History of the UPA Monument on Monastyr Mount

At least four members of OUN-UPA buried on Monastyr Mount killed civilians.

On January 27th, 2020, the president of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky visited the Polish city of Auschwitz. This official visit took place in connection with the International day of remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust. Taking this opportunity, V. Zelensky appealed to the president of Poland to restore the monument on the grave of soldiers of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) located on Monastyr Mount near the village of Werchrata in the Podkarpackie voivodeship of Poland. As was noted on the official website of the president of Ukraine, “after negotiations with Andrzej Duda, Vladimir Zelensky emphasised that Ukraine allowed search work, and the Polish experts carried out the first dig in the Lvov region. The next step is the restoration of the damaged Ukrainian grave on Monastyr Mount by the Polish side”.

Several weeks before the director of the Polish Office of the Commemoration of Struggle and Martyrdom Adam Siwek noted: “I emphasise that in Poland Ukrainians can build monuments, but it has to occur in accordance with Polish laws. The only condition is that every case of such perpetuation – in Poland or in Ukraine – should be thoroughly verified. After all, we must know who they are perpetuating and how they want to do it.”

What is the essence of the problems with the monument, the restoration of which the president of Ukraine demanded on Holocaust Remembrance Day? The matter is that participants of the Holocaust and genocide committed by the Ukrainian nationalists against the Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish population lie under this monument. There at least two former Ukrainian auxiliary policemen, including the former commandant of the Ukrainian police in Lubycza Krolewska are buried.

On the grave there is a memorial plaque with the inscription “Those who died for a free Ukraine. Here lie those who died in battle with the NKVD in the Monastery woods on the night of March 2nd to 3rd, 1945”. On the memorial plaque are the names and birthdates of 62 dead persons, without any military ranks or symbols (except a trizub on a cross). In 2016 the memorial plaque was broken by unknown persons.

The monument is located on Monastyr Mount in Werchrata located in the Lubaczów County of the Podkarpackie voivodeship. According to official Polish information, on the territory of this county members of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) killed “no less than 1620 people of the Polish and Ukrainian nationalities”.

The formation of UPA units (“boyovok”) in Lubaczów County started with the desertion of Ukrainian auxiliary policemen from Nazi service. In February, 1944, Ukrainian auxiliary policemen moved from the site in Lubycza Krolewska to serve in OUN. The district “boyovok” of the Security Service (SS) of OUN, headed by the former police commandant Ivan Grigoryevich Pogorisky, who took the pseudonyms “Boris” and “Bozhich”, was created from them.

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The murder of three Polish families in the village of Szalenik became the first step of the “boyovok” of Boris. We have photos of the victims of this murder.

In March, 1944, the “boyovok” of Boris helped Ukrainian police officers from the Rava-Russkaya police station to desert from German service. Most of the former police officers did not go to the Sicherheitsdienst, and from them the first hundred-man UPA unit in Lubaczów County was created. Its history is described in the Ukrainian book Partisan roads with the commander ‘Zaliznyak. According to this book, half of the members of the first hundred-man unit were Nazi collaborators: 31 police officers (6 of them arrived to serve the Nazis by the order of OUN), 17 SS-men from the SS “Galicia” Division, 1 soldier of the Wehrmacht, and 2 members of the Ukrainian legion. Other hundred-man UPA units in Lubaczów County had the same structure also.

The Sicherheitsdienst OUN “boyovok” of Boris, together with the hundred-man UPA units, carried out the “de-polonisation” of Lubaczów County up to July 1944. The most well documented anti-Polish “action” of the Sicherheitsdienst OUN “boyovok” of Boris is the murder of passengers of the Zamosc-Lvov train. On June 16th, 1944, the militants of a “boyovok” of Boris stopped the train in the forest at the village of Zatyle. All Poles, mainly women, men, and children identified according to documents, were killed. Photos of these victims have been preserved, as well as an interview recorded on tape with one of the perpetrators of the murder – Petro Khomyn, a member of the Sicherheitsdienst OUN “boyovok” of Boris.

In the night of March 2nd, 1945, one of the Lubaczów County hundred-man units of UPA conducted a battle with troops of the NKVD near the small villages of Gruszka and Mrzygłody. In the first report about the battle, UPA commanders recorded 32 killed. The report, compiled a little later by a Banderist political officer, lists 42 names of the dead, and two more squad commanders were buried separately. A few days after the battle, it turned out that 18 people were missing, they were taken prisoner by the NKVD, which is confirmed by Soviet documents. In May, 1945, 44 dead were reburied in a mass grave in the village of Monastyr, where Osip Bzdelya, an OUN Sicherheitsdienst militant who died in the autumn of 1944, was previously buried. OUN Sicherheitsdienst militants were buried in this grave after May, 1945.

