March '47.
Lemkos, in the village of Hyrova,
near Dukla,
three months before
the second deportation.
[ The 15 year old girl
is my mother,
Maria Hranyczna Maksymowicz]

The following text appeared originally in Polish and Ukrainian, as Chapter 7, pg. 336-342, in Dr. Wiktor Poliszczuk's "Gorzka Prawda - Zbrodniczosc OUN-UPA" [Bitter Truth - Criminal Activity of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)], Toronto - Warsaw - Kiev, 1995, and is translated into English by Walter Maksimovich.Copyright (c) (1996)Walter Maksimovich All rights reserved.

* * * * *
Lemkos are a Ukrainian ethnographic group, who for centuries inhabited both sides of East Beskid range, in the Carpathians, between rivers San and Poprad, to the west of Uzha. Due to vagaries of history, their natural surroundings, culture and lifestyles, economic relations with neighbors - Magyars, Poles, and Slovaks, precipitated certain cultural differences, lifestyle, and language of the Ukrainians in this region. The main occupation of the Lemkos was farming, cattle raising, and domestic vocations - fabric weaving, pottery, and wood carving. Lemkos are not known for their wealth, but they are industrious and honest. Up to WW II, they did feel their own ethnic identity, however a separate national identity has in effect, not been awakened within them.
It is my wish, that Lemkos, but not only Lemkos, would attempt to imagine the following situation: there never existed OUN, there never existed UPA. World War II did take place. The Germans said a little bit about certain separate nations - Gurals [Polish hillbillies], Lemkos, and so on, but that's all in the past. The Germans lost the war. The Polish People's Republic [PRL] is created. Lemkos, via their communist, or rather via their intellectuals who are in the process of becoming communists, demand cultural autonomy from the central government, while at the same time espousing marxism-leninism, resulting in awakening in the Lemkos of their own national identity. Ukrainian, of course. There are no reasons to deport them to USSR, nor to the Western and Northern territories of new Poland. In 1991, USSR crumbles. Independent Poland comes into being, same goes for Ukraine. Lemkos continue to live on their own land, where Ukrainian schools are functioning.
The situation could be as described above, were it not for the existance of OUN-UPA? One can be certain that that's how it would have turned out.

Lemkos are gifted people, and even when under adverse treatment by the authorities of the PRL, many of them obtained higher education, became highly respected professionals in various sectors of the economy, and even in politics.
But the OUN did exist. So did the UPA, which beginning in 1944, started to be ousted from the territory of Ukraine by the soviet army. The UPA at this time was in no position to lead a successful fight against the Bolshevism. The UPA was in retreat. The only direction for its retreat led westwards , across Lemkivshchyna, in which, because of its inhabitants, one could count on support - voluntarily, or by force.

UPA on Lemkivshchyna

In Lemkivshchyna, the UPA was not creating anything, it was not constructing anything, it only exploited this territory, for escape to the West. The inter-war Polish policy did not convert Lemkos to the Polish cause, even though Lemkos were loyal citizens to the Polish nation. And here arrive, as if one of their own, the Ukrainians, who ostensibly fight for the Ukrainian nation. They fight desperately, since there is no way out. The UPA broke into Lemkivshchyna, as if brought here by the flood. It had no time for negotiating. It defended itself under desperate conditions. From abroad the orders were to survive until the forthcoming World War III, which was to erupt any day now, between the western countries and the USSR.
UPA was in a brutal manner awakening national identity within the Lemkos. And now the UPA is challenged by the Polish authorities, and the Polish army. To the south, the road is closed - there's the communist Czecho-Slovakia. Polish authorities are also brutal. Within the Polish army and police units stationed in Lemkivshchyna, are many of those whose lost their close family members in the hands of the UPA in the Volyn' district and in Galicia.
At this time nobody bothered to research, whether the Lemkos support the UPA voluntarily, or as a result of terror. Nobody was analyzing to determine how many Lemkos voluntarily "left for the forest", and how many of them were forced to do this.
So it has been done: Poles are the deadly enemy of the Ukrainians, and also as well of the Lemkos. That what the OUN-UPA was teaching. And the enemy must be destroyed. This enemy was also being destroyed by the Polish army. Many of its soldiers had a subjective right to revenge for Volyn', for Galicia, where unburied remained their close ones - their parents, younger brothers, and sisters. And they undoubtedly exploited chances to get even. Even though this revenge was not directed towards those, who were responsible for deaths of the close ones in Volyn' and Galicia. Most frequently it was directed towards until now innocent, confused, incited, and frightened Lemkos. Frightened by the terror of the OUN-UPA..
Things were further complicated by the joint agreement between the governments of Poland and the Ukrainian SSR, dated September 1944, to resettle Polish Ukrainians to Ukraine, and Poles from Ukraine to Poland. Poles, after atrocities of the Bandera followers, and after direct experience with the Bolshevik regime from 1939 to 1941, just about willingly were leaving for Poland. Lemkos however, did not wish to leave their native soil, on which they lived for centuries. They need to be understood. Agreement about population exchange was made above their heads, and besides, Lemkos at this time had no representation whatsoever. And nobody took their wishes into consideration - deportations were initiated with the assistance of force. And the UPA stood up on the side of the Lemkos. In the UPA, Lemkos found their defenders.

