15. In Camps for Internees in Poland

After disarming, we were directed to various camps, built by the Germans for prisoners of war during World War I. The entire 3rd Division travelled several days in unheated freight cars and arrived in Kalisz (Camp No. 10). The first inspection of the camp left us with the impression that after we would get our quarters in order we would manage somehow we had managed to survive four years of war under conditions that cannot be described. At first I was appointed camp commandant, but several weeks later the 2nd Volhynian Division arrived in camp and a group Commandant was appointed for both Divisions. After a short rest and primitive organization of the lives of about 5,000 people, we were faced with the problem of occupying such a large mass of men massed together, since it is a known fact that even the most disciplined crowd kept idle is apt to produce spiritual and even physical conflicts. The situation was made more difficult because food was pretty poor, the Polish supply command allotting us about 1,400 to 1,500 calories. Clothing worn by our people was simply in catastrophic condition, even some officers could not get up from their beds of boards for days, having nothing to put on. We started to look for a solution because in addition to going hungry ourselves, lice were eating us. Intervention by our diplomatic representatives with the Polish authorities in Warsaw and appeals to welfare organizations like the Y.M.C.A. and B.R.M.11 produced some results: the Y.M.C.A. gave us a certain amount of underwear, linen, clothing, shoes and evaporated milk for children (at least 2,000 women and children had been evacuated together with the Army, and soon more children were born in camps). The Poles gradually increased quantity and quality of food and assigned some money for needed medical supplies. But in order to stop feeding idlers, the Poles offered group work, e.g. in sawmills, on large estates, in sugar refineries, etc. Many soldiers took advantage of the offer and thus, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment went to work in the sawmill in Suwalki, and the 20th Battalion to the Bialowiezka Puszcza hunting preserve. We also established various trade schools and shops: carpentry, tailoring, shoemaking. An old officer, Col. Melnykiv was in charge of these in our camp. The Y.M.C.A. organized an embroidery enterprise for the women which provided a modest income for beautiful work. Modest indeed, for example: an artistically embroidered tablecloth with 12 napkins, over which a woman had to work four to five weeks, including long nights with candle-light, fetched only five to six dollars in equivalent Polish currency. In addition, painters' studios were organized and our painters sold pretty paintings which sometimes found buyers out of charitable motive. Selling paintings all over the country created a numerous class of "travelling salesmen" who improved their own and their suppliers' standard of living. This was the material side of the case.

The spiritual side was very well and constructively organized. First of all, each camp built its own church in the barracks from the internees' own funds. In our camp the first chaplain was the Chaplain of the 7th Brigade Rev. P. Pyatachenko, then Chief Army Chaplain Very Rev. P. Pashchevsky, well-known for his patriotic sermons. Later schools of general education were established (grade, supplemental, courses, etc.), and even a high school in which I taught history, geography and French. This work was conducted by cultural-educational department of divisions under the general chairmanship of our esteemed professor, the Hon. V.K. Prokopovych, former Ukrainian Minister of Education. Lieut.-Col. M. Derkach was in charge of the cultural-educational department in our camp and contributed much time and effort to this work.

In the meantime the Bolsheviks took advantage of the still confused conditions in the young Polish Republic, and in spite of the peace treaty signed in Riga, they organized armed bands which attacked villages across the Polish border, burning and devastating entire settlements. The raids sometimes penetrated to a depth of fifteen kilometers into Poland. General Yu. Tyutyunyk, the well known organizer of uprisings against the Bolsheviks in Ukraine wanted to make the best of this confusion along the border, and got the consent of our Commander in Chief to organize a raid into Ukraine. He assembled a large detachment of volunteers who were willing to organize a rebellion in Ukraine, and he kept these activities secret from the Polish authorities. Preparations were under way in March 1921, but due to the necessity to keep them secret and technical obstacles, the raid was delayed. The rebel group which called itself "Ukrainian Insurgent Army" (UPA) was able to start from the forests of Podilla and Polissya only late in October, when weather conditions were absolutely unsuitable for such operations. The most important problem was arms and transportation because Gen. Tyutyunyk's plans quite justly called for speedy movement deep into Ukraine, in order to surprise the enemy and prevent possible encirclement. The only chance to capture arms was to stage a surprise attack on one of the border garrisons. The group, divided into two detachments, crossed the border early in November, destroyed Bolshevik defense posts on the border, and captured some arms and horses. Moving quickly, the main force under Gen. Tyutyunyk's personal command reached the city of Korosten (over 100 kilometers east of the border) within two days. In a surprise attack on the enemy garrison, and after heavy battle, they took the city of Korosten and made it a base for further operations. Gen Tyutyunyk intended to attack Kiev from there, and then turn south in order to join other insurgent groups which were still active in the southern part of Kiev province. If this action had been started at a different time of year, rebellion would probably have spread all over Ukraine where life under the Bolsheviks was very hard, the conquerors repressing all passive resistance and active rebellion of the Ukrainian people. The Bolsheviks, however, took a successful gamble: they threw the cavalry Division of Kotovsky into the fight to encircle Gen. Tyutyunyk, part of the Ukrainian force which was already near Kiev, had to withdraw to the west under heavy snow and cold weather. Enemy cavalry encircled the group completely near the village of Mynky. A part fought its way out, but 359 soldiers were taken prisoner. When our soldiers rejected the Reds' offer to serve in the Red Army, they were tried by court-martial and sentenced to death by firing squad. They went to their death in the city of Novy Bazar singing the Ukrainian National Anthem. Another group, under Col. S. Paliy Sydoryansky which was under enemy attack from the very moment that it crossed the border, luckily fought its way back into Poland. They were interned by the Polish authorities along with the remaining men of Gen. Tyutyunyk's group.

