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Chapter 22

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

The Story of the Ukraine
by Clarence Manning

published by
Philosophical Library
New York,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 24

 p255  Chapter Twenty‑Three

Western Ukraine

By the summer of 1919 Polish military control had been extended over the whole of Western Ukraine and the alliance between Petlyura and the Polish government early in 1920 ratified the dismemberment of the joint state which had been so enthusiastically proclaimed a year before. Finally the Treaty of Riga between Poland and the Soviets secured from the latter the recognition of Polish control.

There remained only one hope for the exiled government of Western Ukraine, and that was the Council of Ambassadors of the victorious Allies. They held out as did the Peace Conference against Polish control of the country but their opposition steadily diminished. France was strongly backing Poland and the Conference as a whole had no definite ideas as to the future. It definitely awarded Western Galicia to Poland, but on November 20, 1919 there was adopted a resolution providing that Poland should hold Eastern Galicia for twenty-five years under a mandate from the League of Nations, that there should be an Eastern Galician Diet with a representative in the Polish cabinet, that there should be broad autonomy for the province, and that at the end of the period there should be a plebiscite. Poland naturally refused to accept this solution and there was no one of the Allied Powers that was willing and able to enforce its decision.

The attitude of Poland was unfortunate. The national spirit which had survived the dismemberment of the country and had even under desperate conditions been able to rouse the country to the recovery of its liberty was firmly imbued with the spirit of the past. During the centuries  p256 of Polish greatness, the Poles had been unwilling to concede any rights to the Ukrainians. They had never been able to solve the problems of the Kozak Host and they had been bitterly opposed to the Orthodox Church. Just as the failure to create a working agreement with the Ukrainians during the seventeenth century had precipitated the disastrous Kozak wars which had broken the state, so there was still an unwillingness to recognize that conditions in 1919 were also fundamentally different from those in 1600. The spirit of continuity was so strong that no Polish statesman could remain in power for a single instant if he cast any reflection on the policy of the old Poland in regard to its neighbors. The Polish control of Galicia during the Austrian regime merely confirmed them in the consciousness of their own rectitude.

The proclamation of the Republic of Western Ukraine in 1918 and the resulting struggle between the Poles and the Western Ukrainians only increased the bitterness which had been developed by history. At the same time the brief taste of independence on the part of Western Ukraine had also given the Ukrainians an increased sense of their own dignity, their own unity and their national identity. The ambiguous position adopted by the Peace Conference served only to convince both parties that they were well within their rights and served to make any reconciliation still more difficult.

It is not at all impossible that the history of Europe would have been very different, if in 1918 there had been on the scene and in control men of the breadth of vision of Hadiach, where Rus′ was recognized as a third component part of a Great Poland, on a par with Poland and Lithuania. The Soviet occupation of Eastern Ukraine was really leaving Western Ukraine to itself; with its bitter opposition to Communism and proper diplomacy it might have joined a great federation which would have solved the problem of  p257 eastern Europe. No one of any prominence put forward or even tried to secure a hearing for any such plan, and it is hard to see what would have been the position of Western Ukraine, had the proposal to grant it a plebiscite twenty-five years in the future had been carried out. It could only have meant a continued unsettlement in policy and can become intelligible only if it is assumed that the Conference at Paris believed that within that time the entire Ukrainian problem would have been settled and that Eastern Galicia or Western Ukraine would then vote itself into union with the rest of the country. If that is true, then there is the further question as to why the Conference bound itself so strictly to its furtherance of the White Russian armies and the unity of Russia that it refused to send supplies to the Ukrainian forces who were still struggling against the overwhelming power of the Reds.

Whatever may have been the motives back of the actions at Paris, the Poles determined to produce a unified state in which the power would be entirely in Polish hands. They realized that a considerable portion of the Ukrainians living in Eastern Galicia had already been Polonized, that, for example, the brother of Archbishop Sheptitsky was the Chief of Staff of the Polish army, and they still believed that in a relatively few years the restored Poland could so accelerate the process that the province would be thoroughly absorbed into a unified state.

As a result, during the formative years, the Constituent Diet of Poland was elected at a time when Western Ukraine was still in arms in support of its own government and hence there was no reason why the Ukrainians should vote in the Polish elections. Thus in the formation of the Polish Constitution they had no vote and the power rested entirely in the hands of the Polish nationalists who were the strong supporters of a centralized state. Even later, in 1922 since under the decree of the Peace Conference, Eastern  p258 Galicia was supposed to have its own independent Diet, the Ukrainians again declined to vote for delegates to the Polish Diet, contrary to the decrees of the Peace Conference and the Council of Ambassadors that continued its work. There was thus produced an impasse between the Polish and Ukrainian points of view which could only add to the general bitterness and this required the most careful handling on the Polish part.