Action "Wisla"

Later on followed Action "Wisla" - deportation, without exception, of all Ukrainians, therefore also of the Lemkos, to the Western and Northern territories of new Poland. And here also a defender of the Lemkos was found - the UPA. Hate to the Polish authorities was born here, along with birth of the Ukrainian nationalism.
Blame for this rests with then communist government of Poland. It was the mid-wife for the Ukrainian nationalism among the Lemkos. Lemkos however, not without influence from the OUN-UPA, without sound foundation, started to equate the Polish communist authorities with the Polish people. The evil policy of the Polish regime, to scatter the Lemko families, dumping them into Polish areas, areas mostly inhabited by recent arrivals from behind the rivers of Bug and San, i.e., among those that knew about the atrocities of the OUN-UPA.
Is a wonder then that the Lemkos started to feel as citizens of second or third category? Deportations were mostly carried out by cruel methods, the Lemkos most often wound up with demolished, formerly German, farmhouses, had to live while surrounded by strangers, while being deprived of spiritual care from their church. Nationalism began to strengthen among them, even though they were unaware of its existence.
But the Polish communist government ordered deportations, exploiting Moscow's experience in this field. On Stalin's orders, Tatars, Chechens, Ingushetees, and other nations, not individual people, were deported from their native soil.
As hypocritical, must one consider the decision of the Polish government, dated April 21, 1947, which among other things states: ... in connection with the necessity to further normalize conditions in Poland - the case for complete liquidation of the activities by the UPA bands has come due. In order to fulfill this action, the Presidium of the Council of Ministers resolves.......
III. The National Repatriation Board (PUR) will conduct a resettlement action on the Ukrainian population and those who reside on the territory, where activities by the UPA bands might threaten their life and possessions...1.

The aim of this operation - ostensibly to liquidate the UPA. Method used - deportation of all Ukrainians, not withstanding whether they reside in areas where the UPA is active or not. Indication is in the wording: the Ukrainian population and those who reside on the territory, where activities by the UPA bands might threaten ...
That deportation of Ukrainians within the framework of Action "Wisla" was dictated by the necessity to liquidate the UPA, does not stand up to critical analysis. According to the authors of "Drogi do Nikad" 2. [Roads to Nowhere], who rely on archival data In general on the territory of Poland in the spring of '47, before start of Action "Wisla", the UPA forces consisted of about 2,500 well armed and trained individuals. They made up only a part of the armed underground of the Ukrainian nationalists. Besides those detachments of UPA, units of the Security Services (SB) operated in the field (about 200 people)...
Just the cited numbers by themselves, indicate that in order to liquidate the UPA, it wasn't necessary to deport 95,846 people of Ukrainian nationality from the Rzeszow district, and 44,728 people from the Lubelsko district.
The real reason for deportations of Ukrainians from Poland to Ukraine, and later of those who remained, to the Western and Northern territories, boils down to one, that the government of communist Poland "has decided to become a country of a single nationality" 4. This goal was not achieved by the communist regime, by resettlement of Ukrainians to Ukraine [in 1944-1945], and it therefore deportation and scattering of them among the Polish population, which was to bring as a consequence, two results: a) it would accelerate assimilation of Ukrainians, and b) it would eliminate a monolithic Lemko territory.
The deportation of Ukrainians, and especially of the Lemkos, was a crime perpetuated by the Polish communist government, as defined by the International Convention, in connection with elimination of whatever racial discrimination, as passed by the General Assembly on December 21, 1965, which enlarges meaning of racial discrimination and applies it to ethnic groups:
In this Convention the term "racial discrimination" means any differentiation, exclusion,limitation, or granting of privileges due to the race, skin color, birthplace, national or ethnic origin, whose aim or in consequence of which, results in elimination or curtailment in recognition (article 1).... of the right for free movement and selection of residence within borders of the country (article 5) 5.
This was however the crime of the Polish communist government, that was not supported by the Polish nation, by means of a free election, since this government was dumped on Poland from Moscow. Polish nation is not responsible for this crime, just like the Ukrainian nation is not responsible for activities of the OUN-UPA.
Enlightened Lemko circles should perform an objective analysis as to what was done to their people between 1944-1947. They should perform this analysis, not through the prism of Ukrainian nationalism, but instead through intellectual means.


