Page 111. Yurii Stupnytskyi. My Past Life
In these memoirs, the author has described his life and the lives of his family members during the time spanning the 1920’s to the 1950’s. The most critical times of his life were linked to events during World War II, the national-liberation struggles of the UPA and his existence and sufferings in Soviet jails and concentration camps.
The author was born December 17,1923 to former army man Leonid Venedyktovych Stupyntskyi and school teacher Lidia Fedorivna Bednarskyi, in the city of Ostroh in Volyn. He was the eldest son. In 1932, the family was blessed with the birth of another son, Serhii, the author’s younger brother.
The author’s father hailed from a large family from the village of Romanivka in the Skvyra county. After extensive studies at the University of Kyiv, he was inducted into the Russian Army during WWI, where he was decorated for valour and was eventually promoted to the position of Shtabsrotmistr. In the years between 1918 and 1921, he participated in the Ukrainian national-liberation struggle and was promoted to the rank of Colonel in the army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. After leaving the army and rejoining civilian life, he settled in the city of Ostroh (at that time part of Poland), married and began a peaceful career as the agriculture specialist at the local sugar factory.
At the start of World War II, the author, and his brother were attending high school and grade school, respectively, in the city of Ostroh. On September 17, 1939 the Red Army brought its own Soviet administration, and great sociocultural changes began as well as repressions against people the Soviets considered undesirable.
In March 1940, Leonid Stupnytskyi, the author’s father, was forced to flee his home in an attempt to avoid incarceration by the occupying authorities. With emigration as his goal the author of these memoirs accompanied his father to Lviv. Upon arrival at there they found it impossible to cross the Soviet-German border at that location. The fugitives, therefore continued on their journey and eventuallyfound themselves in Berest region in Bilorus, where during an unsuccessful border crossing Leonid Stupnytskyi was arrested by Soviet guards. The author was able to escape arrest, and decided to return home. Upon his arrival in Ostroh he discovered that his mother, brother, Serhii, and grandmother had been deported to Kazakhstan by the Soviets and their property had been stolen. The author, not wishing to follow in the footsteps of his repressed family, hid from the authorities and once again set out for Berest with a goal of crossing the Soviet-German border on the river Buh. He succeeded with aid of a Polish family in the summer of 1940. On the other side, he was arrested by the German authorities and incarcerated in the city of Siedlce.
After many interrogations and checks by the German counterintelligence the author was transferred to a jail in Warsaw. After several weeks, the authorities sent Yurii Stupnytskyi to work with the intention of later sending him into slave labour in Germany. With the help of Dr. Struminska and members of the Ukrainian Aid Committee (UDK) the author successfully escaped to freedom in September 1940. He settled in the city of Kholm where he took up residence with the Martyniuk family and returned to his studies in the Ukrainian gymnasium.
June 22,1941 saw the beginning of the Soviet-German war. The German troops pushed ahead quickly, overtaking Ukrainian territories. The author discovered that his father had survived his incarceration in Berest and was directing, together with members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) Serhii Kachynskyi and Lev Krys’ko, a military training camp named “Kholodnyi Iar”. Yurii decided to set out for Volyn as did many other Ukrainian families. It is here that he was reunited with his father.
Not long after this, the German civil administration transformed the camp into training for guard duty and fire fighting units. To avoid German repression, the members of OUN went underground. Leonid Stupnytskyi took a different route and decided to head up the local Ukrainian Aid Committee. The author with a great deal of difficulty, completed secondary school education and went to work at the local sugar factory in the city of Mizoch. He took up residence with the family of Rostyslav Voloshyn, one of the OUN leaders.
By the end of 1942, the situation in the German occupied territories of Volyn and Polissia became increasingly unstable. The German authorities instituted severe taxation, began to send young people to forced labour in Germany and started large scale repressions against the population. The people in turn began to organize resistance in the form of “Poliska Sich” of Taras Bulba-Borovets’ and the first formations of the UPA. At the beginning of 1943, the UPA gained momentum when the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police also joined the underground. To counter this action, the German administration fortified their battered police forces with Polish Auxiliary Police, thereby escalating the conflict in Volyn and Polissia even more.
In February of 1943, the author met for the first time with the UPA soldiers in Ostroh region. The actions of the UPA and of the local underground were escalating and in turn causing ever stronger German retaliation. Yurii, together with his father joined the underground and with “Chornomorets” unit went to Polissia.
When the High Command of the UPA was created in the middle of 1943 his father Col. L. Stupnytskyi (“Honcharenko”) was appointed Chief-of-Staff. He was soon joined by two other officers of the former Army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, Col. Ivan Lytvynenko (“Ievshan”), and Mykola Omeliusik (“Polishchuk”). At that time an UPA officer’s training school “Druzhynnyky” was organized under the leadership of Lev Krys’ko (“Horyn”), with some 156 candidates. The author who was one of the candidates, describes various military actions in which the school was involved and especially the break through from the German encirclement in November 1943. Upon completing the school in December 1943 the author was assigned as an Adjutant to “Dniprovyi”, the Commandant of the Second Officers School and served in this capacity till January 1944, at which time together with his father he was sent to Horokhiv and Demydiv regions to train leaders of the village self-defense units.
In March 1944, this territory was retaken by the Red Army. Both father and son were captured but without the weapons which they were able to hide in time. Col. L. Stupnytskyi, being an older man was released while the author was mobilized into the ranks of the Red Army, and sent for training to the Urals in Russia. There, together with many other Ukrainians, suspected of anti-Soviet activity, he was arrested by “Smersh” and jailed in the city of Sollletsk. Two months later he was sentenced to ten years of hard labour and sent to a concentration camp near the city of Mariinsk in Siberia. In the Summer of 1948, together with many former UPA members, he was sent to a concentration camp near the city of Norylsk, located north of the Polar Circle where living and working conditions were especially harsh.
After Stalin died in 1953 the camps around Norylsk began a strike which was harshly suppressed. The author was sent to a gold mine in Kolyma.
It was there that he was finally released from jail in 1954. It was not until 1957 that he was allowed to return to Ukraine. Upon returning to his mother country, he worked in Kryvyi Rih and Poltava. He was pensioned in 1982 and since 1990 has lived in the city of Kremenets in Ternopil oblast.
In the 1990s, only after Ukraine became independent, the author finally learned about the circumstances of his father’s death in the summer of 1944 and was able to meet his younger brother Serhii, now a citizen of Poland.