14. The Ukrainian-Polish Alliance

I returned to Kamyanets hopeful and in good spirits. I was being awaited impatiently because everyone wanted to hear about the chances of resuming war against the Bolsheviks. Col. Udovychenko had already received orders to take command of the 2nd Division, he was in Kamyanets and offered me the post of commander of the 4th infantry brigade. The Division was to be composed of the 4th, 5th and 6th brigade, one artillery brigade and a cavalry regiment with all auxiliary units. We expected to reorganize the whole on this pattern soon. I received Col. Udovychenko's offer with enthusiasm. Col. Shapoval was given a diplomatic appointment.

I had to start assembling personnel again, and new troubles began with uniforms, food, etc. Early in April I moved a nucleus of three battalions to Ivashkivtsi-Borsukivtsi where the brigade was to get recruits from a draft of three age groups in the county of Nova-Ushytsya. The commanders of battalions were: 10th Capt. Kolodyazh, 11th Capt. Hrabchenko (my colleague from the 232nd Russian reserve regiment), 12th Lieut.-Col. Bilan, and Capt. Verekha in charge of the cavalry company. The artillery unit was part of the artillery brigade, and was only tactically under my command, it was commanded by Lieut.-Col. Loburenko. Awaiting supplements, we held daily exercises with the cadres, but even here we had difficulties with lack of arms, particularly machine-guns for technical and tactical exercises. Negotiations between Col. Udovychenko and commander of the 18th Polish Division, General Krajowski, had little effect, since the Polish Division was short of arms, and in spite of the fact that Polish Chief of State Pilsudski, as we learned later, had issued appropriate orders, they never reached Gen. Krajowski.

We received information that the offensive of Polish and Ukrainian forces was to begin on April 24th. But actually we had still neither enough men nor sufficient arms. Out of the entire cadre of the Division Col. Udovychenko formed a separate detachment under my command, consisting of 350 infantry men and two cannon. Together with the 35th Polish Brigade under Colonel Lados, this detachment began an offensive in the direction of Ozaryntsi (north of Mohyliv) via Verbovets. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment of Col. M. Frolov was proceeding along the Dnister river. This regiment with its commander had left the volunteer army of Gen. Bredov, and joined us. In one day our detachment reached the Vendychany-Ozaryntsi-Mohyliv line where we stopped for mobilization and organization, and the 18th Polish Division continued east. The brigade, quartered in the Ozaryntsi region, was soon supplemented with men, armed and uniformed, and organized. The people of Mohyliv tendered the Division a grand reception, and present were also the officers of the 18th Polish Division with General Krajowski and Colonel Lados. The latter, during an appropriate moment, danced a beautiful Cossack dance to loud applause of all Ukrainians.

On May 6th, the Army of the UNR, in the glory of its legendary Winter March and brilliant victories, entered the Mohyliv regions from the rear of the Bolsheviks under heavy fighting. In this fighting, the Army completely annihilated the 14th Soviet Army in the Rybnytsya-Rudnytsi regions. Lightly guarded and without much bother from the enemy, the Army rested in Mohyliv-Yampil regions and reorganized into five infantry and one cavalry divisions and two reserve brigades. At that time our Division got back its old name from the previous year, the 3rd Infantry Iron Division because most of its officers, now headed by General Udovychenko, were the same as in 1919, and the men were from the same localities. My brigade was named No. 7.

About the middle of May I received orders from Gen. Udovychenko to proceed to woods about seven kilometers north of Yampil, and there incorporated in my brigade a Galician detachment of Lieut. Yaremych which managed to join us from behind Bolshevik lines. There were 260 men with machine-guns and equipment. This was another manifestation of the comradeship in arms of the UNR and UHA armies. Galician soldiers were joining us nearly every day, many officers among them. I remember well the fine officer Capt. Dr. Hrynevych who was all bedraggled. To me personally this was new proof of the confidence of the Galicians in me, and Gen. Udovychenko said: "you have always been a patron of the Galicians, and when they learned that you were here, asked to be put in your brigade." I attached this unit to the brigade as the 21st battalion and the rest went into the brigade police company.

Our bivouac in this region lasted until May 27th when the Division received orders to march to the front on the river Markivka line, and the brigade was to hold the Myaskivka-Haryachkivka line. On the day of departure, a delegation of Jews of the city of Ozaryntsi came to me and presented me with a scroll which stated, among others:

"We, the Jews of Ozaryntsi, never had it so peaceful since the revolution of 1917, as during the time when the 7th Brigade was stationed in our vicinity."