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In 1993 a local resident of Ukrainian nationality installed a cross and a memorial plaque on a mass grave on Monastyr Mount in Werchrata, writing that 45 people from OUN-UPA were buried there. Without names, surnames, and nicknames. Probably, this person took part in the burial of people in this place, so he indicated the real number of those buried: 44 had been killed in battle on March 2nd-3rd, 1945 and the member of the Boris-led OUN Sicherheitsdienst “boyovok” Osip Bzdelya.

Some time later, at the initiative of an UPA “veteran”, Dmytro Bogush, the cross was replaced by a monument in the form of a large “trizub” with the following inscription on the plaque: “here lie 45 Ukrainian insurgents from the ‘Shum’ hundred who died on March 3rd, 1945, in the struggle for the freedom and independence of the Ukrainian and Polish nations. Because of treachery, they, the most magnificent flower of Ukraine, surrounded in the monastery forests by the Bolsheviks and the Security Department, stubbornly defended themselves and did not give up, as befits the worthy sons of Ukraine. Passers-by standing on the land of our fathers, mention them in your prayer, because they brought us freedom”.

Since the family members of the victims of OUN-UPA in Lubaczów County did not agree that by killing Poles members of UPA fought for the freedom of the Polish people, the plaque was destroyed. However, after some time a new commemorative plaque was installed on the grave – with the names of the UPA soldiers supposedly buried in the mass grave. But only on this list there were not 45 names, but 62, and there were no militants from the OUN Sicherheitsdienst among these names.

The already mentioned member of the Boris-led Sicherheitsdienst OUN “boyovok”, Osip Bzdelya, is not mentioned on the memorial plaque – despite the fact that his burial on Monastyr Mount has been known for a long time. The OUN Sicherheitsdienst militant Ivan Kidan, who died at the beginning of 1945 and was also buried on Monastyr Mount, is also not mentioned on a memorial plaque. Two other militants are not mentioned on the memorial plaque. On November 17th, 1945, NKVD members liquidated two members of the Boris-led Sicherheitsdienst OUN “boyovok” – Jozef Kedan and the “boyovok” commander Ivan Pogorisky (“Boris”, “Bozhich”). According to a witness, Ivan Pogorisky was the first was buried on Monastyr Mount. Since the monument in the cemetery in the village of Werchrata does not have the name Ivan Pogorisky on it, there is a high probability that “Boris” was also buried on Monastyr Mount. They died together, and they were buried together.

Shortly before his death, Ivan Pogorisky wrote a report on the murder of the Skiba family in the village of Teniatyska; it remained in the archive of the Institute of National Memory of the Republic of Poland. We publish it in full translation:

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“Glory to Ukraine! 13.10.45.

Dear commander,

1) I inform you that on 11.10.45 a family of spies in Teniatyska (two persons) was liquidated. In particular: Mikhaylo Skiba, son of Prokop; born on 14.10.1921 in Teniatyska, the area of Rava Russkaya; 4 grades of primary education completed; Ukrainian; free; driver by profession; and his mother, Anna Skiba. The family was liquidated publicly. They publicly said that Banderists will hang on fences, and that all the blood will still flow because of this cursed Ukraine.

Mikhaylo Skiba never ran away from the Bolsheviks, on the contrary – when the Bolsheviks came to the village, he tried to meet them. He never gave a contingent to the organisation.

After eliminating the family we took away: 1 horse, 1 cow, and other small items from clothing. All these things were transferred to the state economist.

2) I report that now I cannot walk, I fell ill with a cold and furuncles. I think that I will recover soon and I will conduct further work.

3) If you have sheepskin coats, please, leave a little for me because there are no suitable clothes for cold.

With best wishes.

Glory to heroes! Bozhich.”

The American historian Timothy Snyder wrote about the Ukrainian police officers of the World War II period – “bright students of the Nazis”. These “bright students” took part in the genocide of Jews, and in 1943-1944 deserted en masse and formed the core of the UPA, which was engaged in the mass murder of Poles and “disloyal” Ukrainians.

The discussion about the OUN-UPA monument on the grave on Monastyr Mount in Werchrata is a fine opportunity to remember the crimes of Banderists not only against the Polish, but also against the Ukrainian population. The crimes of those buried on Monastyr Mount are perfectly documented.

It will be very difficult to accept a decision to restore the monument on the grave in the same look as before its destruction. It is impossible to suppress the fact that at least four persons buried on Monastyr Mount in Werchrata murdered the peaceful civilian population. It is not possible to give permission to place on a monument on the grave of murderers the inscription “Those who died in the fight for Ukraine”. The ambiguity of the situation also lies in the fact that in the case of a positive decision, the reaction from a part of the Polish public may affect the electoral preferences of the population in view of the upcoming presidential election.

Vladimir Vorontsov

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