Wolves who were thought to be neighbors,
The strong over the weak,
The mighty rule and the lowly
Suffer what they must.
In this law of might,
Lies the way of deceit,
As Cain lured his brother,
Into the fields with signs of concord.
Of Harrowing wails and bloodstained rubashkas,
Of blades tinged with red,
The smell of gunpowder
In the air of summer’s night.
Recollections of country homes
Recounting what was said
Of those horrid days:
‘These were our neighbors.’
It was a warm summer morning, where one could see farmlands and fields of crops. There were country homes, surrounded by plants growing wild, vegetables and livestock animals. A lake could be viewed from one’s home, its water gleaming under the season’s sun. But in this serene sight of nature, there was ugliness, and the earth bled. A man could be seen running along the shoreline of the lake; he was breathing heavily, his heart racing. He was being chased by a man riding on a horse with sword in hand. Once the horseman got close enough, with one swing of his sword the fleeing man fell down and his head slid off, not completely severed, but dangling down from his shoulders. There was a woman standing by, holding her daughter, and upon seeing this murder she fled with her child into a wheat field. In her suspenseful fright, all that could be heard was silence. The village was deadened. “Mommy — drink” her daughter demanded. She returned to the village to quench her child’s thirst and locals allowed her into their home. But, before they could give her daughter some water, dozens of men, all on horseback, arrived at the front of the home. Axes were fastened onto their saddles, and one could see on a particular blade human hair stuck on its edge. “Which one of you is Polack Frania?” asked the owner of this axe. The woman stood directly in front of him, her eyes were intensely fixed on this horseman. “If I am Polack Frania, don’t I have a right to live?” she defiantly asked. Her daughter, clinging onto her neck, whispered into her mother’s ear: “Don’t speak Polish, don’t speak Polish.” Her eyes were still looking straight at the man, and in her mind she was praying. The owner of the house then broke the silence. There was no Polish woman named Frania in this village, he said. “She’s sick in the head,” he continued, pointing his finger to her. “And where did she get married?” the horseman asked, slapping his whip against his tall boots. “What do you mean where? In the Orthodox Church — where else?” replied the host.
The horseman waved his hand. “Zhyvy!” (“Cheers!”) he said as he waved his hands. He saddled back on his horse and he his men rode off. Terror and silence polluted the air. The whole host family was in a state of trance, as if fear had possessed them. A neighbor arrived and said: “Well, the butcherers have gone.”
The woman fled with her child to a nearby home, and here her eyes gazed upon death. She found two of her uncles and her cousin lying faced down, their corpses nailed to the floor with bayonets. Outside, underneath an apple tree, there lied a woman embracing a child, both of their heads hacked open; another woman’s corpse laid flat on the ground, naked with her head split into two, her infant child still cleaving onto her breast. Back inside the house, she found her grandmother pinned to the wall with a bayonet, dead. She ran to her parents’s house, only to find her father lying next to the bed, stabbed to death with a bayonet. She found her sister’s body underneath a table, shot through the heart. She couldn’t find her mother, and nobody knew where she was. The woman and her child went to a potato field where she found another one of her aunts; both of her hands and feet were severed off, and she lied dead. She went to a yard where she discovered the corpses of two more of her aunts, both stabbed to death. She went into the pantry, and there she saw with horror what was left of the desecrated body of another aunt of hers, her son and stepdaughter, their lifeless hands all tied with barbed wire. She fled into the barn where she saw the bodies of her cousin, his wife and three children. “In that barn,” remembered the woman, “I discovered their bodies desecrated beyond description: their eyes were gouged out, their heads were split open, their tongues were cut out.”
There was another woman named Maria, and she had four children one of whom was crippled. She told her children to stay in the house while she went out to see what was happening. Soon the children went outside after witnessing their mother being pushed around by strangers. Three of the children ran away from the property, leaving their crippled sibling behind, and went to a Ukrainian neighbor who fed them bread and salt pork and showed them the road to their grandmother’s home. Later, the bodies of their mother and their disabled brother, with their heads split open, were found. All day and into the evening, the woman, her child in her arms, ran from house to house. And then, in the midst of the night, her husband appeared and dragged her and their daughter into the woods, near a cemetery. Eventually her husband also found her mother. That same night (as if straight from the parable of the Good Samaritan), a group of Ukrainian Baptists came to them, and gave them milk and food, and promised that they would bury all the dead before dawn.
In the morning, the Baptists returned with a wagon full of corpses. They took some boards and made coffins for her father and sister. A mass grave was dug, and in this ditch bodies were laid side by side, the children next to their mothers. This was the story of Franciszka Kosinska, in just one event that took place in the ethnic cleansing of the Poles by Ukrainian nationalists in the regions of Wolyn, East Galicia and other areas. In this horrific manner, around 100,000 Poles were murdered from 1943 to 1945. It was two years of bloodlust, filled with a drunken fury of carnage and cruelty. “This will remain with me for the rest of my life,” remembered Wladyslaw Rubinowski. “How they must have felt knowing that help was not forthcoming! And the murderers standing around, shooting at everyone who tried to escape, and in every yard a few of them in a mad frenzy hitting and stabbing, axing children while mothers watched, torturing parents while children watched. … I could not then, and cannot now, understand whence came that sudden cruelty in the Ukrainians who lived among us for so many years in peace, often in friendship.” (1) The radicals were of both Catholic and Orthodox backgrounds, with priests even going so far as to bless blades that would be used to slaughter fellow Christians. And there were many cases of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians, helping their neighbors.
The victims were murdered by their neighbors, backed by Germany, imbued by paganism and possessed by the spirit of fanatical nationalism and — simply put — pure racism. But there were those who, having compassion — like the Good Samaritan — helped those subjected under the tyranny of national pride. It is in this essay that we will explore the events that led to this slaughter, as a lesson to recognize what trends and sentiments precede genocide.
