Ukrainians Demanded Compensation for the Crushing Defeat of Banderists

Polish Ukrainians demanded from Warsaw compensation for Operation “Vistula”, within the framework of which the Banderist underground in the country was finally destroyed. What was this operation? What role was played in it by the USSR? Why it is called ethnic cleansing? And why can the demand of Polish Ukrainians be considered boorish and fair at the same time?

The Poles like to admit their historical mistakes even less than Ukrainians, almost the entire national history of which consists of errors, so there is nowhere to hide. However the Polish parliament officially condemned the 1947 Operation “Vistula” – some kind of ethnic cleansing because of which Ukrainians were forcibly evicted from regions bordering the USSR. However, it was done with the wording “unjustifiable crime of communism” and during the local “perestroika” – the same time when the USSR took responsibility for Katyn. National patriots in Poland still consider that Vistula was not a crime, but an anti-terrorist operation, and in the worst case, something that Moscow obliged Warsaw to do, which is a rather impudent lie.

Anyway, the public organisation “Union of Ukrainians in Poland” calls for the official condemnation of Operation “Vistula” by the Polish state (and, in general, has every right to do so). On another anniversary since the date of its beginning, it was demanded from Warsaw to return to the Ukrainian successors the land at those places that their ancestors were driven away from, or to pay compensation for them.

And all of this would be nothing if at the same time the Polish Ukrainians did not demand to “protect the memory” not only of the innocent victims of Operation “Vistula” (and there were innocent victims), but also the “soldiers of the Ukrainian armed underground”. Adjusted for context – this is about the same as Russia being demanded to respect the memory of Basayev’s militants.

From the San to Khren

World War I, which initially broke out in the “powder cellar of Europe” – in the Balkans, finally led to the falling of several empires, the emergence of several national states, and the formation of a new “powder cellar” in Eastern Europe. These different regions were united by the fact that ethnic groups lived there in a cross-section: Poles there, Czechs there, Ukrainians here, Poles over there, followed by Lemkos – and so on.

This situation gave rise to some more wars (ones both separate and “as a part of” World War II), irredentism on the part of national minorities, and ethnic cleansing. Taking into account the absolutely recent past, the bitterness between poles and Ukrainians has been particularly strong.

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With the end of the great war and the revision of the state borders, the “cellar” decided to “de-mine” – to remove the same patchwork, which happened in different countries with different degrees of cruelty. As for the “population exchange” between Poland and the USSR, criminal incidents were kept to a minimum, since the relocation was a project between two states at the same time: yours in exchange for ours.

On the Polish side, the agreements had to be implemented in a much more nervous environment. Although its territory has been greatly reduced in favour of the Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics, those notorious surviving Banderists believed that it hadn’t been reduced enough – more was needed. For them, the war for their own national state did not end, and a special term was even introduced – Zakerzonia, or the Zakerzonia region, i.e., the “native Ukrainian land” located in Poland beyond the Curzon Line. So the name of the British Lord appeared in the Patriotic Ukrainian toponymy.

The second name of Zakerzonia is the “San” military district, which refers to the line from the national anthem of Ukraine “from the San to the Don”.

The word “military” in this case is essential – UPA, practically destroyed in the USSR, and continued to wage war against a Polish authorities that had been weakened by internal contradictions. During the “population exchange”, they sharply intensified: militants killed Polish officials and military personnel, destroyed transport infrastructure, and burned the homes of those who agreed to move to the USSR. And if the opportunity arose, then also the houses of local Poles – for the fact that they are Poles. The intimidation of Ukrainians so that they did not even think to leave Zakerzonia happened separately. The nationalists were hunting for the so-called accounting commissions that compiled lists for moving: they were supposed to punish “traitors” “according to the list”.

