(III.1921 – VIII.1939)



Paul Robert Magocsi

Chapter 44 from the book ”History of Ukraine”,  Toronto / 1996   






As a result of the settlements reached by the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Riga, the restored state of Poland between July 1919 and March 1921 was able to obtain territories inhabited by as many as four to five million Ukrainians. By 1931, according to official statistics Ukrainians numbered 4.4 million persons, or 14 percent of Poland's population. Unofficial estimates placed their number at between five and six million. As a national minority, Ukrainians were guaranteed equality before the law, the right to maintain their own schools, and the right to use Ukrainian in public life and in elementary schools. These rights were oudined in the treaties of Versailles (28 June 1919) and Riga (18 March 1921) as well as in the Polish constitution (Articles 108 and 109) promulgated on 17 March 1921.










The administrative status of Ukrainian-inhabited lands


Ukrainian territories within Poland consisted of (1) the eastern half of the old Austrian province of Galicia, including the Lemko region along the crests of the Carpathian Mountains in western' Galicia; and (2) the so-called northern Ukrainian-inhabited regions, of western Volhynia, southern Podlachia, Polissia, and the Chelm region, all of which had been part of the Russian Empire before 1914. Because the eastern half of former Austrian Galicia became the West Ukrainian National Republic in late 1918, and because according to international law that territory was not considered part of Poland until 1923, eastern Galicia continued throughout the interwar period to undergo a development that was in many ways distinct from that of Poland's 'northern' Ukrainian lands.


The reconstituted state of Poland was a republic governed by a bicameral legislature consisting of the elected House of Deputies (Sejm) and the Senate, and a president elected for a term of seven years. Poland was a centralized state, administratively divided into palatinates (wojewodztwa), which were subdivided into districts (powiaty) made up in turn of communes (gminy). The palatinates had no relationship to any historical units, and none, with the exception of Silesia, had any autonomous status.





Even before eastern Galicia was internationally recognized as a part of Poland, its territory was divided into three provinces: Lwow/L'viv, Stanislawow/Stanyslaviv, and Tarnopol/Ternopil'. Initially, the Polish government considered Ukrainian- inhabited eastern Galicia a distinct territorial entity, and from March 1920 it was referred to by the Polish name Malopolska Wschodnia, or Eastern Little Poland. Eventually, in September 1922, a law was approved by the Polish Sejm which proposed self-government for each of the three Ukrainian-inhabited palatinates. This law, however, was never ratified by the Polish government. The other Ukrainian- inhabited lands of western Volhynia, Polissia, southern Podlachia, and Chelm, were divided among the Polish palatinates of Luck/Luts'k, Brzesc/Brest, and Lublin.




The economic status of Ukrainian-inhabited lands


The socioeconomic development of Ukrainian lands within interwar Poland evolved in a manner that was in stark contrast to the situation in neighboring Soviet Ukraine. Eastern Galicia and the other Ukrainian territories in Poland essentially remained what they had been before 1914 under Austrian and Russian rule. In other words, they continued to be treated as territories from which raw materials could be obtained and in which products from the more industrial western and central parts of Poland could find a market. In general, however, the entire Polish economy was agrarian in nature; it remained weak and unstable throughout the interwar period; and it was especially hard hit by the world economic crisis of the 1930s. In these circumstances, there was little hope that the Polish government could make any substantial improvement in the economy of the 'peripheral' eastern regions (kresy) inhabited by Ukrainians.


Thus, by 1939 eastern Galicia, with over five million inhabitants, had a mere 44,000 workers, employed in 534 industrial enterprises. This small industrial sector consisted primarily of woodworking mills (35.2 percent), food processing plants (20.9 percent), building-material factories (14 percent), and metalworking shops (12.5 percent). The oil-producing regions in eastern Galicia (around Boryslav and Drohobych), which had made remarkable progress on the eve of World War I (producing almost four percent of world production), never again reached their prewar levels. The highest output under Polish rule (1923 - 737,000 tons [670 thousand metric tons]) was only one-third the highest prewar level. Then came the world economic depression and a decline in the traditional foreign investments, which, together with the gradual exhaustion of the oil deposits, reduced the output. By 1938, the eastern Galician fields were producing less than half what they produced in 1923. Even less industrial development took place in the northern territories of Volhynia, Podlachia, and Polissia, where there were at most 8,000 industrial workers with steady employment and another 11,000 seasonal workers in basalt and granite factories and in the lumber industry.


