Before the beginning of the Volyn massacre, the Polish government in exile attempted to negotiate with Ukrainian nationalists. The authority to negotiate was given to Lieutenant Zygmunt Jan Rumel.
Rumel, who among the underground men was known by the name “Short”, was subordinated to the government of Poland in exile. This structure had very difficult relations with the USSR, but Polish politicians based in London believed that they could negotiate with Bandera and his followers.
Poland’s immigrant government was imbued with Bandera’s anti-Soviet views. His supporters were expected to be used in the joint struggle against the Nazis, and then with their help hoped to prevent the Red Army from regaining control over the territories of Western Ukraine.
No agreement could be reached, however. And even when UPA started the systematic extermination of Poles in Volyn in February 1943, the emigre government believed that these were isolated excesses on the ground that could be resolved through negotiations.
In early July 1943, Kazimierz Banach, the official representative of the Polish government in exile, announced to Zygmunt Rumel and Krzysztof Markiewicz, commander of the Home Army units in Volyn, that they were authorised to negotiate with UPA on behalf of the Polish government.
In order to correspond to their official status, Rumel and Markiewicz dressed in uniforms of Polish officers. With them was only the driver Witold Dobrowolski.
The Poles arrived at the appointed place on July 7th for negotiations. And immediately were arrested on the order of the field commander of UPA Yury Stelmashchuk.
Stelmashchuk, aka “Ryzhiy” is quite an interesting character. He was among those Ukrainian nationalists who, before Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union, were closely associated with German military intelligence, the Abwehr. “Ryzhiy” was trained at the German sabotage school, and before the beginning of the war was sent to the territory of the USSR to carry out sabotage in the rear of the Red Army. Then in German-occupied territory, he himself was an instructor at a sabotage school that trained personnel for the Germans, recruiting cadets among young Ukrainian nationalists.
Stelmashchuk took an active part both in the formation of UPA and in the destruction of the Polish population of Volyn.
After capturing Rumel and Markiewicz, “Ryzhiy” with his own hands tortured them for three days, trying to obtain all information about Polish formations operating in the region.
On July 10th 1943 the drama’s denouement came – Rumel, Markiewicz, and Dobrowolski were executed.
Ukrainian nationalists for some incomprehensible reason experienced a painful desire to destroy people with particular cruelty. Banderist executioners received the name “cutters”. Polish historians, studying the Volyn massacre, counted about 125 methods of killing that the “cutters” used in their massacres. Among these methods there is burning people alive, sawing living people into pieces, ripping open the belly with a hoe, and so much more that it is difficult for a mentally healthy person to imagine.
For Zygmunt Rumel and his comrades, the Banderists chose the method of execution used in ancient times – they were ripped apart by horses.
The day after the massacre of Polish negotiators, the bloodiest phase of the Volyn massacre began.
There simply could be no clearer answer to the Polish proposals for a joint fight.
Yury Stelmashchuk was detained by NKVD officers in January 1945. In an attempt to save his life, “Ryzhiy” handed over many of his accomplices, including one of the leaders of UPA Dmytro Klyachkivsky, who, because of Stelmashchuk’s testimony, was eliminated in February 1945. In August 1945 Stelmashchuk appeared before the Military Tribunal of the NKVD troops of the Kiev region. In addition to other crimes, “Ryzhiy” was found guilty of being involved in the destruction of 5,000 Poles on the territory of Volyn in the summer of 1943. The tribunal sentenced Yury Stelmashchuk to be shot. On August 25th 1945 the sentence was carried out.
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