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Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)

On the 65th Anniversary of its Inception

“…For Ukraine’s trampled honour
And her land that has been fouled,
We go to raise from ruins
A new Ukrainian Nation…”
       - excerpt from an UPA song

In today’s modern world, there is no nation, with the exception of mini-nations, that does not have its own army, its own military. Military budgets make up a significant, and sometimes the largest portion of a national budget. Military spending can also be disguised as other expenses, because, even though army personnel is for the most part decreasing, new and evolving military technology, together with education and high-level training of military personnel is expensive. And all this is happening in a time when everyone is talking about world peace. The League of Nation’s motto “If you want peace – prepare for war” has not lost any clout in today’s climate.

The sole purpose of every army is to defend and protect the national interests of a country regardless from where a threat to it originates – at, far away or within its own borders. National interests can be understood in a multitude of ways and can be far-reaching politically, economically and in other ways. Having said this, an army in its very existence guarantees the existence of a nation, and effectively is the power or force that create a nation. The important role of the military in times of rebellion or in wartime should not be underestimated because during these times it is given ultimate power. This comes from the order of the army itself. This is why governments pay so much attention to their military and military spending. As was already mentioned, the army’s conclusive “nation-forming” power is evident during rebellion or freedom fighting of enslaved nations. It can be said that almost all enslaved nations have gained their independence in armed revolts. The army formed the foundations of their statehood. This is true for countries such as the United State of America, and enslaved nations of Africa and Europe.

This introduction is necessary in order to better understand why and how the Ukrainian military force of the 20th century, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was formed. This was a natural political process in the formation of an independent and sovereign Ukrainian nation 1.

It is with certainty, that one can say that after the unsuccessful attempts to free Ukraine from 1917-1920, the only Ukrainian political organization that understood the need and the important role of an army was OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists). A military branch existed within its organizational structure, whose role was to train army recruits; each member had to complete military training and learn about tactical guerilla warfare and so on. A lot of emphasis within the training was placed on the absolute necessity and the importance of having an army in order to attain and maintain an independent and sovereign country. This approach assisted in creating many army units or sectors, even in difficult times of WWII. One must remember, that the first military sectors were comprised solely of members of OUN; they were the first to enlist in sectors; they were the first to engage in battle against the enemy; they were the first to perish in battle.

One can ask the question, why were not all the military sectors of the time referred to as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army? The answer is fairly simple. Each armed military sector is considered as an entity, but each entity is not considered necessarily insurgent. It is considered insurgent if it meets certain criteria, the first being it must engage in battle against the enemy. These sectors only become an army when a formal army structure, with all ensuing attributes is instated, and when the number of personnel can justify the required structure. And this is how it was then. One could not call, for example, the Ukrainian militia, an insurgent army, as some to this day contend, because they were not. The militia was sometimes used as a means for military training, but that was for a short time only.

The first unit of the Ukrainian army was formed in July of 1941 in Rivne. The chief commander was Serhiy Kachynskiy-Ostap, and Stupnytskiy was the commander in charge of military training. This was a military unit-in-training, and its members pledged an oath of allegiance to Ukraine on July 27 and thereafter, became an underground unit. And this same process took place in many other regions of Ukraine.

Having met the criteria of engaging in battle with the enemy and attaining the necessary numbers of individual units and having secured certain territory, the leaders of OUN formally instated the Ukrainian Insurgent Army with its formal structures – training, intelligence, logistics, medical, others and of course, it appointed the military leaders. Why did the leaders of OUN instate the Army? Because, at that time, there were no other political powers that could mandate this. Thus, this historical decision and important task became the responsibility of OUN.

The first general commander of UPA was Dmytro Klachkivskiy (pseudonym Klym Savur), who was the OUN leader in the North-western Ukrainian territories “Okhrim”, and “Bilash” from August of 1943. Even though resources were limited during harsh wartime conditions, things evolved as battles with enemy continued. In other words, the creation of UPA was a process that took place over time. Understandably, one couldn’t create a military force prepared for battle in just one day.

And now the question – why do we commemorate UPA on the 14th of October? This is a symbolic date, sanctioned by the Underground Ukrainian Parliament in 1946. However, there exists a little-known fact about October 14, 1942. On that day , a member of OUN in the northwestern Ukrainian territories, received orders to commence an open military attack on the occupying enemy. However, this was for the most part a coincidence of events.