Our investigation begins in the regions where such ethnic tensions were very high. Split between the Poles and Ukrainians was over four of the eight provinces in eastern Poland: Wolyn and the three provinces of Malopolska, Wschodnia (Eastern Galacia): Lviv, Stanislawow and Tarnopol. Galicia was a region of vicious tension between Ukrainians and Poles, given the fact that the majority of its inhabitants were Ukrainians. Galicia’s capital city, Lviv, was the only city where Poles were the majority (it was 60% Polish). There was also contention between Pole and Ukrainian in the southeastern part of Polesie, a part of the Lublin province, and the Lemko area. The massacres were done by tens of thousands of Ukrainian nationalists. At their height, there were about 40,000 Ukrainian nationalists, trained and armed by Germany. These nationalists touted themselves as the representatives of all of the Ukrainians living in Poland (five million in Eastern Poland, and over a half a million in central Poland), and stoked peasants in Wolyn and Eastern Galacia to butcher their Polish neighbors.
What was the background of this ethnic contention? It can be traced back to the 19th century and into the early part of the 20th century. In 1848, when revolutions were breaking out within Europe (in what can be described as the European spring of the 19th century), the Austro-Hungarian Empire was worried about demands by Poles for greater autonomy in Eastern Poland. The revolution that erupted in Vienna on March 13th of 1848 inspired the Poles to revolt for their own independence.
On March 15th, a group of Polish craftsmen, students and workers in Krakow gathered together at the gates of local prisons and demanded the release of political prisoners. Members of the aristocracy and the middle class, persuaded commissioner Maurycy Deym to release the prisoners so as to prevent a revolution. On March 18th the Polish rebels established a national committee in Krakow headed by Jozef Krzyzanowski, and on that same day demonstrations manifested in the capitol of Galicia, Lviv (it would be in Galicia where much of the massacres would take place in the subsequent century).
As a response, the Austrians backed a small group of Ruthenians, the East Slavic people that would later identify themselves as “Ukrainians” or “Rusyns”. Ruthenians (or Ukrainians) did not have a serious concept of national identity until after 1848. Prior to this, they really only had two national groups: the Polonophiles (Ruthenians of the Polish state) or Rus’ patriots. After 1848, the Polonophiles disintegrated and the Rus’ intelligentsia broke down into three groups: the Old Ruthenians, the Ukrainophies, and the Russophiles. The Russophiles saw themselves as a part of Russia, while the Old Ruthenians had a vague sense of belonging to East Slavdom.
But the Ukrainophiles had a more distinct paradigm: they saw themselves as a unique Ukrainian nationality within borders that had within them both the Carpathian and Caucasus mountains. (2) Why were the Ukrainians so passionate about their aspirations for independence? Initially, a lot of it had to do with the abuse of the Ukrainian peasantry by Polish lords. The right of the peasants to use the wood on the land of the gentry was revoked. Because they were unable to pay for the use of wood and pastures, the peasants had to use the wood on their own land. But, their lands were continuously getting subdivided, forcing them to acquire debt to pay for wood, leaving them as economic serfs.
Ukrainian political activists were constantly calling for a resolution to fix this problem, but a solution was always resisted by the Polish gentry, specifically the Podolians in eastern Galicia. The reason for this was because the status quo of the peasantry guaranteed the landowners with a continuous flow of cheap labor. This led to the rise of cooperatives formed by Ruthenians, beginning in the 1880s. These were agricultural and dairy cooperatives, insurance companies, trade and credit associations. They also published much material in the Ruthenian language, which was a part of the nationalist movement. Language — as in any national movement — was central. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Galician version of Church Slavonic (the language of the Old Ruthenians), and literary Russian (the language used by the Russophiles), were both rejected by the majority of the Galician population who favored the establishment of the Ukrainian vernacular based on the Poltava dialects in the Dnieper Ukraine. (3)
On March 19th, demands were presented to the governor of Galicia, Count Franz Stadion, calling for Polish national authority, civil liberties, Polish language in schools and offices, freedom of the press and the abolition of the corvee (unpaid labor which was done as a form of taxation). The Polish address did not mention the Ruthenians of Galicia, leading governor Stadion to commence a movement by Ruthenian Uniates (a Ruthenian branch of the Catholic Church) to request the emperor for protection from Polish discrimination on April 19th.
On May 2nd, the Supreme Ruthenian Council was established with the approval of Stadion and under the leadership of bishop Hryhorii Lakhymovych. It didn’t take long for connected Ruthenian councils to be established throughout Galicia to counter the Polish independence movement. On May 10th the Ruthenian councils produced a manifesto that went completely contrary to the Polish agenda. Instead of treating Galicia as a whole province, the Ruthenians called for the region to be split between an eastern (Ruthenian) state and western (Polish) state. In fact, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Ukrainians tried to convince the Austrians to split Galicia into western and eastern provinces. These attempts were fought and thwarted by local Poles, who feared losing control of Lviv and East Galicia.
THE SPARK OF UKRAINIAN NATIONALISM
Schools teaching in the Ruthenian language were popping up, and Ruthenian political parties were established. Ruthenian identitarianism was now a rising trend. This was to the surprise of some Poles because — until the revolution — they saw the Ruthenians as a part of the Polish nation. It was in the countryside where the Ruthenian populists percolated their ideologies, and the political power really became possible in 1907 when the Austro-Hungarian government instituted general ballots for voting, enabling Ruthenians to having more access to vote for their political interests. In the late 1890s and the first decades of the 20th century, Ruthenian intellectuals began to call themselves and all of their countrymen Ukrainian. The 1890s saw a shift within Ruthenian nationalism in which people abandoned the label of “Ruthenians” and took upon the name of “Ukrainians.” In 1895, Julian Bachynsky of the Radical Party published Ukraina Irredenta, which called for the political independence of Ukraine. It did not take long for the Ukrainians in Galicia to also embrace the idea of an independent Ukraine. (4) The rise in Ukrainian national conscientiousness led to clashes with the Poles. For example, the Polish administration resisted the Ukrainians in parliamentary elections in 1897. From 1901 to 1908, Ukrainian students in Lviv University demanded a separate Ukrainian university, an idea that both Polish students and faculty tried to squash. On October 19th of 1918, the Ukrainians formed a National Rada (Council) which declared its objective to establish an independent state within Eastern Galicia that would extend to the San River. On October 20th, the Lviv City Council passed a resolution to incorporate Lviv into the independent Polish state. This was challenged by the Ukrainian council.
