Page 245. Roman Petrenko: For Ukraine, for her freedom
In these memoirs, the author describes his activity in the Ukrainian resistance movement during the Second World War. He held a number of leading positions in this movement. After the arrival of the Red Army in 1939 and at the beginning of the German occupation in 1941, he was a member of the Sarny regional OUN leadership; this region encompassed the Sarny and Kostopil counties of the Rivne oblast. When the UPA was formed in early 1943, he became chief of the economic section of the "Zahrava" UPA Military Region, which included the northern part of the Rivne oblast and the southern part of the Pinsk oblast (now in Belarus). In the summer of 1943, he was named chief of the UPA Supreme Command economic section and at the end of 1943, he headed the UPA Supreme Command foreign relations section. In late July 1944, he was named special task officer of the UHVR General Secretariat for External Affairs, which was headed by Mykola Lebed. Along with the General Secretariat for External Affairs, he made his way to western Europe. Thus, the author's activities were varied and spread over many locations, a fact that enriches his memoirs
During Soviet Rule, 1939-1941, the author lived in the open. At the assignment of the regional OUN leadership, he took a job at the Ivanova Dolyna stone quarry, which had quite a large number of workers, in order to spread OUN influence among them. He describes the prevailing atmosphere there, as well as the work of the underground and the situation in the entire region, which was worsening with every oblasts of Ukraine. All parties and cultural and educational associations were immediately suppressed and arrests of their activists followed. Afterwards, persecution of church activists began. Larger industrial concerns were confiscated and tradesmen and small merchants were burdened with ruinous taxes. Heavy taxes were also levied on peasants and they were obliged to do unpaid state work. They were forced to enter the state "artily" or "collective farms". In the winter of 1940, mass deportations of families to Siberia began. At first these were Polish colonists and the wealthy; later, anyone who was not "docile". The NKVD put its greatest efforts into fighting the underground OUN, which was considered a political threat. Many people faced with arrest entered the underground or tried to get out of the country to areas occupied by the Germans. All of this was accompanied by great impoverishment, since the living standard fell drastically in comparison to the pre-war level. For these reasons, the outbreak of the German-Soviet war on June 22, 1941 was met with relief by everyone.
The German occupation enjoyed a brief "honeymoon". At first, the German military commands tolerated the local government and Ukrainian community life. The author tells in detail how the population enthusiastically welcomed the renewal of the Ukrainian state in Lviv on June 30, 1941 and describes his own activity. At this time, OUN activists came out from underground and organized an administration, police, schools, community life and even military units. The author was involved in schooling and cultural and educational activities. However, most of this activity came to a stop when the news came that the Germans has arrested members of Ya. Stetsko's government and many OUN activists in Lviv. Known OUN activists in Volyn immediately went underground or moved to another location where they were not known. Weapons and other military equipment which were not under German control were collected, transported by night to villages and stored. In autumn 1941, the so-called civilian German administration arrived, with the Gestapo, military police and other services. It forbade political and community activity, closed down schools (except for elementary schools), and put strict controls on he administration. Very heavy taxes were imposed on the villages. The Germans openly treated Ukrainians as members of a lower race, who were to be slaves in their "thousand-year" reich. Arrests of OUN members began. Most cruelly persecuted were the Jews. At first, while the author was still working in the administration, the Germans did not know that he was an OUN member. However, on January 12, 1942, the Gestapo wanted to arrest him and he went underground.
The author then describes his underground existence, which was full of dramatic experiences. The OUN had cells in almost all the villages of the region. At first, OUN activity was directed towards training and practical preparations of cadres. For this purpose, a printshop was established, publication of underground literature was begun, political and military training was organized and meetings were held with the public and members. Weapons and other military equipment were collected and stored. The situation was worsening with every month. German terror increased and more and more people were going underground. In addition, Soviet parachutists and partisans from Belarus began to appear in the Polissia forests. They conducted raids on villages to obtain food and killed nationally-conscious Ukrainians, whom they regarded as enemies of the Soviet regime. This made self-defence essential. In the second half of 1942, small combat groups began to be organized in the threatened areas, at first for self-defence and later, also for the defence of settlements against the Germans and Soviets. During the winter of 1942-43, they developed into UPA companies and battalions. During this time, the author met and worked with the later UPA-North commander, Ivan Lytvynchuk ("Dubovyi"), UPA organizers Vasyl Ivakchiv ("Som") and Serhiy Kachynskyi ("Ostap"), the commander of the first UPA company Hryhoriy Perehiyniak ("Korobka"), Vasyl Korinets ("Borysten") and others. The author also describes his meetings with Taras Borovets ("Bulba"), who was, at first, commander of a regular military unit, "Poliska Sich UPA" in Olevske, and in 1942, entered the underground and created a partisan unit independent of the OUN. The author also characterizes many other underground activities and members with whom he worked or whom he met.
