[LITOPYS UPA: Chronicle of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army]

page 561


The memoirs of Maria Savchyn span the time of the Second World War and a period of almost ten years afterwards. During this time, the author participated in the struggle of the Ukrainian armed liberation movement, known under the name of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and directed by the UHVR. The memoirs consist of several chapters and can be divided chronologically and geographically as follows: school period, 1939-1944, when the author was a high school student and simultaneously worked in the underground; period of activity in Poland, 1944-1947, when she became an active member of the underground in the Zakerzon region, that is, Ukrainian territory in Poland; the Halychyna period, 1947-1949, when she was in the underground or lived illegally in Halychyna; the Volyn period, 1949-1953, when she was in the underground in Volyn and Polissia; and the period of incarceration, 1953-1954, when she was in the KGB investigation prison, from where she went abroad.

During the school period, the author lived in her native village of Zadvirya, near Lviv, or in Lviv, where she attended school, and in 1943-1944, in Peremyshl, where she completed high school. At that time, she belonged to the underground organization Yunatstvo OUN (OUN Youth), which was preparing young people for entry into the OUN. Before moving to Peremyshl, she served as liaison agent for the chief of the Krai SB (Security Service), Hryhoriy Pryshliak ("Mikushka"). In her descriptions, the author mentions not only her personal experiences, taking place around her. The most important events of this time were: the Polish-German war; the Soviet occupation of Western Ukraine, followed by mass arrests, plundering taxation and execution of prisoner; the Soviet-German war, the proclamation and liquidation of the Ukrainian state in 1941 and the German policy of occupation.

After graduating from high school, the author entered the underground. During the movement of the front in 1944, she worked as a nurse and intelligence agent in the "Druzhynnyky" UPA company and briefly served as liaison coordinator of the Peremyshl UPA Military Region. In late 1944, she was named director of the Mostyska district Ukrainian Red Cross, and later, of the Peremyshl megadistrict Ukrainian Red Cross. In the spring of 1945, she married Vasyl Halasa ("Orlan"), OUN deputy leader of the Zakerzon krai. In the autumn of 1945, she went to Poland, to acquire a legal identity and maintain a liaison point with Western Europe. On December 15, 1946, she gave birth to a son, Zenon. In the spring of 1947, she experienced a great personal tragedy. While traveling with her son to meet her husband, she was caught in a police encirclement in Krakow. She escaped, but her son remained in the hands of the police.

In addition to recounting her personal life, the author describes her surroundings various people, the UPA struggle against the Polish army and NKVD border troops, the forced resettlement of the Ukrainian population to the USSR, and UPA'a collaboration with the Polish underground and other events occurring at this time. The most difficult period for the underground was the spring of 1947. The Polish government directed large police formations ad a number of military divisions against the UPA. The Poles deported the remaining Ukrainian population to former German territories 9the so-called "Visla" operation) and waged battle against the UPA. UPA units and underground activists were compelled to leave the Zakerzon region. In the autumn of 1947, the author and her husband and a group of soldiers made their way across the border to Halychyna.

By this time, the Ukrainian resistance in Halychyna had experienced enormous losses. there still remained a few small UPA units and some OUN armed underground members. who hid in underground bunkers and acted in great secrecy. The villages were subjected to strong NKVD pressure; they were impoverished and pillaged by Soviet officials and forced to pay heavy taxes. The author provides a clear picture of life there. She spent the winter of 1947-1948 with her husband in the Carpathian Mountains, where they lived for some time in the underground bunker of Petro Fedun ("P. Plotava"), the renowned underground publicist and political activist. In spring, they traveled to the Lviv area, where Gen. R. Shukhevych named V. Halasa OUN leader for North-Western Ukraine. Halasa went to Volyn and the author remained with forged documents in order to acquire a legal identity because she was pregnant again. With great difficulty, she settled in the village of Hranky-Kuty, Khodoriv raion. There, on October 18, 1948 her second son, Taras, was born. In January 1949, she left her son with her family in order to be ale to join her husband. However, in Lviv she fell into the hands of the KGB. The KGB knew who she was and proposed that she persuade her husband to leave the underground and co-operate with them. She pretended to agree to their proposal in order to rescue her son and warn her family. When he KGB let her so, she warned her family about the danger, left her son with her husband's relatives in the village of Olesyn, Koziv rajon, them joined her husband and told him about her arrest. They informed their superiors and the author obtained permission to remain underground with her husband.