In the fall of 1922, the Polish Diet did go so far as to pass a law providing for the creation of a special regime in the provinces of Lviv, Ternopil and Stanislaviv. Under this there was to be in each province a Polish and a Ukrainian diet which was to have certain powers dealing with local conditions and the ability to act separately on matters pertaining to one nationality. It was also provided that there should be founded a Ukrainian university. All these reforms were to be inaugurated within two years. It would have been an improvement on conditions as they then were, but it was far from the regime visualized by the Peace Conference and certainly was not an answer to the Ukrainian demands.

These reforms, however, were never carried into practice, for on March 14, 1923, the Council of Ambassadors yielded completely, and formally granted Eastern Galicia to Poland with the statement that Poland recognized that autonomy was needed in the area and that by signing the treaty providing for the rights of minorities, she had bound herself to do all that was needed. To all intents and purposes, this decision gave Poland a free hand. The exiled government of Western Ukraine formally protested and there were enormous demonstrations in Lviv and elsewhere against it, but there was nothing to be done. Once the unification had been achieved, Poland felt herself free to proceed as if nothing had happened. There was henceforth no talk in Warsaw of any autonomy for Eastern Galicia.

 p259  Even before this, the Polish government had interfered with all Ukrainian cultural and financial institutions. It had even placed in custody Archbishop Sheptitsky when he returned from a trip to America in 1921, despite the influence that he exerted on the Ukrainians to maintain public order. It had carried out its claims that the Ukrainian movement was essentially a subversive movement, even though at the time there was a certain recognition of the privileged status of Eastern Galicia by the same international organs that were responsible for the creation of Poland itself.

The recognition of Eastern Galicia as part of Poland in 1923 presented the Western Ukrainians with a new situation. They had henceforth to decide whether to accept their position as a definite part of Poland or to continue to struggle for independence. The latter position was taken by the Ukrainian Military Organization, headed by Col. Evhen Konovalets, a former regimental commander. This body carried out various acts of terrorism against individual members of the Polish government who were prominent in the suppression of Ukrainian activities. Another group, composed largely of intellectuals, like Professor Hrushevsky, accepted the invitation of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic to transfer the centre of their activities to Kiev. Professor Hrushevsky left Vienna, where much of the Ukrainian organized activity had been concentrated. The vast majority, however, began to tend toward such activity in the Polish state as they were permitted, without for a moment giving up the right of Ukraine to its independence in the future. Thus in 1923 the Ukrainians took part in the Polish elections and a considerable number took their seats in the Diet, while their leader, Dmytro Levitsky, declared publicly that they had not renounced their ideals of independence and that they considered all treaties denying the rights of the Ukrainian people to national  p260 independence to be without any legal basis.

From year to year the struggle changed its form as various measures were put into effect by Polish government to break down the solid block of Ukrainians living in Eastern Galicia and to introduce Poles into the area. Thus the Poles in their laws for breaking up large estates settled on these estates groups of Polish veterans in the hope that they might destroy the Ukrainian voting majority. They banned the use of Ukrainian in other than the three provinces in which the Ukrainians were a majority. They refused any steps toward the organization of a Ukrainian university and they did their best to limit the number of schools in which Ukrainian was used as the language of instruction. Again and again they initiated movements to close Ukrainian cultural, economic and even athletic organizations by arguing that they were merely being used for subversive activities.

During the early years after the War, the relations between Czechoslovakia and Poland were badly strained. The Czechs accused the Poles of inciting the Slovaks and in return they opened their own institutions to offer refuge to the Ukrainians from Eastern Galicia. There was established at Prague a Ukrainian Free University, a Ukrainian Historical and Philological Society, a Union of Ukrainian Physicians of Czechoslovakia, a Museum of Ukraine's Struggle for Liberation, and a Ukrainian Agricultural School at Podebrady. While these were ostensibly open to Ukrainians of all regions, they were for all intents and purposes largely catering to people from Eastern Galicia who had fled from Polish rule.

The Ukrainian cause was kept alive before the League of Nations and other international bodies by a continuous stream of protests against Polish atrocities against the Ukrainians. These reached their height in 1930, when the Polish army was sent into Ukrainian areas to pacify the population  p261 and the acts of repression and cruelties practiced upon the village populations increased. Ukrainian institutions of every kind were closed, concentration camps were established, and the country was on the verge of a real revolt. Again an appeal was taken to the League of Nations, and in 1931 the League decided after some hearings that there was no direct persecution but that many of the Polish officials were undoubtedly showing excessive zeal in carrying out their orders. It was the kind of decision that could not settle the situation and restore peace to the area, for the Poles still insisted that the Ukrainians were and of right ought to be loyal Polish subjects, even though they were refused any positions of authority in the Ukrainian areas and very few were admitted to the Polish University of Lviv.

Yet it must be remembered that all Ukrainian life was not stopped and controlled by the Polish government. Thus in 1929 they allowed the organization of a Ukrainian Scientific Institute in Warsaw in the hope that it would outshine the Shevchenko Scientific Society of Lviv, and that it would not develop the national and political consciousness that there would be in an organization in Lviv, where the entire historical tradition was permeated with the old struggle between the Ukrainians and the Poles.

