WAR COMES TO KARLYKIV

by STEPHEN RAPAWY

When the Soviet boundaries were pushed westward towards the end of the Second World War, about three-quarter million Ukrainians were living on the Polish side of the present Ukrainian-Polish border. An agreement was signed by the Soviet Union and Poland calling for a voluntary exchange of population. Poles on the Soviet side were to be permitted to emigrate to Poland and Ukrainians in Poland were given an opportunity to emigrate to Ukraine. But at that time and place, precious little was done voluntarily. Force was the operative principle.
This story recounts events in the village, at times dramatic, between the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 and the final deportation of Ukrainians from Karlykiv in the spring of 1947. The village, like most in the region, was not a scene of military engagement until the fall of 1944 when the Germans were being driven back. First the front raged in the area, then the forced deportation and insurrection completely demolished the village and the whole area. Karlykiv suffered more than most villages but all villages, to some extent, experienced similar events. This Lemko village is located in the southeastern part of Poland where Polish-Ukrainian-Slovak borders meet. It is about 10 miles north from the Slovak border and 30 miles west of the Polish-Ukrainian border.
My recollections of the early phases of the war are hazy. I was three months short of my fifth birth date when the war broke out. Before German arrival, the Polish army was preparing some sort of defense, an observation tower was built on the mountain top behind the village and telephone wires were laid on the ground from the tower to the village and perhaps beyond. I remember the telephone wires because our neighbor's cow, coming home from the pasture in the evening, got her foot entangled and broke the wire. The neighbor was quite scared and my uncles kept teasing him that the Poles would shoot him for sabotage. He decided to tie the broken line with a wire, hoping that the Poles wouldn't discover it. Nothing happened because of the telephone break as the Polish troops were retreating rapidly eastward. The retreat was over the dirt road covered with gravel, considered a major road in the area, which ran through the village.
Retreating soldiers frequently requisitioned horse drawn wagons to take them to the railroad station several miles away. The soldiers would go to the village mayor who designated a family with horses and wagon to perform the service. The mayor, in turn, kept some sort of record and these obligations were rotated among the households. We did some carting few days earlier but when another group of soldiers came to the village, the mayor came to us again because most people with horses were in the field. It was still the tail end of the harvest season. He finally convinced my grandmother to take the troops and whatever they were carting to the railroad station, a few hours trip. Finally, uncle Andrew, then 16, took one of our horses and our neighbor's horse, (I don't recall who owned the wagon), and drove them to the station. He didn't return that evening nor the following day. When he reached the station, he and large numbers of other civilian wagons were assembled into a huge wagon train and together with the Polish troops started east. Andrew realized that this was no longer a local trip and started planning his escape. When at mid-day they stopped for lunch, he told the guards he was going to the nearby creek to answer the call of nature. When he reached the creek he started running westward. At that point he didn't know where he was but he knew that if he headed west he would be home. Eventually he made it home. My grandmother always blamed the village mayor whose wife was Polish, for this episode and for being too friendly with the Poles.

THE OCCUPATION

Several days later, without a shot being fired, Germans arrived in the village. It was an exciting time for me and my friends. Various vehicles, heavy weapons and big German horses. Germans attached radio antennas to the tallest trees. My friends and I were running around giving them Nazi Hitler salutes, shouting Heil Hitler! Some soldiers returned our salutes others ignored us. I don't remember anybody telling us to salute, we were simply mimicking the Germans. But Germans were considered friends for reasons not apparent to me even today. For those attempting to establish independent Ukraine, break-up of the existing political order in Europe was a prerequisite. But geopolitical considerations of this nature were beyond the comprehension of our villagers. Growing hostilities between Poles and Ukrainians, I believe, were the reason for the friendly attitude towards Germans. Since Germans and Poles were enemies, the ancient formula was followed "your enemy's enemy is your friend."
The origin of this conflict, like most in Eastern Europe, goes far back in history. In the thirteenth century the Mongol invasion broke up the Kyivan state but the Vohlynia-Galician Principality in western Ukraine retained independence for another century. The male line of the local dynasty died out in the next century and the Polish principalities were unified into a single state, setting the stage for the conquest of the Vohlynia-Galician Principality. The Polish conquest was never accepted by the population who by then developed a distinct culture, based in part, on Eastern Christianity. The Church services were performed in the Greek manner, differing considerably from the Roman Rite. Old Slavonic was the liturgical language and not Latin, as in the Polish churches. Polish domination of the territory changed little, for the next six hundred years, a phenomenon incomprehensible to most Americans. Poles moved the ethnic boundaries about twenty miles east through assimilation. Towns were Polonized, and local aristocracy either reduced to peasantry by having their estates seized or assimilated. But most people who lived in villages, had little contact with towns, and continued their way of life with little change.
When nationalism swept through Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century, villagers seem to have awaken from the seemingly long slumber and started to resent centuries of Polish domination. Even during the Austrian period, most local administrators were Poles. The break up of the Russian and Austrian empires precipitated attempts on most Ukrainian territories to establish an independent Ukrainian state. In our area, Lemko Republic was declared in the village of Komancha, third village from Karlykiv, with the intent of uniting with the Western Ukrainian Republic. A three hundred men unit was organized and there were skirmishes with local Polish detachments until the regular Polish army arrived and dispersed the Ukrainians. Western powers partitioned the Austrian Empire and assigned this territory to the newly established Polish state where Ukrainians were to enjoy considerable cultural autonomy. The new Polish state, afraid of future partitions, ignored international treaties and engaged in a forced Polonization of the territory. When Germans arrived two decades later, they were viewed as liberators. The fall of Poland brought some changes in the village. The White Eagle, the Polish coat of arms, was taken down from the school building and Polish was no longer taught in school. Ukrainians evidently staged a demonstration, but I don't recall anything else about it. My only recollection was of someone saying - we'll show the Poles. But the German occupation, too, was to turn ugly very quickly.
A bit of family history. My maternal grandparents went to the U.S., married there and had six children. My mother, Anna the oldest child was born in Butler, Pennsylvania. Having saved a fair amount of money, they bought parcels of land from local landlords who were selling off their estates and after the First World War returned to their native village to farm. A few American born children, including my mother, returned to the U.S. before the Second World War. My mother grew up in the village, married, I was born, then she went back to the U.S. and I was left in the care of my maternal grandmother, Paraska Puzyk. About two years later my father, Theodore, went to America and I was to follow later with my uncles, John and Mike but the war broke out. My maternal grandfather, Dmytro, died about two weeks before the war broke out. At the start of the war, the family consisted of myself, my grandmother, uncles John, Mike, and Andrew and my aunt Paraska, the last two children were born in the village. Uncle John married just before the war, his wife was also called Paraska, a very common name in the village, but they did not set up housekeeping. She lived with her family and he with his.
Life in the village returned to its uneventful rhythm after the Germans left until the spring of 1941. Germans flooded the village again and we kids again ran around gawking at weapons, vehicles and horses, but I don't remember saluting them. Then suddenly, they disappeared. At some point later, I was walking down the village road and there was thunder, I kept looking up at the sky but there were no clouds. A man going by said to me, Germany attacked Russia. It must have been June 22, 1941 and the German artillery was firing on the Soviet positions east of the San River. Karlykiv is about 30 miles west of the river.
Later, a Slovak unit, probably in the summer of 1941, was stationed in the village and soldiers slept in our silo. I remember this event because of a single incident, a blond soldier was cleaning his rifle and I sat transfixed watching him for a very long time. It was the first time I ever saw a rifle being taken apart and cleaned. But more importantly, the Slovaks told the people, (according to uncle Andrew), to take any goods that Jews had because Germans were going to seize all Jewish properties. Couple of miles from Karlykiv was a Polish town/farming village of Bukivsko with a population of almost 3,000 including 600 Jews. As far as I know, nobody was hurt. The two Jewish families in our village, out of 62 households, were not bothered.
