9. Attack on Ukraine

On the night of May 23rd I received orders from the Army Staff through Maj. Martynovych to force the Zbruch immediately, and to march in the direction of Dunayevtsi. My neighboring commanders simultaneously began an offensive: Col. Shapoval toward Kamyanets, and Otaman Bozhko toward Solobkivtsi. It was disappointed that this joint action was not put under a single commander, for purposes of coordination. Maj. Martynovych promised to support my attack with two batteries and to put one infantry company with four machine-guns in my reserves. During the night of May 25th I marked the entire front of the group with the help of this company, and knowing the exact location and routine of the enemy, I pulled all my troops into a woods five kilometers north of Husiatyn so as to effect a march in the enemy's rear and encircle his entire Husiatyn Sector. The enemy was caught by surprise and began fleeing after a few shots, so that by 7 A.M., we had liquidated two enemy regiments, taking 150 prisoners, and capturing three cannon, seven machine-guns on carriages, a lot of military supplies and more than forty horses. I ordered the Zaporozhian battalion to place sentries along a sector of five to six kilometers, and the Rybnyk regiment, as reserve to move into the village of Velyky Olkhovets. In the course of these movements there was unceasing fire east of Velyky Olkhovets and liaison-couriers dispatched to the commander of the 2nd company, Capt. Vodyanytsky, did not return. Therefore I decided to proceed there in person. I was accompanied by Col. Matsak, my aide, Capt. Linytsky and three mounted order-lies. On a hill east of Velyky Olkhovets stood the ruins of a manor destroyed during the war, and the road passed through a deep ravine. When our group came close to the ruins, standing on both sides of the road, we did not see our sentries which were supposed to be there, but instead, from behind a building on the right, a band of fifteen to twenty Reds jumped out and with shouts of "surrender" began to shoot from a distance of about forty to fifty paces. My horse was killed under me and fell over my left leg. Bullets were literally grazing me. I freed my leg with difficulty and immediately drew and cocked my Browning automatic pistol, not wanting to be taken alive. Meanwhile Capt. Linytsky and the soldiers got off their horses and managed to run up the left escarpment, hiding behind the walls on that side and firing at the Reds. This gave me a chance to run up and join them. Under the cover of the ruined walls we managed to get behind the buildings at the north end of the village, but we were met with fire there, too. We found out that it was a patrol in deployment proceeding to take its position among the ruined buildings. Col. Matsak turned his horse around and escaped to Husiatyn where he alerted the reserves. When we were near the city we met the company on its way to rescue us. When I wanted to unload my pistol later, I found that it was jammed. Providence saved me from enemy bullets and probably from my own bullet, too.

A report reached me from Maj. Martynovych in the meantime that neither Col. Shapoval, nor Otaman Bozhko had started their attacks because they had not managed to get ready in time: this was the result of the lack of unified command. We captured the bridgehead, as the offensive was postponed to May 27th. On that morning, pursuant to orders, the group began moving toward Dunayevtsi without opposition. From time to time we heard artillery fire on our right and left. Before Dunayevtsi, near the city of Shatava, the Commander in Chief arrived and after receiving my report ordered the column to rest and informed me about the situation. The new commander of the Skala group, Col. O. Udovychenko, who had replaced Col. Shapoval, had already captured Kamyanets Podilsky and was proceeding toward Dunayevtsi where a battle was in progress. Otaman Bozhko had also forced the Zbruch, but his eastward march was halted by overwhelming enemy forces; the Zaporozhian Corps had dispersed the enemy in the upper Horyn region and was moving on Proskuriv. My group was renamed the 9th Infantry regiment and embodied in the 3rd Infantry Division, the former group of Col. Udovychenko. Other regiments in the Division were the 7th Blue regiment under Col. O. Vyshnivsky and the 8th Black Sea regiment under Col. Tsarenko; the artillery regiment under Col. H. Chyzhevsky consisted of four light and one heavy subdivisions; the cavalry regiment in the Division was under Col. M. Krat. In Dunayevtsi I reported to Col. Udovychenko, whom I had met during my stay in Yarmolyntsi when he was chief of staff of the Slobidsky Corps.