As was mentioned in the beginning of the article, an army in every country and especially when engaged in freedom fighting is a nation-forming force. UPA was such a force. With the creation of larger divisions, UPA formed ins some sense the structure of the Ukrainian “Underground Nation” 2, which was comparable to the structure in earlier Hetman times. UPA issued not only military commands, but also decrees of national significance. This was the case in all territories of Ukraine, up until the formation of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council 3 and the Secretariat of the Ukrainian Underground Government. This phenomenon has remained unresearched by our historians. They focus their attention on the battles of UPA. When mentioning the General Commander of UPA, Roman Shukhevych, one cannot forget that he was the Head of the Secretariat of the Ukrainian Underground Government, in other words, the Prime Minister of the Ukrainian Government 4. Therefore, UPA was a Ukrainian Army; one may add that it was the only Ukrainian Army that was fighting for an independent and sovereign Ukrainian nation. UPA helped form the Ukrainian nation, because that is the precise reason for which it was created. Inarguably, UPA defended the people from its occupiers and their allies and protected the people from deportation to Germany, Russia and Poland. UPA is to be indebted for not allowing Poles to succeed in “definitively solving the question of Ukraine”, for not allowing Moscow to root our the idea of a Ukrainian nation in hearts and minds of the people, for not allowing the Germans to drive the people into ghettos, and finally for not allowing the Romanian and Hungarians to realize their attempts to occupy Ukrainian territories. The revolts of the UPA POW’s in the Siberian concentration camps in the 1950’s lead to the demise of the Soviet Gulag and the ensuing liberation of tens of thousands of prisoners. However, we must remember, the objective of UPA was to fight for an independent and sovereign Ukrainian nation. And let us not forget that UPA was formed by OUN (Banderivtsi) and thus,let us make the correct conclusions in our continued efforts to build and strengthen the Ukrainian nation. This is our historical responsibility.

P.S. This year marks yet another historical anniversary, which to a large extent caused the armed Polish-Ukrainian conflict in western territories of Ukraine, namely the 65th Anniversary of the “Action Sabotage (Wakhliazh)” of the National Polish Army (Armia Krayova).

On February 5 1942, the leader of the Polish Army, General Wladyslaw Sikorsky sent a dispatch (No. 499) to General Stefan Rowetsky that read: ”Kalina. In regards to the situation on the Eastern Front, we wish to maximally impede all German modes of transportation. In connection to this, WN(Wodz Naczelny) orders to strengthen acts of sabotage in regions Volkoviysk-Baranovych, Brest, Zhabynka, Zdolbuniv, Lviv, Krasne. Spare Polish territories. “Khan” “Wiezhba” 5. Action Sabotage, referred to as “Wakhliazh” (Wiyalo) cost the lives of many Ukrainian victims. For every act of sabotage, Germans retaliated against the Ukrainian citizens – execution of hostages, burning of Ukrainian villages. As is evident from the aforementioned dispatch, the acts of sabotage were done in a way so that all the evidence or suspicions would point to Ukrainians. It is due time that our historians research this part of our history as well.

- Dmytro Deportovanyi (Kyiv)
Translation from Ukrainian: Eerka Shust-Dankovych (Toronto)

1 The word Insurgent had a different spelling in Ukrainian at that time
2 The term “Underground Nation” was used by other enslaved countries during the war, for example Poland
3 “Underground Governments” existed in many countries
4 The title Prime Minister is used because it is and accepted and understood term today, but Secretariat is usually associated with another meaning
5 Polish text reads: : „Kalina. W zwiazku z sytuacja na froncie wschodnim pozadane utrudnienie mozliwosci transportowych niemieckich. W zwiazku z powyzszym NW poleca wzmozenie akcji sabotazowej w rejonie wezlow: Wolkowyjsk-Baranowicze-Brzesc-Zdolbunow-Lwow-Rrasne. Tereny rdzennie polskie oszczedzajcie.” „CHAN” . „Wierzba”/

For further reading on this topic, we recommend:

Wikipedia on UPA (Ukrainian language)

Wikipedia on UPA (English language)

Litopys UPA

UPA post cards


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