On November 1st of that year, the Ukrainian Division – and in particular the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen – led by sotnyk (lieutenant) Dmytro Vitovskyi, made its attack against the Polish side and took over key facilities within Lviv which the Ukrainian nationalists then declared the capital of the newly established Ukrainian National Republic (ZUNR). The Poles responded [by establishing two bases of resistance headed by the Lviv Central Defense Unit under Czesław Mączyński. This was the beginning of the Polish-Ukrainian War which went from November of 1918 to July of 1919.
Poland won the war and as a result took the western part of Wolyn and all of Eastern Galicia. (5) The Entente Council of Ambassadors codified the final declaration annexing Eastern Galicia to Poland on 15 March 1923. After this, most Ukrainians contented themselves under Polish rule, as Myron Kuropas writes: “Following the 1923 Council of Ambassadors’ decree, most Ukrainians in Eastern Galicia reconciled themselves to Polish rule, believing that accommodation through political and economic action was the only reasonable course of action.”
Many Ukrainians partook in politics and in 1928 were elected to the Polish National Assembly. For example, in the 1928 election, 23 Ukrainians who were members of the Ukrainian National Democratic Union were elected. Such a fact indicates a fair and just system for Ukrainians in which there was an equality of opportunity, and thus it makes sense that most Ukrainians were not interested in the nationalist cause of the radicals. Notwithstanding, this did not stop the Ukrainian nationalists. 1919 — the year the war ended — saw the formation of a small Ukrainian terrorist organization called Volya (“free will”). It was in this year, 1919, that there were, according to Stanislaw Skrzypek, “Struggles between the Poles and Ukrainian separatists in Eastern Galicia.”
It was the Volya group that, in 1920 , provided the ideological underpinnings and the archetype for the UVO (Ukrainska Viiskova Orhanizatsiia, or the Ukrainian Military Organization) which would take part in the butchering of the Poles during the Second World War. The UVO was founded in Prague on August 30th of 1920 by a group of disgruntled Galician war veterans led by Ievhen Konovalets. These embittered veterans rejected the 1923 declaration of the Conference of Ambassadors (as well as other decisions regarding the owner of Eastern Galicia by the Allied Supreme Council in 1919 and the 1921 Treaty of Riga) and refused to accept defeat. In 1927, the paramilitary group produced a set of commands such as:
“1. Never do anything that may benefit the enemy. 2. Always and everywhere do what will bring harm to the enemy.”
In 1928, Stepan Lenkavskyi wrote another set of “ten commandments” for the UVO. Commandments seven, eight and 10 read:
“7. Do not hesitate to commit the greatest crime, if the good of the cause demands it. 8. Regard the enemies of your nation with hate and perfidy. … 10. Aspire to expand the strength, riches and size of the Ukrainian state even by enslaving foreigners.”
So, according to these paramilitary nationalists, the revolutionary fighters should have no moral issues with committing the most egregious actions, as long as its for “the cause”. You can lie to your enemy — hence it demands to see the enemy with perfidy, and it calls for enslavement of foreigners, in this case Poles and Jews. However, some Ukrainian nationalists saw this as bad for optics, and these were later edited or omitted. The words “the greatest crime” would be replaced with “the most dangerous act,” “perfidy” with “reckless struggle,” and the statement “enslavement of foreigners” was completely deleted.
Regardless, the fact that these things were initially written revealed the sinister side of the movement, and such evils would be the eventual manifestation of the paramilitaries in Eastern Galicia and Wolyn. *See Bresciani, Conservatives and Right Radicals in Interwar Europe*
Like the Trotskyites, the UVO nationalists believed in creating a state of permanentna revoliutsiia (“permanent revolution”). An article on the UVO’s publication, Surma, explained this agenda:
“By means of individual assassinations and occasional mass actions, we will attract large circles of the population to the idea of liberation and into the revolutionary ranks. The broad masses must become interested in the cause of revolution and liberty. … Only with continually repeated actions can we sustain and nurture a permanent spirit of protest against the occupier and maintain hatred of the enemy and the desire for final retribution.”
It was through this strategy that the UVO desired to create a state of “constant revolutionary boiling,” which would get the people ready for the “final reckoning with the enemy” at the “appropriate moment.” It would be in this “appropriate moment” when these radicals would spill the blood of tens of thousands. This “appropriate moment” was anticipated by Osyp Dumyn, the director of the UVO intelligence unit for the German government. In 1926, Dumyn wrote a report for the Germans entitled, The Truth about the Ukrainian [UVO] Organization, in which he explained the mission of the UVO:
“The mission of the UVO was to conduct an incessant and uncompromising war with Poland. The objectives of the UVO were to destroy Polish rule in all Ukrainian spheres, to undermine Polish national influence, the material and moral annihilation of the Polish national organs of authority, and finally the attainment and institutionalization of its own independent Ukrainian nation. In the course of the first two years of the existence of the UVO, this work unfolded according to plan, the proof of which were many deeds. By instituting its own detachments, the UVO was to create a real, although secret, Ukrainian army which could at the appropriate moment initiate an open war against the Polish occupant.”
As this type of political organization grew, so did the intensity of the political atmosphere. This was underlined in 1929 with the formation of the OUN (Orhanizatsiia Ukrainskykh Natsionalistiv or Organziation of Ukrainian Nationalists) at the First Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists in 1929 in Vienna. The OUN was also led by Konovalets and would absorb the UVO and eventually broke out into slaughtering Poles in September of 1939. The violence got much worse in 1942 and 1943 when the Germans conducted a huge resettlement of the Poles from the Zamosc area with the help of their Ukrainian allies. The violence intensified in its sadism in the Wolyn massacre which was orchestrated by the UPA (Ukrainska Povstanska Armiia or Ukrainian Insurgent Army). The bloodshed continued through 1943 and went on in a conflagration of slaughter throughout eastern Galicia and some regions of Chelm and Przemysl. The violence, in fact, did not end until 1947 when the UPA was finally crushed by Polish, Soviet and Czech communist forces.
PAGANISM IN UKRAINIAN NATIONALISM
In this era, within this wave of nationalism came also a revival in Slavic paganism.