Since agriculture was the dominant element in the economy of Poland's Ukrainian lands, the agrarian question was most pressing. The peasants in Poland, notwithstanding their nationality, all expected to benefit from the new political situation and to obtain land. In July 1919, the provisional Polish parliament (Sejm) called for agrarian reform. Within a year, the parliament considered a law providing for compulsory partition of the large landed estates, which at the time accounted for 47 percent of the country's arable land. The proposed law was blocked by its opponents, however, and it was not until December 1925 that the Polish parliament succeeded in passing a law that indeed called for the partition of the large estates, but only on a voluntary basis.


Despite the voluntary nature of the reform, the land was partitioned, and by 1938 nearly two million acres (some 800,000 hectares) had been redistributed within Ukrainian-inhabited areas. The redistribution did not necessarily help the local Ukrainian population, however. For instance, as early as 1920, 39 percent of the newly allotted land in Volhynia and Polissia (771,000 acres [312,000 hectares]) had been awarded as political patronage to veterans of Poland's 'war for independence,' and in eastern Galicia much land (494,000 acres [200,000 hectares]) had been given to land-hungry Polish peasants from the western provinces of the country. This meant that by the 1930s the number of Poles living within contiguous Ukrainian ethnographic territory had increased by about 300,000. Looked at in another way, ethnic Poles comprised 40 percent of the urban population and 21 percent of the rural population in eastern Galicia, and 29 percent of the urban population and 20 percent of the rural population in the 'northern' Ukrainian lands. These increases were owing not only to the influx of Poles into the area, but also to a decrease in the number of Ukrainians due to emigration abroad. During the interwar period, approximately 150,000 Ukrainians left Poland, the vast majority - in consequence of United States restrictions after 1924 - going to Canada, Argentina, and France.






The size of individual Ukrainian landholdings in both eastern Galicia and the northern territories remained small (see table 44.1). Size, moreover, was crucial to the welfare of the individual farmer. Contemporary observers concluded that properties less than twelve acres (five hectares) in size were generally inadequate to sustain a single family. Not only were such farms incapable of producing a sufficient amount of food to support the family, but sales in a local market from the surplus of any one crop would not produce enough cash to buy foodstuffs that were not produced at home. Nor could animals belonging to the small landholder make up the shortfall. This meant that farmers who owned less than twelve acres (five hectares) of land - and they made up 79 percent of landholders in eastern Galicia - were forced for at least part of the year to seek supplemental employment elsewhere just to survive.


TABLE 44.1

Landholdings in interwar eastern Galicia, 1931


Size of farms



under 5 acres (2 hectares)

5-12 acres (2-5 hectares)

12-25 acres (5-10 hectares)

over 25 acres (10 hectares)

no data given











Leaving aside the problem of small landholdings, Ukrainian farmers in Poland also suffered, at least initially, as a result of the damage caused during World War I. For instance, 20 percent of the rural population lost their homes and farm buildings during the war, and 38 percent of the horses, 36 percent of the cattle, and 77 percent of the hogs were destroyed.




Poland's initial policies and Ukrainian reactions


At the close of World War I, Poland signed international treaties respecting equality for its national minorities and entered guarantees for them into its 1921 constitution. Such agreements might have been acceptable to a group that had developed a perception that they were a national minority. Ukrainians in eastern Galicia, however, had virtually reached a stage of equality with Poles under Aus¬trian rule during the first decades of the twentieth century. Then, when the Habsburg Empire fell, they had created and fought for an independent western Ukrainian state (1918-1919). Even the victorious Allied Powers themselves initially (at least officially, until 1923) held to the possibility of some kind of self-rule for the Ukrainians in eastern Galicia. In this environment, the Ukrainians of Poland, most especially those of Galicia, were not about to accept the status of a national minority in what they considered their own homeland. That would be tantamount to turning back the historical clock - which is exactly what Poland tried to do.