The next day the regiment attacked in the direction of the city of Nova Ushytsya. I was proud and happy to watch the 1st battalion (the former Zaporozhian battalion) deploy in ranks without faltering under enemy fire, as if on maneuvers. I had the opportunity to see the whole battlefield from my command post, but the battalion commander, the experienced line officer Capt. Shevtsiv, sent me dispatches on the course of the attack. My 6th battery was firing at the enemy almost from the line of the infantry. The 2nd battalion, however (the former Rybnyk regiment), did not display activity on the left wing of attack and I had to send runners with orders to hasten their movement, particularly since on the sector of this battalion near Zamikhiv the enemy was not active, either. While I was standing at the observation point under an old huge lime tree two kilometers west of Nova Ushytsya, I heard the whine of one of the enemy cannon shots. I had no time to hide behind the tree and the shell fell right at my feet but did not explode. That day the regiment reached Mynkivtsi without much resistance from the enemy.

In the following days the regiment marched forward through Verbovets and Kurylivtsi Murovani in order to take the station Kotyuzhany on the Zhmerynka-Mohyliv line and prevent the enemy from evacuating Mohyliv toward Zhmerynka. The task was accomplished: forty kilometers in three days with fairly heavy enemy resistance. After taking Kotyuzhany I pushed the 1st battalion to Kopayhorod in order to defend Kotyuzhany from the north and east. In Nova Ushytsya, Verbovets, and Kyrylivtsi Murovani and all around, the people were out to give us a hearty welcome, with the Jewish population taking part. But when the battalion was entering Kopayhorod in battle order, shots were fired at it from buildings and several men were wounded. I was with the battalion and ordered patrols to leave the city and the battalion to surround it without letting anyone leave the city, because the Bolsheviks could not be distinguished from the civilian population. I was certain that the shots from windows were fired by Bolsheviks who had not managed to leave the city. The patrols searched the city and determined from which houses shoes had been fired at us. When we brought those whom we had detained before members of the City Council, the latter stated that they were all local residents. All those detained were young Jews and we found them in possession of arms and ammunition. I held them in the school building and conducted the investigation in person in the presence of members of the City Council, the local Rabbi, and the pharmacist, who was also Jewish. In answer to questioning all of the detained admitted that they had been shooting. There were about 15 boys and they said that they had been armed by the Bolshevik commandant of the city who persuaded them to fire at us, alleging that we were "Haydamaks"7 who would butcher all local Jews! A local Jewish tailor had been the Bolshevik commandant, so it is not surprising that they obeyed him. This was the first instance when I made use of the letter I had from Rabbi Feldfix: when the Rabbi of Kopayhorod read it, he addressed the young Jews very sharply and they all fell to their knees and begged for mercy. We did not even arrest any of them. We only asked that their families take care of our wounded soldiers.

The regiment stopped in the Kopayhorod-Kotyuzhany regions for several days because we learned that the Division could not advance as the 2nd "Zaporozhska Sitch" Division of Otaman Bozhko, which was supposed to have taken Zhmerynka, had to retreat before overwhelming enemy forces first to Bar, and then southwest to Yaltushkiv. The enemy had advanced up to thirty kilometers behind the regiment. When the Bolsheviks brought reinforcements to Zhmerynka with two armored trains, the Division had to retreat all the way to Nova Ushytsya. It should be noted that such a withdrawal, in addition to political and moral difficulties, also created tactical hardships, because all roads led through larger towns and cities situated in deep river valleys (Stara Ushytsya, Kalus, Lozova) parallel to the front and flowing to the Dnister river. With fresh troops of the 41st Bessarabian Division the enemy attempted to destroy our Division, but Col. Udovychenko frustrated all these attempts with adroit maneuvers inflicting heavy losses on the enemy.