One of the acolytes of this pagan revival was Volodymyr Shaian, a linguist and philologist who was heavily fixated on destroying Christianity and replacing it with native Slavic paganism which he saw as an Indo-Aryan religion rooted in Hinduism. He, supposedly, experienced a spiritual revelation in 1934 while on top of Mount Grekhit in the Carpathian Mountains. In 1937 — inspired by his vision and the various writings on Indo-Aryan religion at the time, Shaian presented a paper at an Indologists’ seminar in Lviv on the possibility of a “pan-Aryan renaissance”.
Shaian wanted to replace the worship of Christ with the cult of Perun, an ancient Slavic god of war. In 1939, Shaian, finding inspiration in the Hindu god Indra, wrote a book entitled, “Secret Teachings About Perun”, in which he presented Perun as the savior of the world. In this book Perun travels with loyal knights and discovers “the sun” in “cosmic Ukraine”, and together they seize upon solar power, vanquish demons and establish a new order for the universe.
He also wrote a book in 1946 against Christianity, entitled “The Problem of the Ukrainian Faith” . In this writing, Shaian stated that Prince Vladimir — the one who made Christianity the official religion of Russia — interrupted the spiritual evolution of the Ukrainian people and impeded the creation of the Ukrainian nation. Shaian glorified India as the birthplace of Aryan culture and “Pan-Aryan thought”, and taught that from India, spiritual knowledge and beliefs were transferred to Europe. He proclaimed that “the world is created from the word of the Vedas”. In 1943, Shaian founded the Order of the Knights of the Sun God and turned to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) with a proposal to include the Order in the paramilitary group. Later, he invited members of his Order to join the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in order to fight against the Soviet Union and Poland.
Halyan Lozko, his successor, recounted one of the events that led Shaian into deeper fascination with paganism, especially the worship of Mother Earth:
“Shaian visited a common Hutsul family’s household and observed the ritual of the blessing of the seeds before sowing. He saw that this ritual was not Christian but had just a few Christian elements added on. Although the ritual appeared to be conducted for the glory of Jesus Christ, it was indeed devoted to the Mother Earth and sun that were sanctified by our ancestors. Within the ritual, the seeds were imparted with the strength of strong muscular men in order to fertilize Mother Earth. This symbolism was very clear. A woman would put these seeds into her apron. She symbolized Mother Earth, while men represented the forefather in Heaven, namely, our god Svaroh. Undoubtedly, all this symbolism deeply touched young Shaian and became the primary reason for him to take the first step toward the revival of Native Faith, not just some kind of academic work in the form of a book. He began to revive Native Faith as a living and active religion.” (6)
But even before Shaian began pushing his pagan movement to Ukrainian nationalists, there were already Ukrainian fighters who were fanatic pagans. For example, OUN-UPA veteran Pyotr Voinovsky, a Christian by faith, recounted how in 1936 Orest Zybachinsky, the head of the OUN in Romania, patronized a group of youths that renounced Christianity and “revived paganism, faith in Dazhbog and Perun.” Zybachinsky did not prohibit paganism in the OUN because, as he said, “One of the main principles of our nationalist Organization is human freedom”. P. Voinovsky allegedly managed to find the text of the oath of the group’s pagan members:
“I, a member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, give myself body and blood to serve the highest requirements of the Organization, ready to pay with my life every minute. And you, Perun, be the eternal patron of our souls and our life. You gave faith to my people, and the time has come for us, following your faith, to fulfill everything that Ukraine, people, and you, Perun, demand. So help me! “
The Ukrainian nationalist paramilitaries were a mix between cultural Christians and pagans (mainly the former of the two), but nonetheless both were working for the same goal, one of which was the Ukrainianization of religion, be it Christian or any cult. When the OUN was created in 1929, its religious goal was made clear: “The Ukrainian State will recognize complete freedom of religious conscience … tendencies. The Ukrainian State will contribute to the development of the Ukrainian national church, independent of foreign patriarchs, and the Ukrainianization of religious cults”.
The religion of the Ukrainian nationalists was thus the cult of blood and soil, be it expressed by a feigned Christianity or neo-paganism, and for such a utopian goal was innocent blood spilt; for to Ukrainianize all religion would also mean to ethnically cleanse all those who were not Ukrainian. Hence there was an article in 1939 entitled, “In 1939, Poland Will Be Defeated,” published by Novyi Shliakh, a Ukrainian nationalist newspaper based in Canada, that declared for the annihilation of the Poles:
“We acknowledge only one banner; all others must give way because Ukraine is and will be nationalist. … Our program of liberating Western Ukraine and defeating Poland makes us, and only us, the sovereign leaders of the battle in all its stages and leads us directly to power without even any tentative provisions. For this, a swift and certain victory is needed. … We persuade or annihilate.” (7)
GERMANY, THE SOVIET UNION AND UKRAINE
The terrorism and murder done by the Ukrainian nationalists would not have been possible without the backing of Germany which provided the training and the arms to the killers. (8) In fact, the Third Reich’s support for Ukrainian nationalism was not unique to the Nazis, but was really a continuation of German foreign policy. German backing of Ukraine can be traced back to the end of the First World War.
Ukraine was a region of immense geopolitical importance for both Russia and Germany, since to control this area would determine who ultimately rules the eastern part of Europe. To quote Adam Tooze: “Ukraine was a problem on a different scale. It was a strategic asset of the first rank, the disposition of which would decide the future of Russian power and shape of the new order of the East.” (9) Ukraine’s importance was not just locational, but also agricultural. Ukraine produced one-fifth of the world’s wheat exports, twice that of the United States.
Germany and Austria, and Russia, equally needed that nourishing grain. Energy resources were also immense in Ukraine, producing all of Russia’s coking coal, 73% of its iron, and 60% of its steel. After the overthrow of the Czar, Kiev was under a revolutionary government consisting mainly of nationalist parties led by agrarian Social Revolutionaries who set up a basic parliament — the Rada. But, Ukraine was still under Russia which, at the time right after the toppling of the Czar, was under the Provisional Government. In the summer of 1917, Ukraine was demanding for independence, but such demands were ignored by the Provisional Government. But, in the winter, Russia was soon destabilized by the Bolshevik Revolution, giving the perfect opportunity for Ukraine to eventually declare independence.
