The Division "Galicia" in Ukrainian Partisan Literature

The Opposition to the formation of the Ukrainian Division "Galicia" from the OUN(b) faction developed mainly because it was not of its creation and as such would be outside of its control. The assumption was that the Division might lure Ukrainian youth, or at least a sizeable part of it. This would be detrimental to the manpower of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) which was planned to be instrumental in Ukraine's liberation. Besides, the OUN(b) endeavoured to dominate all the Ukrainian liberation movements by subordinating them to its leadership and this they intended to achieve even if it meant shedding the blood of their own dissenting compatriots. Thus the denunciation of the formation of the Division "Galicia" occurred even before the actual campaign for volunteers started. This propaganda happened to coincide with secret Polish and Communist anti-Division agitation and threats.

At this time the OUN(b) faction, headed in Western Ukraine by Mykola Lebed', published an article in its underground Bulletin entitled "All About the Division SS Galicia" in which the Ukrainian Central Committee was denounced as a German collaborator and organizers of the Division as "traitors". The Division itself was compared to the British colonial military "Indian or Australian units" fighting for the benefit of the British Empire.1

In spite of this opposition the majority of people placed their hopes, not in the young hotheaded revolutionaries, but in the more rational Ukrainian Central Committee. Thus the Division was formed and, as history proved, in no way acted as a subservient "colonial unit". When the Division came into existence the OUN did its best to exert a certain influence on it and to subordinate it to its plans and decisions. This was not difficult because in the Division there were young people of differing political convictions and in fact it was in dose touch with political life in Galicia. The desire to direct the affairs of the Division "Galicia" was pushed so far by the OUN(b) leadership that in the Spring of 1945 when the Division was on the front line in Austria near the Hungarian border, they issued an order to liquidate the German officers and other personnel, march across the Alps towards the British and American forces and offer them their Services. Such an order indicates that its author was thinking in terms of a guerilla unit and not of a regular army burdened with heavy armament and equipment and in permanent touch with higher authority which, even in April 1945, was still capable of organizing necessary countermeasures and bloody reprisals against the Division and also against the Ukrainian refugees in various Austrian and German camps. Fortunately, the officers charged with removal of the Division from the front and transferring it to the Allies in distant Italy chose to ignore that order. This saved the lives not only of the Ukrainian soldiers but also those of many civilian Ukrainians.2

Retrospective views on the Division "Galicia"

As soon as the war was over the Division surrendered to the British and American forces. For over two years most of them stayed in the SEP Camp in Rimini, Italy, and then spent another year in the POW camps of Great Britain. Those in American POW camps in Germany were released long before those in the British camps. During this time all the Ukrainian soldiers were under dose observation of the British military authorities, and all went through the screening process of the U.N. Screening Commission and no "criminals", nor "cutthroats" nor "ruffians" nor war criminals were found among them. At the beginning of the 1950's all former soldiers of the Ukrainian Division UNA were considered fit to emigrate to Canada or the U.S.A.

Quite often in Anglo-American works where the problem of cooperation of various nationalities with the Germans is discussed, the words "collaboration", "collaborators" or even "traitors" are frequently used (Conf. "Patriotic traitors" by D. Littlejohn). According to English language dictionaries such words always imply treason and treachery and, usually, French or Norwegian cases from the second World War are cited. However, neither the Ukrainians nor any other nationality (Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Belorussians, etc.) cooperating with the Germans (the Russians in ROA excepted) can hardly be compared with the French or Norwegian collaborators. Their freedoms were destroyed by the Russians, their cultural, political and economic development had been reversed along Soviet lines to fit their subordinated role. Did the Baltic nations owe any loyalty and allegiance to the Russians who entered their countries as "friends" and soon imposed their rule of terror? It was Russia who destroyed all the neighbouring nations and enslaved them in a new Soviet empire with a dictatorship much worse than the preceding tsarist autocracy. The Ukrainians, by joining the Division "Galicia", expressed their readiness to make the supreme sacrifice for the benefit of their country and in doing so, they did not betray any government established by the will of the nation. They took up arms against the so-called "Ukrainian" government imposed by and for the benefit of Soviet Russia.

In reference to the Western Ukrainians, who up till September 1939 were Polish citizens, it cannot be claimed that they owed any allegiance to the Polish government in exile, because it did not exercise any power above them and it also ruled the Western Ukraine by the right of armed conquest in 1919. The western Ukrainians have never agreed to Polish domination and quite openly, declared that their final objective was a free and independent Ukrainian state. By cooperating with the Germans against the Russians the Ukrainians believed they were choosing the lesser evil and hoped it was only for a temporary period of time. In taking up arms against Soviet Russia, they did not betray "their" government but rather the government which treacherously look over the Western Ukraine by renouncing its own promise in a ten years non-aggression treaty signed with Poland on May 5, 1934. In placing the Ukrainian Division "Galicia" in 1943 on the German side the Ukrainians took a chance, hoping for a favourable end of the second World War. Their hopes did not materialize but as the newly opened British documents reveal, the idea of an East-West conflict was not entirely out of the realm of possibility. The British prime minister, W.S. Churchill. entertained thoughts along that line, but he did not gain support from his American allies and soon after was removed from power with the British Labour Party taking over Parliament.3

Most of the former soldiers oft he Ukrainian Division "Galicia" are now living in the Western Countries. They have acquired various professions and trades and proved themselves to be honest and loyal citizens of their new homelands and enjoy their democratic system of government. Thus, they have had a chance to compare the workings of democracy with Soviet tolalitarianism and only aspire to the same freedoms for their countrymen in Ukraine. They also have their own organization Brotherhood of Veterans of the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army which is dedicated to the same cause as the Division "Galicia" was - a Free, United and Independent Ukraine. That is one of the essential reasons why the Soviet Russian government has not ceased to defame the Ukrainian Division "Galicia" - First Division of the Ukrainian National Army and its veterans.

 

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[1] " 糿 "" -, . 3, 1943, . , . 1-5.

[2] . ϳ. "ʳ 볿" "³ ", . 3(101), 1979, . 67-68.

[3] - : Arthur Smith. Churchill's German Army, war time strategy and cold war politics, 1943-1947. Pref. by Alexander de Conde. Albany, N.Y., Sage Publishers, 1977, 159 .