After this incident, Germans came to the village and took the two Jewish families away. My recollection of the event is fuzzy. I don't remember people actually being led away. Life in the village was uneventful and when anything unusual happened people gathered and watched, especially kids. I, evidently, did not miss too many happenings in the village. One family, named Marx, consisted of an old grandmother and two brothers, one was married and had a son a few years younger than I. They had a big brick house in the center of the village and ran a general store. In our area just about every village had a store owned by a Jewish family. Earlier, Marxes must have been in some other business as well because there wouldn't have been enough money from the store to build such a big house. After the family was taken away, the single brother fled and was hiding out in his neighbor's attic in the village. According to the story I heard, the lady of the house gave him food and told him to leave during the night. I don't know what happened to him afterwards. Hiding Jews was a dangerous business and some people were executed. Unlike the Soviets, Germans executed people publicly in some towns. Executions were carried out on specific days of the week, presumably on market days, for a variety of reasons, harboring Jews included. On that day people from neighboring villages came to trade and the executions were conducted in the open to maximize terror. I am less familiar with the second Jewish family, who lived at the lower end of the village and earned their living by farming. The family was poor, even by village standards, and had five or six daughters.
One day I was sitting at the side of the road and saw a large group of Jews, wearing light cloth arm bands, led by the Germans. Normally Jews were forced to wear a yellow arm band with the Star of David, but I don't recall the star. I knew all the time that Jews were being executed, it was common knowledge. At some point afterwards, probably 1942, the sister-in-law of our school teacher arrived in the village to live with her. She was a tall blond woman and sang vigorously in church but somehow I knew she was Jewish. Apparently her husband sent her to sit out the war in a mountain village. Germans. At the same time uncle Mike was arrested by the Gestapo for being a U.S. citizen. Mike was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and was taken back to Europe at several months of age. He was kept overnight and released the following morning. It was at this time that we learned that a state of war existed between Germany and the U.S. Uncle John, also a U.S. citizen, was working in Germany at the time with his wife.
After these events, nothing dramatic happened in the village for the next couple of years. Germans instituted a form of tax in-kind, a certain amount of grain and potatoes had to be delivered per unit of land as well as milk and meat. At least two of our cows were taken for meat. People engaged in all sorts of machinations, attempting to reduce the burden. Grain for the Germans was first soaked in a barrel of water to increase weight, then dried off just enough so it wouldn't drip water. Potatoes were dug after the rain to increase the amount of dirt and therefore their weight. At some point we were required to give two liters of milk, my grandmother would fill about four-fifths of each bottle with milk then added water. I would take the two bottles to the collection point. I don't think there was any real benefit from all these tactics, save some psychic satisfaction - you didn't give them everything they wanted.
There was also a tax to be paid in humans. After the Germans came, many young people like uncle John and his wife Paraska went to work in Germany voluntarily. There was a strong tradition of working abroad. At the turn of the century many people went to the U.S. to work in coal mines and steel mills of western Pennsylvania, others went to Canada to farm. Virtually every household had somebody or at least at some time, either in the U.S. or Canada. But as the word came back that people were turned into indentured laborers, volunteering stopped. The village officials had the unenviable task of picking young people for work in Germany. I am not sure how many people were forced to go. In any event, 54 young men and women went to Germany out of 475 people in the village -11 percent of the population.

THE FRONT

By late spring of 1944, German vehicles were frequently seen on the road. The front was getting nearer. German engineers checked roads and bridges and posted signs with numbers at the bridges, evidently specifying the weight a bridge could withstand. One day tanks and trucks appeared on the road, traveling for several hours bumper to bumper from the southeast to the northwest. Apparently a panzer division was being moved from one sector of the front to another. By that time, German administration and police disappeared.
Several events occurred at this time, harbingers of things to come. News arrived in the village one day that Poles were attacking neighboring Ukrainian villages and murdering people. We all fled the village and hid in the ravines behind the village. Finally, someone rode on horseback to the village that supposedly was under attack and found everything normal; it was just a rumor. The event underlined the distrust and tension between the two groups. But another event was real. One night, six armed Poles surrounded the priest's house in the village and robbed it. According to the villagers, the men were from the neighboring Polish village of Bukivsko. The priest had a wife, a daughter married to a man from our village, and a granddaughter, Marusia, several years younger than me. The priest's son served in the German army, probably some auxiliary unit, and was not in the village at the time. The son-in-law was engaged in black market speculation during the German occupation and presumably bad blood developed between him and his Polish business partners. The robbers evidently wanted to kill him, but he fled. Finally, one Sunday I was grazing cows behind the village, by then my permanent occupation, and heard rifle fire coming from the woods behind the neighboring village of Prybyshiv. Afterwards, somebody said the Hungarians attacked Ukrainian partisans (guerrillas) and scattered them - I thought to myself, Ukrainians always lose! After bringing the cows home at noon, I learned that the partisans were at the lower end of the village. When I got there, I saw what to me was a pretty sorry sight. Some had rifles while others were without any weapons, presumably they left the camp without them and to top it off, one was promenading with a village girl under his arm. Instead of fighting they were fooling around with girls. To me that, at the time, was an inexcusable sin. As I learned subsequently, the Ukrainians were attacked by Soviet partisans and not by Hungarians.
For about a month our village and neighboring villages lived in a vacuum, without civil or military authority. The vacuum occurred because the Red Army drove the Germans to the San River, then stopped to re-group and prepare for the next offensive. Eventually the Germans arrived in the village, with many horse drawn wagons. Most drivers, if not all, were non-Germans. A wagon stationed in our orchard was driven by a Ukrainian from the North Caucasus, a Soviet POW. Germans used POWs extensively for a variety of support tasks. The POWs who dug trenches were darker than we, apparently from the Caucasus. Germans dug several miles of World War I type trenches to the south of the village, facing the Carpathian Mountains. Most of the work was done by the POWs but on occasion the Germans would round up villagers with picks and shovels for the job.
German officers took over a room in our house. Our house was one of the better houses in the village. A field kitchen was also stationed near the house and my grandmother traded with the cooks. It was the first time in my life that I had rice pudding and sliced beef. Germans had a steady supply of meet because they took the cattle from the collective farms in Ukraine and drove them westward, just ahead of the front line. Several hundred cows grazed in our village causing considerable damage to the crops. After slaughtering the cows, the Germans would throw away the hides and we would collect them. After the front went through, Andrew and Mike tanned these hides. The hides were tanned in a huge barrel consisting of water, the bark of fir trees, and some other concoctions. It smelled terribly. It wasn't a good tanning job but the leather was supple enough to make shoes. During this time, many in the village came down with dysentery. The Germans led a small group of Soviet prisoners through the village who looked awful - ragged, bear footed, feet black as tar, and smelled terribly. They were eating green fruit from the orchards and came down with dysentery, transmitting it to us.
Finally the front arrived. Sunday afternoon, Paraska and I were grazing cows when Soviet planes started bombing and strafing the neighboring village of Polonna. We hid in a potato patch because the planes were going into a dive or coming out of a dive over the area where we were. They made an awful groaning, scary sound. The next day, Monday, around noon the planes started bombing and strafing our village. My grandmother, Paraska, Maryna, Mike, Mike's wife (he married the previous year) and I hid in the cellar. Andrew was with the livestock behind the village. Towards the end of the raid a neighbor ran into the cellar hollering - your barns are on fire! We ran out of the cellar and saw smoke coming out of the attics of the barns. It was now mid-September and the grain was in the barns, but not trashed. I started running around the barn yard not knowing what to do. Mike hollered to get Andrew - at least something to do! I ran south where Andrew was, behind the hill with trenches on it. As I got to the trenches a second wave of planes started bombing and strafing our village. The groaning sound again and this time I could see red stars on the wings of the planes. As the second wave came, the family went back to the cellar, a light bomb fell on the house missing the cellar by a couple of feet - the cellar was only under half of the house. The walls of the cellar were of stone and the ceiling had several inches of poured cement. But that bomb would have pierced the ceiling.
By the time Andrew and I got home, both buildings were burned to the ground, but surprisingly a lot was dragged out of the building - clothing, kitchen ware, farm equipment. In a couple of hours we were wiped out, the grain perished and winter was coming. Perhaps a dozen houses in the village were burned during the two raids. A boy a couple of years younger than me was killed by a bomb in the first raid. He was a serious and studious boy who would copy his reading assignment in his notebook. His parents started hiding his notebook, they were very poor and couldn't afford the paper. The damage to the Germans in the village was minimal. One German hiding under a bush in the ravine just disappeared. A bomb ricocheted off the side of the bank and landed on the bush. When the front passed, my friends and I went looking for the body. There was a big crater where the soldier hid and the bush growing there was several hundred yards away. The only trace of the soldier was a piece of his leather belt and strings of flesh on the transplanted bush. During the night, the Germans left the village with their wagons.
