Ukrainian History page 3

The Cold War:
On March 5, 1946 Churchill spoke at Winston College, Fulton Missouri, "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." Although many thought he was exaggerating, the term Iron Curtain stuck.

Displaced Persons: (See index of
At the end of the war some 120,000 Ukrainians registered themselves as displaced persons (DPs). Most enslaved Ukrainians who survived the war in Germany were forcibly sent back to USSR because of the Yalta agreement. Going back, Ukrainians knew, meant death or exile to Siberia.

Kathryn Hulme, an American who was sent to Europe in June of 1945 to work for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRAL) writes:

    "They fed and sheltered nearly two million people who either balked at returning home or had nowhere else to go. These people the so-called hard-core DPs, entered the camps by the trainload immediately after the War and waited there to be resettled. Only 220 Poles volunteered to leave Wildflecken (camp) on the first train of 1946. The military government offered a 60-day ration of food to any DP who returned home before the end of 1946. They began leaving camps all over Germany and Austria at the rate of 800 a day. In early 1947, UNRRA closed its camps to newcomers in an attempt to discourage a new wave of DPs fleeing from the new Communist government."
My immediate family were all at this camp in Wildflecken, Germany. My mother and her sister, my father and his brother, and my sister were all running to catch the transport and my uncle climbed on the top of the train, the only sitting room remaining. My father said,
    "I have a wife and child, I can't go up there with you. You go ahead; I'll catch the next train and I'll meet you wherever they take us."
The transport was unmarked; they didn't know where he was sent. My dad never saw his brother after that. His train went to Communist Russian-controlled Ukraine, where he went to the tree were he and dad buried a bottle of whiskey. He dug it up and toasted my father, saying,
    "Wherever you are, may God be with you."
My mother finally found dad's brother around 1956 in Zaporizhzhya (eastern Ukraine) and supplemented him regularly with packages of clothing for him and his new family.
    "They shuffled the DPs from camp to camp," wrote Kathryn Hulme, "uprooting them as soon as they had tacked up a private-room partition or strung a light bulb, giving them no change to create a temporary home."

    "Throughout 1947, job offers trickled in from Belgium, Canada and Australia. There were still one million DPs in the camps and many of them had resigned themselves to permanent residence in their temporary quarters. The long-term DPs did their best transform the camps into real communities, setting up barber and cobbler shops, organizing the clothing-distribution warehouse to resemble department stores and setting up camp elections."

These nonrepatriable refugees included 700,000 Poles; 250,000 Baltic refugees; 100,000 Yugoslavs; 50,000* Ukrainians and 1,000,000 Jewish (mostly Polish) who longed for a national home in Palestine. (Britannica Book of the Year 1947).

*The statistics vary according to the source.Ukrainians were allowed their own identity. The Ukrainians were registered as either Polish or Russians depending on which country dominated their portion of Ukraine. Refusing to be repatriated to Russia, many Ukrainians registered themselves as Poles. Officially, the Ukrainian DPs classification was ordered in fall 1946 in the US Zone, in spring 1947 in the British Zone.

In 1946-7 a disastrous drought brought a second famine to the war-battered Ukraine.
After the weather improved, the Ukrainians had an excellent harvest yield in 1948.

I was born in one of these temporary homes in the Aschaffenburg camp near Frankfurt am Main. My mother told me that as a toddler, I would wander about these cloth sheet partitions invading other people's personal space. One day I stole someone's butter and ate it (a mortal sin at the time since butter was scarce).

Near the end of 1947, news had reached the camp that a US emigration bill would require every DP emigrant to have a sponsor in the US. When not enough sponsors were found, in June 25, 1948, Congress Passed Public Law 774, the Displaced Persons Act which provided for more than 200,000 DPs to enter the US over the next two years. *85,000 were Ukrainians. The USS General Le Roy Eltige made five trips to pick up refugees. Finally in December 1949, my family and I were fortunate to be able to come to Boston via this Navy ship.

