Union which propagated the conservative ideas of Wiaczesław Lyliski and was deeply rooted in radical nationalism. Nevertheless, Saint Jur was very opposed to the national minorities policies in Poland; he harshly condemned all acts of destruction which were not in accordance with Christian principles. From that point on, these marginal positions are held by the small Ukrainian Popular Renewal party and the Ukrainian Catholic Union; both of which to some extent were heirs to the pre-war Christian Social movement and the Hetman-Monarchist movement.
Education outside of school is provided by Prosvita, which had a membership of 275,324, with over 300,000 people attending reading groups in around 3000 reading buildings, 5050 professional instructors, 190 mobile libraries, their own publishing press, 10 museums (with one in Sanok), 1086 choirs, 125 orchestras, real estate worth 645,537 Polish zloties denominated in Gold. Prosvita was supported by a church organization, by Bishop Chomyszyn. The organization Skała had 187 reading houses in Stanisławów. It also organized the Ridna Szkoła school which propagated the slogan “Ukrainian Children deserve Ukrainian Schools with Ukrainian teachers.” It took care to educate Ukrainians from elementary through high school. The role of a Ukrainian university was played by the Scientific Society of Szewczenko in Lwów. The society was unable to develop due to financial difficulties…but continued to publish worthwhile scientific literature. It’s library featured 250,000 books by 1936. There was a Ukrainian museum in Lwów which was, from the point of view of ethnography, one of the most interesting in the world. There was also a huge library in Lwów, with 300,000 Ukrainian books.
Amongst the newest of Ukrainian associations was the Ukrainian Women’s League, which tried to open a Women’s Group in every farming village. Physical education was the domain of “sokoli” and, following the war, from 1925, Łuhy…This was a great force which could have been utilized in the service of building a strong Polish state and could have been used to placate the moderate elements in Ukrainian society in order to create a prosperous Polish state. Yet the Polish failure to take into account Ukrainian aspiration in the inter-war period led to a situation in which the centers of Ukrainian political activity ended up outside of Poland and functioned on foreign soil up until the Second World War. The tragic epilogue to this great political blunder came first in September 1939 in the southeast of the II Republic of Poland and then, later, in Volyn in 1941-1943.
About the Author & Text: Henryk Krzeczkowski was educated at the pre-eminent officers training academy in the Soviet Union and present Russian Federation, the Рязанский институт воздушно-десантных войск имени генерала армии В.Ф. Маргелова, attaining the rank of Major. He fought in the major battles of the Eastern front during World War II, making his way with the Polish People’s Army from deep within Russia to Warsaw and Berlin. Following the war, he was the intellectual center of the Polish conservative movement. This essay was published in the Polish underground press in 1977 under the pseudonym XYZ. In it, Mr. Krzeczkowski outlines Polish-Ukrainian relations from 1918 up through the invasion of Poland in 1939 and the genocide of Poles in Volyn which took place between 1941 to 1943. The essay was transcribed from a typed manuscript which was extremely worn and difficult to read. There is a long list of footnotes which have not been translated but can be seen in the last picture above, included in this essay. The essay is written in Major Krzeczkowski’s dry, historiographical style, relating real history shorn of emotion. Modern readers will note that all of the problems outlined above have not been remedied, as can be seen from the current war in Ukraine.
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