For the next four days a daily ritual ensued. About 4-5 times a day, Soviet planes would bomb the village. There were usually eight planes, six bombers and two fighter escorts, circling overhead; there were no German planes in the air. The planes were strafing and bombing, but the bombs were usually small because there were only a few deep craters. While the raids did not inflict any damage on the Germans, they did manage to burn down most of the houses. During the raids we would sit in the cellar, backs against the wall and not opposite any windows or a door. Usually there were people from the neighborhood, not everybody had a cellar. During the raids, women and children, I don't know about men, prayed while chunks of cement were falling around. At that time, I learned to recite very rapidly Our Father, Hail Mary, Apostle Creed and some other prayers. One day my uncles brought buckets of water, shovels and axes to the cellar and placed them against the wall where we normally sat. The idea was that if the ceiling caved in we would be able to dig our way out, if anybody was left alive. That really spooked me. When the planes started bombing again and chunks of ceiling started coming down, I became hysterical. I ran towards the door shouting "I don't want to be buried in the cellar, I want to die outside"! Aunt Maryna grabbed and held me until I calmed down. Another time a small bomb dropped some distance from the cellar door and a piece of shrapnel came flying through the door. A neighbor, about 19 years old, was sitting opposite the door and it evidently whizzed by his ear and embedded itself in the wall. He grabbed his ear and started screaming, his mother grabbed a burlap bag and wrapped it around his head and started screaming and hugging him. When it was apparent that he hadn't been hurt, about 20 people in the cellar broke out in a nervous laughter. The bombings evidently left a strong impression on me. To this day my ears perk up when I hear a propeller plane and frequently a bombing scene from the village flashes before my eyes.
At dusk we would set up a fire in the barn yard and start cooking supper, usually potatoes. At this time of the evening German and Soviet artillery would be dueling. By that time we learned something of war - a plane almost overhead couldn't harm you and from the sound of bombs and especially artillery shells, we could tell whether it was going to land nearby or was flying overhead. I remember sitting on a log one evening dipping a spoon of mashed potatoes in sour, curdled milk, and watching nonchalantly German tracer shells flying east.
At dawn on Saturday, a handful of German soldiers went from one end of the village to the other burning the remaining houses. In a few cases people were able to put out the fires after the soldiers left. Evidently they were preparing a clear field of fire. Uncles helped our neighbor to put out the fife in his house, one of his barns burned down earlier. We then went to Holota's, grandmother's family, their barns also burned down but the new fire in the house set by the Germans was put out. Then there followed a discussion about what to do next, most thought there would be a battle in the village. Whether to stay or leave was the next question. We and many other people decided to leave and headed east towards the village of Kamianne, by then the sun was rising. Somebody spotted soldiers moving along the creek and shouted, Russians! At that point German artillery opened up, puffs of smoke and dirt kicking up all over the fields. Some soldiers said to go back to the village, Germans would be driven out, so we headed back. While heading back others told us to leave the village, there was going to be a prolonged fight. So we turned back. Then we changed direction again and headed back to the village. Due to the contradictory advice and fright we weren't able to make a decision. Miraculously, nobody was hurt. Back at Holota's cellar, the matter was discussed more calmly. Soviet troops were in the village now and the Germans were on the hills south and west of the village, the village was pounded steadily by German artillery. This was going to be a long fight. It was then decided that Mike, Maryna and Andrew would take our two cows and a heifer and leave the village, while grandmother, Paraska, and I would stay. I don't know why we split up.
After a while, grandmother said, "Well, if we are going to die, we might as well die in our own cellar." So the three of us made our way along the creek to our cellar. The stay in the cellar followed the routine of earlier days except now we were shelled and not bombed. That Saturday our neighbor was killed by German rifle fire near his burned-out house. He lost his cows and was trying to catch a cow that separated from the German herd and in the process got killed.
The village now was full of smoke and smell - smoldering wood and a sharp smell of sulfur from explosions. Soviet artillery in the village was firing on the German positions and the Germans continued shelling the village. These artillery duels completely blocked out the noise of the small arms fire. German shells were landing very close to the cellar. When the fighting stopped Tuesday morning, the fields in and around the village seemed to have a bad case of the measles. Every few yards there was a hole made either by a bomb or a shell, mostly by shell. About twenty yards from the cellar was a bean stack and it took a lot of beating from the German artillery. There were shell holes all around it and it might have taken a direct hit. I was never able to understand why Germans would be firing on the stack. Years later, I saw a picture of a Soviet artillery piece camouflaged behind a hay stack, a standard Red Army practice. There was nothing behind our bean stack but there was a Soviet artillery piece firing on the Germans from a creek, a couple of hundred yards behind the bean stack. That evidently caused the Germans to zero in on our beans.
For a long time, I thought the fight in the village was a localized affair. But it was part of a much larger operation - dubbed by the Soviet military historians, "The Carpathian Operation" and was studied in the Soviet military schools. In the summer of 1944 Germans prepared extensive defensive positions in the eastern Carpathians, trenches behind our village were part of the system. Soviet troops going through our village were part of the First Guards Army commanded by Andrey Grechko, future Marshal and Minister of Defense of the Soviet Union, the First Guards was part of the Fourth Ukrainian Front. A Front would have about half-a-million men. We had little difficulty communicating with the Soviet troops. If a soldier couldn't be understood, he was called a harden Russian or a Siberian. In reality, vast majority of the soldiers were Ukrainians who spoke a mixture of Russian and Ukrainian. But people did have difficulty conversing with soldiers who spoke standard Russian. According to the Soviet sources, 4.5 million Ukrainians served in the Soviet Armed Forces during the war. Even men drafted from our village immediately started speaking pidgin Russian when in uniform.
Polish police and reported that her neighbors had contact with the partisans. Police came to arrest them and the two men were shot while fleeing into the woods. A few nights later the partisans came at night and hanged the woman on the cherry tree behind her house. This event set the ground rules and, while brutal, probably saved many lives in the long run. If you inform on the underground, sooner or later, you would be caught and killed. Afterwards, the underground started attacking Polish police stations and whatever there was of the Polish civil administration in the countryside. The police stations with 5-10 men were quite vulnerable to attacks; in most cases, police fled to the cities populated by Poles and which had troops and a larger police force. By autumn of 1945, rural Ukrainian areas were completely under the control of the underground and that control was maintained until the spring of 1947.
At this time my uncle John and his wife Paraska arrived from Germany. He had been in the U.S. zone and told the U.S. military that he was a U.S. citizen but did not have any documents on him to that effect. He had brothers and sisters in New York but didn't have their addresses, either. I don't know how he communicated all of this since he didn't speak English. In any case, he was advised that it would take months to find his relatives in New York. Instead, he was told to return to Poland, go to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw and he would be in the U.S. in a matter of weeks. So he headed east. When he got to the Soviet Zone he was quickly thrown in with other men inside a barbed wire enclosure. During the night he managed to escape, Paraska was waiting outside the enclosure, but instead of going west, he continued traveling east. Coming home, he was promptly ridiculed by everybody for leaving the American zone. He then set off for the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, without his wife, and disappeared. We wrote to the Embassy, they replied that he had been there but had no additional information about his whereabouts. While returning from Warsaw, he changed trains in Lublin and was arrested, waiting for his train at the railroad station. He eventually was brought to court and the judge promptly released him.
The partisans started recruiting local boys and many volunteered. I never heard of anybody being drafted, i.e., taken forcibly. Some from our village that joined returned after a short stay, but five remained, including two Hudak brothers, Dmytro and Fedir. Another young man joined the underground the following year. Hudaks were village thieves and apparently thought they could continue their work as partisans. We were about 10 miles from the Slovak border and goods were frequently smuggled across the border in both directions. Partisans occasionally borrowed horses from the villagers but always returned them. While people trusted them, there was some reluctance to give horses because in case of a fight with the Poles, the horses might be lost. Fedir, now a partisan, approached a farmer plowing and demanded his horses, the farmer refused, an argument ensued and Fedir shot and killed the farmer and took his horses. Apparently stolen horses were being smuggled to Slovakia, an activity of long standing in our area. Unknown to Fedir, farmer's neighbor was in the bushes answering the call of nature and witnessed the whole thing. He then reported the incident to the partisans. Fedir was placed in the line-up and reportedly picked out twice by the neighbor. Some type of trial ensued and Fedir was hanged, the usual method of execution by the underground. His brother, the ring leader, was with another unit and deserted to the Poles when he learned what happened. Naturally, he had to tell the Poles something and apparently reported all the people in our village with whom he had feuded as working with the underground. This, among other factors, contributed to the tragedies that were to occur in the village later.
