UPA Warfare in Ukraine. Strategical, Tactical and Organizational Problems of Ukrainian Resistance in World War II.
The three letters—UPA—embody the whole epoch, spirit and content of the armed political struggle of the Ukrainian nation during World War II and for a decade after its formal termination. This book about the UPA or the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, is unmatched in depicting the struggle of a nation for its freedom and statehood.
UPA Warfare in Ukraine, by Yuriy Tys-Krokhmaliuk, illuminates a struggle that, in one form or another, continues unabated. Indeed, the Russian imperialists in the last few years have intensified their assault against the Ukrainian national ideal, in defense and realization of which the UPA fought so determinedly and gallantly.
Fully thirty years have elapsed since the Ukrainian Liberation Army sprang into being. At that time, Ukraine was both the total war battleground and prize for two totalitarian behemoths: German National Socialism and Russian Socialism,
Early in this all-out contest, the Russian occupation was replaced by the German occupation with its savage Ostpolitik. In reaction to these circumstances the Ukrainian nation, spontaneously and unaided, created an armed political force. Its appearance can be compared to the formation of a full river which, gathering waters from small streams, becomes a powerful and dynamic force. That it should have formed at all testifies to the undying sentiment for freedom in the Ukrainian breast.
In the fall of 1942 in the northern part of the western lands of Ukraine, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), under the leadership of Stepan Bandera, began forming armed units for the struggle against the occupiers. The insurgent movement quickly engulfed the Western Ukrainian lands and a part of the Right-Bank of Ukraine.
By their ruthless and unabashed colonial policy the German occupation forces rapidly evoked resentment and then hatred among the Ukrainian people. The German Eastern policy was responsible for the fact that, in the words of Peter Kleist, it generated the first anti-German partisans—the Ukrainian nationalists.
In organizing armed units for the struggle against the German aggressors, their creators had a double task in mind. The first and immediate one was to protect the Ukrainian youth from deportation to slave labor in Germany and to prevent the physical destruction of the people and to forestall their economic exploitation. But the political future demanded another postulate: to create and develop one's own national forces in depth so as to give the nation a means of defense against the two imperialistic powers, both of which were wholly hostile to the principle of Ukrainian statehood.
In Moscow, the Soviet Russian leadership quickly perceived in the senseless and cruel colonial policy of the Germans in Ukraine an unexpected boon. Their joy was tempered, however, by the swelling growth of the Ukrainian partisan movement. In consequence Moscow set up large-scale plans to infiltrate and combat this menacing force. To Volhynia and Polisia, where the first Ukrainian insurgent groups had come into being, the Soviet command dispatched its own Soviet partisan units. Thus, in extremely difficult conditions, the Ukrainian insurgent groups had to wage partisan warfare against German troops and Soviet partisans at one and the same time.
The need for the Ukrainians of a unified and coordinated center became evident. Small and scattered partisan groups merged to form a strong insurgent army, an indispensable military army at the time for a nation seeking the establishment of freedom and national independence.
The strength and greatness of the UPA lay in the profound idealism of its soldiers and commanders, in their boundless patriotism, which generated a total and common understanding of the necessity to wage the struggle that, in turn, relied on the full and unqualified support of the Ukrainian people. This identification with the UPA on the part of the people, who instinctively sensed in it their own strength, provided the UPA with moral and material support, enabling it to wage the liberation struggle for several years.
Under unimaginably adverse conditions, without any outside help whatsoever, neither moral nor material, and against numerically vastly superior and technically better equipped enemy forces, the UPA, under the political leadership of the OUN and the UHVR (Supreme Ukrainian Liberation Council), succeeded in creating its own highly heroic style of struggle. In countless battle encounters, the warriors of the UPA refused to recognize surrender and capitulation.
The noble and deeply humane ideas, embodied in the motto, "Freedom to peoples—and freedom to man," under which the UPA waged its struggle, reverberated among the other non-Russian peoples enslaved by Russian Communism. Organized in UPA ranks were national units of Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Cossacks and others, who voluntarily came to offer their services in the struggle against Russian imperialism and for the establishment of their own independent states.
The UPA contributed greatly to the unity of the enslaved peoples in the struggle for their liberation. The Soviet leaders in Moscow understood well the great danger to the unity of the Russian empire—the USSR—which the UPA represented in its political ideology. Hence the harshness of the struggle.
After the reoccupation of Ukraine by Moscow, the Ukrainian people for two years (1946-1947) totally boycotted the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the Ukrainian SSR on the territory that was under the jurisdiction of the UHVR, thus signalling their refusal to recognize the alien power of Moscow. This development was unique in the history of the USSR.
In order to mount a more effective campaign against the UPA, the Soviet government concluded in 1947 a tripartite treaty with Czechoslovakia and Poland. In the unequal struggle that ensued, weapons were literally knocked out of the hands of the UPA. In the fall of 1950 near the city of Lviv in Western Ukraine, ambushed and killed was General Roman Shukhevych (Taras Chuprynka), head of the underground government of the UHVR and UPA commander-in-chief. The military operations came to a halt, but this did not mean the end of the liberation struggle. It only assumed different forms, and continues to this day.
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A few years after the death of General Shukhevych, the Ukrainian poet of the national idea, Vasyl Symonenko, called Lviv, which blossomed as a center of the national and political struggle in the 1940's and 1950's, a "capital of my dream, a center of joy and hope." The poet and his generation fully grasped the meaning of the loss of the UPA Commander. This loss, he writes, causes a "soul to erupt," the soul of the entire nation. The poet turns to Lviv as a political center of the Ukrainian struggle at that time, and begs his readers for their understanding. He comes to the city where the Supreme Commander fell, "with the elation of a son from the steppes, where the Slavuta (Dnieper River) weaves a legend," and he hopes "that your fearless lion's heart could breathe into my heart a bit of strength" (from the poem, "The Ukrainian Lion").
Symonenko and the whole cohort of the poets of "the 1960's," as we call them, under the roof of dominant Moscow have awakened the Ukrainian spirit, which "calls on the body to struggle." Thus lives on the struggle of Ukrainian nationalism against Russian imperialism, with its brutal policy of denial and destruction of freedom of man and nations alike.
The sparks of the national idea, thrown into a Ukrainian society controlled by force and fear, continually generate new winds against Russian tyranny. In the national depths of the social life of the Ukrainian people, enchanged by the principles of "profound internationalism of the Russian people," the national idea is burgeoning and is being expressed in concrete political force. Throughout the national and social spheres we hear the demand of Ukrainian nationalism: remove the rusty props of the Russian imperialist structure of the USSR. It calls for the removal of abuses, national discrimination and the building of strong foundations for a sovereign and independent Ukrainian state.
Yesterday, the United States and its allies won the war, but at the same time they ensured the survival of the Russian empire, an empire of lawlessness with a built-in institutional denial of freedom.
UPA Warfare in Ukraine, which describes the origin and struggle of the UPA, will help the reader to understand the present in terms of the past. Without an understanding of the past it is futile to cultivate hopes for a better tomorrow.
Prof. Ivan Wowchuk