It is true that some Polish leaders, including the country's legendary national liberator Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, at times considered the possibility of re-creating a tripartite federated Polish state on the model of the eighteenth-century pre-partition Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which had for centuries united under one sceptre Poles, Lithuanians, and Ukrainians. Visions based on past models would, of course, require that Poland's boundaries reach at least as far as Kiev and take in Belarus and Lithuania as well. Poland's loss in the war with Soviet Russia in 1920 and the creation of Belorussian and Ukrainian Soviet republics shattered any prospect of a revival of the old Commonwealth on a tripartite federative basis. With Poland restricted to smaller frontiers, its leaders decided to transform what territories they did control into a unitary nation-state and to rule over peoples along their eastern borderlands (kresy), including Belarusans, some Lithuanians, and Ukrainians, as minorities living on 4Polish' territory.


Not surprisingly, many Ukrainian leaders, especially from Galicia, reacted to the new situation as if a state of war still existed. In fact, the Polish forces which took over the province in mid-July 1919 interned, during the first months, several thousand Ukrainians who had fought (or were suspected of having fought) against them. Ukrainian charges of brutality and executions were countered by Polish accusations of Ukrainian sabotage and allegations of Ukrainian terror in Galicia. Indeed, Ukrainians initiated an underground war, especially after the brief return to eastern Galicia in 1921 of Ievhen Konovalets'. Konovalets' had been the leader of the Galician-Bukovinian Battalion of Sich Riflemen, which until its dissolution in early 1920 had fought with the forces of the Ukrainian National Republic in Dnieper Ukraine. In 'occupied' eastern Galicia, Konovalets' established the Ukrainian Military Organization (UVO), which during 1921 and 1922 undertook a campaign that included the burning of Polish estates; the destruction of Polish governmental buildings, railroads, and telegraph lines; and political assassinations. Among these was an unsuccessful attempt to shoot Marshal Pilsudski during the chief of state's visit to L'viv in September 1921, and the successful assassination in October 1922 of a Ukrainian political leader (Sydir Tverdokhlib) who favored cooperation with the Poles and participation in elections to the new Polish parliament.



Konovalets Yevhen (photo) 

Ievhen Konovalets'




Sydir Tverdokhlib



Because of the tense situation on the international front, most Galician-Ukrainian political leaders followed the instructions of the West Ukrainian government- in-exile, headed by Ievhen Petrushevych in Vienna. The result was a boycott of the first elections to the Polish parliament, held in November 1922. In the northern, non-Galician lands, however, Ukrainians did go to the polls and elected twenty representatives to the House of Deputies (Sejm) and five to the Senate. Although these first Ukrainian deputies and senators to the Polish parliament reaffirmed that their ultimate goal was an independent Ukrainian state, they declared that in the interim, until such a goal became a reality, they were willing to cooperate with the Poles in return for Warsaw's non-interference in their national life.


The early years of Polish rule also had a negative impact on Ukrainian cultural life in Galicia. The Polish administration closed many of the popular Prosvita Society reading rooms, an action which, combined with the devastation brought about during the war years, produced a marked decline in the number of reading rooms, from 2,879 in 1914 to only 843 in 1923.

As for the educational system, the provincial school administration from the Austrian era, which was based in L'viv and had separate Ukrainian representation, was abolished in January 1921. All decisions were subsequently to be made in Warsaw and to be implemented by administrators in local school districts. Ukrainians now found themselves within six different school districts (L'viv, Volhynia, Polissia, Cracow, Lublin, and Bialystok), although at least initially the Ukrainian school system, especially at the elementary level, was left undisturbed.


At the higher levels, Ukrainian education fared much worse. Although under Austrian rule the Ukrainians may have expressed dissatisfaction, their demands for Ukrainian-language university departments were at least fulfilled. Their constitutional demands for a separate Ukrainian university were also finally met with a promise by Vienna before the war that one would be created by 1916. Now, under Polish rule, a parliamentary recommendation for a Ukrainian university was disregarded, and in 1919 all the Ukrainian departments at L'viv University save one were abolished. The one remaining was the old 1848 Department of Ruthenian (Ukrainian) Language and Literature, but even its chair was left vacant until 1927, when it was filled by a Pole, the respected linguist Jan Janow. Faced with this situation, Ukrainians founded an illegal university known as the Ukrainian Underground University, which, with three faculties and at its height 1,500 students, functioned from 1921 until 1925, when it was pressured by Polish authorities to cease operations. Many of its students, as well as other young Galician Ukrainians who had been denied admission to L'viv's Polish university because they had not fought for Poland during the Polish-Ukrainian war, went abroad instead. Neighboring Czechoslovakia was the most popular destination, where they attended either the Ukrainian Free University or the world-renowned Charles University in Prague.


