The Ethnic Displacements of Ukrainians and Ruthenians in Eastern Europe after the End of the Second World War and Their Influence on the UPA and OUN Movements

15 June 2019

Tomáš Řepa

After the Second World War, the ethnic situation in Eastern Europe was far from clear. Europe was exhausted, with the war just ended, and individual states had gained new boundaries, defined by the outcome of the war. The deployment of national minorities in Eastern Europe, however, caused further strife and bloodshed. In particular, Ukrainian nationalists from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) had no intention of accepting the new borders and fought Poland and the Soviet Union for the creation of an independent Ukraine and their own state. Allied powers (especially the Soviet Union) and new Polish state found radical solutions to the ongoing conflicts and ethnic violence by the expeditious removal of ethnic minority Ukrainians, Poles and Ruthenians either to different parts of a country or out of a country completely. The relocation of hundreds of thousands of people affected large areas. This contribution focuses on the causes and course of such relocation and its impact on Ukrainian nationalist movements. The relocation of minority groups in Eastern Europe has irreversibly changed the ethnicity of many states. For present-day Ukraine, this meant occupying territories that had always been ethnically Polish. These issues were later reflected also in Czechoslovak post-war relations.

Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), Stepan Bandera, removals, minorities, Czechoslovakia.
  1. Timothy Snyder, Krvavé země: Evropa mezi Hitlerem a Stalinem [Blood Lands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin], trans. Petruška Šustrová (Prague: Paseka/Prostor, 2013), 320–321.
  2. Ibid.
  3. See A. J. P. Taylor, Příčiny druhé světové války [The Origins of the Second World War], trans. Stanislav Cita (Bratislava: Perfekt, 2005).
  4. Jevhen Konovalec (14 June 1891 – 23 May 1938) was historically the first politician leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. After its establishment, it focused mainly on expanding the contacts that could help create an independent Ukraine, especially in the Ukrainian emigration in the USA, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and also in Czechoslovakia. For these activities, the enemy of the Soviet Union was under the supervision of NKVD agents and one of them, Pavel Sudoplatov, was also assassinated in 1938. Tomáš Řepa, Banderovci, celkové zhodnocení projevů ukrajinského nacionalismu v československých dějinách po roce 1945 [The Bandera’s Movement, Overall Evaluation of the Manifestations of Ukrainian Nationalism in Czechoslovak History after 1945] (PhD diss., Masaryk University in Brno, 2017), 11.
  5. Ján Mlynárik, Osud banderovců a tragédie řeckokatolické církve [The Fate of the Bandera Group and the Tragedy of the Greek-Catholic Church] (Prague: Libri, 2005), 21.
  6. Tomáš Řepa, Banderovci. Politické souvislosti, následky zneužití tématu komunistickou propagandou, návaznost na hybridní konflikt v současnosti [Bandera’s Units: Political Contexts, Consequences of Abuse by Communist Propaganda, Continuity to Hybrid Conflict in the Present Time] (Prague: Academia, 2019), 53–54.
  7. For precise statistics of the number of Ukrainians before the Second World War, see Paul Robert Magocsi, Historical Atlas of East Central Europe (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), 49.
  8. Clarence A. Manning, Ukrainian Resistance: The Story of the Ukrainian National Liberation Movement in Modern Times (New York: Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, 1949), 17–23.
  9. A description of the events of the Great Famine in 1933 contains the chapter of this publication Lynne Violová, Neznámý gulag: Ztracený svět Stalinových zvláštních osad [Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements] (Prague: Naše vojsko, 2012), 211–234.
  10. Mlynárik, Osud banderovců, 23.
  11. For illustrating the cruelty of relations in Stalin’s Russia, see Roj Medvedev, Stalin a stalinizmus historické črty [Stalin and Stalinism – Historical Features], trans. Melita Albrechtová et al. (Bratislava: Obzor, 1990).
  12. Jan Fiala, Zpráva o akci B [Report on Action B] (Prague: Vyšehrad, 1994), 25–27.
  13. As a revenge for assassination, ten leaders of the OUN were arrested.
  14. Stepan Bandera (1 January 1909 – 15 October 1959) was the most prominent leader of the OUN. The detachment of this organization has been named after Bandera since 1939, and under the name the Bandera group (‘banderovci’) came into history by an armed struggle for an independent Ukraine. During his life, Stepan Bandera was imprisoned by several regimes for his attitudes and nationalist activities, and his life only illustrates the tragic destiny of Ukraine in the twentieth century. After the end of the Second World War, he moved to exile in Munich, Bavaria, to continue his past activities. The Soviet Union remained so dangerous that it was decided to liquidate him. It was done by KGB agent Bohdan Stashinsky using cyanide, which was injected into Bandera’s face. For many contemporary nationalists in Ukraine, Stepan Bandera’s legacy is still alive and is reflected in the political situation in the country. Řepa, Banderovci, celkové, 13.