Unlike the earlier immigrations of 1865 who were illiterate agriculture workers, the Ukrainians who emigrated before 1941 had five or six years of education. However, most members of the third immigration after World War II had at least an eighth grade education, many were college graduates and professional people such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and college professors unwilling to live under Stalin's rule. An important fact also, they were greeted by a well-established Ukrainian community who willingly lend moral and financial support. These immigrants were rapidly assimilated into the American and Canadian societies and made important contributions to American society.

In early 1947, a strong United Nations was considered the key to world peace.
The Communist Party opposed the concept of world government, they referred to it as American imperialism. When Stalin wanted Ukraine and Belarus to be granted seats in the United Nations, Roosevelt said maybe US should have 48 seats, one for each states also. Stalin countered, that he had internal difficulties at home and needed to appease these states. He told Roosevelt that they were rebels, but it was the Ukrainian people and its nationalistic spirit which was too stubborn to die. (General Roman Shukhevich, Commander of UPA, kept the guerrilla war going against USSR until 1950, five years after World War II, when he was killed in action.)

Roosevelt replied he would instruct the American delegation at San Francisco to support acceptance of the Ukraine and Byelo-Russia in the UN. Although the UN was an association of independent state and the Ukraine and Byelo-Russia were no more independent in forming foreign policy, Stalin got his extra two votes. As predicted, Ukraine never conducted its own external foreign relations and these two countries always voted the exact same way Russia did.

The communist coup which followed in Czechoslavkia and the Russian blockade of Berlin showed Stalin's unfriendliness. After Roosevelt's careful attention to ensure that Poland was set up as an independent nation, it fell into Communist hands and soured relations between the Eastern Allies and USSR. Poland's former Prime Minister Mikolajczyk, coming back from exile in London, was imprisoned, along with 100,000 rank and file members of his Peasant Party on election day. He continued to defy the Communist Party, but later escaped by the skin of his teeth to the British zone in Germany.

Similarly, Hungary went over to the Soviet side as the Red Army approached. Europe in 1950 was stable for the first time in its tumultuous history. All this was disappointing for the US to see after all the billions that was dropped into Europe in the name of democracy.

The youth and militant nationalists were all killed in the wars.
The intellectuals, poets, scholars, teachers, scientists and priests, had been exiled to Siberia. The remaining old people and children had been starved, frostbitten and beaten down to submission. Ukrainian language and books were outlawed; the ornate churches were burned or converted to museums. The youth were schooled under the Russian Communist system that believed in no God. The old people, their lips silently moving, practiced their religions behind closed doors. They prayed for their children who never returned from the wars.

Since 1946 the Greek Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox had burrowed underground for the duration of the Communist atheist regime. The priests would secretly come to 'selected' houses and give a Mass. Akin to cloak and dagger spy scenarios, only invited neighbors could attend.

The successful ethnic cleaning: Few Lemkos who were shoved into northern Poland in 1947 admit they are Lemko nor Rusyn. They opted to adopt Polish because of biased laws and discrimination. They did not teach their children either Ukrainian nor Lemko.

Reply from Nancy:

    "The first time I visited Poland was a few years after the fall of communism. You could still see the blank, cautious expressions on the faces of people on the street. Inside their homes, they were outgoing, extremely generous, quick to laugh and with a great sense of humor.

    "One of my Lemko cousins married a Pole. While they primarily celebrate in the Polish tradition, her grown children know of their Lemko heritage and can speak the language. When I first visited them in 1998, they drove me to my ancestral village of Losie (between Nowy Sacz and Krynica)--where my Lemko cousins were also born. The village is totally inhabited by Poles today, many of whom work in Krynica.