In Volyn, the underground existed in even ore difficult conditions than in Halychyna, but in 1948 its ranks were strengthened with new members and it remained active to the end of 1950. Its work was directed at education and propaganda and extending its influence to neighboring eastern territories. With this aim in mind, the underground trained cadres, published underground literature, held dissuasions with the population, etc. Nevertheless, owing to KGB police action, its membership was shrinking and by 1951 it had ceased to operated in a number of districts.

As the wife of the Volyn dead, the author was in the local underground for more than four years and she recreates its activities in her writings. She portrays a large cast of underground members, leading activists and ordinary soldiers, showing their lives and problems, heroic deaths and betrayals. She also describes many Ukrainian families, which, in spite of the moral danger, generously supported he underground members and shared with them their hard-earned bread and other provisions.

During the summer of 1953, while V. Halasa and his wife were traveling along underground channels from the Rivne to the Khmelnytsky oblast, they fell into the hands of the KGB. The liaison people conducting them were KGB agents, who put sleeping powder into their food and when they fell asleep, handcuffed them and brought them to the post of the Khmelnytsky oblast KGB force which was waiting for them in the woods. The arrested couple was transported to Kiev, where they were held in solitary confinement. They were treated relatively well and attempts were made to "re-educate" them and convince them to cooperate. They were also blackmailed with threats regarding their son and their families. The were told that Ukraine was now free and was developing culturally and economically and were even taken to visit some institutions in Kiev and to Zaporizhzhia in order to see this development. During theses trips, the KGB brought them together and sometimes event gave them an opportunity to talk privately. The KGB hoped to use Halasa first to catch he underground leader, Col. Vasyl Kuk ("Koval") and then to infiltrate the UHVR Foreign Representation in Western Europe, in order to disinform it about underground activity and monitor its communications. When the KGB proposed that Halasa write the appropriate letters and the author serve as "courier", Halasa agreed. Between themselves they agreed that when the author reached her destination, she would immediately tell the whole truth. They considered it very important that the Ukrainian movement abroad be informed about the actual state of the underground and the KGB plans. In the autumn of 1954, with the help of KGB agents, the author made her way abroad and told the whole story.

The author composed her memoirs not long after this time, so her memory was still fresh. She writes in the first person, in a colorful, lively manner, with many dialogues. As she spent many years in the underground, in different regions and varying conditions, the memoirs give abroad picture of the underground struggle. The fact that she was the wife of a prominent underground activist and thus was informed on many matters adds depth to the subjects discussed. Historians will find most interesting the descriptions of underground activity in Volyn, because this final phase of the struggle is the least known. The memoirs recount many tense and tragic experiences, which sound as though they come from an adventure novel but were, in fact, the brutal reality.

An additional value of these memoirs in that they were written by a woman and reflect a woman's feelings and sufferings. The author writes frankly even about the most intimate matters. it is as though she lifts a secret curtain, behind which we see, by turns, scenes of great personal happiness and the darkest personal tragedy, joyous successes and painful failures, uplifting belief in victory and bleak disappointment at the failure to achieve it. in these memoirs, the reader will find a great deal of bitter truth about a woman's life in the underground and the difficulty of reconciling the role of a revolutionary with the life of a woman, wife and mother.


[Return to Main Page]
Return to Main Page.

e-mail: upa@infoukes.com
© 1997-2000 Litopys UPA
P.O. Box 97, Station"C"
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6J 3M7

since Mar 1st 1997