  15. Fiala, Zpráva, 30.
  16. John A. Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism (New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1963), 42.
  17. Pavel Sudoplatov (7 July 1907 – 26 September 1996) was a Soviet general and a spy. During his lifetime, he became the main organizer of many spy events, for example, against Trotsky and during the Second World War against German troops. In 1953 he was arrested, released in 1968 and fully rehabilitated until 1992. Řepa, Banderovci, celkové, 14.
  18. Pavel Sudoplatov later made a statement in his memoirs. This attack was carried out on Stalin’s direct order, and Stalin planned everything personally. Also interesting is the way the explosive was disguised. Specifically, it was a confectionery package, a traditional Ukrainian gift and sign of respect. Pavel Sudoplatov, Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness: A Soviet Spymaster (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), 23–24.
  19. Andrij Melnyk (12 December 1890 – 1 November 1964) was the leader of the OUN, which included mainly older and less radical nationalities. During the interwar period, more than the others, OUN leaders focused on political debate and contacts with the Greek-Catholic Church in Western Ukraine. After 1938, Melnyk probably became the agent of the German Abwehr. Melnyk’s faction co-operated with the Germans more than Bandera’s faction, but also sought to create an independent Ukraine. Bandera’s faction disapproved of the targets and methods they chose, and this disagreement weakened them. Many of Melnyk’s closest members were liquidated by the Bandera group, and thus Bandera’s faction became the dominant component of OUN. In 1944, Melnyk was interned in a crackdown against the national movement in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After the Second World War, he went into exile in Luxembourg, where he died in 1964. Melnyk remained politically active and led several Ukrainian emigrant organizations but was not such a symbol of resistance and a threat to the Soviet Union as Stepan Bandera, and as the only former OUN leader he died a natural death in exile in Luxembourg. Řepa, Banderovci, celkové, 14.
  20. Mlynárik, Osud banderovců, 22.
  21. See Martin Gilbert, Druhá světová válka. Úplná historie [The Second World War: Full History], trans. Zdeněk Hron (Prague: BB art, 2006).
  22. For the situation at the beginning of the war, see Magocsi, Historical Atlas, 153.
  23. Mlynárik, Osud banderovců, 24.
  24. Gilbert, Druhá světová válka, 249; Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland’s Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 19181947 (Jefferson: Mc Farland, 1998), 210.
  25. Jaroslav Stecko (19 January 1912 – 5 July 1986) was a Ukrainian politician and member of the OUN. On 30 June 1941, he participated in the proclamation of Ukrainian independence in Lviv and became the Prime Minister of Ukraine. He was arrested and taken to Germany for twelve days, where he was forced to withdraw this declaration. As Stepan Bandera refused to withdraw the Ukrainian independence, he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he remained until 1944. After the Second World War he lived in Munich, was one of the leaders of the exile OUN, and he also devoted himself to publishing activities. Řepa, Banderovci, celkové, 17.
  26. Mlynárik, Osud banderovců, 25.
  27. Fiala, Zpráva, 35.
  28. Erich von Manstein, Ztracená vítězství [Lost Victories], vol. 1, Paměti německého polního maršála [Memory of the German Field Marshal], trans. Jiří Fidler (Brno: Jota, 2006), 243; Correlli Barnett, Hitlerovi generálové [Hitler’s Generals], trans. Petr Antonín (Brno: Jota, 1997), 245–273.
  29. See Jaroslava Milotová, „Česká otázka“ a nacistické plány na její řešení [‘The Czech Question’ and the Nazi Plans for Its Solution], in Vynútený rozchod. Vyhnanie a vysídlenie z Československa 1938-1947 v porovnání s Poľskom, Maďarskom a Juhosláviou [Forced Gauge: Ejection and Displacement from Czechoslovakia 1938–1947 Compared to Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia], eds Detlef Brandes et al. (Bratislava: Veda, 1999), 21–30.
  30. Fiala, Zpráva, 35.
  31. UPA was not the only armed organization in this area, but others never achieved more than local significance. During the war, UPA was the only truly substantial organized combat force of Ukrainian, especially after 1943. Antoni B. Szcześniak and Wiesław Z. Szota, Wojna polska z UPA. Droga do nikąd [Polish War with UPA: Road to Nowhere] (Warsaw: Bellona, 2013), 140.
  32. Roman Šuchevyč (30 July 1907 – 5 March 1950) alias ‘Taras Čuprynka’ was a member of OUN since 1930. His most important function was the position of the UPA commander from 1942 until his death in the shootout with NKVD agents in 1950. Given the poor outlook in the encirclement, he shot himself rather than be captured alive. Bandera’s troops fought against that mighty power for a very long time, thanks to the personality of their commander and their perfectly sophisticated guerrilla combat techniques. After the liquidation of Šuchevyč, the organized resistance Bandera group definitively disappeared. Řepa, Banderovci, celkové, 110.
