[LITOPYS UPA: Chronicle of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army]

The UPA in Light of Polish Documents. Book One: The Military Court of the Operation Group "Wisla". Ed., Eugeniusz Misilo. Toronto, Litopys UPA, 1992. 626 pp., ISBN 0-920092-34-9, hard cover, illustrations.


Book One: Military Court of Operation Group "Wisla"

Volume 22 of Litopys UPA is first in the series concerning the history of UPA from the Zakerzons'kyi Krai region as revealed by Polish documents. The documents cover the Military Court of the Operation Group "Wisla" (WSGO "W"), during the period April 22 and September 16, 1947. Subsequent volumes will include documents of the military courts in Krakow, Lublin, Olsztyn, Rzeszow, Szczecin, and Warsaw during the years 1944-1956, and other documents pertaining to the UPA.

The unique character of the WSGO "W" mandated that such an order of publication be followed. In a period of less than four months, two military judges passed sentence against 315 individuals, including 173 death sentences. No other example of such massive repression against the members of the underground or civilians has emerged in the history of the postwar Polish judicial system.

The Documents published in Volume 22 are housed in the Central Military Archives (CAW) in Rembertow near Warsaw. They were found among the unsorted and hitherto inaccessible files of the WSGO "W" collection, under the call numbers 3250/3/54 to 3253/3/54.

The first group of documents include 139 verdicts rendered by WSGO "W" between May 14 and September 10, 1947. They deal with the 173 OUN and UPA members sentenced to death, and with another 15 persons tried together with them but sentenced to prison terms. The verdicts published in this part of the volume are also accompanied by notes that indicate the date the sentence had been carried out. The sentences, with two exceptions (documents no. 92 and 111), are based on the List of Persons Executed in Polish Prisons, 1944-1956 [1] and on the lists of the victims of Stalinist repression, Ukrainian Archive, Warsaw.

The second part of the volume includes reports of the WSGO "W" proceedings and segments of the partially surviving correspondence between this court and the Justice Service Department (DSS) of the Ministry of National Defence (MON), the Chief Prosecutor of the Polish Army, and the Supreme Military Court (NSW). The original correspondence and the copies, as well as the verdicts, come from the same CAW collection.

An exception are the documents in annex 2, 3, and 7 of this volume. Two of them, coded messages no. 397 and 418, were taken from the "Book of Coded Messages of Operation Group "Wisla", preserved in the CAW Polish Army General Staff collection. [2] The original instruction, prepared by Col. Henryk Holder, head of DSS MON and Chief Prosecutor of the Polish Army (annex 7), describes how to carry out the death sentences on the condemned UPA soldiers. It was found among top-secret papers of Gen. Stefan Mossor, Commander-in Chief of Operation Group "Wisla". [3] It is one of the most shattering and important documents presented in this volume.

The documents published in the second part of Volume 22 which deal with the working mechanisms of the WSGO "W" are incomplete. The majority of the materials concerning WSGO "W" activities, sent on July 31, 1956 by the Cracow military court to the DSS MON Archives in Warsaw, had been, unfortunately, destroyed on December 25, 1976. [4] A similar fate met the 1946-1957 files of the NSW, which oversaw the work of WSGO "W", and the defence appeals, which had been shipped to the DSS MON Archives on November 12, 1960. They were destroyed on December 4, 1962 and November 11, 1963 respectively. Among the destroyed materials were: 194 volumes of the NSW correspondence with the garrison courts 1946-1957, including WSGO "W", NSW orders and regulations, materials concerning persons court-martialled in 1947, pardons, execution postponements, and correspondence purnals.

Short biographies of 120 persons sentenced to terms in prison by WSGO "W" are published in the third part of the volume. They were prepared on the basis of 98 verdict copies that, due to space restraints, could have not been quoted in full.