Germany and its allies were all too willing to invite Kiev to the Brest-Litovsk conference, in which the Bolsheviks would cede Russian territory in desire for a peace with Germany. This was a bludgeoning strike to the Russian empire, and it showed in Bolshevik animosity. By early 1918, the Bolshevik agitator Karl Radek, exclaimed to the people of St. Petersburg: “if you want food … cry ‘death to the Rada!’” He affirmed that Ukraine, by “its Judas-like treachery” in accepting the invitation to Brest had “dug its grave”.
At the Brest meeting on January of 1918, the Bolsheviks gave a long lecture on the “legitimate” policies for the self-determination of nations. The German general, Max Hoffmann, had enough of such talk and lost his temper. He demanded an answer as to why the Germans should take lessons on legitimacy from them when the Bolshevik government was “based purely on violence, ruthlessly suppressing all who think differently”. The Bolsheviks had already sent an army of mercenaries to Kiev, and if the Germans left the Baltics they would, no doubt, had invaded those lands, argued Hoffmann. But Trotsky responded:
“… the General is completely right when he says that our government is founded on power. All history has known only such governments. So long as society consists of warring classes the power of the government will rest on strength and will assert its domination through force.”
In February of 1918, soldiers loyal to the Soviets took over Kiev and forced the Rada government to flee. The Ukrainian representatives in the Brest meeting were small in number, but their German friends were the ones who held the control, not the Bolsheviks. Germany was the superior force, and the Bolsheviks knew that in order to have peace, it needed to bow to German force and acquiesce to its demands.
The Bolsheviks were willing to give up on the war, just for peace; but Germany had its demands. Trotsky was the primary supporter of the “neither war nor peace” policy, and would give peace without the seizing of territory. By March of 1918, the German military took Kiev with little resistance, forcing the Bolsheviks to submit. “The whole of Russia,” wrote General Hoffmann in his diary before conquering Kiev, “is no more than a vast heap of maggots — a squalid, swarming mess.” Faced with an unstoppable German force, the Bolsheviks had no choice but to acquiesce to German demands. But the Germans now wanted more, demanding to dictate the ‘self-determination’ of Ukraine.*Tooze, The Deluge, ch. 6, pp. 125—126, 131—132, 135—136* Germany wanted empire, and there was even a sort of fantasy of empire, such as that expressed by General Hans von Seeckt:
“As I stood on the rails that lead via Tiflis to Baku, my thoughts wanted to go further, beyond the Caspian, through the cotton fields of Turkestan to the Olympian mountains. And if, as I hope, the war will continue for some time, we may yet beat on the doors of India.” (9)
It was this very Seeckt who supported the Ottoman extermination of the Armenians, stating that “any consideration, Christian, sentimental or political, must be eclipsed” in the backing of the bloodbath. Is it any wonder, then that the Germans would go on to back the very Ukrainian nationalists who would exterminate the Poles? While Germany claimed to be the defender of Ukrainian self-determination, it did not take long for the obvious to be revealed; that Germany was simply working to control Ukraine for its resources. In early April of 1918, German Field Marshall Hermann von Eichhorn, issued a decree mandating compulsory cultivation of all land. But, Eichhorn acted without approval of the Rada and the Ukrainians refused to ratify the decree. Germans threw self-determination out the window, and orchestrated a coup d’etat to topple the Ukrainian National Assembly and put in its place a Hetmanate under the Czarist cavalry officer Pyotr Skoropadskyi. And this took place just six weeks after the Brest conference in which Germany presented itself as the protector of Ukrainian independence. (10)
The Bolsheviks, obviously, did not give up, and strived to spread revolution in Central Europe. In March of 1919, Hungary went under a coalition government dominated by its tiny Communist Party. From Hungary, 200,000 men — including communist volunteers from Russia, Serbia and Austria — marched into Romania across the Tisza River. Their goal was to unite with the Soviet forces that took over Ukraine (the Germans withdrew from Ukraine in December of 1918), but had been struggling with anti-communist White forces. With support from the Entente, the Romanian army, on July 24th of 1919, fought back against the invading Soviets and defeated them. On the other side of this was Poland, which was terrified of a rise in Russian nationalism. The Poles decided to be on good terms with Moscow and,on October 11th, entered into negotiations with the Soviets. Poland promised to be neutral and in exchange ceded huge chunks of Belarus and Lithuania to the Soviets. With the Soviets now holding onto this new territory, they were able to redeploy 40,000 troops against the White Army general, Nikolai Yudenich, who was marching towards Petrograd (St. Petersburg).
Trotsky was also able to rally up 2.3 million men into the Red Army. To make things worse, on November 17th, 1919, Lloyd George made the announcement in the House of Commons that the British, after spending a billion dollars, could no longer support the anti-Bolshevik cause of the White Army and had no interest in helping to restore Russian power. For George, a “great, gigantic, colossal, growing Russia rolling onwards like a glacier towards Persia and the borders of Afghanistan and India” was the greatest menace that the British Empire could be confronted with”. So, in other words, keep the Bolsheviks in power to keep Russia weak. With such an immense force of Communist fighters, and with the absence of British backing, it seemed that the White Army stood no chance. But then, another Slavic state entered the fray: Poland. Marshal Joseph Pilsudski, who was the leading figure in Poland, wanted to fight the Bolsheviks with the aspiration of reviving the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which, until the Thirty Years War, had been a bulwark against Russian expansionism.
Poland, in its fight against Bolshevik power, made an alliance with the newly autonomous Ukraine, with the idea that with a Polish superstate they would form a military border from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Pilsudski hoped that his mission would impress the British but, as was already announced by Lloyd George, the British were not interested in supporting the anti-Bolshevik cause. Wanting to bring his plan to fruition, Pilsudski made an alliance with Ukrainian nationalists and backed Simon Perlura’s goal for an independent Ukraine as a permanent part of his border. On April 25th, 1920, a Polish-Ukrainian force attacked and on May 7th took Kiev, which would allow the White Russian forces under General Pyotr Wrangel to establish a base in Crimea.
But, on June 5th, 1920, the dream of a revived Polish empire was crushed when the Poles and their Ukrainian allies set their sight on the army of the Bolshevik commander Mikhail Tukhachevsky who cried out to his men: “Over the corpse of White Poland lies the path to world conflagration … On to Vilno, Minsk, Warsaw! Forward!” They collided right into the Polish line, driving the Poles out of Kiev. (11)
That was an episode of Poland’s attempt to ally with Ukrainian nationalists, but after all, the hatred remained towards the Polish occupation of East Galicia. And there, behind the contagion of rage, were the Germans wanting to use such fury against their Polish enemies.