By 1923, it was clear that the diplomatic activity of the West Ukrainian government-in-exile and the underground sabotage work of the Ukrainian Military Organization had failed to dislodge Polish rule in eastern Galicia. As a result, Ukrainian political leaders were forced to adapt to the reality of Polish rule. During the fifteen-year period until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the different responses to their situation on the part of Ukrainians in Poland found expression in essentially three approaches: (1) the cooperative movement, which acquiesced in Polish rule and worked within it to create a solid economic and cultural foundation for the Ukrainian minority; (2) active participation in Polish society by political parties, who lobbied through legal means on behalf of Ukrainian cooperatives, schools, and churches; and (3) armed resistance by paramilitary groups, who from the outset rejected Polish rule and strove in whatever way they could to destabilize society.




The cooperative movement


The rather dismal state of agriculture in the Ukrainian lands within Poland was made tolerable only by the remarkable advances of the cooperatives and credit unions. On the eve of World War I, the Ukrainians in Galicia had a total of 609 cooperatives. Although the number of these declined because of World War I (579 in 1921), the following years witnessed a revival, with the result that by 1939 there were 3,455 cooperatives spread throughout the whole region and united by an umbrella organization known as the Audit Union of Ukrainian Cooperatives. Initially, the Audit Union also founded cooperatives in Volhynia and Polissia, but in 1934 the Polish government passed a law requiring Ukrainian cooperatives outside eastern Galicia (the Lwow, Stanislawow, and Tarnopol palatinates) to unite with local Polish unions.


The cooperatives in eastern Galicia, which by 1923 had a total of 600,000 mem-bers, promoted the use of modern techniques and machinery in farming. Most important, they provided financing and marketing services. The most influential of all Ukrainian cooperatives was the Dairy Union, or Maslosoiuz, set up before World War I. The Maslosoiuz expanded steadily during the interwar years, and by 1938 it included 136 district dairies supplied by over 200,000 farms producing enough butter to dominate the Galician market as well as to export to neighbor¬ing Czechoslovakia and Austria. Also of importance were the Village Farmer Asso-ciation (SilVkyi Hospodar) - with sixty branches, over 2,000 local units, and 160,000 members (1939) - whose primary concern was to provide farmers with practical and theoretical training in agriculture; and the Union of Cooperative Unions, or Tsentrosoiuz, whose goal was to coordinate the activity of the various cooperatives. By 1938, the Tsentrosoiuz represented 173 central, regional, and individual cooperatives, to whom it sold consumer goods, agricultural machinery, and building materials at wholesale prices, and for whom it marketed Ukrainian agricultural products throughout Poland and abroad.

Ukrainian women in eastern Galicia had their own cooperative, which func-tioned as part of the Union of Ukrainian Women (Soiuz Ukrainok). Founded in 1921, the women's union grew rapidly and by 1936 included 45,000 members, in nearly 1,200 urban and village branches. Aside from courses for women on how to operate cooperatives and nursery schools, the group established its own cooperative with the express purpose of popularizing and selling folk art items produced at home.


Each of the cooperatives also had its own Ukrainian-language publications and there is no doubt that the movement as a whole was inspired by national patriotism. In approaching the nationality question, however, the cooperative movement and its leaders were aware that political and military action, as undertaken during the immediate post-World War I period, had been unsuccessful. Accordingly, they argued that a period of organic growth and a strengthening of the economic base of Ukrainian society was necessary. There were others in Galician-Ukrainian society, however, who felt that political or even military action would more appro¬priately address their situation under Polish rule.