The texts of the verdicts are published with the original spelling preserved. Editing corrections have been limited to corrections in punctuation and grammar. The errors in names, pseudonyms and names of places are indicated in the footnotes. Pseudonyms of the members of the underground were decoded to the best of our knowledge.

* * *

According to the data released in 1990 by the Central Bureau of Prisons of the Ministry of Justice, 2,810 Polish citizens had been sentenced to death and executed between 1944 and 1956. However, the preceeding figure has a number of serious flaws. It includes persons sentenced to death on criminal as well as political charges, while excluding those whose death sentences had been subsequently commuted. Furthermore, no attempt is made to distinguish (with the notable exception of Nazi war criminals) the nationality and organizational affiliation of those condemned to death. The Central Bruea of Prisons also neglectd to specify the number of people sentenced to a term in prison during a specific period of time.

In this situation and in the current phase of research the information concerning the magnitude of judicial repression against the Ukraininan population in Poland between 1944 and 1956 will be equally incomplete. Until now 573 documented cases of Ukrainians sentenced to death for membership in UPA, OUN or collaboration with the underground were found as a result of thorough research undertaken in state and judicial archives. Table 1 presents the statistics of Ukrainians sentenced to death in the period 1944-1956.

Court 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1955 1956 TOTAL
Lublin 2 10 11 24 6 2         55
Chelm   5 1               6
Hrubieszow       15   1         16
Tomaszow L.       18             18
Zamosc     1 1             2
Rzeszow   21 18 200 41 14   1   1 296
Przemysi   21 5 27 6           59
Sanok   1 3 21             25
Krakow       63 1           64
Olsztyn       1 11           12
Warszawa       1 9 2 2   3   17
Szczecin       1 1 1         3
TOTAL 2 58 39 372 75 20 2 1 3 1 573

Table 1. Ukrainians sentenced to death, 1944-1956

Sentenced by Months TOTAL
WSR Lublin 2         2   13 2 5     24
WSR Lublin
working in:
Hrubieszow             7 8         15
Tomaszow L.             3 11 4       18
Zamosc           1             1
WSR Rzeszow 2 2 3 2 4 1 4 - 6 2 18 2 46
WSR Rzeszow
working in:
Przemysl       19 4 3         1   27
Sanok         1 1             2
WSGO "W"         19 51 40 26 37       173
WSR Krakow     1     15 14 24 4 5     63
WSR Olsztyn                   1     1
WSR Szczecin                   1     1
WSR Warszawa           1             1
TOTAL 4 2 4 25 26 73 59 73 68 16 19 2 372

Table 2. Ukrainians sentenced to death in 1947

Ukrainians accused between 1944 and 1945 of belonging to UPA were tried, depending on the period, either by martial courts of the II Polish Army or by garrison courts. According to incomplete data these courts sentenced to death 2 Ukrainians in 1944 and 58 in 1945. The sentence had been carried out in 53 cases. It points to a virtual abandonment of the right to pardon, held by the then commander in chief of the Polish Army, Gen. Michal Zymierski.

In early 1946 a new judical structure came into being. An order of the Minister of Nationai Defence dated January 20, 1946 created fourteen Regional Military Courts (WSR's), each located in voievodship's capital and a detached department of Koszalin located in Szczecin. [6] WSR's tried civilians whose cases came under military jurisdiction (illegal possession of firearms, membership in illegal political and military organizations, terrorism) as well as militarized personnel (Security Offices, Citizens Militia). District Military Courts (WSO) attached to the staffs of six military districts were created at the same time in order to deal exclusively with military personnel. The published data indicate that the number of Ukrainians sentenced to death by the WSR's in 1946 fell to 39. However, in this case all of them, save one, were executed.

Until April 1947 i.e. the beginning of operation "Wisla" 31 Ukrainians were sentenced to death and 5 have been pardoned. Among those executed were 19 soldiers of UPA, sentenced in Przemysl on April 22, 25 and 26, and executed on May 10, 1947. Their execution foretold the repressions that soon were to be used against Ukrainian underground.