The basic operational unit of the underground was the sotnia (literally, the hundred), essentially a rifle company of about 125-150 men divided into three platoons with three squads to a platoon. Sotnias normally operated independently in a designated area but were also part of a battalion in the district. They occasionally joined other battalion sotnias for a major operation. There was also a police force, SB (Security Service), usually consisting of about a dozen men, operating independently but occasionally joining sotnias in a battle. SB was the security arm of the OUN Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists), The moving spirit behind the organization of the UPA (initials from Ukrainian for the Ukrainian Insurgent Army). Their main function was intelligence and counter intelligence. Besides SB, the OUN had an extensive intelligence network consisting of its own members and reliable sympathizers who operated clandestinely but outwardly led a normal civilian life. The underground also organized self-defense units in just about every Ukrainian village. Few armed men were to patrol the village during the night. The rationale for these units was to prevent undetected movement of Polish troops during the night, defend the village against armed Polish robbers and to serve as reserve unites. Reportedly, units from some villages occasionally fought with the regular UPA units, in our village self-defense unit, of which Andrew was a member, was not a serious affair. During the evening the patrol normally played cards and then spent the rest of the night sleeping in somebody's barn.
The partisans, as we called the UPA, now resembled a regular army and not an armed mob of the summer of 1944. Men in most sotnias had some form of basic training. The UPA also had schools for training officers and squad leaders, i.e., non-commissioned officers. Two men in our village Stefan Syvy and Josaphat received this training. Syvy became either a squad leader or an assistant squad leader the following year. Szpynda was killed in the summer of 1946 by the Polish troops in the village of Repid and is buried in the church yard in Yavirnyk with another UPA soldier from the Peremyshl area. Initially most UPA soldiers in our area were from western Ukraine and a small number from eastern Ukraine, usually former Red Army men. Because local boys were recruited in large numbers, these units began to take on Lemko coloration at the end of 1945.
Three companies were organized in our district - Didyk, Khrin, and Stakh - named after the pseudonyms of the company commanders. Myron's sotnia occasionally operated in our area, but seems to have been shuttling mostly between Ukraine and the Ukrainian districts in Poland. Lemkos inhabit both sides of the Carpathian Mountains, both in Poland and Slovakia, and stretching more than one hundred miles west of the current Ukrainian border. They speak a separate Ukrainian dialect with a strong admixture of Polish and Slovak and retained some old Slavic words as well. South of the Carpathians and in the western part of the Lemko region north of the Carpathians some people still call themselves Ruthenians (Rusyns). But in our area the old term was displaced. Ukrainian nationalism took firm hold between the wars and while some older people still called themselves Rusyns, the term acquired a pejorative meaning. To call yourself a Rusyn was an indication of political backwardness - the acceptable term now was Ukrainian. To be called a Lemko, however, was acceptable.
After Polish police stations were eliminated in the spring of 1944, Polish troops and police just about completely disappeared from the country side. During this time, I recall seeing Polish troops only once traveling on the village road with three tanks. In January 1946, elements of the Eight Polish Infantry Division started offensive operation that seems to have been directed more against the civilian population than the underground. The 34th Infantry Regiment command by Lt. Col. Pluto arrived in Sianik, the county seat, and started raiding Ukrainian villages in the area. On January 24, 1946 Polish troops arrived in the village, most young men, including my uncles, fled. Two officers came to the house and asked my grandmother where her sons were, she said - in America - pointing to the picture of uncles Steve and Dmytro who went to the U.S. before the war. Then they started beating us. I turned eleven the previous month and apparently I was viewed as a threat to them because I was "disarmed." I remember emptying my pockets, pulling out a string, few pebbles, and a small pen knife with a wooden handle. Then the officer proceeded to hit me with a large military-type strap. I remember running around the house screaming, but I really wasn't hurt, the officer hitting me did not have much enthusiasm for the job. I don't remember Paraska and Maryna being hit, presumably they were. But the nut who was hitting grandmother was really serious. Afterwards she was black and blue and her arms swelled up the size of her legs.
After we were beaten, I went outside and watched soldiers mill around in the village. One was carrying a young deer on his shoulders. The previous year, the priest's son-in-law found a fawn in the woods and took her home. She was allowed to roam and frequently went to the woods, but always returned. She apparently was returning and was killed. Another soldier was firing a machine gun at some person walking on the hill behind the village. The distance was too great to have any affect. In my roaming through the village, I found the body of Stefan Hoysan under the fence of the priest's house. He was partially undressed and bayoneted through the chest and the mouth. One cheek, where the bayonet came out, was really gouged out. It was the most gruesome sight I had seen during this whole period. Several older men were taken from the village that day and found dead in the ditch outside the village.
The partisans started recuiting local boys and many volunteered. I never heard of anybody being drafted i.e., taken forciby. Some from our village that joined returned after a man joined the underground the following year. Hudaks were village thieves and apparently thought they could continue their works as partisans. We were about 10 miles from the Slovak border and goods were frequently smuggled across the border in both directions. Partisans occasionally borrowed horses from the vollage but always returned them. While people trusted them, there was some reluctance to give horses because in case of a fight with the Poles, the horses might be lost. Fedir, now a partisan, approached a farmer plowing and demanded his horses, the farmer refused, an argument ensued and Fedir shot and killed the farmer and took his horses. Apparently stolen horses were being smuggled to Slovakia, an activity of long standing in our area. Unknown to Fedir, farmer's neighbor was in the bushes answering the call of nature and wintnessed the whole thing. He then reported the incident to the partisans. Fedir was placed in the line-up and reportedly picked out twice by the neighbor. Some type of trial ensued and Fedir was hanged, the usual method of execution by the un-dergroung. His brother, the ring leader, was with another unil and deserted to the Poles when he learned what happened. Naturally, he had to tell the Poles something and apparently reported all the peoply in our village with whom he had feuded as working with the underground. This, among other factors contributed to the tragedies that were to occur in the village later.
The basic operational unit of the underground was the sotnia (literally, the hundred), essentially a rife company of about 125-150 men di-veded into three platoons with three squads to a plant. Sotnias normlly operated independently in a designated area but were also part of a battalion in the district. They occadionally joined other battalion sotnias for a major operation. There was also a police force, SB (Security Service), ussually consisting of about a dozen men, operating independently but occasionally joining sotnias in a battle. SB was the security arm of the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists), the moving spirit behind the organization of the UPA (initials from Ukrainian for the Ukrainian Insugrent Army). Their main function was intelligence and counter intelligence. Besides SB, the OUN had an extensive intelligence network consisting of its own members and reliable sympathizers who operated clandestinely but outwardly led a normal civilian life. The underground also organized self-defense units in just about every Ukrainian village. Few armed men were to patrol the village during the night. The rationale for these units was to prevent undetected movement of Polish troops during the night, defend the village against armed Polish robbers and to serve unites. Reportedly, units from some villages occasionally fought with the regular UPA units, in our village self-defense unit, of which Andrew was a member, was not a serious affair. During the evening the patrol normally played cards and then spent the rest of the night sleeping in somebody's barn.
The partisans started recruiting local boys and many volunteered. I never heard of anybody being drafted, i.e., taken forcibly. Some from our village that joined returned after a short stay, but five remained, including two Hudak brothers, Dmytro and Fedir. Another young man joined the underground the following year. Hudaks were village thieves and apparently thought they could continue their work as partisans. We were about 10 miles from the Slovak border and goods were frequently smuggled across the border in both directions. Partisans occasionally borrowed horses from the villagers but always returned them. While people trusted them, there was some reluctance to give horses because in case of a fight with the Poles, the horses might be lost. Fedir, now a partisan, approached a farmer plowing and demanded his horses, the farmer refused, an argument ensued and Fedir shot and killed the farmer and took his horses. Apparently stolen horses were being smuggled to Slovakia, an activity of long standing in our area. Unknown to Fedir, farmer's neighbor was in the bushes answering the call of nature and witnessed the whole thing. He then reported the incident to the partisans. Fedir was placed in the lineup and reportedly picked out twice by the neighbor. Some type of trial ensued and Fedir was hanged, the usual method of execution by the underground. His brother, the ringleader, was with another unit and deserted to the Poles when he learned what happened. Naturally, he had to tell the Poles something and apparently reported all the people in our village with whom he had feuded as working with the underground. This, among other factors, contributed to the tragedies that were to occur in the village later.