Not many Poles are aware, that in Jaworzno, near Krakow [Cracow], continued its existence after the war, a concentration camp that was founded by the nazi Germans. Few Lemkos are aware, that this camp also held Poles - those that were against the communist regime in Poland.
This camp was the place, where the Lemkos who were suspected of cooperating with the UPA, were held. But not only Lemkos - all known Ukrainians from Krakow were placed there.
The Warsaw Ukrainian newspaper "Nashe Slovo", #12 and 13 (1990) published a work by Yevhen Misila about this camp. The work states among other things: for the first time we are publishing a list of names of those Ukrainians, who in 1947-48 were killed or finished off in the concentration camp of Jaworzno. As a result of research conducted over several years, so far 150 names of victims have been determined. It is known however, that many more victims have died in the camp....
The list of victims of the concentration camp in Jaworzno contains names of 144 men, 4 women, and a 15 year old boy.....
Most of the people died in November (33) and December (43) of 1947. They were tortured under indescribable means and starved, and were killed by cold and unstoppable diseases.....
Then follows a tragic list of names of those 150 people - last names, first names, parents names, dates of birth, birth place, dates of death. Among them Ivan Moroz, former soldier in the Polish Army, who fought from Siberia, via Lenino, all the way to Berlin.

A greek-catholic priest, father Stepan Dziubyna writes: I was born in the village of Hladyshov, by Horlici, in western Lemkivshchyna. UPA was not active here, but to get arrested it sufficed to be a greek-catholic priest. In freight cars, with closed windows, I was taken along with others to Jaworzno, where during the war was located a branch of the Aushwitz concentration camp.... The new arrivals were taken to showers, food was taken away, we were beaten until blood started to flow, we were splashed once with cold water, then hot water. 7.
Polish investigators of this subject are usually silent on existence of the camp in Jaworzno, nor is it mentioned by A. Szczesniak or W. Szota. But confirmation of this fact, the fact of its existence and exploitation in the context of Action "Wisla" can be found. In the journal "Wojskowy Przeglad Historyczny" [Military History Review] general Ignacy Blum, describing action against the UPA states: Overall as the result of action by the operation group "Wisla", liquidated were 1,509 bandits, which made up 75% of their ranks as of April 1947. At the same time the entire civil organization of the OUN was liquidated, destroying thus the civil and material base of the UPA band. To an isolation camp were sent 2,781 active Ukrainian fascists. 8.
After I have read materials about the concentration camp in Jaworzno, a city that I visited several times after the war, not being aware of camps existence, I started thinking and comparing the camp in Jaworzno, with the concentration camp in Bereza Kartuska, in which not a single Ukrainian had died [before World War II].
The Polish nation is not responsible for the concentration camp in Jaworzno. This is an example of the communist regime, that was modeling itself on Bolshevik practices.
The Polish communist regime had exploited the situation - the presence of UPA in Lemkivshchyna. And applied on the Lemkos the method of massive guilt, which contradicts laws of civilized societies.
That most Lemkos did not cooperate with the UPA confirms clearly Artur Bata in his book "Bieszczdy w ogniu" 9. [Beskids in Flame]. He writes: The tragedy of the Lemko population is one of the tragic results of hate that was let loose by the Ukrainian nationalism (pg. 215). The same author writes that the OUN-UPA did not have sympathetic allies among the Lemkos, despite strong attempts by its leadership only one Lemko unit (sotnia "Smyrnoho") was able to be organized. For a society numbering over 100,000 people, that is a minuscule achievement (pg. 212).
The activity of these 200 soldiers of the SB OUN, was the main factor responsible for the Lemko tragedy. And besides, for the tragedy of all villages in the entire Western Ukraine, already after the conclusion of WW II. One must have been blind not to realize, that the UPA had no chance. But the UPA was "active".

