7. The Struggle of the Ukrainian Galician Army Against Poland

Meanwhile there was a sad turn of events in Galicia. The so-called Blue Army of General Haller, recruited in America and in France, arrived in Poland 75,000 strong, well armed and equipped. It gave the Poles an edge over the Ukrainian Galician Army which was forced to retreat eastward. The question arose: whither? The Army of the Ukrainian National Republic was already retreating under Bolshevik pressure westward and now there was only a small strip separating the two Ukrainian Armies. In this critical situation, the youthful Galician officers requested their High Command to order a counterattack. The Galician President E. Petrushevych appointed General O. Hrekiv as Commander in Chief and ordered a counter offensive. It is hardly believable because it was almost a miracle that the Ukrainian Galician Army, by superhuman effort, broke the Polish front. The supply of ammunition was so scant that after one day's fighting the soldiers were rationed only several rounds per day which could be fired only on clear orders of officers. The Ukrainian Galician Army began its offensive on June 8th, called the "Chortkiv Offensive" and within nine days it penetrated a distance about eighty miles from the Chortkiv-Terebovla-Ternopil to the Stanyslaviv-Burshtyn-Peremyshlany line. The Poles threw in fresh troops and halted the Ukrainian offensive. The Ukrainians' ammunition was exhausted, for although they had captured large supplies from the Poles, it did not fit their arms. There was a new retreat of the Ukrainian Galician Army which was trying to detach itself from the pursuing enemy in order to redeploy its forces. The Ukrainian Galician Army was quite depleted, by losses, sickness and lack of opportunity for fresh recruitment. The Chortkiv Offensive was, however, of great importance to the operations of the Army of the Ukrainian National Republic because it halted the Poles for a considerable time, the latter following the Ukrainian Galician Army at a slow pace and requiring more than three weeks to re-occupy the areas which they had lost, a time of great value to the Army of the Ukrainian National Republic. Now the Ukrainian Galician Army, ready for combat and confident in ultimate victory assembled in the rear of the UNR Army for a joint offensive against the Reds.

The Government of the Ukrainian National Republic was well aware of the difficult strategic position of Ukraine due to the necessity to fight on two fronts and a none-too-friendly neutrality of Rumania. Therefore the Government decided to seek an armistice with Poland, of which we were appraised by reports from Army Headquarters. As far as the political side of this matter is concerned, it must be stated that both the Government of the Western Ukrainian Republic as well as all soldiers were opposed to this, but the strategic position of both our Armies being hopeless, the only way out was to make peace with one enemy and untie our hands for a fight with" the other. Negotiations with Poland dragged out fairly long, the Ukrainian delegation doing its utmost to have the demands of the Ukrainian Galician Army and Government taken into consideration. Quite unexpectedly, however, the Allied Supreme Council issued a directive to the Polish Government to take all Galicia under temporary occupation, all the way to the river Zbruch. There was nothing else left to the Ukrainian delegation, but to accept this condition and to get the Poles to agree, to cease military operations so that the Ukrainian Galician Army could cross the Zbruch intact. We also needed territory on which the Ukrainian Galician Army could be deployed, and this had to be taken from the Bolsheviks. The situation was a little more favorable at that time because the Bolsheviks did not attempt to cross the Zbruch and their offensive in Volhynia was completely unsuccessful. The UNR Army began an offensive to gain territory for the Galician Army. In June the UNR Army reached the Kamyanets-Podilsky-Dunayivtsi-Proskuriv line, but with much effort and aided by the Ukrainian Galician Army.

Much later, when I studied the details of the Ukrainian liberation effort, I pondered over the circumstances of the so-called "November Feat" which constituted the beginning of statehood of the Ukrainian Galician territory and was carried out by a small group of Ukrainian Galician patriots. In Lviv itself the group of the "November Feat" did not number more than 1,500 men, most of whom were soldiers of advanced years or convalescents without much ability to fight. In reality, Lviv was seized by no more than five-hundred men and the action succeeded only thanks to the determination and superhuman efforts of a small group of officers headed by Colonel Dmytro Vitovsky, who became Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian Galician Army and War Secretary. In the countryside the take-over went much smoother because there was no organized counteraction on the Polish side and because the Polish population was very small. We were also filled with admiration and pride at the Galician Ukrainians' ability to organize a strong army within a short period of time and under difficult conditions. It was 80,000 strong in the early days of 1919, a figure easy to quote now, but we must take into consideration the difficulties of mobilization, organization of technical, material and medical equipment, transportation, etc., all taking place on ruins in which Galicia lay at the end of World War I, being the main theatre of operations between the Central Powers and Russia and changing hands numberless times.