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Ukrainian Week | 02Apr2018 | Sviatoslav Lypovetsky

The grand chessboard: Ukrainian-Polish clashes

On March 2, 1919, the Polish government decided to polonize and colonialize Volhynia, as the Volyn region of Ukraine was then known

[W.Z.: The article below is deservedly very critical of Polish policy towards Ukrainians prior to and during WWI and especially after the resurrection of the Polish national state following the German capitulation on 11 November 1918. Nevertheless, Poles and Ukrainians have been friends, enemies and neighbours for centuries and remain so today. It is crucial for both nations to develop and maintain good relations, despite artificially-introduced frictions concerning the AK (Armiya Krayova or Armia Krajowa) and the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) that have recently arisen. There is an incredible amount of similarity between the AK and the UPA -- their aspirations, goals and activities. For example, the actions and fate of Roman Shukhevych  (as Taras Chuprynka of UPA) is mirrored by that of Hieronim Dekutowski (as Zapora of AK).

Pavlo Ivanchenko, a subscriber to the Infoukes Politics mailing list, has recently been posting a large number of youtube videos related to the AK including a video highlighting the life of "Zapora". I have appended a number of these links at the bottom of this article.]

[... Photo ...]  Members of the PNC officially transfer the command of General Haller’s Blue Army. Paris, 1917

The World War I dramatically changed the map of Europe, including the emergence of a Polish state, which had been carved among three empires at the end of the 18th century and now would be talked about by all sides in the conflict. The Austrian and German emperors issued separate proclamations in November 1916 with promises to restore Poland, the Russian tsar began his Christmas greeting for 1917 with the same promise, while even Woodrow Wilson mentioned the Poles from the other side of the Atlantic. As the war drew to a close, there was no doubt that Rzeczpostpolita II would appear. The main issue was simply where the borders of this new country should be, given that it had been one of the largest states in Europe prior to being dismembered.

The Polish question and Ukrainian details

The outline of the post-war world would be drawn up by the American president, Woodrow Wilson, who mentioned the establishment of “an independent Polish state...on the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations” in his famous 14 Points.  The last was largely thanks to the Polish statesman and composer, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who had effectively switched from piano to diplomacy in the United States.

Polish leaders found Wilson’s wording both encouraging and disheartening. In August 1918, Roman Dmowski, the leader of the right-wing National Democracy camp referred to as NDs in Polish, traveled to the US. There, he met with the president and afterwards sent a memorandum on the issue of the borders. Recognizing that only 25% of the population of Halychyna, then known as Galicia, was ethnic Polish, Dmowski declared that the Ukrainian people were not capable of self-organization and running a state as they lacked a sufficient intellectual class of their own.

“Thus in the near future, at least, a Polish administration is the only conceivable one for a normal development and progress,” he wrote to Wilson. “As long as the level of Ruthenian intellectual life is too low to produce a progressive modern government to be conducted by Ruthenians, Eastern Galicia should form an integral part of the Polish State.”

Ironically, Halychyna’s Ukrainians or Ruthenians as they were called in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, had been struggling with the Poles for half a century to establish their own national institutions. Ever since Halychyna had been granted autonomous status within the Habsburg Empire back in 1867, the government continued to be in Polish hands. Incidentally, Dmowski himself, among others, was a deputy in the Russian Duma and had signed a pact with officials from the Russian Empire in 1908 committing the Poles to suppress the development of the Ukrainian community in Halychyna.

During the war, Dmowski organized the Polish National Committee (PNC) and also influenced the formation of the POW and volunteer Blue Army, also known as Haller’s Army, under Gen. Joszef Haller in France. Where the PNC was oriented towards the Entente, Joszef Pilsudski, head of the Polish Socialist Party, was setting volunteer Polish Legions that fought on the side of the Quadruple Alliance. During the final year of WWI, the legionnaires refused to swear allegiance to the Kaiser. They were disbanded and Pilsudski was arrested.

[W.Z.: According to a Wikepdia article, French General Haller's "Blue" Army consisted of  ethnic Polish volunteers from Canada and the United States during WWI, who allegedly massacred about 300 Ukrainian Sichovi Striltsi near the village of Vyshnivchyk during the summer of 1917 (or was it in 1919?).]