    "Another cousin, whose wife is also Lemko, and their grown children speak and celebrate Lemko traditions in their own homes. In fact, when I visited them, they sang many Lemko songs that I remembered from my childhood. And they sang them with robust voices--a capella, and in perfect harmony. When I started to sing along, they were amazed and overcome with tears. When I asked why, they said they had assumed that the family members who moved to America had discarded the Lemko language and traditions in order to become Americanized. So they were overjoyed to find out that their American-born relatives had, in fact, kept alive the traditions and language that the Lemko people in Poland were prohibited from speaking or practicing for so many years. And that warranted yet another toast with a shot of vodka!!

    "One of this cousin's sons is part of a small band that performs Lemko songs. He gave me a tape recording of some of them. Also, there are several Lemko festivals and reunions of displaced Operacja Visla victims held in Poland each year. In addition, I understand that the relocation records from Operacja Visla are now being released by the Polish government. So it appears that being a Lemko is gradually becoming more acceptable in Poland these days."

9 October 2001, Volume 3, Number 38


    (Oct.2001) Poland's Supreme Administrative Court passed a precedent verdict in a case over property confiscated by the state in 1949 from Maria Hladyk, an ethnic Lemko who was compulsorily resettled in 1947 from her village in Beskid Niski (a region in southeastern Poland).

    In 1999, Maria Hladyk's grandson, Stefan Hladyk, applied to the Polish authorities with a request to repel the 50-year-old decision by which some 11 hectares of land (including 7.55 hectares of forest) was confiscated from his grandmother. The Agriculture Ministry satisfied his request. In last week's decision, the Supreme Administrative Court rejected an appeal by Poland's State Forests, a state-run agency that manages the country's forested areas and which had owned Maria Hladyk's wooded plot for the past 50 years. The court simultaneously confirmed Stefan Hladyk's ownership right to the plot.

    This precedent verdict by the Supreme Administrative Court actually admits that the nationalization of Lemko properties 50 years ago was illegal. The verdict paves the way for other Lemkos (or their heirs) to regain what was confiscated from them by the communist authorities. According to PAP, Polish courts are currently going over some 200 lawsuits by Lemkos seeking to have their properties in Beskid Niski returned to them.

    [Ed. note: Some historical background to the case. In a bid to deprive the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) -- which fought the Polish communist government in 1944-47 -- of support among Ukrainians inhabiting their ethnic territories in southeastern Poland, the Polish authorities decided in 1947 on a mass resettlement of Ukrainians to the so-called Recovered Lands (Ziemie Odzyskane) -- the former territories of the Third Reich incorporated into post-World War II. The Polish army performed the drastic and violent Operation Vistula, which resettled some 150,000* (They save face by grossly understating the figure), an ethnic community with a vaguely defined ethnic identity: some Lemkos considered themselves to be Ukrainians, while some believed they were a group different from Ukrainians. Incidentally, support for the UPA among Poland's pre-1947 Lemko community was much weaker than among Polish Ukrainians.

    The dispersion of Lemkos following the 1947 resettlement immensely accelerated the process of their assimilation. The Polish authorities did not give Lemkos the right to develop their ethnic identity until 1956, when Poland's Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, and Jews were allowed to set up their own ethnic organizations to pursue some educational, cultural, and social activities. Some Lemko activists joined the Ukrainian movement but many others chose Polishness to avoid being identified with Ukrainians.

    In 1949, the Polish government passed a decree on the nationalization of properties remaining after the resettlement of the Ukrainians and Lemkos. Following the decree, local authorities passed appropriation decisions with regard to resettled owners' land plots and belongings remaining on their administrative territories.

23 April 2002, Volume 4, Number 16 (
    Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski condems 'OPERATION VISTULA.'The peak of the deportation of Ukrainians to the Soviet Union occurred in the autumn of 1946, when some 200,000 people were relocated within four months. In total, according to official data, some 490,000 Ukrainians were expelled from Poland to the Ukrainian SSR.

Polish census

For more, see

Ukrainian history continues to page 4


more about UNRRA

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