We had a diplomatic mission in Czechoslovakia since 1919, and at its request the Government consented to admit a large number of our scholars and to establish many scientific and educational institutions, as the Pedagogical Institute, Husbandry Academy, Free University, high school and different courses. There the Ukrainian Civic Committee was headed by the well-known pre-war Ukrainian leader M. Shapoval, a man full of energy, but politically one-sided as a former member of the party of socialists-revolutionaries, and this had a certain effect on his selection of pedagogues and school personnel. Later, M. Shapoval's party fervor became less acute. When news about educational opportunities in Czechoslovakia reached our soldiers, they began to seek opportunities to get there. My soldiers came to me for advice, and I openly advised them to go to Czechoslovakia instead of sitting around in camp wasting time in expectation of a change of the political situation, an expectation I thought entirely unwarranted. The Ukrainian Civic Committee offered advice how to cross the Polish-Czechoslovakian border illegally. The border was crossed in the Carpathian mountains with receiving points set up on the other side. Both governments, the Polish and Czechoslovakian, probably knew about this and kept one eye shut because there was not a single instance of anyone being caught on the border. Thus, first the young people went in large masses to Czechoslovakia, followed by their elders, but by then we had gained the right to travel on passports. One of those who went to Czechoslovakia and graduated from the Husbandry Academy in Podebrady was my former chief of staff, Lieut.-Col. D. Linytsky. My attitude in the matter of the soldiers' departure to study in Czechoslovakia created some unpleasantness for me because our "camp command" wanted to have "an army" since without an army their ranks were becoming meaningless. For this reason the commanders thought that I was doing "subversive work" and wanted to compromise me. I also wished to go abroad, even to walk west, but during an audience with the Commander in Chief on the occasion of my promotion to General (early in 1925), he prohibited me from leaving Poland by reason of future possibilities. Hence, with the departure of men for studies and for jobs, life in the camps began more tolerable for the rest, with better food and more clothing available.

Concerning our organized activities it should be noted that on the initiative of General Salsky, the Ukrainian Military Society (UWET) was established, subsequently changed into the Association of former Soldiers of the UNR Army; it existed until the outbreak of World War II, when it was liquidated by the Germans.

At that time I became interested in military literature, and this was the beginning of my modest contributions to Polish military magazines "Bellona," "Przeglad Wojskowy," and "Polska Zbrojna," and to the French magazine "Revue des Deux Mondes." At the same time I conceived the idea of publishing a Ukrainian military-historical magazine in order to preserve our historical and military material and to shed at least some light on the epic of our armed effort. I talked the matter over with Gen. Kushch and Professor Prokopovych and they supported my project. Gen. Kushch became chief editor, and I was secretary. The name of the journal was "Tabor" (Camp), and it was our military-historical journal, and later military-scientific. This publication also existed until World War II. I contributed several dozen articles to it, including a tactical assignment within the framework from a platoon to an infantry regiment. A Course for Staff Officers was founded in our camp on orders of Gen. Salsky, and I taught applied tactics and topography, and also took part in tactical games. The Courses were headed by Staff General, Lt.-Gen. S. Dyadyusha. From among my students I remember Captains V. Shevchenko, A. Shevchenko and P. Orel-Orlenko, I had a very interesting encounter with the last-named later. When the housing shortage tapered off I proposed that we establish an officers club. It was decorated in Ukrainian style by our best painters: V. Dyadynyuk, M. Zhukiv and Ya. Shcherbak. Various military adages and sayings of famous military leaders were inscribed on the walls, with a portrait of S. Petlura on the main wall. Under it was the renowned call of Garibaldi to his soldiers.