The position of the brigade was at the most exposed northern wing of the Army and it maintained liaison with the neighboring Polish units. The whole Army front stretched out for over eighty kilometers. News reached us that the 3rd Polish Army, which included our 6th Infantry Division formed from our men who had been held as prisoners of war by the Poles, had captured Kiev, and that our Commander in Chief had been received by the city of Kiev. At first we did not know why we were not advancing east, but early in June it became known from communiques that the Bolsheviks had massed on the southern front opposite the Poles and us, the mounted Army of Budenny in the region of Lypovets. The Polish command had therefore halted the offensive in order to annihilate Budenny on prepared positions. After several attempts, however, Budenny succeeded in breaking through the Polish front near Samhorodok, and the Poles could not stop him in spite of filling the breach with reserves. A retreat began on the entire front from Kiev to the Dnister, but in spite of the Bolsheviks' huge superiority in numbers, they failed to encircle or destroy any of the Ukrainian or Polish units. The situation became aggravated by the fact of desertions caused by our defeat. True, desertions were not on the mass scale of the previous year because the people had already experienced the Bolshevik "paradise," but nevertheless our ranks thinned. When we entered Galicia in our retreat, large numbers of Galicians went home, too. Another, fairly large part of the 5th Kherson Division crossed the Carpathians into Czechoslovakia.

The brigade experienced heavy fighting against overwhelming enemy forces, particularly against the cavalry near Sydoriv (east of Chortkiv) and along the line of the rivers Seret and Strypa, but we fought back without heavy losses. In the Sydoriv region enemy cavalry succeeded in pushing the 21st battalion out of Vasylkivtsi and it managed to hold on only to the western part of the village. We had to win the position back at all cost because the flanks of neighboring units were threatened. The 19th reserve battalion had orders to recapture Vasylkivtsi, but unfortunately, the commander of the battalion left the village unescorted and encountered enemy cavalry hiding in a land depression before the village. In flight from the sabers of enemy cavalry the battalion rushed back to the village which was only a short way off, but it lost fifteen men, a great loss at the rime when the whole battalion had only sixty men. The loss was a blow on our morale, too. At my request Gen. Udovychenko sent a cavalry company from the 8th brigade and two companies of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment from the division reserve to our aid and our cavalry restored the break. Soon, however, the enemy threw in another huge cavalry group and our Division could not hold out. But finally the Cavalry Division came from our reserve, and together we annihilated the enemy cavalry: the Red Cossack Cavalry Division and the Bashkir Cavalry Brigade. This example shows that the enemy was not superior to us. Our Division fought on this front for nearly two weeks, and orders to withdraw to the river Strypa line came only in connection with the situation on the Polish front.

On the last day before withdrawal to the Strypa line the brigade received reinforcements: a full battalion of 250 men of former POWs in Poland trained in a Polish camp under Capt. Trutenko. I left this battalion intact as the 21st battalion, dividing the 21st battalion among the 20th and 19th. Our withdrawal was very slow and during the night our brigade occupied for defense several villages on the east bank of the Strypa, Capt. Trutenko's battalion taking the whole east end of the large village of Trybukhivtsi. Being completely exhausted, I did not personally supervise placing of patrols, expecting that Capt. Trutenko, an experienced World War I officer, would take care of guarding us for the night. I felt uneasy, however, and my uneasiness was justified: the Bolsheviks attacked Trybukhivtsi during the night and panic ensued. Order was restored, however, when I came to the threatened place with my own men. The battalion held on only to the northern end of the village until morning, and then we crossed to the west bank of the river Strypa. After this event I replaced Capt. Trutenko with Lieut.-Col. Bazylevsky.

To the north, defended by the 1st Zaporozhian Division, enemy cavalry broke through to its rear and threatened our entire front, but there again, the Cavalry Division frustrated the enemy's attempts and inflicted heavy losses on him. Meanwhile the 6th Polish Army which was in operational contact with our Army, withdrew toward Lviv leaving our entire northern wing exposed and this compelled our Command to begin a withdrawal across the Dnister. The withdrawal was completed around August 18th and 19ch after heavy fighting. The brigade, which had been covering the Division in its withdrawal, was ordered to the region of Vynohrad-Yaseniv for a rest, and then it was placed on a sector of the front along the Dnister, with the bridge at Nyzhniv as the center of defense. We had only daily exchange of shots with the enemy, but passive defense was not in the plans of Gen. Udovychenko, and during that period of seven to eight days while we were stationed along the Dnister. We made several night sorties across the river and finally secured the opposite bridgehead and our 3rd Cavalry Regiment made a raid as far as Monasteryska.