On March 28, 1947 gen. Karol Swierczewski, deputy minister of National Defence, was killed in an ambush organized by combined forces of "Khrin" and "Stakh" companies. Next day the Politburo of the Central Committee of I Polish Worker's Party (KC PPR) decided, in a secret resolution, to retaliate by removing Ukrainian population from Lublin, Rzeszow and Krakow Voievodships. [7] Exactly one month later, on April 28 at 4 a.m., 6 divisions of Polish Army included in the Operation Group "Wisla", began to remove the civilian population and to destroy the Ukrainian underground.

According to Polish Army General Staff's data 140 575 persons were exiled, 655 members of the UPA and OUN were killed and 1466 captured before July 31, 1947. [8] According to the Ministry of Public Security between the beginning of the operation "Wisla" and September 31, 1947, 2274 Ukrainians accused of belonging to the armed underground were arrested. From among them 851 were arraigned in court, 1648 were released and 115 were under interrogation. [9] According to available information 3873 persons were sent to concentration camp in Jawortno. [10] Altogether 372 persons were sentenced to death in 1947. There were only 31 cases of pardon.

In 1948 there were 75 death sentences -- these were the summary trials in Przemysl and Rzeszow of 112 UPA soldiers, taken prisoner in summer of 1947 in Czechoslovakia while attempting to cross to the American oocupation zone in Germany, and deported on May 22, 1948 to Poland. In Warsaw, the trial of 21 soldiers of the "Khrin" and "Stakh" units was held. They were accused of participation in Gen. Swierczewski's ambush and 9 of them were sentenced to death. In Olsztyn, 11 death sentences were pronounced against members of the underground's civilian network and those members of the dispersed UPA detachments from Tomaszow and Hrubieszow area, who succeeded in penetrating to Olsztyn area together with the exiled civilian population.

The tragic list of UPA soldiers executed between 1944 and 1956 ends with Col Myroslav Onyshkevych, "Orest", the UPA commmander of "Zakerzon" area, who was sentenced to death on June 3 and executed on July 6, 1950 and with Petro Fedoriw, "Dalnych", chief of security service of "Zakerzon" area, sentenced on January 20 and executed on April 11, 1950. Mykhailo Soltys, "Woron", sentenced in 1951 and Wolodymyr Morochko, members of the security service (BSB), were both pardoned.

The last famous UPA trial that ended with a death sentence, took place on March 1961 in Przemysl against Ivan Shpontak, "Zalizniak", commander of the 27th tactical military district, who was arrested in Slovakia and deported to Poland. The State Council commuted his death sentence to life inprisonment and, on February 26, 1970 to 25 years in prison. "Zalizniak" was released from prison on November 4, 1981. He was the last and the longest incarcerated UPA soldier in Poland. [11]

The documents published in volume 22 prove, that in the initial phase of the "Wisla" operation there was no design to create a special martial court in order to try the captured members of Ukrainian underground. In accordance with the rules in place, this function was to be fulfilled by the regional military courts. On April 18, 1947, following the decision of the Military Superior Court, Mjr. Marian Malinowski, deputy chief of Regional Military Court No. 5 in Krakow, was dispatched to Sanok in order to organize a Military Coun for the Operation Group "Wisla".

According to original assumptions, dated April 20, 1947 and included in the guidelines of Lt.Col. Stanislaw Zarakowski, the Deputy Chief Judge of Military Superior Court, the WSGO "W" was to deal exclusively with soldiers and officers included in the Operation Group "Wisla", with jurisdiction equal to a military district court. [12] On May 5 Mjr. M. Malinowski was additionally authorized by Col. Wladyslaw Garnowski, president of the Military Superior Court and by Col. Antoni Skulbaszewski, Deputy Chief Procurator of the Polish Army, to try the cases involving members of militarized units attached to Operation Group "Wisla". According to the same order civilians, members of armed underground included, were to be tried by the Regional Militay Court in Rzeszowl. [13]

