27. On the Way to the 1st Ukrainian Division

Accompanied by Dr. Arlt I left Berlin on April 7th in the afternoon to visit the 1st Ukrainian Division, going through Prague and Linz. Later, near Spittal (Austria) we were to be joined by General Waechter. Dr. Arlt informed me that Gen. Waechter was to be the representative of the Wehrmacht High Command attached to me, and he was going as chief of the Foreign Office Eastern Department. This time we went by car driven by real gasoline. We were to be followed by trains and trucks carrying officers of my field Staff headed by Gen. M. Krat whom I wished to appoint commander of the 1st Division in place of the German commander General Freytag. Colonel V. Malets was to remain in Prague because I ordered him to form a 2nd Reserve Brigade in Czecho-Slovakia.

On the way to Prague we stopped at a place where part of Field Marshal Schoerner's Staff was quartered and there I met a prominent German scholar of eastern European problems, Professor Werner Markert. In a long talk with him (he also knew Russian) I learned that his political views were in opposition to the official policy of Hitler and of such henchmen of his like Koch (the unlamented commissar of Ukraine) and Frank (the hated Governor-General of Poland), and for this reason he had sought a face place in the Wehrmacht. He was, to some extent, partial to Rosenberg's views and gave unquestioned support to Dr. Arlt in his views on the need for independent national states in Eastern Europe and in the Caucasus.

There I also met the well-known Ukrainian patriot and top nationalist leader, Rev. Dr. Ivan Hrynioch. At a modest reception given me all German officers awaited with tension what kind of an attitude toward the UNC and me would be announced by Father Hrynioch. I noticed that Dr. Arlt sighed with evident relief, and all others looked happy when Fr. Hrynioch spoke in perfect German about the usefulness of the UNC and UNA, and about his satisfaction that I was at the head of both. Afterwards in private talks Fr. Hrynioch told me in more detail about the existence and activities of the Supreme Ukrainian Liberation Council (UHVR) and about the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in action. This was the first time I had heard from a trustworthy source of the existence of organized resistance in Ukraine, and of military and political action of the UPA against both occupying powers of Ukraine. Of course, I had been informed about the UPA while still in Berlin by Commander T. Bulba-Borovets and Dr. V. Stakhiv. Now, from Fr. Hrynioch I learned that the UPA was active along a wide sector of Ukraine: from the Carpathians to Volhynia, Podilla, and Kiev provinces, some transient actions taking place even in Left-Bank Ukraine. The UPA had begun its organized action against mass liquidation of the Ukrainian population and plunder of the land by the Germans toward the end of 1942 and in the winter of 1943. The UPA was a real threat to the Germans with 20,000 organized troops even in the early stages. They had a fine reconnaissance service and appeared with immediate retaliation for injustices inflicted upon the Ukrainian population. What heavy battles the UPA had to wage against the Germans is evident from the fact that in a series of clashes with the Germans in Galicia and Volhynia early in 1943, the UPA alone lost over 1,500 men.

To cope with the UPA the Germans put several divisions in the area first under Gen. Bach and later under Gen. Pritzmann; tanks and aircraft were used, but soil they could not conquer the UPA. The Bolsheviks fought the UPA, too, and resorted to such measures of provocation as to send parachutists behind German lines which would kill and rob the Ukrainian population representing themselves as UPA members. When the Red Army approached Galicia and Volhynia the Bolsheviks dispatched a large band of 6,000 partisans under Commander Kovpak deep into the German hinterland. This group penetrated as far as the Carpathian foothills where it was destroyed by the regular German Army and mopped up by the UPA. It is a noteworthy fact that the UPA was joined by many soldiers of the Red Army of non-Russian nationality, as Uzbeks, Azerbaijanis, Cossacks, Armenians, and others. The Bolsheviks reoccupying Ukraine were treating the population with increasing brutality with large areas being taken over by NKVD troops, young people suspected of UPA activities were executed and large numbers including many children, were deported to concentration camps in Siberia. Nikita Khrushchev, then First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine and Stalin's chief deputy in Ukraine was primarily responsible for these brutalities. When the Germans were retreating from Ukraine, Hungarian and Rumanian troops that had been fighting alongside the Germans, deliberately avoided getting into any conflict with the UPA, and some of their troops even joined the ranks of the UPA. General Taras Chuprynka Shukhevych, a renowned Ukrainian national hero was Commander of the UPA.18

The news I learned from Fr. Hrynioch and his assertion of possible contact with the UPA through his intermediary led me to another idea. I asked Fr. Hrynioch if he knew anything concrete about the real battle-value of the Reds and how long, in his opinion, could the Germans hold out against them. Fr. Hrynioch's answer, however, left no room for speculation. In his belief, the Soviet troops were not capable of firm resistance as proved by the fact that whenever the Germans managing to stage a counter-offensive, the Reds fled in panic. The point, however, was that German troops were already completely demoralized, and hence were unable to offer any resistance. Soviet tanks troops were the best part of the Red Army. We spent nearly the whole night exploring our political and military chances, looking for a way out in view of the impending German surrender. We agreed that both our 1st and 2nd Divisions were in a particularly dangerous spot. Circumstances were all against trying to get the 1st Division fight its way east to the homeland, although we did not reject this concept entirely in the event that there would be no other solution, i.e. if there was danger of the Division being turned over to the Bolsheviks. The contagious calm of Fr. Hrynioch and his realistic appraisal of circumstances and people prompted me to ask him to accompany me on my visit to the Division, particularly since he had contact with a number of officers in the Division. This would be of great help to me if I had to resort to force in removing German officers from command. Fr. Hrynioch consented, and his prestige with some officers in the Division was indeed helpful to me. As I learned later, his general directive to those officers was: "In all matters rely on further decisions of Gen. Shandruk."19

From my talks with Fr. Hrynioch I gained the impression that in all my moves to save our soldiers I would have the full support of the nationalist Ukrainian circles, and that the idea of salvaging the most important factor for our struggle on behalf of Ukraine military power united all Ukrainians. I found this out during my conference in Weimar and it now was confirmed by Fr. Hrynioch.