Under pressure of circumstance and on demand of our prominent high officers the matter of ranks and promotions was finally taken care of at that time. A special commission was appointed under Gen. M. Yanchevsky which compiled a register of the entire officer corps of the Army for the purpose of determining ranks, and drafted regulations for promotions. I was confirmed in the rank of Captain with full seniority with simultaneous promotion to Colonel for meritorious battle service.

The news reached us only late in August that the Poles had thoroughly beaten the Reds near Warsaw, striking from the river Wieprz against the southern wing of the Bolshevik front which reached from Demblin all the way to Torun. Our Army began preparing for attack and the 3rd Division was moved to the south to Horodenka, where it was to force the Dnister and proceed eastward to capture the line of Skala-Husiatyn. During the course of several nights and under cover of woods our 3rd Battalion of Engineers built planks and pontoons, and in the night of September 15th the 8th Brigade forced the Dnister on pontoons and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment swimming. Enemy sentries were all taken prisoner and the Reds began to retreat in panic. Within four days the Division traversed over 120 kilometers with light skirmishes and crossed the Zbruch again on September 21st. On our own free soil all soldiers not on duty assembled on a hill near Orynin attending Divine Service of thanksgiving for the happy return to the Homeland.

The brigade was in poor condition. In spite of successful attempts to destroy the enemy with the least possible losses to ourselves, our losses accumulated. Some battalions had no more than fifty to sixty men, the 12th had over 100, and the cavalry company had thirty horses. We were hoping that the enemy would not be able to prevent our mobilization of new recruits in the area, and that the Poles Would have better opportunities for supplying us with arms. The enemy was retreating in panic and our Command took full advantage of the situation. Although the Bolsheviks threw in fresh troops soon, we realized that regardless of our exhaustion we had to advance as fast as possible, taking advantage of our good morale. We had the same thing all over again: battles and forced marches, and organization work.

Unexpectedly, however, reports came in that the Poles accepted the Bolsheviks' offer of a cease-fire, and that they were ready to negotiate peace. General Udovychenko was pressing the attack, to gain as much depth in territory as possible for a "breather" and finally the Division pulled far ahead of the right wing of the front, reaching the river Markivka. Our Division and the newly created First Machine-gun Division constituted the Right Army Group of General Udovychenko.

On October 18th came the end of our fighting job on the front along the river Markivka. We had to stop the fight for the liberation of our Homeland because the Poles had signed an armistice which included the entire front of our Army. The Poles had sent their detachments to the line of our front in order to mark that all this was the Polish front. It was quite clear to me that our struggle against the Bolsheviks, considering Red Moscow's potential, had entered into a new stage of crisis. I kept all the ill omens of our situation to myself in order to lift the morale of my troops in expectation of an early renewal of operations because the armistice was valid only until November 10th. The Bolsheviks, I felt, would not keep any promises made to us. The Poles were unable to satisfy our needs for materiel and supplies. We were particularly short of ammunition for the infantry. Our Command had hopes to recover arms and ammunition from the Rumanians which they had taken from the Zaporozhian Corps during the tatter's crossing of Rumania in 1919. Negotiations with the Rumanians ended in their consent to return this property of ours in exchange for sugar which we had available from the Vendychany refinery situated in the region of the 3rd Division. This fact of the Rumanians' trading our own property should be well remembered. At the time, however, this was the only way we could supplement our stock of arms of which we were in dire need since we had several thousand draftees in our mobilization centers. With these arms, and with all the work of our armorers who cleaned and reconditioned arms and ammunition taken from the population, we had only forty to fifty rounds per man and four to six tapes per machine-gun. Rifles were in such worn condition that at a distance of 100 paces the target would be missed by several feet which I observed personally. Regarding clothing, we were somewhat better off than in 1919.