The basic operational unit of the underground was the sotnia (literally, the hundred), essentially a rifle company of about 125-150 men divided into three platoons with three squads to a platoon. Sotnias normally operated independently in a designated area but were also part of a battalion in the district. They occasionally joined other battalion sotnias for a major operation. There was also a police force, SB (Security Service), usually consisting of about a dozen men, operating independently but occasionally joining sotnias in a battle. SB was the security arm of the OUN Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists), The moving spirit behind the organization of the UPA (initials from Ukrainian for the Ukrainian Insurgent Army). Their main function was intelligence and counter intelligence. Besides SB, the OUN had an extensive intelligence network consisting of its own members and reliable sympathizers who operated clandestinely but outwardly led a normal civilian life. The underground also organized self-defense units in just about every Ukrainian village. Few armed men were to patrol the village during the night. The rationale for these units was to prevent undetected movement of Polish troops during the night, defend the village against armed Polish robbers and to serve as reserve unites. Reportedly, units from some villages occasionally fought with the regular UPA units, in our village self-defense unit, of which Andrew was a member, was not a serious affair. During the evening the patrol normally played cards and then spent the rest of the night sleeping in somebody's barn.
The partisans, as we called the UPA, now resembled a regular army and not an armed mob of the summer of 1944. Men in most sotnias had some form of basic training. The UPA also had schools for training officers and squad leaders, i.e., non-commissioned officers. Two men in our village Stefan Syvy and Josaphat received this training. Syvy became either a squad leader or an assistant squad leader the following year. Szpynda was killed in the summer of 1946 by the Polish troops in the village of Repid and is buried in the church yard in Yavirnyk with another UPA soldier from the Peremyshl area. Initially most UPA soldiers in our area were from western Ukraine and a small number from eastern Ukraine, usually former Red Army men. Because local boys were recruited in large numbers, these units began to take on Lemko coloration at the end of 1945.
Three companies were organized in our district - Didyk, Khrin, and Stakh - named after the pseudonyms of the company commanders. Myron's sotnia occasionally operated in our area, but seems to have been shuttling mostly between Ukraine and the Ukrainian districts in Poland. Lemkos inhabit both sides of the Carpathian Mountains, both in Poland and Slovakia, and stretching more than one hundred miles west of the current Ukrainian border. They speak a separate Ukrainian dialect with a strong admixture of Polish and Slovak and retained some old Slavic words as well. South of the Carpathians and in the western part of the Lemko region north of the Carpathians some people still call themselves Ruthenians (Rusyns). But in our area the old term was displaced. Ukrainian nationalism took firm hold between the wars and while some older people still called themselves Rusyns, the term acquired a pejorative meaning. To call yourself a Rusyn was an indication of political backwardness - the acceptable term now was Ukrainian. To be called a Lemko, however, was acceptable.
After Polish police stations were eliminated in the spring of 1944, Polish troops and police just about completely disappeared from the country side. During this time, I recall seeing Polish troops only once traveling on the village road with three tanks. In January 1946, elements of the Eight Polish Infantry Divisions started offensive operation that seems to have been directed more against the civilian population than the underground. The 34th Infantry Regiment command by Lt. Col. Pluto arrived in Sianik, the county seat, and started raiding Ukrainian villages in the area. On January 24, 1946 Polish troops arrived in the village, most young men, including my uncles, fled. Two officers came to the house and asked my grandmother where her sons were, she said - in America - pointing to the picture of uncles Steve and Dmytro who went to the U.S. before the war. Then they started beating us. I turned eleven the previous month and apparently I was viewed as a threat to them because I was "disarmed." I remember emptying my pockets, pulling out a string, few pebbles, and a small pen knife with a wooden handle. Then the officer proceeded to hit me with a large military-type strap. I remember running around the house screaming, but I really wasn't hurt, the officer hitting me did not have much enthusiasm for the job. I don't remember Paraska and Maryna being hit, presumably they were. But the nut who was hitting grandmother was really serious. Afterwards she was black and blue and her arms swelled up the size of her legs.
After we were beaten, I went outside and watched soldier's mill around in the village. One was carrying a young deer on his shoulders. The previous year, the priest's son-in-law found a fawn in the woods and took her home. She was allowed to roam and frequently went to the woods, but always returned. She apparently was returning and was killed. Another soldier was firing a machine gun at some person walking on the hill behind the village. The distance was too great to have any affect. In my roaming through the village, I found the body of Stefan Hoysan under the fence of the priest's house. He was partially undressed and bayoneted through the chest and the mouth. One cheek, where the bayonet came out, was really gouged out. It was the most gruesome sight I had seen during this whole period. Several older men were taken from the village that day and found dead in the ditch outside the village.
After Polish police stations were eliminated in the spring of 1944, Polish troops and police just about completely disappeared from the countryside. During this time, I recall seeing Polish troops only once traveling on the village road with three tanks. In January 1946, elements of the Eighth Polish Infantry Division started offensive operation that seems to have been directed more against the civilian population than the underground. The 34th Infantry Regiment command by Lt. Col. Pluto arrived in Sianik, the county seat, and started raiding Ukrainian villages in the area. On January 24, 1946 Polish troops arrived in the village, most young men, including my uncles, fled. Two officers came to the house and asked my grandmother where her sons were, she said -- in America - pointing to the picture of uncles Steve and Dmytro who went to U.S. before the war. Then they started beating us. I turned eleven the previous month and apparently I was viewed as a threat to them because I was "disarmed". I remember emptying my pockets, pulling out a string, few pebbles, and a small penknife with a wooden handle. Then the officer proceeded to hit me with a large military-type strap. I remember running around the house screaming, but I really wasn't hurt, the officer hitting me did not have much enthusiasm for the job. I don't remember Paraska and Maryna being hit, presumably they were. But the nut that was hitting grandmother was really serious. Afterwards she was black and blue and her arms swelled up the size of her legs.
After we were beaten, I went outside and watched soldiers' mill around in the village. One was carrying a young deer on his shoulders. The previous year, the priest's son-in-law found a fawn in the woods and took her home. She was allowed to roam and frequently went to the woods, but always returned. She apparently was returning and was killed. Another soldier was firing a machine gun at some person walking on the hill behind the him. He bayoneted her and took the suit anyway. She was lying in the snow dead while the two women were dragging their belongings out of the burning house. A dog came by in the meantime and chewed part of her arm off. The next day I went by the priest's burned out house and the whole family was laid out on white sheets in the snow.
After the two raids, much of the blame for the atrocities was heaped on Dmytro Hudak who deserted the partisans and went over to the Poles. Some who lost family members were talking of killing his family and setting their house on fire, then went to the underground demanding that they do the job. The UFA refused but was trying, unsuccessfully, to catch him for the next couple of years. He joined the Polish police in Sianik and staved in town most of the time. Judging by the houses set on fire, he probably did identify some families as strong underground supporters. In our case, Uncle Mike got in a fight with him at a wedding a couple of years earlier. Whatever information he may have provided was pure vendetta and not based on reality. In fact, families of boys in the underground were left unharmed, presumably he feared retaliation against his own family. At the same time, some of his friends in the village, including his own brother, were killed that night. Because of his "information" the village was probably identified by the Polish intelligence as a den of underground supporters and suffered more than it might have. There was, of course, a strong support for the partisans in Karlykiv, but no more than in other villages and actually the UFA did not come to the village often. A road went through the village that the Polish troops used frequently and because of the surrounding hills, the troops would be spotted only a few kilometers away. The partisans then would either have to fight or expose themselves to enemy fire on a treeless hill before reaching the safety of the forest.
The Polish troops were constantly moving around the area for the next several weeks. When they approached the village, men had to make a difficult decision, stay in the village with the family or flee. If you were caught in the woods, the chances of getting shot were much greater than remaining in the village. On the other hand the odds of being caught in the forest were small. So the thinking went. Uncles took the position that it was better to flee than stay. Or as Andrew put it, there is nothing better than the blessed flight! That attitude probably saved their lives. After the massacre in our village, escape was the only option. From that incident until the end of the deportation in the summer, the Poles usually shot all adult males caught in the village. About two weeks after the massacre, Polish troops arrived in the village with six artillery pieces and started shelling the forest above the neighboring village of Prybyshiv where Didyk's sotnia frequently bivouacked. At a designated tome Polish units approached that section of he forest from different directions, the whole exercise accomplished nothing except killing a couple of civilians who fled to the forest. UPA, like all well organized guerrilla movements, had excellent intelligence and a day before the attack moved out. Ironically, one of the civilians killed
village. The distance was too great to have any affect. In my roaming the village, I found the body of Stefan Hoysan under the fence of the priest's house. He was partially undressed and bayoneted through the chest and the mouth. One cheek, where the bayonet came out, was really gouged out. It was the most gruesome sight. I had seen during this whole period. Several older men were taken from the village that day and found dead in the ditch outside the village.