RELATED ARTICLE: What shaped the aristocratic tradition in politics between the Cossack period and the liberation struggle of 1917-1920 

On the last day of WWI, November 11, 1918, Pilsudski was released and returned in triumph to Poland. At this point, Poland’s political leadership was split between the PNC, which was operating in exile and was recognized by the Entente, and the temporary head of state, Pilsudski, who was actually running the country. Political expedience required some kind of compromise. The result was the formation of a coalition government led by Paderewski, while the PNC, now including Pilsudski’s people, became the official representative of the Polish Government at the Paris Peace Conference. And that was where the borders of postwar Europe were decided.

[... Cartoon ...] US President Wilson giving the Dove of Peace an olive branch labeled “League of Nations”. The 1919 caricature suggests that the Versailles system constructed by Wilson would not ensure a just order and long-term peace in the world

What shape Poland? Pilsudski vs Dmowski

The Polish National Committee was slated to discuss the eastern borders on March 2, 1919. Two different concepts were presented: Pilsudski’s and Dmowski’s and the winning concept became the basis for state policy and the Polish position during international talks.

Pilsudski floated the concept of a federation of Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, an idealized notion that had echoed down the centuries from the early years of the Rzeczpostpolita, but it was not outlined seriously, looking more like a utopian idea. It was opposed by the NDs, whose own position was more difficult: the Polish state could be strong if its population consisted of more than 75% ethnic Poles. Dmowski’s argument was simple: “We cannot get caught up in the idea that the Sejm will have at least 75% Polish MPs, because, even if there are only 25% non-Poles, it seems obvious that it will always be possible to find 25% Poles who will have the ambition to cooperate with them...”

Dmowski supported his proposition with the example of Russia: “One feature of the Russian state was that its eyes were always bigger than its stomach. It swallowed a lot but it couldn’t digest it all. I know that we have appetites of our own, but we are clearly a western nation and should be able to control them.”

It was foolish to think that the NDs would limit themselves to only ethnic Polish lands. What’s more, the memorandum to Wilson openly talked about annexing Halychyna. Dmowski thought that this Ukrainian region, and part of Lithuania, needed to become those bits that Poland could and wanted to “digest” to the east.

RELATED ARTICLE: What national policy was like in the USSR

“Kresy Wschodnie [meaning eastern territories] are our colonies,” Count Zoltowski told the Committee. “They have always pretty much been so and they should remain so.” Not willing to go as far as annexing the territories, which could then become a problem, the Polish National Committee looked for those territories to the east that could be colonized with the least effort and polonized. They decided on Volynhia where, according to the 1897 census, 70% of the residents were ethnic Ukrainian and 6% were ethnic Polish. Even in the towns, the Poles were a smaller minority than Ukrainians, Jews or Russians.

“When it comes to Belarus, it’s hard to even talk about it as a nation,” said Pilsudski socialist Medard Downarowicz. “It hasn’t even crystallized. During the war, this territory was terribly depopulated, and Volynhia even more so. We could move our eastern borders in this direction. I think our expansion, our emigration, could very quickly penetrate to the east and these territories will very easily become Polish.”

“Pan [Downarowicz] himself said that we can move towards Volynhia,” concluded the meeting’s chair, Roman Dmowski.

Thus was the meeting of the Polish National Committee, where a vote of 10 to 4 against confirmed the territorial proposals and established the basis for Poland’s eastern policy. “Let’s remember that we cannot present to Congress the kinds of arguments that we have stated here,” the minutes of the PNC meeting read. “This territory is needed for us to expand, but we cannot say this at the Congress.”

So the issue was transferred to the walls of the Versailles, where the leaders of the victorious countries would decide.

The Versailles debates

In his memoirs, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George was to write years later: “Drunk with the new wine of liberty supplied to her by the Allies, she [Poland] fancied itself once more as the resistless mistress of Central Europe. Self-determination did not suit her ambitions. She coveted Galicia, the Ukraine, Lithuania, and parts of White Russia [Belarus]. A vote of the inhabitants would have emphatically repudiated her dominion.”