There was no open attempt to destroy the various Ukrainian political parties which were able to elect members of the Diet. These parties represented all points of view, from conservatives to socialists, and their members had the same general treatment as members of the Polish parties. Yet their growth and functioning were hampered rather by administrative restrictions than by downright and open dissolution. There was no attempt to deny the Ukrainian character or traditions except in so far as the Poles argued that they were Polish citizens and therefore should develop Polish culture rather than their own national usages.

 p262  The Poles were obsessed with the idea that there might develop a strong movement for joining their brothers in the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. It is true that during the period of Ukrainization there did spring up a certain amount of reciprocity but this remained purely on an intellectual plane. Bad as conditions were in Poland, the Ukrainians showed no desire, except in the case of isolated Communists, to join their brothers and become their companions in misery. Communists were conspicuously absent in the Ukrainian organizations, for the iron veil which grew up around the boundaries of the Soviet Union had separated families and villages, and the few refugees who succeeded in crossing into Poland did not give encouraging pictures of life under the Soviets.

The Poles were even more suspicious of the Ukrainian Orthodox than they were of the Greek Catholics. They endeavored to form a Polish Orthodox Church but this remained either Russian or Ukrainian speaking and never was coordinated into an efficient whole, for it reflected the differences of the Orthodox in the different provinces. However, in 1938, in a tactless move the Poles seized over a hundred Orthodox Churches and closed them on the pretext that they had once been Uniat and that therefore they were not properly in Orthodox hands. Such an act, which drew the protest of Metropolitan Sheptitsky, only succeeded in antagonizing both the Uniats and the Orthodox against the Poles and in bringing the two religious groups closer together. It was another of the many mistakes that were made in the handling of the problem.

It goes without saying that the policy of avoiding a clear‑cut settlement of the Ukrainian question reacted badly on the general position of Poland, for it created the tendency among the Ukrainians to seek for foreign support. At first they found this in Czechoslovakia, which gave refuge to the anti-Polish forces among the Ukrainians. Later some factions  p263 tended to look toward Germany for refuge and help.

In 1934 some of the conservative Ukrainians made an attempt to "normalize" their relations with the Poles and to take a more active part in the life of the country. Again these attempts really came to nothing, for the Polish government used them as a sign of Ukrainian weakening and felt that they did not require mutual concessions. As a result the Ukrainians received little actual relief and this in turn only called out renewed terrorist attacks, renewed attempts at pacification and the closing of Ukrainian institutions.

Despite all of these bitter political feuds, the Ukrainian population, even during the years of depression, continued to solidify its position in the state. Its cooperative organizations increased in numbers, in capital and in member­ship. They became steadily more important and that progress that had been noted during the last years of Austria-Hungarian rule proceeded at an even more rapid tempo. The self-consciousness that had come to the Ukrainians through their attempt at independence made them more aware of their role and influence in the country and especially in their special areas than they had been before the War. Attempts to divide them into Ukrainians and Ruthenians on the ground of religious and economic differences fell upon sterile soil. By 1939 the Ukrainians of the West were in a much better position than they had been at any time in the past.

The situation in Western Ukraine aroused grave anxiety on the part of many sincere friends of Poland as the hour for the Second World War drew near. It presented many elements of danger to the Polish state and this danger was magnified by the policy that was adopted by every political party among the Poles. It seemed impossible for them to realize that conditions had changed with the abolition of serfdom. That same controversy which had broken  p264 out in the days when Galicia was still subject to Austria-Hungary continued as a mutual feud, especially in such areas as Lviv, where there was a large Polish as well as a Ukrainian population.

The Poles fanned the flame of discord by their policy of antagonism and by their inability to see the justice of any of the Ukrainian demands. The restored Polish republic continued on the fatal path of the seventeenth century by overemphasizing on the one hand a supposed desire of the Ukrainians to join the Soviet Union as they had joined Russia earlier, and on the other, by underestimating the strength of the entire Ukrainian movement. They turned their attention and gave their confidence only to those people who had been completely Polonized and they ignored the long and unbroken struggle for equal rights which the Ukrainians had been carrying on for centuries in the old Poland, under the rule of the conquerors and later. An isolated and non‑Communist Western Ukraine might have been brought into a Poland constructed on federal lines, but it could not feel happy as part of a unified state in which it was treated as inferior in every way and which was openly working for its complete absorption. After the failure of the Ukrainian Republic, the Poles regarded the question closed, and their very insistence upon this only intensified that opposition which they fought constantly and affected to ignore. As a result Western Ukraine remained as a sore in the body politic of Poland, instead of becoming an element of strength and just as in the past, so in the present, the feud worked out to the marked disadvantage of both sides.

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Page updated: 25 Apr 22