As people gathered around and talked, after the troops left the village, a consensus emerged that the Poles would be back during the night. We didn't go to sleep but sat around, walked outside the village, looked and listened for the troops. Late in the evening, perhaps around eleven o'clock, there was a sound coming from the Polish village of Bukivsko, where the soldiers were quartered, of large numbers of people walking on the snow. Snow in our area was dry and crisp and would crunch underfoot. As the troops were getting closer to the village, the noise level and suspense rose. Most men fled the village, including my uncles, while I, grandmother and the two aunts went inside the house and awaited the arrival of the soldiers.
Flair shot up on the hill east of the village, an obvious signal. I ran outside and saw a house on fire and a soldier running to the next house, the large skirt of his coat floating in the air. For some reason I instantly recalled a drawing and a phrase from my third grade reader on the Mongol invasion in the Middle Ages. The drawing was of Taras and Cossacks and somewhere in the text a phrase -- when Tatars raided Ukrainian lands. Without saying anything to anybody, I ran to the barn untied the two animals - a cow and hors -and started to lead them to the creek west of the village. Both animals hadn't been outdoors for a while and started jumping and pulling me in different directions. I couldn't hold both, so I let the cow go, figuring that the Poles were more likely to take the horse than the cow. When the cow ran home, the family thought I had been killed. I led the horse into tall juniper bushes and stayed there for perhaps two hours. I heard men calling -Paraska, Maryna, and common names for women --I didn't know who they were and kept quiet. They must have been Polish soldiers. The sky was lit up by burning houses but I couldn't tell which houses were on fire. On the hill to the west of the creek, several men in uniform were standing there for quite a while. I didn't know whether they were Poles or Ukrainians, apparently they were Polish soldiers.
Finally, some women arrived at the creek with cows, laughing continuously, one said our house burned down, so did hers. I remember being quite mad at them, there was nothing to laugh about. Presumably, it was a nervous reaction to the village being set on fire again. After a while, all of us returned to the village. Our house was largely consumed by fire, part of the roof already collapsed inside the brick walls. But grandmother, Paraska and Maryna did manage to carry out clothing, bedding, cooking utensils, wagon, plow, etc. Before the flames spread. I was hungry and started chewing on a piece of partially frozen bread.
During the night perhaps a dozen houses were set on fire and few people were killed near their homes, but about a dozen men were rounded up and brought to the meadow near the priest's house. They were sprayed first with a submachine gun and then shot individually in the head with a rifle. Our neighbor and his brother were in the group; when he regained consciousness he was lying among the corpses in the snow. He had been shot in the arm, above the elbow, and another bullet creased the side of his head. After making his way home, his wife hid him in the cupboard under the oven. He was taken to the underground doctor the next day, who bandaged him and he eventually recovered; the UPA had a rudimentary medical service. During that night, the priest's family was completely wiped out. The priest, Oleksa Maliarchyk, 72 years old, was killed as well as his wife, daughter, and granddaughter Marusia. Marusia was perhaps four years younger than I. She was being held by a maid when a soldier pierced the child with a bayonet cutting the maid in the breast. Poles seemed to love bayonets. The son-in law escaped again. Another gruesome murder that night was of an old woman. According to her daughters-in-law, a soldier was trying to take a suit away from her and she refused to give it to was a young man from our village whose older brother served in Didyk's sotnia and was unharmed. This was the only operation in our area directed against the UPA and not the civilian population. Throughout this period, forcing the civilian population to leave seems to have been a primary mission of the Polish military, fighting the underground was of second importance. Typically, Poles would come in small numbers, about 150 men, ransack the village, and kill men who did not manage to escape.
As the troops approached the village, men fled to the woods behind Prybyshiv. Uncles were in the forest also and had difficulty escaping the encirclement, running from one end of the woods to another. In the process Andrew separated from John and Mike who escaped, while he remained in the forest with a neighbor. Both decided to hide, the neighbor climbed a big, thick firtree and hid in the branches. It turned out to be a bad choice. While he wasn't discovered, he came down with pneumonia from the melting snow. At some point during this operation I was really frightened, a fright comparable to the incident in the cellar during the bombing raid. As I looked at the mounted Polish soldiers riding through the village, I thought to myself - we won't survive.
When our house burned down, we and a family of two women moved to the house of my paternal aunt Maryna. Thus, in a two-room cottage there were three families and a mare in the kitchen behind the oven. I remember that distinctly because occasionally, I would lie on the oven built of brick with a flat top, which usually served as an additional bed, and play with the mare's ears. To this day, I hadn't been able to figure out why the mare was there. The house was full of lice. I slept in a hallway that winter and was awakening one morning by lice crawling all over me. I took off my sweater that mother had sent me and started killing the lice with my thumbnails. I remember killing about twenty just from around the collar and underarms, my nails were covered with blood.
In the spring we moved back to our cellar but also used the top of the cellar which was under cover as in the previous year. The first thing we did was boiling our clothes in the metal drums until we got rid of the lice. Spring sowing was started but the men were constantly fleeing because of the incessant movement of the Polish troops. In the end, little was sown. Once all the women in the house and I, uncles fled, were lined up against the cellar wall and Maryna became hysterical, thinking we were going to be shot. I don't know why we were lined up but I recall a Polish captain questioning us. When he came to me and asked me for my surname, I said Rapawy. Additional questioning followed because all the women were Puzyks. When he learned that my parents were in the U.S. he said, "so your parents left you to kill Poles". At the time I was wearing my grandmother's boots with high heels and evidently appeared taller than I actually was. I remember thinking afterwards that I shouldn't wear these boots next time Poles come to the village. There was another raid on the village, part of the spring offensive, the remaining houses were burned except Hudak's and a number of people were killed again. One woman was shot inside the house and the house set on fire with her in it. I don't know whether she was still alive at the time. From the end of January to the early spring of 1946, 22 civilians in the village were killed by the Polish troops.
At dusk one day, the village was flooded with partisans. I ran to the lower end of the village and stood on the road near the old cemetery, I had never seen that many partisans. They were marching on the road heading towards Bukivsko, officers on horseback. Throughout this period, partisans were my great heroes and there was nothing in my life before or since that I wanted more than to join the UPA. I heard that there were some young boys, perhaps fourteen, fifteen years old and kept saying to myself if I had been only a few years older I could have joined them. In about an hour, the northwestern sky was illuminated by fire, Bukivsko, the Polish village was ablaze. Ironically, it was a Ruthenian village earlier but became almost completely polonized by WWII. The village gained a notorious reputation among the neighboring Ukrainian villages. It was a jump-off point for the Polish troops, who, at times, were accompanied by the members of the Polish self-defense units of the village. They behaved much worse towards the civilians than the regular troops and were quite adept at pilfering. People in the village were both glad and apprehensive about Bukivsko going up in flames. There was a fear of retaliation by the Polish army, but the Polish troops did not behave differently than before.
The tactics of the Polish army changed at some point in the spring. Instead of just burning houses and killing people, now people were captured and taken to the railroad stations for deportation to the east. Our village and neighboring villages fled to the forest. We took some belongings with us while others were buried around the house. Normally a pit would be dug into the bank of a stream, dirt thrown in the water and washed away without leaving a trace. Items were placed in the pit, covered with straw, then dirt, and covered with twigs, branches, etc. Occasionally sod was used as cover. The original sod was neatly cut, the pit was dug, then covered again with the same sod. A steep bank was usually selected because of better drainage and a less likelihood of anybody walking over the pit. In the forest, we built a tent of fir branches under a huge firtree and placed lots of branches on the ground as well. In the evening we normally had a camp fire going where food was prepared and in general living in the forest wasn't all that bad unless it rained. There was a severe rainstorm one night, I woke up and water was dripping in my face. I covered myself with a feather quilt was wet as well, I then realized that the branches beneath me were also wet. I spent the rest of the night sitting on a burned out German helmet beside the fire.