In the beginning of May, however, a new instruction was issued which extended the authority of the WSGO "W" to civilians. [14] According to the recently disclosed documents of the Politburo and Polish Armys General Staff, the introduction of the martial courts against UPA soldiers in 1947, was closely related to the provocation organized by Gen. Mikolaj Prus Wieckowski, who informed the Ministry of National Defence about the brutal UPA attacks against the guards on trains removing the Ukrainian population, during which several Polish soldiers were allegedly stabbed to death. [15] Influenced by the reports, which were later proven to be false, Politburo, during its meeting on May 3, ordered the Ministry of National Defence and Public Security to intensify repressions against Ukrainians. [16] The order's drastic result was the introduction of martial courts for the members of Ukrainian underground and political approval for mass imprisonment of the alleged UPA-symphatizers among the civilian population, in Jaworzno concentration camp.

The WSGO "W" began its activity on April 22, 1947 in Sanok. It was composed of: President- Mjr. Marian Malinowski, defence attorneys Lt. Zbigniew Szwarc and Lt. Kazimierz Klos. Cpt. Jan Prause from the Military District Attorneys Office No. 5 in Krakow was the designated procurator. On May 11 Lt. Ludwik Kiltyka from Military Regional Court in Krakow, one of the most ruthless military judges was sent to work in the WSGO "W".

On May 21, 1947 the WSGO "W" was transferred, together with the Operation Group's Staff from Sanok to Rzeszow. On July 31, due to the dissolution of the Operation Group "Wisla", the name of the court was changed. The change had solely a formal character and resulted neither in court's jurisdiction, nor in its composition.

It is not easy to define precisely the court's name in that period. The regulation of the deputy chief procurator of the Polish Army, and deputy-president of the NSW dated July 28,1947 (annex 18) suggest that the court was to keep its special character, albeit using seals of the Regional Military Court in Rzeszow. During that time the court used different titles in its reports. The one finally accepted was the (Special) Military Council attached to Operation Group in Rzeszow.

It should be explained here that the dissolution of the Operation Group "Wisla" on July 31, 1947 was only a partial one. Remaining troops were reorganized in operation group named "Tatry". A week later the group was renamed into a Military District Operation Group Nr. V, stationed in Rzeszow and charged with final removal of remnants of the Ukraininan population and with further combat against the UPA. [17]

The WSGO "W" held its first trial on May 14, 1947. It was presided over either by Mjr. Malinowski or Lt. Kieltyka, with 2 jurors, the NCO's or privates, in attendance. Till the end of its activity on September 15, 1947 the court heard 285 cases involving 364 people i.e. 315 civilians and 49 military. Of the 315 civilians accused of being the UPA or OUN members who were court martialed, 173 were sentenced to death, 58 to life imprisonment, 40 to 15 years in prison and 39 to less than 15 years. Five persons were acquitted out of 49 officers and soldiers belonging to Operation Group "Wisla", accused mostly of criminal offences and breaches of military regulation, 40 were sentenced in ordinary procedure to prison terms varying between 3 months and 5 years, while 9 other cases were sent for further investigation.

The 122 sentenced to death belonged to th UPA, 45 to the Kushch Self-defence Units (SKW), 4 to Security Service and one to Ukrainian Red Cross. In case of several SKW members the verdict was based on the fact that the accused supplied the UPA with food. The convicted people were, with practically no exception, simple UPA soldiers and SKW members. There were no company commanders or highly placed OUN members among them. Of the 3 women who had been among the soldiers, 2 were executed. The prisoners were, in majority cases, young people, with no previous criminal record and with little education and, therefore, completely helpless in the face of severe military courts.