THE GERMAN-UKRAINIAN ALLIANCE
In 1921, a Jewish-Ukrainian nationalist and member of the Ukrainian Galician Army named Richard Jary (who would later be a founding member of the OUN Provid), established contact with Hermann Goring, homosexual racist Ernst Rohm, and Jewish-German pagan and eugenist Alfred Rosenberg. Jary would be placed on the payroll by German intelligence. Then, in 1922, Yevhen Konovalets, who would later found the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, began collaborating with the German General Staff and relocated from Eastern Galicia to Berlin, and then to Geneva and Rome where he stayed until 1929. He would later get 110,000 German marks per month for his skills as an organizer. In 1923, the UVO’s intelligence branch founded a center in Munich where they would train in espionage. In 1925, a Berlin-sponsored officers’ school was founded in the city of Danzig and graduated 110 active UVO members. The Germans gave the Ukrainian nationalists weapons, military equipment and explosives through the bridge connecting Germany with Poland. Between 1922 and 1927, numerous training courses were set up by the German military and its intelligence forces in Munich, Preussisch-Holland, Breslau and near Berlin. The mission of these training camps was to get Ukrainian intellectuals ready for espionage missions within the Polish military (to which they would be recruited). In 1927, Alfred Rosenberg made it clear that the goal of a German-Ukrainian alliance was the destruction of Poland:
“Once we have understood that the elimination of the Polish State is the first demand of Germany, alliance between Kiev and Berlin and the creation of a common border become a necessity of people and state for a future German policy.”
In 1933, Jary signed a contract with Goring agreeing to have a number of Ukrainians become members of the SA (Sturmabteilung — Storm Troopers). In 1938, more training centers were established by the Abwehr, such as one near Lake Quenz in Austria.
For these Ukrainian radicals, the enemy was the Polish ‘occupier’ of Ukrainian lands, and their mission was to destroy this Polish occupation.
UKRAINIAN LIFE UNDER POLAND
But, truly, life as a Ukrainian under Polish rule was not atrocious and did not warrant such violent rebellion. For example, a 1939 estimate details that out of the 872,000 acres of land parceled out in Eastern Galicia between 1919 and 1938, 495,000 acres were distributed to Ukrainian peasants. In accordance to this estimate, the Ukrainians received 57% of the land while the Poles got 43%. The Ukrainians got most of the land because they had larger numbers. This corresponded with Polish policy which held that both Ukrainians and Poles were to be treated equally in the distribution of land.
The violent anger on the part of the Ukrainian nationalists went beyond land and sprung from a vicious fixation on demographics. What enraged Ukrainian nationalists was the coming of Polish settlers from the interior part of Poland in Wolyn. When these settlers arrived, farmland was distributed to them. In the words of Tadeuz Piotrowski: “In 1939 in Wolyn, for every 1,000 farmsteads in the 30-50 hectare range, 8 were owned by Poles and 2 by Ukrainians; for every 1,000 farmsteads of 10 hectares or more, there were 185 Polish ones and 66 Ukrainian ones. What irked the Ukrainians more than this unequal distribution of land was that more and more of these farms went not to local Poles but to settlers from the interior of Poland.” (12)
Under the Polish occupation there was equal opportunity for Ukrainians in academic work. There were Ukrainians in the faculties of the Universities of Lvov, Krakow, and Warsaw, and (in 1929 and 1930) there were 2,175 Ukrainian students in numerous Polish universities. There was also the Ukrainian National Museum, the Museum of the National House, and the Shevchenko Scientific Society which had three departments (philosophy, history, and natural sciences), nine commissions dedicated to numerous branches of science, and on top of all of this there was a library that (in 1926) had 184,974 books and 1,452 manuscripts.
There was also the Ukrainian Scientific Institute in Warsaw. All of these institutions were subsidized by the Polish government. Also under Polish occupation — in 1938 — there was a Ukrainian organization called Ridna Shkola (Enlightenment) which had 107,332 members organized into 2,049 groups, maintained 33 elementary schools, ran 684 libraries which held 67,008 books, and directed 126 theatrical companies. Despite the violence and rhetoric of Ukrainian nationalists in those days, Poles and Ukrainians generally got along, and this is reflected in the intermarriage rate. In 1927, 16.2% of all marriages in Eastern Galicia were between Poles and Ukrainians.
But, there were still the provocateurs and those that demanded and enacted violence against Poles. All of this was done in the name of blood, nationalism and the idea of a Ukrainian state that went well beyond what was officially considered Ukraine. The OUN-UPA based their idea of a Ukrainian state on “Ukrainian ethnographical areas” which included territories of Russia, Belarus, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and huge chunks of Poland where the bloodshed would erupt.
Regardless of the comfortable life that Ukrainians could enjoy under Polish rule, the insidious ideology of the rebels was being spread around, trying to corrupt souls to join in an indulgence of bloodshed. One of these fanatics was Dmytro Dontsov who was — at one point — a Marxist Socialist. From 1914 to 1916, Dontsov headed the information service in Vienna for the Ukrainian Parliamentary Club and edited its weekly press bulletin, Korrespondenz.
From 1916, he headed the Bureau of the Peoples of Russia in Bern, Switzerland and edited its press bulletin. In 1917, after a short stay in Lviv to finish his law degree, Dontsov made his return to Kiev where he directed the Ukrainian Telegraph Agency under the Hetman government. But Dontsov eventually split up from the government for its proclaiming of federation with Russia. Dontsov left Kiev and in 1919 to 1921 he directed the press and information of the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Bern.
By 1921, Donstov had rejected all of his socialist and Marxist sentiments and became a leading ideologue for Ukrainian nationalism. He wrote book entitled, Natsionalizm, which has all of the typical jargon of nationalist talkers, both then and today. It spoke of “Ukraine for Ukrainians” and demanded to “never give minorities cultural-national autonomies”. Donstov affirmed a Nietzschean paradigm of the “will to power” of the “strong man”; he also spoke in a Darwinian manner by writing that “Life makes him [right] who proves himself morally and physically stronger”. Dontsov praised the “amorality of the person of action”; in other words, those without morals will commit atrocious acts without any qualms.