Grandmother, as well as some other people, especially the elderly, remained in the village. Occasionally someone would go on horseback during the night to the village to pick up food that grandmother prepared, usually bread. One day two girls were coming from they village laughing again, and told me that grandmother was taken to Russia by the Polish soldiers. I was beside myself, crying uncontrollably. I was very close to her, she was my surrogate mother. But as it turned out, she managed to escape. Soldiers told grandmother to go to the center of the village where people were being collected. While on her way, she passed her family's home where she grew up and realized that there was a waterfall in the creek. As the water cascaded, there was a dry spot between the bank and the sheet of water coming overhead. She went to the creek, walked along the bank and then pushed herself behind the cascading water without getting wet. Few minutes later, soldiers came looking for her but couldn't find her. Another incident during this time involved Andrew. A neighbor coming to the woods from the village said that Andrew had been killed, but he also managed to escape. He was riding a horse along the creek east of the village and came across two Polish soldiers lying in the ditch by the road. They started shooting at him, but he had the presence of mind to jump off the horse and run along the creek on foot, offering less of a target. The horse was lost, but he made it safely to our relatives in the neighboring village and rejoined us in the forest few days later.
Some weeks later, word spread thru the forest, that Czechoslovakia was willing to resettle in Sudetenland those Ukrainians who didn't want to go to the Soviet Union. Sudetenland is in western Czechia and the space was available because Germans living there had been expelled to Germany after the war. People had considerable trust in Czechs and Slovaks and besides they were desperate, grasping at any straw. We and most of the families is our village and in the neighboring village decided to cross the border. Late one afternoon we and other people came to the village to organize our departure for Czechoslovakia. All our belongings in the pits were dug out. Before we left for the forest, wagon was taken apart so the Poles wouldn't take it and parts were hidden in the cellar and inside the brick walls of the burned house. The wagon was reassembled and since we didn't have a horse, we hitched our remaining milk cow and that of another family, the Holotas, to the wagon. Both families put only their most important possessions in the wagon, keeping in mind that cows couldn't pull very much over hilly terrain. While all this activity was going on, I kept a lookout for the Polish troops. I went on a hill behind the village that was covered with juniper bushes and sat there, watching approaches to the village from both ends. I was very sad and excited, I was leaving the village for good and I would probably never return. I and other people had great attachment to the village, it was where your ancestors were born, lived and died and besides very few of us ever lived outside the village.
Finally, as the sun was setting we left for Czechoslovakia. We traveled directory south over the crest of the Carpathian Mountains. The mountains are comparatively low at that point but it was difficult for two cows to pull a loaded wagon. When cresting a hill, everybody got behind the wagon and pushed. Occasionally we would stop on the incline, put large stones behind the wheels to prevent the wagon from rolling back, to give ourselves and the cows a rest before pushing again for at least a few yards. Smaller kids normal were holding to the wagon and walking behind it. When they were literally falling off there, they were tossed on the wagon. At some point I got very tired as well and wandered off and fell asleep under a bush. When they finally found me, they put me in the wagon as well.
The following morning, the sun was up when I awoke in the wagon and we were in the forest on the Slovak side of the border. We ate something, and then decided to come out of the woods. The mountainside was covered with wagons and people; some who didn't have draft animals carted their belongings in wheelbarrows or carried them on their backs. We found a spot on the mountain and parked our wagon. Soldiers were all around us, the people were a bit uneasy, but since they were Czechoslovakian troops, nobody seemed overly conceded. Shortly, word went around that there was going to be a meeting. Lots of people went, I sat in the wagon. Presently there was crying and wailing as people were running back saving we were being sent back to Poland. The officer conducting the meeting said that all Ukrainians, from the youngest to the oldest were Banderites (Bandera was a militant OUN leader) and that we were being sent to Poland. Polish troops, he said, were waiting for us at the border. A soldier was walking between our and the adjacent wagon when a women in the next wagon picked us a small barrel and slammed it over his head. The barrel disintegrated as the dry staves scattered. The soldier didn't do anything to the women.
As the people were running around and crying, there followed a scene right out of Hollywood spectaculars on the crucifixion of Christ. The sky quickly darkened, there was thunder and lighting then came the rain. The rain didn't seem to last long, however. We came down from the mountain to a small town and I noticed their houses were a lot better than ours, even before the war, and the people were well dressed. This area of Slovakia is also populated by Limos. The whole caravan started moving northeast, back to Poland. Grandmother and I went by a Czechoslovakian army truck to the village of Lufkin on the Polish side. There must have been some other people on the truck but I don't remember. When we got to the border, about a dozen Polish soldiers stood around for a while than got in a truck and drove off. We spent the night in a deserted house sleeping on a wooden floor. During the night the rest of the family arrived with the wagon.
There apparently were many escapes, especially by men, from the column of people being led back to Poland. John was carrying a lot of clothes on his back, which thwarted his escape. While in Germany, he and his wife were earning ration cards and used them to buy clothes. They brought the clothes home and he carried them in a large sack on his back. At some point he attempted to jump over the ditch, trying to get away from the column. The harness broke and part of it grabbed him by the neck, pulling him into the ditch. He then went into a rage cursing his wife, how she made him drag the stupid clothes all over Europe. Afterwards, he became the butt of many jokes about his attempted escape. Andrew, on the other hand, escaped and headed back for the village trying to find something to eat. Not seeing anybody moving around, he went to the village and promptly stumbled on a group of Polish soldiers sitting in an orchard. He was captured, severely beaten and his arm apparently broken. He was taken to a Polish village and put in the barn with another severely beaten man who died shortly. Andrew said the soldiers were talking of shooting him the next day. He revived a bit during the night and found a loose board in the wall of the barn, when the guard dozed off Andrew pried the board open and escaped. A couple of days later he joined up with us.
When Communism disintegrated in Eastern Europe, a letter was found in Prague written by a Ukrainian priest who was in eastern Slovakia where we came over the border and described the scene. According to the letter, people from seven villages crossed the border. The letter was published in a Ukrainian journal. I mentioned this to aunt Nancy's husband, Peter Szpynda, who added additional details. He claims that while they were in the forest above Prybyshiy, there was a fire fight between the UPA and the Polish troops. A partisan came by later and advised them to move because Poles were expected to return in force. Szpyndas kept going south for quite a while, eventually reaching a secluded meadow in the forest and decided to make camp. A couple of days later Czechoslovak border guards appeared in their camp. Inadvertently, they crossed the border. At some point they were told that they could be resettled in Czechoslovakia, if they wished. Peter then had his father speak to the Czechoslovakian officers a day or two later and the same story was repeated. The Szpyndas than relayed this story to other people and that's apparently how the rumors spread through the forest about Czechoslovak's resettlement.
It was a ruse by the Czechoslovak military to flush us out of the forest, but the whole affair was poorly coordinated with the Poles. Besides the handful of troops with the truck, I saw no Polish troops during the next two days on the Polish side. On the other hand I did see at least one Czechoslovakian military vehicle on the road inside Poland. At the time Poland and Czechoslovakia signed an agreement to fight the underground jointly since UPA units occasionally crossed the border.
The following day, a caravan of carts and people continued moving north to the village of Komancha. Komancha had a railroad station but the underground destroyed the train in the station so Kuliashne, further to the east, was the closest functioning railroad station. We were all going to the station to be deported to the Soviet Union. The latest episode in Slovakia disillusioned people and the will to resist seemed to suddenly evaporate. We had been under siege for almost two years with no end in sight. As the sun was setting, we reached Komancha and decided to spend the night there, at an empty roadside house. Everybody was too tired to push on another few miles to Kulashne. During the evening, stories started circulating that many people were fleeing back to the forest. A discussion ensued and we decided to flee as well. Holotas on the other hand, decided to push on the station and go to the Soviet Union. At that point everybody started looking for a wagon so that Holotas could cart their goods. Eventually a wagon was found in one of the abandoned houses. In the morning they transferred their goods to the new wagon, hitched their cow and headed for Kuliashne while we went to the upper end of the neighboring village of Repid just below a large forest. Repid was considered safer because it was not on a major road and could quickly disappear into the woods. One of the reasons for our persistence was that John, Mike and I, through my mother, were U.S. citizens. If we remained in Poland, there was a chance that we and the rest of the family could eventually get to the U.S., but if we went to the USSR, the chances were nil.