But not everyone agreed with him. Among those who favored the Poles was US President Woodrow Wilson. Although the Poles largely ignored the principle of self-determination of peoples, the Americans had their own interests in this case: there was a large and active Polish community in the US that represented substantial numbers of voters. The French were also keen, as they wanted to weaken Germany at all costs and this led to the formula that was then applied: “Several millions of Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Belarusians included in Poland means a corresponding strengthening of France’s eastern borders.”

Poland was represented at Versailles by Dmowski and Paderewski, and they were very successful in this. Their final argument for annexing the “Kresy Wschodnie” was the joint 600-year history of Poles cohabiting with such “primitive peoples as Lithuanians, Ruthenians and even Ukrainians [sic]” who supposedly not only did not lose their self-identity but, with Polish help, had developed it.

RELATED ARTICLE: The conservative revolution of Pavlo Skoropadsky: What the last hetman of Ukraine came to power in 1918 and what he achieved

But Poland resolved the issue of its borders not only on the diplomatic front but also in fact. “The Galician problem gave us no end of trouble. The trouble however did not come from Bolsheviks but from Polish aggression,” wrote Lloyd George. The struggle for the young Western Ukrainian National Republic (ZUNR) took place on many levels and one of them was getting the well-armed 100,000-strong Haller Army involved on the eastern front. This was against all the agreements and even France was forced to condemn the move harshly. But Pilsudski was a risky and overly experienced player who preferred a policy of fait accompli.

[.. Photo of 2 coins ...]  Memorial coin issued by the National Bank of Poland on the 100th anniversary of the Polish National Committee. Both sides include images of historical photos: members of the PNC in Paris and the oath of allegiance of the Haller Army. Both entities -- the PNC on the international stage and the Blue Army with its weapons in Halychyna -- are directly tied to the annexation of western Ukrainian lands by Poland

At this point, Paderewski would tell Versailles that they were unable to stop the whirlwind of 20-year-olds who were covering 35-40 kilometers a day without meeting any resistance. The local population was greeting them positively and all this campaign would cost the Poles less than 100 casualties.

“They [the Poles] are claiming three million and a half of Galicians,” said Lloyd George. “The only claim put forward is that in a readjustment you should not absorb into Poland populations which are not Polish and which do not wish to become Polish… The Poles had not the slightest hope of getting freedom, and they have only got their freedom because there are million and a half of Frenchmen dead, very nearly a million British, half a million Italians, and I forgot how many Americans.” He went on to call Poland a bigger imperialist than England, France or the US.

Paderewski then brought out the final argument to stop the debate: “On the day I left Warsaw a boy came to see me, a boy about 13 or 14 years old, with four fingers missing on this hand. He was in uniform, shot twice through the leg, once through the lungs, and with a deep wound in his skull. He was one of the defenders of Lemberg [Lviv]. Do you think that children of thirteen are fighting for annexation, for imperialists?”

RELATED ARTICLE: How Ukrainians treated different religions throughout their history

As someone once wrote about the heroic myth created by Henryk Sienkiewicz that had captivated Poles: “Heads and hands are being chopped off, mountains of corpses grow, but the blood is not real blood. It’s just beet juice.” This was understood in Versailles, so Lloyd George responded, “this charming artist beguiled the Council of Four.”

[... Map ...]  The new borders. The map approved by the Polish National Committee for the Paris Peace Conference on March 2, 1919, suggesting the outline for Poland’s frontiers

But the occupation of Halychyna proved to be a fait accompli and in June 1919 it was officially recognized in Paris. Poland was the first country to sign the Little Treaty of Versailles, in which it committed itself to respect the rights of ethnic minorities. The signatures were Dmowski and Paderewski.

By 1934, the second Polish republic unilaterally renounced the agreement on ethnic minorities. Nor was the promised autonomy of Halychyna established. When Lloyd George later listed the commitments unfulfilled by various signatories, this point took first place.