  33. For example WIN (Wolność i Niepodleglość), NSZ (Narodowe Siły Zbrojne) or AK (Armia Krajowa).
  34. Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism, 156–157.
  35. Michal Šmigeľ et al., “Ethnic Cleansings and a Concept of Ethnically Homogenous States in Europe (In the Context of Historical Experience and Memory),” in Resettlement and Extermination of the Populations: A Syndrome of Modern History, ed. Zlatica Zudová–Lešková (Prague: Institute of History, Czech Academy of Sciences, 2015), 101–102.
  36. Bohdan Zilynskyj, Ukrajinci v Čechách a na Moravě stručný nástin dějin [The Ukrainians in Bohemia and Moravia – A Brief Outline of History] (Prague: Sdružení Čechů z Volyně a jejich přátel, 2002), 48.
  37. See Gordon Williamson, Věrnost je mou ctí. Osobní výpovědi bývalých příslušníků jednotek SS [Loyalty is My Honour: Personal Testimonies of Former SS Units], trans. Dona Zalmanová (Prague: Svojtka & Company, 1999).
  38. Archive of Security Forces in Prague (ASFP), fund 305 (State Security Centre 1945–1948), vol. 305–143–1, fol. 15–16.
  39. Mlynárik, Osud banderovců, 26.
  40. Fiala, Zpráva, 36.
  41. See Peter J. Potychnyj, My Journey, part 1, bk. 4 (Toronto and Lvov: Litopys UPA, 2008).
  42. Janusz Zajączkowski, Trudne sąsiedztwa. Polska i Ukraina a Rosja i Niemcy [Difficult Neighbourhoods: Poland and Ukraine and Russia and Germany] (Lublin: Werset, 2013), 399–402; Milan Syrůček, Banderovci hrdinové nebo bandité? [The Bandera Group – Heroes or Bandits?] (Prague: Epocha, 2008).
  43. For an overview of legal assumptions of population transfers based on international agreements, see Jan Kuklík, Mýty a realita tzv. “Benešových dekretů”: dekrety prezidenta republiky 19401945 [Myths and Reality of the So-Called ‘Beneš Decrees’: Decrees of the President of the Republic 19401945] (Prague: Linde, 2002), 121–133.
  44. René Petráš, Cizinci ve vlastní zemi. Dějiny a současnost národnostního napětí v Evropě [Foreigners in Their Own Country: History and Presence of National Voltage in Europe] (Prague: Auditorium, 2012), 100–106.
  45. Michal Šmigeľ, Letopis Ukrajinskej povstaleckej armády. UPA vo svetle slovenských a českých dokumentov (19451948) [The Chronicle of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. UPA in the Light of Slovak and Czech Documents (1945–1948)] (Toronto and Lviv: Litopys UPA, 2010).
  46. ASFP, fund 307 (Bandera group), vol. 307–65–1, fol. 1–323 (whole fund).
  47. See Magocsi, Historical Atlas, 157.
  48. Syrůček, Banderovci, 117.
  49. ASFP, fund 300 (State Department of Security Prague), vol. 300–25–1, fol. 21.
  50. Jiří Vykoukal, “Polsko: Základní rysy sovětizace (1944-1948)” [Poland: Basic Features of Sovietization (1944–1948)], in Sovětizace východní Evropy. Země střední a jihovýchodní Evropy v letech 19441948 [Sovietization of Eastern Europe: Countries of Central and Southeastern Europe in 1944–1948], ed. Miroslav Tejchman (Prague: Institute of History, Czech Academy of Sciences, 1995), 79–117.
  51. Jacques Rupnik, Jiná Evropa (Prague: Prostor, 1992), 94–100.
  52. For more about the topic using special NKVD units, see Grzegorz Motyka, Ukraińska partyzantka 19421960. Dzialalność Organizacji Ukraińskich Nacjonalistów i Ukraińskiej Powstańczej Armii [The Ukrainian Partisans of 1942–1960: Activities of the OUN and the UPA] (Warsaw: Instytut Studiów Politycznych PAN, Oficyna Wydawnicza RYTM, 2006), 592; Michal Šmigeľ, “Banderovci na Slovensku (1945–1946): K problematike činnosti a propagačných antikomunistických aktivít oddielov Ukrajinskej povstaleckej armády” [Bandera’s Movement in Slovakia (1945–1946): On the Issue of Activities and Promotional Anti-Communist Activities of the Sections of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army], in Radikálný socializmus a komunismus na Slovensku (19181989). Spoločnosť medzi demokraciou a totalitou [Radical Socialism and Communism in Slovakia (1918–1989): Society between Democracy and Totalitarianism], ed. Michal Šmigeľ (Banská Bystrica: Institute of History, Slovak Academy of Sciences, 2007), 143.