We stayed in Repid for several weeks. The village did not seem to be damaged much, either by the war or the Polish army. Most houses were left intact and contained grain, potatoes, and sauerkraut, in big barrels, farm implements and small hand operated mills for milling grain. We had plenty of food. The Polish army seemed to cease most of its activities in the area after our return from Slovakia. It was apparently tied to the expiration of the deportation period. The time allowed for deportation or what was euphemistically called, a voluntary exchange of population, had been extended several times and the end of June, 1946 was evidently the final dead-line. We then moved to the village of Polonna, a neighboring village to the east of Karlykiv.
Polonna had been damaged by the war, but not as extensively as Karlykiv. During the deportation, the Polish army did little damage to the village. We took an empty house in the upper end of the village and the closest point to our village. John and his wife, decided to set up their own housekeeping in the house next door. I would go on the knoll behind the village and look longingly at our village. I couldn't see much except the tall trees around the priest's house. We occasionally came in contact with Polish troops and since they weren't bothering us, we were no longer running away from them, like wild animals used to being around people. At some point, aunt Paraska, grandmother and I, crossed the lower end of Karlykiv and went to Kamianne to visit with grandmother's niece. I hadn't been to this end of the village in several months and a lot had changed. It had an appearance of wild place as no houses were left standing and their brick chimneys toppled. Very tall weeds shot up where the houses used to stand, because the soil was black and rich, mixed with ashes of the burned out houses. But the most mournful sight was a half-starved kitten meowing and barely moving. By the end of the war, few families had dogs but most had cats that were used to roaming outdoors. When the people fled, cats were left behind. Few learned to hunt and survived, but most starved to death.
Harvest time came and uncles and aunts started harvesting on our village. Only six families were left in the village and everybody harvested whatever their relatives and neighbors had sowed and planted. We harvested more grain than we needed. Olga, Mike and Maryna's oldest child, was born in Polonna and towards the end of the harvest, we moved back home. Mike and Andrew started putting floors and a roof over the brick walls of the barn, as in 1945; John built his own place over the smaller of our two cellars. But life in the village was sadder now. With only few families left we lived alone, as though on an isolated farmstead. Before, houses were about 100 feet apart and people constantly stopped by, especially in the winter. Now, there was hardly anybody to visit and I played alone, most of the time. There was no school, of course, in fact I hadn't been going to school since the spring of 1944.
The Polish troops rarely appeared now and were no longer harassing us, the UFA was less active as well. Myron's sotnia completely disappeared, presumably it crossed the Soviet border and remained in Ukraine. Dilyk's sotnia was taken over by Brodych, pseudonym for the new company commander, and went to the western part of the Lemko region, near Krynytsia. Two sotnia's remained in the area now ~ Khrin's and Stakh's ~ but even they were thinned out. The sotnias engaged in frequent firefights throughout this period, but the fighting was especially intense during the first half of 1946. Khrin's unit engaged in disproportionate number of fights. He was an aggressive and a very capable commander, who gained a legendary reputation among the people, the Poles and throughout UPA. The partisan losses in these fights were normally light, but took their toll over time. There was some desertion as well, especially when the people were leaving for the Soviet Union. Some UPA soldiers changed to civilian clothes and went east with their families, while very few joined the underground now to replace them.
As the situation stabilized somewhat, the Polish authorities insisted that we elect a village mayor. Nobody wanted the job because it could get you into trouble. When the new occupier arrived during the war, the mayor suddenly became an official of the enemy regime, which could cause him problems. Finally, an old man, Wengryn, I believe his first name was Peter, was persuaded to take the job. He was illiterate and didn't see too well, I think he just needed a good pair of glasses. In the winter I made two trips to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, the first time with John, then with Mike, trying to get out of Poland. One document had to be approved by the local official, i. e., our village mayor. Approval in Eastern Europe requires a stamp. Surprisingly the stamp had survived but not the stamp pad. They lit a kerosene lamp, put the stamp over the shaft of the lamp to collect soot. When sufficient amount of soot was collected on the stamp, Mike pointed to the spot on the paper and the mayor hit it. The official business was done.
At this time we started receiving parcels of clothing from the U.S. and money in letters. Suddenly we were rich. Staying with us was Anastasia Syvy, her daughter Maryna and a single young man, Dmytro Tymcio. Anastasia's husband and Dmytro's father were in Canada and they too were receiving parcels and money. One night, six armed men surrounded our house and robbed us; taking our cows and clothing and Mike was beaten for good measure. Anastasia Syvy said she recognized Dmytro Hudak's voice who was talking outside the door where her bed was, but he never entered the house. Since we had some U.S. dollars, we promptly bought a cow and a twenty-year-old mare.
The end of winter and the coming spring brought Polish troops back into the area, a re-play of the pervious spring, except the troops were not deporting us now. As the time went on, Polish troops flooded the area, then suddenly rounded up all the men in the village they could find, including the three uncles and took them away. The following morning, I was going to the barn and noticed that the village was surrounded by Polish troops. Behind our house were two soldiers lying on the ground facing the woods. One had a light machine gun and another was armed with the rifle, Polish troops were armed exclusively with Soviet weapons. Somebody came and said there was a meeting at one of the houses and somebody had to attend, grandmother went. When she came back, she said we had two hours to pack our belongings and leave, it was about eight in the morning. There were no crying, wailing or other signs of emotions or violence on the part of the Polish troops. We simply started packing our belongings methodically as though we always expected this would happen. We couldn't put everything in our wagon and an army truck was provided which we loaded up as well. We took just about everything we had but some grain was left behind. The Polish Army dubbed the deportation "Operation Vistula".
The mare had a foal a few days earlier and it was too weak to walk to the railroad station. It was hoisted and laid on top of everything in the truck, I climbed up and held it down. It was a beautiful reddish foal with white stockings and a white stripe down the forehead. At about noon we started off for the station in Kuliashne, I in the truck with the foal and the rest of the family with the wagon and the cow. We spent the night in a meadow, which by morning was covered with frost. In the morning, a group of arrested men, including the three uncles, were being led somewhere.
A train of boxcars was provided, people and livestock rode in separate cars and both had hay or straw. The first stop was our county seat, Sinanik. I was sitting in the boxcar with the livestock. My legs dangling over the side when Dmytro Hudak in a Polish uniform came by and started arguing with his brother about his leaving. The brother said -- I'm going with our people. Dmytro then started arguing with the Polish guard. He apparently wanted to take his family off the train, but to no avail. At this point we had no idea where we were being taken. We must have been going initially through the Cracow area because I recall very high mountains probably the Tatra Mountains located south of the city. Every time the train would pull into the station, armed soldiers would jump off to prevent anybody from escaping. Three days later, we ended up in northwestern portion of Poland. Our train stopped in Czluchow and every family was told where to go. We were the only family on the train, assigned to the village of Rechnowa, few miles east of Czluchow.
In the fall, uncle John and I received the necessary papers to go to the U.S. Unfortunately, he and his brothers were in Jawozna, one of the most infamous Polish camps. Jawozna was a satellite camp of the Auschwitz complex; the new Communist regimes made use of former German concentration camps. The uncles didn't get out of jail until the winter. When the time came for me to go, the 20 year-old mare was hitched to the wagon again, the two Paraskas and I went to the railroad station in Choynice. John's wife took me by train to the Baltic port of Gdynia and left me in some kind of buildings with the rest of the people waiting to board. Three days later we were aboard a converted U.S. troop carrier, Ernie Pyle. Sixteen days later, with a three-day stopover in Hamburg, Germany, to pick up more passengers, we were in New York. The ship docked at pier 46, I believe, in the Hudson River.
In 1962, Andrew and I went through every household in the village, listing the number of people at the outbreak of the war in 1939, the number that went to Germany, those killed, and the number left in the spring of 1946. At that time, I could still name every house in the village, but I relied mostly on Andrew's memory. At the outbreak of the war, there were 475 people in Karlykiv. We probably missed a few people, but not too many. Those that went to Germany totaled 54, 16 of them returned to the village and 46 were killed in various away. Poles killed 22 people and Germans 12, the two Jewish families and two died during the battle. Of the military casualties: seven died in the Red Army, one in the German Army, (priest's son served in some German unit) and two in UPA, one was hanged. Dmytro Hudak may be added to the list of casualties, although he died after the "Operation Vistula". He and his friends continued their thieving ways after we were deported and killed a Pole in the process. Dmytro, according to uncle Andrew, was locked up and found hanged in his cell in the morning. Apparently his friends helped him reach the great beyond during the night before he could implicate them.


"ʲ"          3 - 4, 1998



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Originally Composed: November 5rd, 2002
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