Translated by Lidia Wolanskyj  

[W.Z.: The videolinks listed below have been posted on the Infoukes Politics mailing list in February/March 2018 by Pavlo Ivanchenko. Most of them are in the Polish language, but there are also 5 in the Ukrainian language on Aktsia Visla and 7 in the Belarusan language on Shlyakhta. Readers who are familiar with these languages are urged to familiarize themselves with this material. English-only readers could, at least, watch ZAPORA with English subtitles.]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dz6lFRf4Is  [1:07:03]  30Apr2016 by IPNtvPL - ZAPORA (Polish with English subtitles)
Hieronim Dekutowski "Zapora" was parachuted into Poland on the night of 16/17Sep1943. He commanded AK units in the Lublin-Pulawy area against the German occupiers until the end of the war, then against the Russian occupiers after the war. He was was finally captured by the Russian occupiers in September 1947, tried and sentenced to death in November 1948 and executed (with 6 others) on 07Mar1949. Their remains were discovered in the summer of 2012.
- In the video, the testimony of the AK survivors is very graphic, but enlightening. It is not clear if these units operated only on Polish territory or also on Ukrainian ethnographic territory.
- It would also be interesting to know if any of the videos below refer to the interaction of the AK with the UPA.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6a33mCxeNnY  [56:05] 17Dec2013 ulespaul pl - History of Cursed Soldiers - AK capitulation (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yU6j-Mj9M6c    [57:07]  20Dec2014 PATRIOTYCZNATV - Cursed Soldiers (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10049Ed-VxM   [1:14:28] 22Jul2013 Polonia Christiana - Leszek Zebrowski seminar (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpDR5X5MlK8 [1:06:15] 11Jan2017 Michal Sakra - Armia Ludowa, Armia Krajowa - Leszek Zebrowski  (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byhtKeHjBt8      [08:41] 01Mar2016 Xantris - Interview of Leszek Zebrowski on Cursed Soldiers (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uEj8QD64Ks   [2:33:40]  16Oct2013 ascotv - Seminar with 3 panelists on legacy of AK capitulation (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAtScPEETbw  [2:18:49] 26Feb2015 www.mylomza.pl - Seminar on AK, etc. - Leszek Zebrowski  (Polish)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa0slctmn3c           [19:49] 13Jan2018 Tomasz Hanc - AK in Selisia after WWII (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuQ6UVWM59Y [18:39] 08Nov2017 Tomasz Hanc (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnH8QcCajmY      [27:21] 08Nov2017 Tomasz Hanc - Slady Zbrodni (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVUgQk5AT-w     [23:25] 11Oct2017 Tomasz Hanc - Bartek and his unit (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Na3Iaqxs_Oo        [24:27] 09Oct2017 Tomasz Hanc - Podkowa raid to the west (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAUQsL-nWkY    [33:35] 05Oct2017 Tomasz Hanc - Battle under Rzabcem (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRC1I84CtGE       [27:23] 02Oct2017 Tomasz Hanc - WSGO "Warta" (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZ61eVwWWSs  [25:59] 04Feb2017 Tomasz Hanc - Oskarzenie (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmav23mnNkg       [12:09] 14Jan2017 Tomasz Hanc - Ci bandyci z BOA (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB0BKc-UPAs     [28:34] 19Nov2016 Tomasz Hanc - Soviet partisans and AK (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj3jChNI0AM       [49:39] 16Sep2016 Tomasz Hanc - Cios w plecy - AK v. Red Army (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAtScPEETbw      [37:10] 15May2016 Tomasz Hanc - Wychodzili nocami... (Polish)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jszordnpWww        [03:00] 12May2015 Onet News - Stanislaw Szafranek - soldier of AK (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jpJ-1vXvyQ&t=1581s  [27:12] 20Aug2014 Anna Domagalska - Jaworzno concentration camp (Polish)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noAgfgWVrl0         [03:03] 06May2011 TurboDynoMen1 - Major Zubryd (Polish)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Mgnd-ZwI1w    Part 1 [20:57] 29Oct20175  Channel 5 - Aktsia Wisla 1947 (Ukrainian)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp_fn82cUO0      Part 2 [20:41] 29Oct20175  Channel 5 - Aktsia Wisla 1947 (Ukrainian)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNGgXN0yaoM Part 3 [19:49] 13Nov20175  Channel 5 - Aktsia Wisla 1947 (Ukrainian)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Clx_gvj062o        Part 4 [19:49] 13Nov20175  Channel 5 - Aktsia Wisla 1947 (Ukrainian)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rygVE8joRu8  [1:06:19] 07Oct2015 Oleh Volchek  OHT, Belarus - AK in Belarus (Belarusan)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE4gihuxp2k    1. [26:04] 16Jun2014 ATH Ch 3 Belarus - Shlyakhta: Brutal History (Belarusan)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16Ga8-T36FY 2. [27:57] 25Jun2014 ATH Ch 3 Belarus - Shlyakhta: Brutal History (Belarusan)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgb7mmtt394   3. [27:39] 26Jun2014 ATH Ch 3 Belarus - Shlyakhta: Brutal History (Belarusan)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp3ta-ZBItQ   4. [26:01] 27Jun2014 ATH Ch 3 Belarus - Shlyakhta: Brutal History (Belarusan)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix-jMzvyhys    5. [26:11] 30Jun2014 ATH Ch 3 Belarus  - Shlyakhta: Brutal History (Belarusan)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTGrgD-z1yY      [26:11] 03Jun2013 ONT (www.ont.by) - Belarus Shlyakhta (Belarusan)