In early April 1943, the "Zahrava" UPA Military Region command was established. This military region included the northern part of the Rivne oblast and the southern part of the Pinsk oblast. The commander of this military region was Ivan Lytvynchuk ("Dubovyi"), the chief of staff was Col. Leonid Stupnytskyi ("Honcharenko"), the chief of the operational section was Col. Olexander Omeliusik and the chief of the Ukrainian Red Cross was "Yivha". The author was named chief of the economic section. This was not an easy assignment. He had to establish an effective administrative apparatus on the basis of the OUN network. He constantly traveled across the region, selecting people for the economic administrative apparatus, holding consultations and organizing the production of required foodstuffs and supplies for UPA units. As well as describing his own work, he also describes the work of other sections of the "Zahrava" military region.
The administrative successes of the "Zahrava" military region headquarters pleased UPA Supreme Commander Dmytro Kliachkivskyi (Klym Savur) and in August 1943, he seconded some of the sectional chiefs of the military region to the UPA General Headquarters. Col. L. Stupnytskyi was named chief of staff, Col. O. Omeliusik, chief of the operational section, Col. S. Kulzhynskyi, his assistant, R. Petrenko chief of the economic section and Antin Moroz, his assistant. The UPA Supreme Command proclaimed itself the highest authority on UPA operational territory, not only for military, but also administrative functions. It issued a series of orders signed by D. Kliachkivskyi and L. Stupnytskyi, governing different areas of activity until near the end of 1943, when a new UPA Supreme Command was established, commanded by Roman Shukhevych; the UPA Supreme Command commanded by D. Kliachkivskyi was renamed the UPA-North command. At this time, the author focused his efforts on the "Turiv" Military Region (Volyn and Berestia oblast). He describes his countless trips through the "Turiv" region on economic and other business for the underground administration. He also arranged for "trade" among different regions, because, for example, Polissia needed bread while having an excess of cattle and forest products.
At the December 1945, the author headed the newly-established external contacts section of the UPA Supreme Command, while the economic section was taken over by his assistant, Antin Moroz. At this time, the German-Soviet front moved to the right bank of the Dnipro River and drew nearer to the "Zahrava" military region. The author went to stay with the "Sich" UPA detachment (Volodymyr Volynskyi and Horokhiv counties) where the officers' school was terminating its activities. After this, the instructional staff moved to the Carpathian Mountains. Then the author traveled to Warsaw for discussions with the UNR President-in-Exile, Andriy Livytskyi, hoping to get more former officers who were living abroad to join the UPA. He also secretly enrolled several people in a German radio operator courses being given in Kholm under the direction of former UNR Col. Petro Diachenko, who was working for German military intelligence. At this time, the UPA concluded a secret truce with the Hungarian occupying troops in Volyn. As the front drew nearer, some German commands sought contacts with UPA commands in order to agree on joint action against the Soviets. However, this was forbidden. Soon German intelligence found out about the UPA radio operators in Kholm and demanded that Col. Diachenko put them into contact with the UPA command. At this time, the front was near Kovel and the author, not having contact with D. Kliachkivskyi, traveled to Lviv to seek contact with the UPA Supreme Command. There he met Rostyslav Voloshyn and delegated to him the question of contacts with the Germans. The author also describes a number of other issues, as well as UPA and underground activity in the frontal zone. During the summer of 1944, he traveled to the Carpathians, where he met M. Lebed, the newly-elected UHVR General Secretary for External Affairs. He was assigned to Lebed's group, which was to be abroad.
The author became a special task officer for this group. The group consisted of more than 20 important people -- UHVR members and leading underground activists, who, supplied with illegal documents, were to make their way to Western Europe along with refugees, taking with them various underground documents. The group was divided up and traveled along different routes. There was need to see to security, transport, living quarters and money for subsistence, maintain contacts with everyone and seek contacts with the diaspora OUN network. When the group was in Bratislava, the Germans freed many political prisoners, among them S. Bandera, Ya. Stetsko and A. Melnyk, thanks to the efforts of the Rev. Dr. Ivan Hryniokh. The liberated prisoners also had to be helped. The most dramatic events occurred in the spring of 1945, when the final allied offensive began. While the author was driving in a car with the Rev. I. Hryniokh and Ya. Stetsko on Czech territory, American planes shot at the car and Stetsko was seriously wounded. There was danger that he would fall into Soviet hands. The author made efforts to steal him out of hospital and take him further west to a safe location. The memoirs end with descriptions of various events during the last days of the Third Reich.
These memoirs are valuable because the author writes about many matters which nobody else has discussed so far. Furthermore, he held a number of leading positions and thus was well-informed about UPA activities in the areas under his responsibility.