Lemkos in Poland

Despite resettlement of the Lemkos to the Ukrainian SSR, after the war there remained in Poland a few hundred thousand Ukrainians, mostly Lemkos. They became active in the USKT [Ukrainian Socio-Cultural Society]. USKT - which was controlled by the Ministry for Internal Security. The newspaper "Nashe Slovo" had within it a "Lemko Page". Ukrainian schools existed in Poland, including two lyceums [high schools], a faculty of Ukrainology was created at the University of Warsaw. Unfortunately, despite official declarations, inside of USKT, especially among its regional offices, one could detect nationalist fervor. And this was at a time, when none of the propagators of the Ukrainian nationalism knew its true face, had not even read any works by Dmytro Dontsev, especially his "Nationalism". Wide circles of Lemkos, among whom patriotism was beginning to form, equated it with nationalism, feeling justified sadness towards the Polish government, and in turn placing the blame on the Polish people. In the decades that followed, Ukrainians, and therefore Lemkos, were treated as second class citizens, and this in turn exasperated feeling of hate towards anything that was Polish.
At the same time the Lemkos, with their declarations of being Ukrainian, with very few exceptions, have not gotten any closer towards the culture or the language of their countrymen in Ukraine.
Among the Lemkos in Poland a conviction remains, grafted on them by the OUN, that Lemkivshchyna should become a part of the Ukrainian nation, by reason of it being ethnically Ukrainian. So far, a realistic thought, one that would create conditions under which the Lemkos would return to their homeland, one that would create cultural, and maybe even territorial autonomy within the framework of the Polish nation, has not been born. OUN has sown within them the elements of nationalism. That's why the Lemkos have found within themselves in a so called "pathos" [suffering] situation. OUN has led to this. By failing to severe their ties with the OUN infrastructure, the Lemkos will never find any "modus vivendi" [compromise] with the Polish authorities.
Had they listened to their own brains, they would have concluded that: the fault for their tragedy lies wholly within the OUN. The UPA, which while attempting to save itself, attempted to reach the West. From among the UPA's 50,000 members, by miracle, only 300 heroic members reached the West. 10. One must add: At the expense of the Lemkos. Present day Lemkos, and their descendants, should put up with the fact, that they are, and will remain, living within the framework of the Polish nation. And it is within this context that they should seek their "modus vivendi".

1. A. Szczesniak, W. Szota: "Droga do nikad", op. cit., pgs. 427, 428
2. Ibid, pg. 431
3. Ibid, pg. 459
4. Ibid, pg. 233
5. Janusz Symonides: "Miedzynarodowa ochrona praw czlowieka",op. cit., pgs. 229, 232
6 "Nasze Slowo", Warszawa, Nr Nr 12 and 12/1990.
7. "Za wilnu Ukrajinu", LVIV, 25.V.1992
8. "Wojskowy Przeglad Historyczny", Warszawa, 1959
9. Artur Bata: "Bieszczady w ogniu", Rzeszow, 1987
10. "Ukrayina", Kyiv, Nr 1/1992

To read this chapter in the original Polish / ( po polsku ), click here.

For this, and other books by him,
Wiktor Poliszczuk
can be contacted
by email via poloktor@sympatico.ca

L6J 6S7

Icon Return to Lemkos Home Page

Document Information

Document URL: http://lemko.org/lih/wiktor.html

E-mail: walter@lemko.org

Copyright © LVProductions, Ltd.

Originally Composed: May 30th, 1996
Date last modified: December 17th, 2009