On their part, the Bolsheviks did not leave us in peace, either. In 1922 a Soviet mission visited the camp several times to talk our soldiers into returning home. Pursuant to the Polish-Soviet agreement it had the right to appeal to the soldiers directly. In our camp all the residents were assembled in the square and in reply to the delegates' call for return to the homeland, there was deep silence, not one came forward and this probably happened in all camps, of which there were seven. The Bolsheviks did not address our soldiers any more. They resorted to a different method: they tempted people individually. We learned later that one of such traitors was no less a person than deputy chief of staff of our Division, Captain Makarenko: he left for Warsaw one day without warning and even took with him part of the staff documents. He began writing letters to officers trying to convince them to go home. There was another case in my Brigade: Lt.-Col. Nechytailo went to take a job in the Carpathians in 1922, but several weeks later he came to me with a letter from his wife and from Otaman I. Kobza. The latter had been temporary commander of the Slobidsky Corps in 1919 and a friend of Nechytailo, as both had been members of the Democratic Peasants Party. The letters urged him to return home immediately because he was assured of a pardon, and his wife with three children certainly needed his help. Lt-Col. Nechytailo asked me for advice. I told him to weigh the matter very carefully before making his final decision, cautioning him that the Bolsheviks never kept their word, and emphasizing that the report of Mr. Kobza about new favorable conditions under the Bolsheviks in Ukraine sounded rather strange. Nevertheless, he decided to go. Subsequently we had news that he never even reached his home, but was sent to the concentration camp in Kolyma together with Kobza. The General Yu. Tyutyunnyk, mentioned before, the well-known commander of the 4th Kiev Division and leader of a partisan detachment 6,000 strong, who had joined our Army in August 1919 and gained a great reputation in Ukraine, also went home on an individual pardon. At first he was manager of a tannery in the Volga region, but later he was reported to have been executed.

It can be stated generally that during the period to 1926, all our interned soldiers in Poland proved themselves to be of the best caliber in every respect. They kept their patriotic spirit, high morale, and military discipline, based, under existing circumstances, mainly on mutual confidence and respect.

The year 1926 was a turning point in the position of Ukrainian emigres. Marshal Pilsudski came to power in Poland in May. After a few months we felt a changed attitude toward us on the part of official Polish circles. Before that, Chief of the Polish General Staff, General S. Szeptycki told our General V. Salsky: "Get out of Poland, you loafers!" Late in 1926, General V. Salsky presented Marshal Pilsudski with a memorandum in the name of the UNR Government on the necessity: (1) to make military preparations for the future, (2) on the care of our disabled men and old officers, (3) on formal approval of a Ukrainian civic committee to have the right to act throughout Poland and take care of our emigres, and (4) on transfer to our management of the camp at Kalisz, to serve as a home for our sick and older soldiers. All these matters were gradually approved by the Polish authorities. First of all, formal sanction was granted to the Ukrainian Central Committee (U.Ts.K.) with branches in all localities with a concentration of our emigres. Ukrainian emigres were given legal status and the right to use so-called Nansen passports. The Kalisz camp was transferred to our independent administration and renamed "Ukrainian Station", other camps were abolished and all emigres unable to work found defuge in it. The U.Ts.K. appointed a Board to manage the Station, consisting of: Gen. Salsky, chairman, Gen. Kushch, his deputy, myself, as chief of housing and administration and Gen. H. Bazylsky, as chief of supply. Within one year we rebuilt nearly all the barracks into separate homes, and modestly furnished. Separate homes were for the men with families, and some dormitories were set up for single men. Gen. Bazylsky was in charge of food, with a special commission elected every six months taking care of the kitchens. At that time I proposed that we conduct courses for chauffeurs at the Station, the proposition was accepted by the U.Ts.K. and funds assigned for the purchase of two used cars and a repair shop. I gave instruction in driving and mechanical repairs. Within two years we schooled fifty-seven chauffeurs and they got their licenses from the Examining Board in Lodz. The U.Ts.K. also received formal license for the Station High School which existed until the outbreak of World War II and had over 250 graduates.

Early in 1928 more requests presented by us were granted by Marshal Pilsudski. Our disabled men were placed on a nearly equal footing with Polish invalids, and after going through examination by a qualifying commission, they were granted modest pensions.

 

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[11] British Relief Mission.