All of this considerably complicated the planned enterprise, but did not cancel it. According to the results of the “population exchange”, more than half a million people moved from the Polish People’s Republic to the USSR, and twice as many from the USSR to the Polish People’s Republic. However, there were still about 150,000 Ukrainians on the border territories – those who refused to travel to the Soviet Union for one reason or another, including because of threats made by nationalists. Their villages remained some kind of base for UPA militants where they recruited new bayonets, received supplies, and, if necessary, hid.

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In fact, part of the territory of Poland was not controlled by its authorities – bandits ruled in many Ukrainian villages.

That is precisely why the leadership of Soviet Ukraine, where the capture of Banderists also continued, officially refused the offer of the Poles to take another 150,000 people in addition to the previously accepted ones. Such refuseniks were reasonably considered loyal to UPA – a potential fifth column. And Warsaw decided to act independently.

The death of General Karol Świerczewski became the last straw. He was a communist and Soviet officer who was at war against Franco, but in 1943 became a Polish serviceman again, having headed forces loyal to the USSR. A major UPA named Khren [in Russian slang it is an offensive word like “prick” – ed] killed General Świerczewski – and this is not a joke.

Bloody flow of Vistula

In total about 20,000 Polish soldiers were involved in Vistula, and the operation was divided into two parts.

The first was the resettlement of Ukrainians together with their livestock and belongings to other regions of Poland. The gathering was given a maximum of two days, while people were settled in different locations-scattered around the country, counting on their further “Poleification”. Sometimes this led to the separation of families – close relatives could be hundreds of kilometers from each other.

At their new place people waited for houses and “compensation” plots, but it is necessary to understand that Poles, especially the Polish military, treated Ukrainians without special sympathy. As a result, frankly worthless peasant houses and lifeless soil were palmed off on the people, they were robbed, sometimes raped and even killed.

The second part assumed a strike on the remaining UPA units with their complete destruction. Banderists defended, but is quite dull – but rather incompetently – their combat losses are ten times higher than the Polish: more than 600 people were killed, more than 800 are taken prisoner. The Poles also detained about 1,500 Ukrainians on suspicion of having links with separatists. Many of them were later released, others were judged. In total about 120 death sentences were pronounced, 170 more people died during their imprisonment in a filtration camp.

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For the UPA and its political organisation, OUN, this meant a rout: the Ukrainian punishers on the territory of Poland were finished forever. Very few managed not just to escape, but also to reach their destination – the American-occupied part of Austria, as the Soviet and Czechoslovak troops were waiting for Banderists on their territory.

These people did not just “serve Hitler”. More importantly, they lived by robbery, organised terrorist attacks, participated in ethnic cleansing, and terrorised the civilian population (including their own – Ukrainians), with the goal of snatching a piece of Poland and connecting it with “liberated from Soviet rule Ukraine”, where by that time there were no large UPA units left at all.

The “Union of Ukrainians in Poland” (in the majority consisting not of descendants of the victims of Operation “Vistula”, but of those who came in large numbers later) calls these people “soldiers of the Ukrainian armed underground”, demanding respect for their memory.

This is such a national feature of Ukrainians – to pull along their patriotic garbage and to sincerely wonder why Canada is not happy with the Nazis, and Poland with the associates of Bandera, who terrorised it since the late 1920s.

But the Ukrainian destruction of Polish arrogance in itself does not negate the fact that Operation “Vistula” was ethnic cleansing that was accompanied by innocent victims and family tragedies. The official recognition of this put Polish nationalist patriots in a rather awkward position. But some of them got out of this situation, emphasising what unites them with the Ukrainians – their hatred of Russia in all its manifestations. Therefore, in the Polish media you can find both intellectual remorse for “Vistula” and unequivocal support for the operation, and claims that what happened was not just a crime of the Communist (and not the Polish) authorities, but was provoked or even directly organised from Moscow.

However, we have known for a long time that both these and other “Slavic brothers” will be especially happy to accuse “moskals” of any of their own, someone else’s, or completely invented crimes.


Dmitry Bavyrin

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