12. The Army in the Winter March

Then came the epic "Winter March." Early in December I received orders to form a battalion out of the remnants of the regiment and to send it to Yarmolyntsi to defend the Proskuriv-Kamyanets line from Denikin's troops. I appointed Capt. Vinnytsky commander of the battalion. He returned to Kamyanets on December 7th with only a handful of officers because all the soldiers had run away. When I received the order, I had explained the situation among the soldiers to Gen. Dyadyusha and warned that this was a hopeless gesture: the soldiers would desert. And so it happened.

On December 2nd the Commander in Chief called me and said that he was leaving to join the Army in connection with the situation at the front, and, leaving me in Kamyanets he hoped that I would keep up the action of holding up the spirits of the officers and men, and wait for spring which "might bring a completely unexpected change of our position." He told me to keep in close touch with the Minister, the President of Kamyanets University, Professor I. Ohienko whom the Government was appointing its chief delegate, and with General Kolodiy who was military aide to Minister Ohienko. At the time I did not catch the meaning of the Commander's words, but they soon came true.

At a conference of the members of the Government and of Army Commanders in Lubar it was decided that the Commander in Chief with some cabinet members, primarily with Foreign Minister A.M. Livytsky, would seek sanctuary in Poland, diplomatic relations with Poland having already been established, and the Army or the still battle-able parts of it, would go behind enemy lines, in a raid into Ukraine. The Army started on this march on December 6th and this was the historic "Winter March." General M. Omelanovych-Pavlenko was appointed commander of that army, but the real promoter was Gen. Yu. Tyutyunyk.

During that time the UHA found itself behind the lines of Denikin's Army, and the Commander of the UHA, General M. Tarnavsky concluded a truce with Denikin to save the remnants of his troops. For this, General Tarnavsky was removed from his command and put under court-martial by President E. Petrushevych, but the court-martial exonerated him. The new Commander of the UHA, General O. Mykytka was by then caught in a web of circumstances. The UHA was temporarily concentrated in the region of Koziatyn-Haysyn-Khmelnyk, and the UNR Army marched in that direction. After reorganization it counted about 3,000 men, nearly barefoot, badly clothed and without ammunition. But they were proven and chosen Ukrainian patriots. The Prime Minister, I. Mazepa was also with the Army.

It is necessary to digress into the future a little, in order to explain what reports on the "Winter March" reached us in Kamyanets, and what were the results of that march. First of all, the appearance of the army behind Denikin's lines so surprised and frightened General Denikin that he was the one to propose now an understanding and common action against the Bolsheviks. The Reds, too, when they found our Army behind Denikin's lines, proposed a truce and common action against "the imperialist, Denikin." Gen. Omelanovych-Pavlenko, however, refused to talk to either, and the Army first fought the Whites, and then the Reds. The attitude of the population to the Army was favorable because the people had already experienced the rule of both Russian armies. The people supplied the Army with food and men and helped in reconnaissance work. In connection with movements of the Army, a wave of uprisings broke out locally on both sides of the Dnipro, the Army having also made a raid to the Left Bank.

During the long winter months the Army was on the march and fought a series of battles with both enemies, capturing valuable arms from the Denikin troops. When the Reds approached Odessa, which was the supply base of Denikin, even the delegation of the Allies expressed a readiness to negotiate with the Ukrainians, but the Ukrainians demanded transfer of authority in the regions to them, and immediate removal of Denikin troops from the Odessa region. This was in January 1920. The plan was not carried out in spite of Allied consent because Odessa was occupied by the Reds within a few days. Allied ships evacuated most of Denikin's troops to the Crimea which was fortified and placed under the command of General Wrangel replacing Denikin. There were many Ukrainian soldiers in the Odessa region and they made their way to our Army, strengthening it numerically. The Reds tried to encircle and destroy our Army, but due to able maneuvering and action behind their lines our Army survived. Moreover, detachments of the UHA and individual Galicians joined our troops, so that by April its ranks had grown to 6,000 men, including over 1,000 horses.

Meanwhile the Government and the Commander in Chief had begun negotiations with Poland regarding recognition of the Ukrainian Government and aid in the fight against Moscow. The Polish Chief of State, Jozef Pilsudski was just as much aware as we of the threat to Poland on the part of Red Moscow, and, as we learned later from his memoirs, he was at that time looking for allies. Russian activities, consisting of massing huge troop concentrations along the Polish border demanded immediate Polish action to avert the danger. A Ukrainian-Polish Agreement and Military Convention was signed on April 22, 1920, under which the Polish Army was to march into Ukraine as soon as possible and help liberate Ukraine.