Ukrainian political parties, schools, and churches


By the mid-i920s, several Ukrainian political parties had come into existence. The most important was the Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance (Ukrains'ke Natsional'ne Demokratychne Ob"iednannia), best known by its Ukrainian acronym, UNDO. Founded in 1925, UNDO included some of the leading figures in prewar Galician-Ukrainian life, whose political experience had been formed under the Habsburg Empire (Kost' Levyts'kyi, Volodymyr Bachyns'kyi, Volodymyr Zahaikevych), as well as younger activists who began their political work under Polish rule (Dmytro Levyts'kyi, Ivan Kedryn-Rudnyts'kyi, Vasyl' Mudryi). In a sense, UNDO was a continuation of the prewar Ukrainian National Democratic party, and, like its ideological predecessor, it looked forward to a future independent Ukrainian state. In the interim, however, UNDO hoped to obtain positive changes for Poland's Ukrainians through legal means. Aside from its own party organ, UNDO was supported by the influential Galician-Ukrainian daily newspaper Dilo (L'viv, 1880-1939).


More to the left in the political spectrum was the Ukrainian Socialist-Radical party (led by Lev Bachyns'kyi and Ivan Makukh), a continuation of the prewar Ukrainian Radical party. The Socialist-Radicals favored the secularization of Galician-Ukrainian life and the introduction of socialism, although not of the Marxist variety. On the far left was the Communist party of Western Ukraine (KPZU). Formed in 1921 as the Communist party of Eastern Galicia, it was ordered by the Comintern to join the Communist party of Poland, of which it became an autonomous branch. When, in 1924, the party was declared illegal by the Polish government, the Communists went underground. Subsequently, the KPZU was racked by internal controversy over the direction of events in Soviet Ukraine. One faction, led by Osyp Vasyl'kiv and the theoretician Roman Rozdol's'kyi, favored the policy of 'national communism' as carried out by Olek- sander Shums'kyi in Soviet Ukraine before his demotion in early 1927. Another faction accepted the idea of internationalist party loyalty and acceptance of guide¬lines set in Moscow. The matter came to a head with a purge of the Galician 'Shums'ky-ites' in 1928. Internal dissension nevertheless continued within the KPZU, largely because of friction with the Polish Communist party apparatus and displeasure among some members with the ever-changing Soviet policy regarding Ukrainianization. Moscow retorted that the Galicians were guilty of 4 bourgeois- nationalist deviation,' until finally, in 1938, the Comintern decided to dissolve the KPZU.


The problem of Soviet Ukraine affected many more Ukrainian leaders in Poland than just the Communists. During the height of the Ukrainianization policy of the mid-i920s, a special West Ukrainian Institute was set up in Kharkiv, and it attracted several left-wing emigres from Galicia. Even the head of the West Ukrainian government-in-exile, Ievhen Petrushevych, thought cooperation with the Soviets might help the Galician-Ukrainian cause against Poland. Several other Galician intellectuals, including Mykhailo Lozyns'kyi, Antin Khrushel'nyts'kyi, Iuliian Bachyns'kyi, Stepan Rudnyts'kyi, and Oleksander Badan, emigrated to Soviet Ukraine, although subsequently they were swept up in the purges of the 1930s and perished.


The Russophiles, at least in eastern Galicia, remained a political force during the interwar years, although on the national-cultural front they were completely outdistanced by the Ukrainians. Their parties, the Russian Peasant party (Russkaia Selianskaia Partiia) and Russian Agrarian party (Russkaia Agrarnaia Partiia), which merged in 1931, drew their support from the Old Ruthenian and Russophile cultural institutions like the Stauropegial Institute and the National Home, as well as from those villages, especially in the westernmost Lemko region, where the Kachkovs'kyi Society and the Orthodox movement were the strongest. There was also a group of Galician Russophiles who joined the Volhynian and Chelm-based Peasant Union (Selsoiuz), which was Communist in orientation. After splits within this group, some Russophiles (Kyrylo Val'nyts'kyi and Kuz'ma Pelekhatyi) joined the KPZU, and even though the latter was Ukrainian in orientation they continued to promote their Russophile views on national identity.

These and other non-Communist Ukrainian political parties participated in some or all of the elections to the Polish parliament held in 1928, 1930,1935, and 1938. The strongest Ukrainian party in both the Sejm and the Senate was UNDO, which opposed the settlement of Poles in traditional Ukrainian-inhabited territories and made demands concerning the status of Ukrainian schools, the Ukrainian language, the Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches, and the reaction of the Polish government to Ukrainian terrorist activity.           


