31. The Struggle for the Independence of Carpatho-Ukraine

I did not, at the appropriate time, have an opportunity to acquaint myself in more detail with the struggle of the westernmost part of the Ukrainian nation our brothers beyond the Carpathians. The lot of this part of our nation was more harsh than of any other because circumstances of geography prevented its direct ties with Galicia, while political conditions put it under the rule of neighbors, who were stronger both politically and economically. I was, however, always interested in the Carpathian Ukrainians, and I was impressed with the ability of their leaders to take advantage of any weakness of their imperialist neighbors, particularly on the eve of World War II, and during the war.

When the Austro-Hungarian monarchy disintegrated after World War I, the local assembly of Carpatho-Ukraine (Krayevyi Soym) proclaimed unification with the Ukrainian National Republic on January 21, 1919. The victorious Allied powers, however, in continued disregard of the independence struggle of the Ukrainian nation, incorporated this part of Ukrainian ethnographic territory in the newly established republic of Czechoslovakia by the Treaty of Saint Germain concluded on September 10, 1919.

In the course of events affecting Czechoslovakia and initiated by Hitler, Carpatho-Ukraine took advantage of existing tensions, and on October 7, 1938, in pursuit of its struggle for political rights, proclaimed its autonomy within the Federated Czecho-Slovakian Republic. The Ukrainian Government was headed by Monsignor Dr. Augustine Voloshyn.

I had no direct contact or information on developments in Carpatho-Ukraine, but from what was then public knowledge, and from more detailed accounts given me by Dr. V. Kubiyovych, I can summarize the situation in that part of Ukraine as follows.

In the fall of 1938 the Government of Carpatho-Ukraine was faced with the necessity of organizing a defense force, and that is when the "Carpathian Sitch" came into existence, a substitute of an armed force. It became necessary to resist Hungarian attempts of conquest of Carpatho-Ukraine by force. Hungary based its claims to that land on extending its boundaries around it during the existence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The "Carpathian Sitch" turned into a real military force within a very short time, but, as was usually the case with Ukrainian armies, it lacked arms. In March 1939 the Hungarians began massing their troops on the southern border of Carpatho-Ukraine and appeals of the Government to the Central Government in Prague produced no response. The assembly of Carpatho-Ukraine proclaimed the independence of the Carpathian Ukrainian National Republic and elected Monsignor Dr. A. Voloshyn its President, and Julian Revay as Premier. At that time, Hungary was already in alliance with Nazi Germany, and Hitler personally intervened in this matter, demanding that President Voloshyn surrender Carpatho-Ukraine to Hungary. In answer to this, the Government of Carpatho-Ukraine ordered mobilization. Hungary put four divisions in the field against a total of 12,500 men (the entire army and police force of Carpatho-Ukraine). Ukrainian armed resistance was so strong that Hungary appealed for help to Poland and Rumania. In spite of these odds, the armed struggle continued until the end of March. Underground and partisan warfare, aided by the UPA, continued in Carpatho-Ukraine even after World War II. Although the Hungarians admired the heroic resistance of the Carpathian Army, they had no qualms about killing prisoners of war and civilians.

A long time after these events I had an opportunity to hear first-hand reports about the struggle and about Hungarian and Rumanian atrocities from Dr. S. Rosokha, an official of the Government of Carpatho-Ukraine. Hungary conquered the land, but after World War II it was "liberated" by the Russians.