Comment by Pavlo Ivanchenko on 22Feb2018:
It would be wonderful to have these programs translated into both Ukrainian and English and have it subtitled. Some of the links deal with personal accounts of prominent individual soldiers and officers of AK who did not capitulate but chose to maintain the underground and fight on. Many investigations and research has gone into revealing the extent to which the collapse of the AK and the national Polish underground in the last year of WW II and post war period served to entrench communism in Poland and neutralized and or marginalized any open active resistance. It is a disgrace to the memory of the AK soldiers who sacrificed their lives against Nazi tyranny only to be rewarded by the communist government with imprisonment, torture, execution and be insulted in the communist press as bandits and nazi collaborators. These videos are useful material to counter the myth that the Soviet Red Army liberated Eastern Europe from Nazi tyranny DEJA-VU!!!

[W.Z.: I must confess that I do not have a good knowledge of the history of Poland.
- [Nor that of Romania, (Moldova), Hungary, Slovakia, Belarus, and Russia, which also abut the territory of Ukraine.]
Much of Polish history appears to be rooted in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Empire), which was supplanted (in 1795) by the Austro-Hungarian (Hapsburg) Empire, which collapsed after WWI (1918) leading to the establishment of a number of independent states including Poland.
- [The Russian Empire survived as the Soviet Union and even expanded the territory it controlled (including Poland) following WWII (1945) until it collapsed into 15 independent states in 1991 leaving the Russian Federation as the surviving Russian Empire.]

Since 1795 ethnic Poles (on Polish ethnographic territory and in the Diaspora) had been attempting to re-establish an independent Polish state. There opportunity arrived during WWI. They lobbied the various influential governments in Europe (including Lloyd George in Britain) and North America (including Woodrow Wilson in the USA) to ensure that an independent Poland be established. They recruited some 24,000 ethnic-Polish volunteers in North America to serve in General Haller's Blue Army (totalling over 90,000) in France and, in the spring of 1919, were sent to fight successfully against the Ukrainian Sichovi Striltsi, who were also fighting to establish an independent Ukraine.
- [One wonders if any Canadian or American citizens were involved in the massacre of 300 Sichovi Striltsi in Vishnivchyk, Ukraine that summer?]

The Poles were successful in establishing an independent state; the Ukrainians failed. The only problem was that the Poles incorporated large sections of Ukrainian ethnographic territory into their state and attempted to colonize it during the 1920s and 1930s as Lloyd George so clearly explains in the Lypovetsky article above. This led to a great deal of friction between Poles and Ukrainians.

During WWII, the same problems between Poles and Ukrainians exploded again -- with the Poles angling to retain Ukrainian ethnographic territory after the war and the Ukrainians hoping to establish an independent Ukrainian state. Stalin disillusioned both. After the war, the underground cells of both the AK and the UPA wasted many fruitless years and lives fighting the Stalinist regime.

To conclude, the goals, aspirations and methods of both the AK and the UPA were virtually identical.]