I went to Kamyanets on November 4th to take care of several matters during a week's furlough, but early in the morning of the 12th H. Roytberg (mentioned before) came running to my house in Kamyanets with the news that he barely escaped from encirclement by a Bolshevik brigade. I left for the front right away, but I could only reach Nova Ushytsya, the front being on the river Kalus line. Gen. Udovychenko was extremely busy with the new situation, but he took time to tell me briefly that early in the morning of November 10th the Bolsheviks attacked in great force of cavalry and infantry our 9th Brigade in the region of Sharhorod, made a deep breakthrough and almost annihilated our Division. My brigade suffered particularly heavy losses being attacked by Red Cavalry on the defense line near Chernivtsi, and the General sent the 8th Brigade to help. All ammunition was spent soon and the brigades held the line with bayonets. The enemy could not take Chernivtsi and went around them. In the night the decimated brigades withdrew to Luchynets-Yaryshiv. Some ammunition was supplied by our Army Quartermaster, but the enemy could not be stopped. The Army Staff dispatched the Cavalry Division against the attacking enemy groups, but it suffered heavy losses and could not contain the enemy. With ever fresh forces brought in by the Bolsheviks into battle, we could not regroup the Army and hold the enemy. The Army was in full retreat, but the retreat was orderly so as to prevent encirclement and annihilation. The group withdrew to the Zbruch on the Volochyska-Ozhyhivtsi line and was to cross into Poland on terms agreed upon in advance. For the first time in our fight for independence we had horrible losses and nebulous prospects for the future. In talks with my commanders of battalions and from reports of commanders of other divisions I could piece together the whole situation and our operational mistakes which could have been the cause of all that happened. First of all, my conjecture was quite correct that we should not have waited with launching our offensive until the very last minute of the expiring armistice, all the more so since Polish token forces had been withdrawn on November 3rd. In any event, we would have had the initiative, although, naturally enough, one could predict the outcome of such an offensive. The Army Command did not consent to the proposal made by the commander of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, M. Frolov, to create a mobile attack group out of all cavalry units and make a deep raid behind enemy lines in October, at a time when the Bolsheviks were concentrating their forces On our front. This would also have been an action of operational intelligence which was not undertaken, we did not even engage in deeper tactical intelligence. As we learned from intelligence reports of the Army Staff, all intelligence was gathered by agents, a system which is always unreliable. The time of year was against us, but it was just as much against the enemy. In men and materiel, however, the enemy was undoubtedly superior to us.9

Thoughts were discussed that the Army might go on another winter march, but it was quite clear that neither the relation of forces nor operational conditions would be in favor of such action, the Bolsheviks being no longer busy on other fronts, as was the case in 1919.

According to data of the Army Staff, as of November 10th the Army held a front from the Dnister near Yampil through Bar to Lityn, i.e. over 120 kilometers. Our numbers were: about 14,000 infantry, about 3,000 cavalry, eighty cannon and a few armored cars. Facing us, the Reds concentrated about 25,000 infantry (the 12th and 14th Army) and about 5,000 cavalry with incomparably stronger artillery and with full technical and materiel supplies.10 Hence, with our experience in waging war against the Bolsheviks and with our determination we could count on some initial success which could have developed into something bigger in connection with the low morale of the Red troops following the defeat at Warsaw. This, however, is merely conjecture, albeit based on logical analysis.

For 11 days in heavy and unequal battles, the Army was withdrawing westward, under cover of thinning cavalry ranks and machine-guns mounted on carts. Our retreat was also covered by the so-called 3rd Russian Army of General Peremykin, formed in Poland under the auspices of the Russian Political Liberation Committee headed by the well-known Russian political leader Boris Savinkov who recognized Ukrainian independence. The forces of that army were too weak, however, to stop the advance of the Reds. Accompanying Gen. Udovychenko, I just managed to get across a bridge at Volochyska on November 21st at night under enemy machine-gun fire. The Bolsheviks did not gain much booty from us because everything that could be moved (trains, horses, artillery) was moved by us to Polish territory.

The war was over, and in spite of wholly unjustified official optimism, I did not see any prospects of a change in the political and military situation in our favor, I did not see any possibility of a new rise to arms.

 

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[9] "Ukrains'ko-Moskovs'ka Viyna v dokumentakh" (The Ukrainian-Muscovite War in Documents), by General V. Salsky and General P. Shandruk. Published by the Ukrainian Scientific Institute in Warsaw, 1935.

[10] E. Melikov and M. Kakurin, "Voyna s belopolakami" (The War against the White Poles), Moscow, 1928.