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Yevhen Shtendera:

Report on the Action on the Town of Hrubeshiv


This is the official report of the command of the UPA 28 Kholm Military District "Danyliv" about the joint night attack by Ukrainian UPA and Polish WiN units on the county town of Hrubeshiv during the night of May 27 to 28, 1946. The attack was suggested by the Polish side during talks between the WiN Zamo Inspectorate and the UPA 28 Kholm Military District in 1946. The general plan of the operation was established at a joint conference held on May 18, 1946, in the hamlet of Miake. The aim of the attack was political: to illustrate the cooperation between the Polish and Ukrainian liberation movements through a serious combat operation and renew the "brotherhood in arms." There were also some practical aims. The author gives a brief account of the Hrubeshiv action and subsequent skirmishes (May 28 and 29) with the enemy, who threw additional forces in pursuit of the UPA and WiN units.

The UPA units and SB combat groups gathered on May 26 in the Terebinka forest and celebrated Armament Day. Present at the celebration was the commander of the UPA 6 Zakerzon Military Region "Sian", Captain Myroslav Onyshkevych ("Orest", "Bilyi"). He met with the officers of the UPA 28 Military District to establish the general plan of the operation, then left. The Ukrainian forces in the town were to be commanded by First Lieutenant Yevhen Shtendera ("Prirva"), while Lieutenant Leonid Lapinskyi ("Zenon") was in charge of establishing a detailed plan of the operation with WiN. During the night, the UPA units moved to the Oborivtsi wood near Hoshcha, about 6 km from Hrubeshiv. At 12 noon, the WiN officers arrived to discuss the plan for the operation. The Polish officers were: Captain Stanis aw Ksi ek ("Wyrwa"), commander of the WiN Zamo Inspectorate; Captain Stefan Kwa niewski ("Wiktor"), commander of Hrubeshiv county; Lt. Henryk Lewczuk ("Mlot"), commander of the WiN company in Kholm county; and Lt. Czes aw Hajduk ("Sliepy"), commander of the WiN company in Hrubeshiv county. Present from the Ukrainian side were four UPA company commanders: First Lt. Petro Lahola ("Hromovyi", "Vovky 1" unit), Sergeant Major Yevhen Yashchuk ("Duda", "Vovky 2" unit), Sgt. Stepan Prystupa ("Davyd", "Vovky 3") and Sgt. Vasyl Kral ("Chavs", "Halaida 2" subunit). Also present were the UPA "diplomat" Teodor Harasymiak ("Dunaiskyi"), commanders of four SB combat groups and six members of the superraion SB, who were to supervise the combat groups.

The plan was risky but, surprisingly, proved successful. Our units were to slip into the town unnoticed, move onto seven of the enemy's defended installations and on the agreed signal (rocket fire), begin the attack. UPA subunits of 150 men, among them two rocket artillery groups, attacked the NKVD garrison, which had 214 soldiers in three buildings with defensive positions. The buildings were partly destroyed using German rocket artillery (35 kg weight). Most of the NKVD troops scattered around the town, but some jumped into trenches and began a fierce defense. WiN Lt. "Mlot" took and destroyed the UBP building, released 25 prisoners and destroyed all the records. Another WiN group, commanded by "Szczerbaty", took the PPR building and destroyed all the records. The SB combat group commanded by "Khoma" (22 soldiers) took the post office and removed various goods. However, the SB combat group commanded by "Ostap" (20 soldiers) was unable to take the building of the deportation commission, because, unexpectedly, they encountered strong resistance. Similarly, WiN did not take the MO headquarters and posts, in spite of attacking three times. The fighting lasted from 1:30 to 2:30 AM, when at the signal of a flare, the insurgents began to withdraw. Only the "Vovky 1" unit and the Polish unit commanded by "Mlot" had a skirmish with the WP on the Kholm bridge, because the unit assigned to guard the bridge, the SB combat group led by Yevhen Datsiuk "Bahrianyi"), had withdrawn too soon. In this skirmish, "Mlot's" WiN unit and the superraion SB fighting group commanded by Volodymyr Melnychuk ("Yasen") had some men killed and wounded.

Some other events were also worth noting. Quartered in barracks outside the town was the staff of a regiment of the WP, the Polish army, along with a noncommissioned officers' school and a WP battalion, 500 soldiers in all. The regimental staff had promised WiN that the WP would not help the NKVD. They kept their word. It should be noted that a member of the regimental staff was Lt. Wojcech Jaruzelski, the later dictator of Poland; thus, he was, at least indirectly, a "co-conspirator" of WiN and the UPA. Also interesting was the fact that NKVD regimental commander Medvedev received information in Lublin that the UPA had appeared in the Terebinka forest on May 26 and the Hrubeshiv NKVD and other auxiliary forces were supposed to move against the UPA on May 28 at 4 AM. In the meantime, a couple of hours earlier, the UPA attacked the Hrubeshiv garrison and scattered the NKVD forces to such an extent that they were not able to organize an effective pursuit.

The Ukrainians were to retreat through the village of Bohorodytsia to the Terebinka forest. The first to withdraw was the "Vovky 1" unit, which took positions on the northern edge of the forest. When the other three UPA subunits were crossing the road in the Metelyntsi wood, about 5 km from the Terebinka forest, they were overtaken by two NKVD vehicles, from which gun fire began. The UPA subunits did not stop, but firing all around, retreated to the forest, because the enemy had radio communications and could rapidly obtain reinforcements. As the UPA approached the forest, the enemy assistance arrived and they began a more energetic attack against the UPA units, overtaking them from the west. However, the "Vovky 1" unit, commanded by Petro Lahola ("Hromovyi"), was there and they destroyed the Soviet armoured car and stopped the encirclement. On the edge of the forest, the UPA units stopped and engaged in combat with the NKVD for almost two hours, until 6:30 AM. This action was intended to diminish the Soviet's arrogance and give the UPA soldiers a chance to rest. After this, the UPA units retreated, each in its own direction. Only the "Vovky 1" and "Vovky 2" units still had skirmishes with the WP the following day, on May 29. The others returned to their secret quarters without incident.

The SB combat groups arrived last in Bohorodytsia. Having heard gunfire in the Metelyntsi wood, they crossed the Huchva River and headed north into "Polish" territory. Only on the second night did they return to Ukrainian territory, the sizable Adelinka forest. After lunch they began manoeuvering because a large group of WP and Polish police forces were coming to raid the forest. The combat groups were commanded by Vsevolod Pshepiurskyi ("Ikar"). Along the way, they joined the "Vovky 2" subunit commanded by Yevhen Yashchuk ("Duda"). Near the village of Dibrova, they had several skirmishes with the KGB from Gdynia and, in late afternoon, near Vyshniv, with the KBW from Lublin. In both cases, they called out to the enemy, pretending they were "their own", and then surprised them with massive fire and rocket fire by Sgt. Major Hryts Rudenko ("Sushko"). Later, under cover of darkness, they return to their usual quarters.

Issue 4,    Autumn 2000    Litopys
Published by Forum for the Studies of the History of the UPA
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