We reached Prague on April 11. The city had not been destroyed by bombs and presented a near-normal picture. I found quarters in the Adlon, the best hotel in town. My first worry on reaching Prague was to find contact with Professor Roman Smal-Stocki who was under surveillance of the Gestapo. I wanted to consult him about making contact with the Allies, and to acquaint him with the position of the UNC and of the 1st Ukrainian Division. Dr. Arlt promised me on our way to Prague that he would see to it that Prof. Smal-Stocki is freed from surveillance immediately. I got in touch with the Professor by telephone, and he said that he would see me in my hotel. I asked him if he was already completely free, but he had not been informed about this as yet. During the course of our personal meeting the Professor told me that he would try to inform London about the UNC and UNA. He did not conceal his anxiety that there may be a lot of trouble in store for me and the Ukrainian troops because the Allied Military Command was not acquainted with details of European politics, and in particular it does not treat the Bolsheviks with necessary caution, as it does not know Moscow's real aims nor its political game. The Professor advised me to seek immediate contact with the British Command when British troops would get closer to Austria (the 1st Division was on the front-line of Gnass-Gleichenberg-Feldbach, near Graz), and that I should have ready with me a memorandum in English outlining the Ukrainian cause, the necessity for the UNC, and my own brief biography. To my question whether it would be advisable to seek contacts with the British through Polish liaison officers of Gen. Anders who were attached to major British groups, Prof. Smal-Stocki advised me to utilize all possible contacts, including this one, so long as this could save me and my troops from the Bolsheviks. He thought that Germany would surrender in 2-3 weeks, and this would be a moment demanding extreme caution and at the same time action, so as to get the Allied Command interested in Eastern European problems. Sharp attacks against the Bolsheviks should be avoided because the Allies might react unfavorably.

After my meeting with Dr. Smal-Stocki I asked Dr. Arlt immediately whether he had done anything about freeing the former from Gestapo surveillance. Dr. Arlt had taken care of this matter, and Dr. Smal-Stocki informed me soon over the telephone that he had been invited to the Gestapo where he was very politely informed that he was completely free.

I had to stay in Prague two whole days to talk with various people. The most interesting and the most pleasant was my meeting with the President of the Kuban National Rada military commander, Professor of Engineering V. M. Ivanys. We exchanged views on the position of Ukrainians in Czechoslovakia, we both then doubted whether the Bolsheviks would occupy that country. Prof. Ivanys was very apprehensive about the Kuban Cossacks stationed in southern Austria and northern Italy under the command of General Shkuro. He requested me to take Cossack units under my command if an opportunity arose, and on his part he promised that I would get the full support of Cossacks and Ukrainians living in Czechoslovakia. Professor Ivanys was of Ukrainian origin and he taught at the Ukrainian Husbandry Institute.

One day in the lobby of my hotel I was approached by an older and very serious-looking military man with the insignia of a lion on his sleeve (insignia of the 1st Ukrainian Division), and crosses on his collar, and introduced himself as Canon V. Laba, Dean of Chaplains of the Division. His very first words impressed me that here was a highly cultured and determined person. Canon Laba told me all details about spiritual and religious life in the Division, and emphasized that all 9 chaplains attached to the Division were carrying out the duties of their calling, they stayed in the front lines alongside their troops and stood up for the rights of their men. For this, the German commanders considered them "politically suspect," and enemies of Germany.

Canon Laba told me in detail that the Metropolitan of Galicia, Archbishop Count Andrey Sheptytsky had given his blessing to the initiators and soldiers of the Division, and ordered Bishop Josaphat Kotsylovsky to bless the entire Division before its march to the front. This fact indicated to me that the organizers of the Division acted on serious national and political premises.

During his temporary absence from the Division, Canon Laba appointed Fr. Mykhailo Levenets his deputy. He recommended him to me with the following words: "This is a Soldier-Priest whose courage and wisdom saved a large detachment of the Division surrounded by the Bolsheviks in the Battle of Brody." I thanked Fr. Laba for the information and for the pleasure and honor of hearing from his own lips about the extremely important matter of spiritual life of the Division I always remembered the words of Suvorov: "Who has not been to war, does not know how to pray." It was to the great merit of the late Metropolitan Sheptytsky and our hierarchy and political leaders that in spite of the anti-religious attitude of Hitlerism, they had succeeded in creating the institution of chaplains in our Division.

I appointed Col. Malets commander of the 2nd Reserve Brigade and asked him to keep in touch both with Prof. Smal-Stocki and Ivanys. On the other hand, I asked all Ukrainians with whom I had been in touch in Prague to help Col. Malets when needed. The brigade was never formed, as I had foreseen because developments were going on fast.

After two days in Prague we proceeded through Linz and the eastern slopes of the Alps, across the Tauernpass, via Spittal, and Klagenfurt to Voelkermarkt. The road across the Alps was very difficult with the strong sun melting the snow and torrents rushing across roads. Many times we had to push our cars. Finally on April 17 we reached Voelkermarkt. Father Hrynioch remained with his car in Spittal to have some political talks there, but he rejoined us the next day.

 

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[18] Cf. "Brody," collection of articles edited by O. Lysiak, article by Rev. Dr. I. Hrynioch "The Halychyna Division and the Ukrainian Underground", Munich, 1951.

[19] Ibid., detailed information about the UPA can be found in: "History of Ukrainian Armed Forces," chapter on the UPA by Prof. Lew Shankovsky.