The verdicts of the WSGO "W" involving members of the Ukainian underground were most frequently based on article 85 of the Penal Code of the Polish Army (KKWP) of September l944. The article specified that "one who attempts to deprive the Polish state of its independence or separate a part of its territory is to be punished by 1-15 years in prison or by death". One might even say that article 85 was solely restricted to the Ukainian Members of the Polish underground who were usually sentenced on the basis of article 86, 1&2 of the KKWP (an attempt to remove by force the legally constituted authorities, usurpation of power and attempt to change political system). The illegal possession of weapons or active participation in the fight against the Polish Army was usually punished on the basis of article 4,1 and article 1,3 of the June 13, 1946 decree, known as the "little penal code", [18] or less often, on the basis of the decree of November 16, 1945 about crimes particularly dangerous to the reconstruction of the state, [19] that replaced the PKWN decree of October 30, 1944. [20]

The WSGO "W" trials held during the "Wisla" action were organized as show-trials and with a staged publicity. The announcements listing the names of members of the Ukrainian underground that were sentenced to death and executed were widely distributed on the territories of Sanok and Rzeszow. In compliance with the Military Criminal Code, [21] prisoners were entitled to a defence attorney, to ask Poland's president Boleslaw Bierut for pardon and to appeal to the Military Superior Court. Kiwer Dmytro was the only one to appeal his sentence. The NSW overturned the WSGO "W"'s sentence and ordered a new trial with new set of judges. The death sentence was finally commuted to 15 years in prison (Doc. No. 44)

During the first three months of the WSGO "W" work, the prisoners were, for all practical purposes, deprived of their right of pardon. The sentence was carried out usually three days after its announcement and in a some cases, on the same day (Doc. No. 16-21). The sentences were confirmed by Gen. Stefan Mossor, Commander-in-chief of the Operation Group "Wisla" and, in practice, by Col. Grzegorz Korczynski, his deputy, who was also the Deputy-minister for State Security. According to the instruction of Col. Henryk Holder, the Attorney-General of the Polish Army and the Chief of the Department of Justice of the Ministry of Defence (MON), death sentences were to be executed "immediately", after their announcements. The dates of executions, published in the "Litopys" indicate clearly that, between Col. Holder's instruction and the middle of June, nearly all convicts were executed the very same day. Later, the executions were carried out with 5-7 days delay and only since the beginning of August--with a two week delay. Thus the coded messages sent by Mjr. Malinowski to the Department of Justice of the MON that were needed to prepare a decision of pardon, were a simple fraud, or rather an announcement about the parUcular sentencing and execution. Col. Holder's coded messages, containing his answers, arrived usually a few days after the sentence had been carried out. This conclusion is confirmed by the tragic story of Rozalia Minko [22] who was condemned to death, or by the documents from the President's Legal Office which prepared pardon proposals in Boleslaw Bierut's name. It seems that the pardons in case of the Ukrainians tried by the WSGO "W" were dated either before Col. Holder's instruction, or after July 29, 1947 i.e. after the dissolution of the Operation Group "Wisla" [23]

* * *

The verdicts of the WSGO "W" published in this volume, are not an objective source of knowledge about the UPA's activity in Poland. The image of the Ukrainian underground in these documents is deformed and made deliberately negative. The descriptions of the UPA and OUN members' deeds are based on testimonies obtained by force and brutal torture in order to satisfy the expectations of the judges. The goal was to destroy an enemy and to terrorise the Ukrainian population rather than to search for the truth and to apply punishment adequate to crime. Thus, these documents are mainly a source of knowledge about the system of Stalinist repression and its victims. They are published with this in mind.

Eugeniusz Misilo

1. Lista osob straconych w wiezieniach polskich w latach 1944-1956. Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwosci - Centralny Zarzad Zakladow Karnych. Warszawa, marzec 1990 r. (List of Persons Executed in Polish Prisons 1944-1956. Ministry of Justice, Central Bureau of Prisons, Warsaw, March 1990.