During the 1920s, the Polish government increased the total number of schools in Ukrainian areas, especially in the formerly Russian-ruled northern territories of Volhynia and Polissia, where the number of elementary schools rose over threefold, from 1,000 in tsarist times (1912) to 3,100 during the last full year of Polish rule (1938). In eastern Galicia, the number of elementary schools rose from 4,030 to 4,998 during the same period. The Polish administration could also take credit for a decline in illiteracy among people over ten years of age, from 50 percent in 1921 to 35 percent in 1931.



TABLE 44.2

Ukrainian-language and bilingual schools in interwar Poland,



Ukrainian schools

Polish-Ukrainian schools






















Polish educational policy, however, had a negative impact on Ukrainian language use. In 1924, the government of Prime Minister Wladyslaw Grabski passed a law (known as the lex Grabski), over the objections of Ukrainian parliamentary representatives, which set up bilingual Ukrainian and Polish schools. The result was a rapid decline in the number of unilingual Ukrainian schools together with a sharp increase in Polish-Ukrainian bilingual schools in Galicia and Polish schools in Volhynia (1,459 in 1938) (see table 44.2).


Ukrainians viewed bilingual schools as a first step toward the national assimila¬tion of their children. In actual practice, Polish soon became the primary lan¬guage in bilingual schools. The response of the Ukrainians was to establish private schools, especially at the secondary level. This effort was undertaken in large measure by the prewar Ukrainian Pedagogical Society (est. 1881), renamed the Native School Society (Ridna Shkola) in 1926. By the 1937-1938 school year, 59 percent of all Ukrainian gymnasia, teachers' colleges, and technical schools, with approximately 40 percent of Ukrainian students at those levels, were privately operated.


Since Ukrainians in Poland had only limited control over the formal education of their children, the Plast scouting movement took up the challenge of inculcating youth with a Ukrainian national identity. Plast scouts came into being on the eve of World War I on Ukrainian lands in both the Russian and the Austro-Hungarian empires, but it was during the interwar years in western Ukraine (in particular Galicia and Transcarpathia) that they had their greatest success. By 1930, the organization had over 6,000 male and female members in branches affil¬iated with secondary schools in Galicia and with Prosvita societies in western Vol- hynia. Concerned by Plast's general popularity and the fact that many of its 'graduates' after age eighteen joined clandestine Ukrainian nationalist organizations, Poland's authorities increased restrictions on the movement until banning it entirely after 1930. It nonetheless continued to operate underground or through other organizations for the rest of the decade.


The status of Ukrainians was also affected negatively by another law passed in 1924, which excluded Ukrainian language use in governmental agencies. Moreover, the Polish government never referred to the Ukrainians and their language by the modern name Ukrainian; instead, it used the historical name Rusyn (Polish: Rusin), thereby inadvertently contributing to a disliking on the part of many Ukrainians, especially Galician Ukrainians, for their original national designation. Finally, in the 1930s the Polish government adopted a policy of tribalization, which gave support to the idea that various ethnographic groups (Lemkos, Boikos, Hutsuls) as well as the Old Ruthenians and Russophiles were somehow distinct from the Ukrainian nationality as a whole. This policy was implemented especially in the westernmost Lemko region, where state schools offered instruction in the Lemko dialect and where in 1934 a separate Greek Catholic Lemko Apostolic Administration was established.

The Ukrainian nationality question in Poland was involved with developments in the church as well as in politics and education. These developments were com-plicated by the fact that Ukrainians belonged to two churches. In eastern Galicia, they were primarily Greek Catholic; in the northern areas formerly part of the Russian Empire, they were Orthodox.


According to an agreement (concordat) between Poland and the Vatican signed in February 1925, the jurisdiction of the Greek Catholic Metropolitanate of Halych, with its seat in L'viv, was reaffirmed, although its activity was restricted to its three eparchies (L'viv, Przemysl, and Stanyslaviv) in eastern Galicia. With regard to internal developments, the interwar years witnessed a sharpening in the debate within the Greek Catholic church between those elements (Bishops Hryhorii Khomyshyn and Iosafat Kotsylovs'kyi, and the Basilian order), who favored the adoption of a more western religious model, including celibacy, and those (Metropolitan Sheptyts'kyi, Bishop Ivan Buchko) who preferred the preservation of the Eastern rite and spirituality. Quite often in the course of the debates, the 'Easterners' would present themselves as patriots defending Ukrainian national traditions in opposition to the western-oriented (critics would say pro-Polish) 'Latinizers.'