He had a utopian vision of a small, elite group of superiors running society who have creative ways to committing violence; he wrote of “the principle of initiative-minority (superior people) and of creative violence”. Donstov’s ideology was absorbed by the UVO and became very popular in large segments of idealistic and racist Ukrainian youth. The OUN — the absorber of the UVO — openly called for ethnic cleansing in two documents that came from the 1929 meeting in Vienna in which founded the paramilitary organization. In these documents it reads:
“Proclamation: Only the complete removal of all occupants from Ukrainian lands [i.e., ethnic cleansing] will the possibility for an expansive development of the Ukrainian people in the borders of their own nation. … In its internal political activity, the Ukrainian nation will strive to attain borders encompassing all Ukrainian ethnographic territories.
Resolution: The complete removal of all occupants from Ukrainian lands, which will follow in the course of a national revolution and create the possibility for an expansive development of the Ukrainian people in the borders of their own nation, will be guaranteed by a system of our own military formations and goal-oriented political diplomacy.”
The ideal of this pure Ukrainian state was to be a “national dictatorship” led by a supreme vozhd (fuhrer or leader) whose authority was to be obeyed without question. This state was envisioned as ethnically pure (“Ukraine for Ukrainians”) and accomplished through forceful collective action (“creative coercion”) in a violent struggle, first with Poland and then with the Soviet Union.
Before these nationalists unleashed their full out reign of terror, they were highly involved in terrorism, activism and propaganda operations. They robbed mail vans, post offices and letter carriers and cut telegraph wires. They successfully did five bombings of newspaper offices, administrative buildings and a railroad station. They did many acts of arson, setting to flames Polish and Jewish households, haystacks, granaries and barns. In just the first few weeks of 1922 alone, Ukrainian nationalists committed 470 acts of arson.
These fanatics also committed murders of Polish police officers, Ukrainians who did not side with them (called “collaborators”), and Polish and Ukrainian political figures. Ukrainian nationalists did not just do violence, but the dissemination of propaganda, even as far as the United States, especially in Chicago. An article published in 1930 by the magazine, Ukraina (based in Chicago) praised the violence that was taking place in Galicia as a way to instill fear into the hearts of the “enemies of the Ukrainian peasant” — these were the Poles — as a form of strategic terrorism, as it reads:
“For the second time the U.W.O. (UVO) has resorted to so-called part action. The object of this part action is to promote, by organized activities, disquiet in the country and panic among the Polish population, to break the Polish spirit of expansion, to breed distrust of the government as their protector against Ukrainian attacks, now or in the future. It is to encourage a state of mind extremely hostile to the Polish state and nation among the Ukrainian masses. Finally, its object is to foster uncertainty and anarchy as to deepen the impression abroad that the frontiers of Poland are not permanent, that the Polish state is not consolidated, and that the feelings of the Ukrainian population are manifestly anti-Polish. … Secondly, because a mass attack has the best psychological effect upon the Ukrainian peasants as a whole. Fires which can be clearly seen from a score of villages, fires destroying what belongs to the enemies of the Ukrainian peasant, who are robbing him of his land, have a greater effect upon him than, for instance, attacks upon organs of governmental authority or upon individuals unknown to him.”
Here we see the voice of the one who believes the world owes him something, to the point that he would make a mound of corpses to simply satisfy his desire of holding his head high above those he sees as indebted to him. Because it was Ukraine that lost the war to Poland and, being the victor, took full control over East Galicia, now all of the Poles who lived on this region were all collectively deemed as the enemy and worthy of death by the savage hive mind of a mob. In the name of liberation, they subjugated; in the name of freedom, they terrorized; in the name of justice, they threw away all morals to accomplish their bloodlustful goal of a utopian vision that will exist only in the deranged mind full of ethnocentric rage and illusions of populist takeovers. Sanguinary and reprobate fantasies are disguised with epithets of patriotism and national pride; greed is shrouded with justice. Behind their statements of liberty, they had statements such as: “Blood is needed — we will provide a sea of blood! Terror is needed — we will make it hellish.” They also said: “We are not ashamed of murders, robbery and burnings. In war there are no ethnics.” “The worse it is, the better.”
Even when Ukrainians lived comfortably under Polish rule, and there were many marriages between Poles and Ukrainians, and Ukrainians were heavily involved in academia and had their own educational institutions — regardless of all of this, these Ukrainian fanatics were in a state of perpetual bitterness, of perpetual victimhood, wanting everyone around them to be in a continual vortex of rebellion, just as their father — who was once the most beautiful of all angels — stoked a rebellion in heaven and brought about such disorder to earth. Through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it. (Wisdom 2:24) The sinister mentality of these radicals was expressed in the April 17th, 1932 edition of the Ukrainian newspaper Meta: “Ukrainian Nationalism must be prepared to employ every means in the struggle … not excluding mass physical extermination, even if millions of human beings, physical entities, are its victims.” These fanatics did not want peace, and they despised the idea of there ever being harmony between Pole and Ukrainian. In 1930, the Times of London interviewed a high ranking Ukrainian nationalist who explicitly told the paper:
“We do not want peace. If our people are allowed to enter into friendly cooperation with the Poles they may cease to cherish the dream of an independent Ukraine, which we hope to realize in 30 or 40 years’ time. Whatever is done for us, we must always be discontented.” (13)
Notwithstanding their blatantly violent intentions, the fanatics would play a game of being the victimizer and then quickly become the victims. They would do terrorist attacks, and then when the Polish government would respond with force, they would have their operatives in different countries — including the United States — conduct demonstrations against the ‘tyrannical’ Polish government.
A report by the OUN reads:
“All branches of the O.U.N. were ordered to establish committees of protest in their own areas, composed of representatives of various groups and associations.” These nationalists working outside of Ukraine were the first to send telegrams expressing their outrage to the League of Nations and to numerous other governments. The OUN had their Nationalist Press Bureaux in Switzerland, Berlin, Lithuania and Belgium, and its chief propaganda department would send its complaints to all OUN branches in Europe and to American publications. As the same OUN report detailed: “Agents of the O.U.N. have left for America to organize protests, which seem to be developing on a large scale. Their instructions are that every local association must begin by sending a telegram demanding that an International Commission be sent to Galicia. Then they must collect funds, hold meetings of protest and make demonstrations before Polish Consulates.”