2. Centralne Archiwum Wojskowe (CAW), Sztab Generalny Wojska Polskiego, IV.111, tom 733, k. 385 i 416. (Central Military Archives (CAW), General Staff of the Polish Army, IV. 111, Vol. 733, k. 385 and 416).

3. CAW, Sztab Generalny WP, IV.111, t. 615, k. 11. (CAW, General Staff of WP, IV.111, Vol. 615; k. 11).

4. Archiwum Sluzby Sprawiedliwosci Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej, (ASSMON), 224/56, Spis akt przekazanych do ASSMON dnia 31 VII 1956 r. (Ministry of National Defence, Archives of the Justice Service (ASSMON), 224/56. List of files sent to ASSMON on July 31, 1956).

5. ASSMON, 405/60, Sis akt przekaznych do ASSMON dnia 12 XI 1960 r. (ASSMON, 405/60. Index of files sent to ASSMON Nov. 12, 1960).

6. CAW, Gabinet Ministra Obrony Narodowej, IV.110, t. 86, k. 307-312. (CAW, Office of the Minister of National Defence, IV.110, v. 86, k. 307-312).

7. Archiwum Akt Nowych (AAN), VI Oddzial, 295/V-3, k. 16. Protokol Nr 3 z 29 marca 1947 r. (Archiwum Akt Nowych (AAN), VIth Department, 295/V-3, k. 16, protocol No. 3, March 29, 1947).

8. CAW, IV.111, v. 513, k. 593-606, 776-788.

9. Archiwum Urzedu Ochrony Panstwa (AUOP), Gabinet Ministra Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego, 17/IX/36, t. 2, k. 183. (Archiuwm Urzedu Ochrony Panstwa (AUOP), Minister of Public Security Ofice, 17/IX/56, v. 2, k. 183).

10. Archiwum Ukrainskie w Warszawie, Kartoteka wiezniow Centralnego Obozu Pracy w Jaworznie. (Archiwum Ukrainskie in Warsaw, File of the Prisoners of the Central Labor Camp in Jaworzno).

11. Iwan Szpontakzmart 14 kwietnia 1989 r. w Wielkich Kapuszanach (Slowacja). (Ivan Shpotnak died April 14, 1989 in Wielkie Kapuszany (Slovakia)).

12. CAW, WSGO "W", 3251/3/54, k. 6. Zob. zalacznik Nr 4 (See annex No. 4).

13. CAW, IV. 111, v. 733 v. 385. Zob. zalacznik Nr 4 (See annex No. 4).

14. CAW, IV 111, v. 7333 v. 416. Zob. zalacznik Nr 4 (See annex No. 4).

15. CAW, Dowodztwo Okregu Wojskowego Nr V, IV.204, t. 97, k. 116-117; CAW, IV.111, t. 512, k. 175. (CAW, Vth Military District HQ, IV.204, v.97,k. 116-117; CAW, IV. 111,v. 512,k. 175).

16. AAN, VI Oddzial, 295/V-3, k. 55-56, Protokol Nr 8 z 3 mja 1947 r. (AAN, VIth Department, 295/V-3, k. 55-56, Protocol No 8, May 3, 1947).

17. CAW, IV.111, v. 630, k. 227-228.

18. Dziennik Ustaw, July 12, 1946, No. 30, pt. 192.

19. Dziennik Ustaw, November 16, 1945; No. 53, pt. 300.

20. Dziennik Ustaw RP, 1944, No. 4, pt 21.

21. Dziennik Ustaw, September 24, 1945, No. 39, pt. 216.

22. See: document 7 and annex No. 12, 13.

23. ANN, Kancelaria Cywilna Prezydenta RP i Kancelaria Rady Panstwa. Biuro Prawne, Sprawy ulaskawien osob skazanych przez sady wojskowe w 1947 r., tom 105. (AAN, Civillian Chancellery of the President and State Council's Chancellery, Legal Office. Cases of pardon invovling persons convicted by military courts in 1947, vols 1-5).

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