 Andriy Sheptyts’kyi


In more general terms, the intellectual life of the Greek Catholic church was allowed to flourish in interwar Poland. A wide variety of theological and scholarly journals were published, and the Greek Catholic Theological Academy was established in L'viv in 1928. The Academy, headed by the Reverend Iosyf Slipyi, was the only Ukrainian institution of higher learning in Poland. Finally, the Greek Catholic church's status was upheld throughout the interwar years because it remained under the leadership of Metropolitan Sheptyts'kyi, the 'patriarch' of the Ukrain¬ian movement who was respected by the highest Polish ruling and social circles.


In contrast, the Orthodox church, with over two million Ukrainian adherents in the northern territories (Volhynia, Polissia, and Chelm), was in a less favorable position than the Greek Catholic church in Galicia. Although historically associated with the tsarist government and its policy of russification, the Orthodox church in Poland attempted to break with the past, obtaining independence (autocephaly) in 1924 and its own metropolitan see (headed by Metropolitan Dionizy) in Warsaw. The russophile character of the church also changed as the Orthodox seminary at Kremenets', in Volhynia, and the Orthodox theological department at Warsaw University (after 1924) began to teach in Ukrainian, and liturgical materials were published in Ukrainian. Nonetheless, Polish authorities especially at the local level remained ill disposed to what was considered a 'schis¬matic' church with roots in Russia. Such attitudes resulted in the so-called revin¬dication campaigns in 1929-1930 and again in 1938, whose goal was to deprive the Orthodox of those churches that had once been Greek Catholic (that is, before Orthodoxy was imposed by the prewar tsarist Russian government). This policy was particularly detrimental to Orthodoxy in the Chelm and Podlachia regions, where in 1929 and 1930 alone, 111 Orthodox churches were closed, 59 were destroyed, and 150 were converted into Roman (not Greek) Catholic churches. Physical destruction was particularly rampant in 1938, when within a few months almost 150 churches were destroyed in the Chelm and Podlachia regions, prompting protests in the Polish parliament against what was described as wanton cultural discrimination.




Armed resistance and pacification


Given the generally unfavorable attitude of the Polish government toward its Ukrainian minority, especially evident in educational policy, in the restrictions on the official use of Ukrainian, and in anti-Orthodox discrimination, and given what seemed an inability on the part of the Ukrainian cooperative movement and legal political parties to counteract Polish policy, it is not surprising that for some people armed resistance presented itself as the only viable course of action. Throughout the 1920s, the Ukrainian Military Organization (UVO) continued its policy of political assassination, bomb attacks on governmental buildings, and sabotage against railroad and telegraph installations.

Such activity on the part of the UVO was sporadic, and in any case it was increasingly unpopular among the Galician-Ukrainian public after 1923. To improve the reputation and effectiveness of the underground, a more strictly disciplined and ideologically determined organization seemed necessary. Such a movement arose among Ukrainian emigre youth and student groups in east- central and western Europe, where the UVO leader Konovalets' had been func¬tioning in exile since 1922. At a meeting held in Vienna in 1929, representatives of several emigre groups founded the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). The UVO leader Konovalets' was made head of the new organization, which before long had branches throughout Ukrainian emigre centers as well as in the western Ukrainian lands of Galicia, Bukovina, and Transcarpathia. Initially there was conflict over the respective roles to be played by the OUN and the older UVO, but by 1932 the latter had been merged with the Galician branch of the OUN and thus had ceased to exist as an independent organization.


The OUN was a highly disciplined underground revolutionary movement dedicated to the overthrow of Polish, Romanian, and, eventually, Soviet rule on Ukrainian territories. The movement drew its ideological inspiration from Dmytro Dontsov, a native of Dnieper Ukraine who in 1908 had fled to Galicia and then gone to Vienna to study. After the war, he settled in L/viv, where he edited the leading Galician-Ukrainian journal of public affairs, the Literaturno-naukovyi vistnyk (L/viv, 1922-32), and its successor, Vistnyk (L'viv, 1933-39). Despite his influence among many OUN members, Dontsov never became a member of the organization and, in fact, remained openly critical of some of its policies.


