Operation Vistula was a terrible time for the Greek Catholic/Orthodox population in southern Poland during the close of WWII. Much has been written about it. In particular there are several Internet sites that explain what occurred from several viewpoints. See Operation Vistula My ancestors from the villages of Swiatkowa Wielka and Dudynce were deported from their ancestral lands during this holocaust. Theresa Osiurak Teoli contributed the following article. Her mother, Magdalena Furdak Osiurak, survived Hitler and immigrated to the USA. This article, published in 1947 in a Ukrainian newspaper, was kept with her valuables as a reminder. After Magdalena’s death, her daughter, Theresa, had the article translated into English because she knew of its importance to her mother. With her permission we have included it here. The atrocities described took place along the San River centered in the town of Bukowsko which is a short distance from Dudynce.
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HOW UKRAINIANS WERE EXPELLED FROM THE WESTERN LANDS by Volodymyr Buchatskyj
The resettlement of Poles from the (Ukrainian) Western lands to Poland started in the fall of 1945 and was accomplished quickly and without much interference. It would appear that the Poles did not feel indigenous to these lands. In addition to this, they felt that they could gain by settling on the >regained lands<, lands from which the Germans were banished. The Poles were resettling en mass, thus for example many Poles from Lviv headed for Breslau. But even here, the communists did not press the issue as 30,000 Poles were allowed to remain in Lviv (mostly older people, the infirm and single women.)
The expulsion of Ukrainians was totally different. Our population felt indigenous to the lands where they lived, they were deeply attached to their land, thus were protesting their expulsion. Adding to this, the ownership of land was most important to our villagers. The communist system of collective farming was considered inferior and compared to “absentee ownership”. Thus no one was willing to put his neck in the collective yoke.
When the call for voluntary “resettlement” was ignored, the Bolsheviks sought the assistance of the Polish government, and here they found assistance from the :rytsezhakh kresovykh” (knights, Poles) who were eager and waiting with their dislike of the “kabans” (pigs, Ukrainians). Nearly all the Polish establishment, the army, the police and the Polish villagers and towns people joined this bloody activity with great joy and enthusiasm. Thus began the orgies of the cruel treatment of our population. The lead was taken by the Polish communist soldiers lead by their officers. Chief among these were: Captain Jan Wyzhganowki, “poruchnyky” Ceslaw Kosakowski and Wladyslaw Kwiatkowski, captains Bernatowski and Gurmowski in the Sianik and Krosno counties. Captain Gzyra had a free reign throughout Lenkivshchyna where he was famous for murder and pillage.
The Polish police, formed from town’s undesirables during the German occupation, had a free reign throughout our villages as well.
Encouraged by the government actions, local village gangs of vigilantes had a free reign in villages such as Dubrivka Pilska, Nadolainy, Nebeshchany, Novotanets, Tisarivtsi and others. The town of Bukivsko ( Bukowsko) was the center for these gangs. They would set out from here for their raids and bring back the loot afterwards. On the 23 of March, 1946, a platoon of UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army ) defeated the vigilantes in Bukivsko, took away their loot and burned down the police station.
Gangs of vigilantes also operated in the more northern regions of the San River valley, villages of Plaziv, Naril, Adamivka Ruzhanetska and others. When the Polish army occupied Lemkivshchyna in 1946, the Polish-Soviet resettlement commissions came along with them to expel the Ukrainian population. The villagers would bury all their valuables and with only some provisions hide in the forests. The expulsions were carried out cruelly and without any regard. The result of the activity of the army and the commissions was absolutely terrible.
I am quoting here only a few examples of the shameful deeds of this Polish activity. These accounts are accurate in all respect. These examples come from the notes of UPS fighters who were defending the villagers from the vicious Poles. All of this defensive activity of the UPS will be the subject of separate memoirs.