  53. Michal Šmigeľ, “V boji s banderovci na Slovensku (1945–1947). Aktivity československých bezpečnostních složek proti UPA – spolupráce s Polskem a SSSR” [In the Fight with the Bandera Group in Slovakia (1945–1947): Activities of Czechoslovak Security Forces against UPA –Cooperation with Poland and the USSR], in Aktivity NKVD/KGB a její spolupráce s tajnými službami střední a východní Evropy 19451989, ed. Kateřina Volná (Prague: Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, 2009), 217–226.
  54. See Volodymyr Vjatrovyč, Rejdy UPA terenami Čechoslovaciji [UPA Raids on the Territory of Czechoslovakia] (Kiev and Toronto: Vydavnyctvo Litopys UPA, 2001).
  55. Karol Świerczewski (22 February 1897 28 March 1947) was the Polish general, politician and post-war Deputy Minister of Defence. He participated in the Civil War in Russia, and since 1918 he has been a member of the Bolshevik Party. He participated in post-war repression of non-communists, especially against Armija Krajowa (AK). From February 1946, he served as Second Deputy Minister of National Defence. In March 1947, in Bieszczady, he was most probably by Bandera unit killed in a shootout. Řepa, Banderovci, celkové, 121–122.
  56. Philipp Ther, “Polsko-ukrajinský konflikt v letech 1939–1947. Srovnávací poznámky k diskusi o česko-sudetoněmeckém konfliktu” [The Polish–Ukrainian Conflict in 1939–1947: Comparative Notes to the Discussion on the Czech-Sudeten German Conflict], SD 9, no. 2 (2002): 258.
  57. The co-operation of the various states took place in the removal and during the military operations against the Bandera group. See Jan Štaigl, Spolupráca vojenských jednotiek ČSR, Poľska a ZSSR v akciách proti UPA na východnom Slovensku v rokoch 19451947 [Cooperation of the Military Units from Czechoslovakia, Poland and USSR in the Actions against UPA in the Eastern Slovakia 1945–1947], VH, no. 2 (2011): 72–101.
  58. Resettlement also influenced other regional Ukrainian or Ruthenian ethnic groups like ‘Lemkos’ or ‘Bojkos.’ For more details, see Luboš Veselý, “Proti ‘fašistickým bandám UPA’. Ukrajinci v propagandě lidového Polska” [Against ‘Fascist UPA Bands’: Ukrainians in the Propaganda of Republic of the People’s Republic of Poland], SD 17, no. 4 (2010): 667–701.
  59. For numbers of removals of ethnic groups and national minorities, including Ukrainian, Polish and German, see Magocsi, Historical Atlas, 164.
  60. See Paul Robert Magocsi, Rusíni a jejich vlast [Ruthenians and Their Homeland] (Prague: Česká expedice, 1996).
  61. Marek Jasiak, “Overcoming Ukrainian Resistance: The Deportation of Ukrainians within Poland in 1947,” in Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 19441948, eds Philipp Ther and Ana Siljak (Lanham, Boulder, New York, etc: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2001), 173–197; Norman M. Naimark, Plameny nenávisti: etnické čistky v Evropě 20. století [Hate Flames: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth Century Europe], trans. Šimon Pellar and Milena Pellarová (Prague: NLN, 2006), 122.
  62. Vjatrovyč, Rejdy UPA, 142–146.
  63. Philipp Ther, Temná strana národních států: etnické čistky v moderní Evropě [The Dark Side of National States: Ethnic Cleansing in Modern Europe], trans. Zuzana Schwarzová (Prague: Argo, 2017), 154–155.
  64. Jan Pilusiński, “Wojewódski urząd bezpieczeństwa publicznego w Rzeszowie wobec spoleczności ukraińskiej 1944–1956” [Voivode’s Office of Public Security in Rzeszów against the Ukrainian Community of 1944–1956], in Służby bezpieczeństwa Polski i Czechosłowacji wobec Ukraińców [Security Services of Poland and Czechoslovakia towards Ukrainians], ed. Grzegorz Motyka (Warsaw: Institute of National Remembrance, 2005), 20–57.
  65. Šmigeľ, Radikálný socializmus, 172.
  66. Alex Maskalík, “Veliteľský zbor Československej armády v boji proti ‘banderovcom’ vo svetle archívnych dokumentov Vojenského historického archívu Bratislava” [Command of the Czechoslovak Army in the Fight against ‘banderovci’ in the Light of Archive Documents of the Military Historical Archive Bratislava], VH, no. 1 (2011): 99–125.
  67. Andrej Zubov et al., Dějiny Ruska 20. století [The History of Russia of the Twentieth Century], vol. II, 13932007 (Prague: Argo, 2014), 234.