Dontsov espoused integral nationalism, the theory that the nation, as embod¬ied in an independent state, was the supreme ideal. To achieve this ideal, an aggressive will and the ability to take action, preferably under the direction of a strong leader; were necessary. Such views were common at the time in many parts of Europe, in particular in Italy, Germany, and Spain. By the 1930s, if not before, those countries were being led by all-powerful leaders (Mussolini, Hitler, Franco) who supposedly epitomized the will of the nations they represented. The OUN translated Dontsov*s version of integral nationalism into terroristic activity aimed at overthrowing Polish and Soviet rule and eventually creating an independent Ukraine. By the 1930s, especially after news of the 1933 famine reached eastern Galicia, Soviet Ukraine had lost most of its sympathizers among Poland's Ukrainians. This news, combined with Polish repression and the increasingly worsening economic situation caused by the world depression, made the OUN an attractive alternative for a large number of Ukrainian students and peasant youth whose futures did not look promising.




Stepan Bandera




Lev Rebet


The OUN's purpose was simple: to destabilize the situation in Poland until the government finally collapsed. Not surprisingly, the OUN opposed UNDO and other political parties which worked through legal channels, and it had little sympathy with the constructive work of the cooperative movement, which, according to OUN leaders, implicitly if not explicitly accepted Polish rule. Throughout the 1930s, the OUN in Galicia (led by figures like Bohdan Kravtsiv, Bohdan Hnatevych, Bohdan Kordiuk, Stepan Bandera, Lev Rebet) engaged repeatedly in acts of sabotage. These included the well-publicized assassination of a Soviet consular official in L'viv (1933) in protest against the famine in Soviet Ukraine and the assassination of the Polish minister of internal affairs Bronislaw Pieracki in June 1934- Despite its popularity among certain segments of the population, most legal Ukrainian political parties and other groups, as well as the still-prestigious Greek Catholic metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts'kyi, publicly denounced the terrorist activities of the OUN.



Pieracki portret.jpg

Bronislaw Pieracki


The Polish government tried to curb the OUN's activity. Its first extensive effort in this direction was the so-called pacification program carried out between 16 September and 30 November 1930. Imagining potential terrorists at every corner, detachments of Polish soldiers and police went through Ukrainian villages interning known activists and indiscriminately beating men and women in the process. While the pacification program did not result in much loss of life - and therefore is in no way comparable to collectivization in Soviet Ukraine, which began in earnest at the same time - it deepened the hatred between Ukrainians and Poles. It also became a cause celebre for many liberals in the West, especially in Great Britain, where Poles were depicted by some members of the House of Commons as brutal oppressors. The Polish policy of pacification in 1930 and the subsequent arrests of Ukrainian activists (a detention camp was set up at Bereza Kartuzka in 1934) only helped to increase sympathy for the OUN and further to alienate Polish and Ukrainian societies.


There were some Poles, however, both inside and outside the government, who favored some kind of compromise with the Ukrainians. Polish socialist deputies, for instance, tried in March 1931 to have the issue of autonomy for Ukrainians discussed in the parliament More serious was the government's attempt at compromise with UNDO, in an agreement reached in July 1935. Known popularly as 'normalization,' this agreement assured Ukrainians of a total of nineteen seats in both houses of parliament, the election of UNDO activist Vasyl' Mudryi as vice- marshal of the parliament, an amnesty for imprisoned nationalists, and credits to Ukrainian economic organizations. One result of normalization was a split in UNDO between those who favored and those who opposed cooperation with the government Owing to the split, UNDO was never to regain the influence it once had among Poland's Ukrainians. Moreover, the whole policy of normalization failed within a few years. The failure was the result of continued dissatisfaction among most Ukrainians with Polish rule that included ongoing efforts to create an internally strong Polish nation-state and increasing intolerance of the demands of all national minorities.


Thus, political compromise between the Poles and the Ukrainians was doomed. And this was exactly what OUN leaders wanted: to discredit the Polish government and especially those Ukrainians who favored an evolutionary political or an economic (cooperative) solution to the problem of their existence in Poland. In the end, the OUN got what it wanted - not only destabilization, but the destruction of Poland. This destruction came about, however, not as a result of the OUN's efforts, but because of the outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939.






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