The League of Nations, in January of 1932, responded to the protests by stating that while it did not approve of Poland’s methods, it was indeed the Ukrainian nationalists who were to blame on account of their “revolutionary actions.” The League concluded that the strong counterterrorism response by the Polish government did not constitute as systematic persecution of the Ukrainian people. Regardless of how decent life was under Polish occupation, the murderous hatred was still seething, ready to erupt at the right opportunity. This opportune time for slaughter manifested under the German occupation of Poland. Right within the beginning days of German occupation, leaflets were disseminated saying: “Exterminate the Poles, Jews and communists without mercy. Do not pity the enemies of the Ukrainian National Revolution!” “Nation, know that Moscow, Poland, Magyars [Hungarians], Jews are your enemies! Annihilate them” And pity did they not have, and annihilation was their goal.
Was this horrid series of violence distinct from other exterminations? It was bloody, cruel and evil, just as all ethnic cleansing and mass killings are, and just as in the slaughter of the Poles we see a common pattern that transpires before and during the bloodbath: We see rhetoric against certain people, describing them as parasites, as enemies, as an existential threat; then there is the justification for violence, and then, eventually, the killing commences. In the extermination of the Poles we can hear the vicious rhetoric leading up to the slaughter, see the events that presage mob violence, and thus can deepen our awareness of the ominous atmosphere wherein such blood soaked happenings occur. All such evils, with the gripping of the axe by crowds of tense hands, the tearing of flesh, the mutilations and the ravishing — all such inhumanities begin with a mob that is plagued with discontent. Truly, the root of all human evil is discontent, be it in Eve wanting to ascend to godhood when she was in paradise on earth, or the rebels who are never satisfied and always in a state of perpetual revolution — the refusal to embrace contentment is the beginning of evil. “Deadly enemies of every kind of association,” wrote Joseph de Maistre, “possessed of a repellent and solitary pride, they agree on only one point, the fury of destruction.” (De Maistre, Study of Sovereignty, ch. vii)
Such has been the plague that has lied within man from the time after God created him: he wallows in his disgruntlement and will exhaust such a sentiment even at the point of murder. Hence Cain murdered his brother, and his entire line had inherited his temperament, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. (Genesis 6:11) And in such flesh there lied the very evils that we — and our predecessors — have witnessed: from tribal pride, to coveting and the belief that the strong have the right to torment the weak. “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must” said the Athenian to the Melian hundreds of years before Christ, and these words attest that such ideologies are not modern nor solely a product of 19th century Darwinism, but are as ancient as the fall of man, when the first humans ate the forbidden fruit, wanting to become gods, to be above humanity itself. And from this point, there emanates an unending turning towards all that pertains to the grasping of power, over neighbors, over tribes, over nations. “There were giants on the earth in those days” says Genesis on the beginning of man’s tyrannical state. Too many people have explained this verse to mean that there was some mythical race of giants that ruled the land. Going beyond this interpretation, when we look at the end of the verse it describes these giants as “the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:4) The word used for “mighty men” is gibborim, which does not denote some mythic giants, but actual tyrants.
Mankind, before the flood, was ruled by thugs, gangs who were so violent that the Scripture describes that time as such: “the earth was filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:11) The despots tyrannized, the rule of the land was survival of the fittest, stating in unison: “But let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless.” (Wisdom 2:11) Solomon’s Wisdom speaks of those antediluvian days, when idolatry first trended: “Everything was a complete riot of bloody murder, robbery, deceit, corruption, faithlessness, disorder, falsehood, harassment of innocent people, ingratitude” (Wisdom 14:25-26), and these are the evils that rule in the chaos of revolutionaries, and such describes the horror that erupted when Ukrainian murdered Pole, when neighbor slew neighbor. The Wisdom of Solomon attributed all of this egregiousness to paganism: “The worship of idols, whose names should never be spoken, is the beginning and the end, the cause and the result of every evil.” (Wisdom 14:27)
And the Ukrainian nationalists, who murdered tens of thousands, had their own idol — and that was the idol of race, of nation and blood. Eugenio Pacelli, writing with Pope Pius XI, wrote of this cult of nation: “Whoever exalts race, or the people … whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them … is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.” And so those who uplifted race murdered their neighbors, continuing the legacy of murder which mankind has been perpetuating since the days before the Deluge. “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.” (Genesis 6:13) Through flesh is flesh torn; through blood is blood spilt.
Most of this article’s information comes from Piotrowski, Genocide and Rescue in Wolyn, ch. 7.
(1) See Piotrowski, Genocide and Rescue in Wolyn, ch. 4, pp. 66—70
(2) Magosci, The Roots of Ukrainian Nationalism, ch. 1, p. 22
(3) Magocsi, The Roots of Ukrainian Nationalism, ch. 1, p. 23
(4) Liber, Total War the Making of Modern Ukraine, ch. 1, p. 33
(5) See Piotrowski, Poland’s Holocaust, intro, p. 3
(6) See Mariya Lesiv, Ukrainian Paganism and Syncretism: “This Is Indeed Ours!” , in Aitamurto and Simpson, Modern Pagan and Native Faiths Movement In Central and Eastern Europe
(7) Novyi Shliakh (Winnipeg), (January, 1939), quoted in Ryszard Torzeccki, Kwestia ukrainska w polityce III Rzeszy 1933-1945 (Warszawa: Ksiazka i Wiedza, 1972), p. 178, in Piotrowski, Genocide and Rescue in Wolyn, Apendix C
(8) See Piotrowksi, Poland’s Holocaust, ch. 7, p. 177
(9) Tooze, The Deluge, ch. 7, p. 147
(10) Tooze, The Deluge, ch. 7, p. 150
(11) Adam Tooze, The Deluge, ch. 22, pp. 410-412
(12) Piotrowski, Poland’s Holocaust, ch. 7, p. 181
(13) A Minority in Poland — The Ukrainian Conflict, Times (London) Newspapers Limited, December 12, 18, 1930, in Piotrowski, Poland’s Holocaust, Appendix, Document 13