In this quite difficult and uncertain situation the well-known leader from Bukovyna, Otaman V. Topushchak came to me and told me that he had brought with him from Bukovyna, which had now been occupied by the Rumanians, a whole battalion of very good soldiers to Kamyanets. He wanted his battalion to be attached as an independent unit to an appropriate unit of our Army. The Commander in Chief permitted him to visit the front and to select this unit. He had visited all, including our 9th regiment, without our knowing about it. The Commander in Chief granted his request to be attached to our regiment and now he was asking me whether I would have his battalion under my command. I could only thank Otaman Topushchak for his confidence in me, and his battalion was attached to my regiment in Nova Ushytsya. The battalion consisted of three infantry and one machine-gun companies with additional units and supplies. It was under the command of Captain Zipser, with Lieut. Cantemir as aide-de-camp. There was a total of about 320 men. I was always careful to keep this unit of such fine boys from suffering losses and I ordered them into battle only when it was absolutely necessary. Thus, my regiment unexpectedly grew larger, and in spite of losses which were fortunately not too heavy, now counted over 900 men. At that time the problem of clothing and especially shoes became very acute. We had worn them out in battles and marches! I was helped a lot by the Divisional Quartermaster, Captain Bazylevych, who had set woolen mills and tanneries in motion at Dunayevtsi, behind our lines.

The reinforced "Zaporozhska Sitch" Division finally took Zhmerynka and our Division received orders to go forward and take the Vapniarka railroad junction. This time I was to lead the attack through Kurylivtsi Murovani to Mohyliv. Mohyliv (Mogilev) was being defended by the Nemiya-Serebriy red regiment under Chaban, over 1,000 strong with an armored train and a number of cannon.

Following the bad experience with our 2nd battalion, I put it in reserve and led the attack on Mohyliv with the 1st and 3rd battalions, the 1st having the task of attacking north of Mohyliv and cutting off Chaban's avenue of retreat to the east. We dispersed the enemy after a fairly brief battle and captured seven cannon, the armored train and 200 prisoners. When my troops and I were going down the road to Mohyliv, which lies in a deep valley on the Dnister, Rumanian artillery fired at us from the other side of the Dnister! Captain Zipser immediately dispatched three officers, under a flag of truce, by boat across the Dnister, and they explained to the Rumanian commander of the sector in the city of Ataki exactly who we were. The firing ceased immediately, but we had several killed and wounded. Our delegates brought a report from the Rumanians that they had been informed by Chaban that Mohyliv was being attacked by bandits and that was why they had been shooting at us.

In Mohyliv the local population arranged a banquet reception for the entire regiment, presided over by the President of the City Council and by the Chairman of the County Board, the brothers Dyadynyuk (one of them was the father of the well-known Ukrainian painter and engraver V. Dyadynyuk who enlisted in my regiment as private). The banquet in honor of the officers and myself was held in City Hall, and for the soldiers in schools. The Rumanian commander of the city of Ataki, Major lovanescu was present at the banquet and apologized in a speech for firing on the regiment. I was told later by the Dyadynyuk brothers that all the guests had been waiting for my speech in great anxiety, hoping to hear that they would be safe from the Bolsheviks and could sleep safely and soundly without fear of excesses. It was evident from the way they reacted to my address that the civic leaders sighed with relief. The City Council offered as a gift to the regiment 200 complete uniforms with shoes, and the gift was delivered later that fall after 1 had been transferred to Kamyanets. An old friend of mine and associate from the Kharkiv Command, Lieut. Col. P. Nechytailo, came to offer his services to me in Mohyliv and I appointed him regimental quartermaster because my brother, who temporarily had been holding that position, had been appointed to the Foreign Department of the General Staff and had left for Kamyanets.

After three days in Mohyliv, where I had been collecting intelligence reports from the direction of Yampil, the regiment advanced through Sharhorod and Dzhuryn with the objective of helping to take the station of Rakhny and thus create a barrier toward Zhmerynka for further operations of the Division directed at Vapniarka. The enemy brought in considerable reinforcements, and the Division, which stretched in various directions along a front of sixty kilometers, had to execute difficult maneuvers for over a week in order to hold the region of Dzhuryn-Murafa-Rakhny as a base for future operations toward Vapniarka. Colonel Udovychenko showed great operational ability and defeated the enemy on all sectors. The regiment stopped at the Murafa river line to guard operations of the main forces of the Division and engaged in heavy battles with overwhelming numbers of the enemy pressing from Zhmerynka in the north and from Tyvriv-Krasne in the east.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------

[7] Eighteenth century Ukrainian revolutionaries.