On May 7, 1945, a gang of Polish village vigilantes from Bukivsko and Novotanets were pillaging and robbing villages. They set upon the village of Komancha, where they brought out the Rev. Orest Wenhrynowych from the parish residence and chopped his head off. Afterwards, they threw his body as well his eight year old son into a burning barn. They robbed the church and ordered the local teacher to take church flags to Bukivsko and deposit them in the Polish church. Also in May of 1945, a (Polish) vigilante gang from the village Nebeschany lay siege to the villages of Odechova, Woeoblyk and Syniava pillaging homes and killing and wounding tens of villages.
On January 23, 1946, Polish soldiers attached the village of Ratnavytsia. Here, after torturing them, the soldiers killed Stephan Bilas and Mykola Kotyka. The same soldiers arrested 9 villagers in Kanjane as they were resisting expulsion. These were executed in Sanok. The next day, January 24, the same soldiers attacked the village of Dariv where they killed a woman and her two children.
On January 23, 1946, a platoon of Polish soldiers under the command of Captain Gutowsky attacked and pillaged the village of Zavadka Morochivska. The commotion in the village alerted the UPA fighters that were stationed in a nearby forest. The UPA fighters defeated the Poles, captured much ammunition and arms and took away the pillaged goods.
On January 24, 1946, a platoon of Polish soldiers occupied the village of Morochiv. After the villagers resisted expulsion. Sixty villagers were shot and another 100 were wounded. This platoon was under the command of Captain Gzyra.
On February 16, 1946, the Polish police attacked the village of Chertizh. There they pillaged homes and beat villagers. They broke the ribs of Reverend Konstantyn Poliansky and then threw him on the wagon (to be expelled) together with his family. On January 24, 1946, the Polish soldiers murdered a 70 year old priest, his family and 14 other villagers.
On May 13, 1946, a platoon of Polish soldiers attacked the village of Wola Matieshewa. They wounded the village teacher, Mychailo Bilanych, and buried him alive. The family dug up the teacher, after the soldiers departed, but he died shortly afterwards.
On March 28, 1946, Polish soldiers burned down the villages of Kozhushne, Wysochany, Prydyshiw, Polonna and Cerednie Welyke. Seven villagers died in this action. During April, 1946, Polish soldiers and police lay siege to the villages of Pavlokoma and Obarym. These villages were viciously attacked with machine gun fire. More than 100 individuals were killed during this action.
During April and May, 1946, villagers from the Lisko County were being expelled. The Polish army announced that they would kill anyone they found fleeing to or hiding in the forest. Many villagers did return to their villages after their food ran out, were caught and expelled. Expulsion in the northern counties; here the platoon of the MOWOPKPB fell upon the villages as wild beasts in the Spring of 1946.
The villagers from Liublybets hid from the Polish soldiers in the nearby forest. The soldiers wounded four of the villagers and afterwards put them to death. A 70-year-old villager was killed in the village of Dykiw Stary. The soldiers and the gangs of vigilantes beat the villagers in almost every village and raped women, both old and young, everywhere, even in churches. This occurred especially, in the village of Liublynce Stary, Webycia, Dykowi Novym and others. In the village of Ulashiv, the soldiers killed four villagers who were hiding from the authorities in a cellar.
In Pidliashia and Cholm regions the inhabitants were devastated. These inhabitants were dealt with severely by the Germans, and now the actions of the polish “knights” persuaded them to “voluntarily” resettle eastward.
According to the Polish-Soviet agreement, the activity of “resettlement” was to be completed by June 1946. When the Soviet commission left in July 1946, the Polish authorities resettled the remainder of the Ukrainians (mostly Lemkos from western lands) about 30,000 individuals, onto eastern Prussia to occupy former German properties. The resettled people were left helpless by the Polish government. Their life was complicated because the Russian Orthodox priests beset them as did the communist propagandists.
A few Ukrainians remained in these territories- those of mixed marriages. Interestingly enough, numbers of “Mosophiles” and “Rusyns” remained in some towns. These acquired Polish identity papers as they did not trust their “older Brother” – the Russians.
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