Altogether, approximately 200 Ukrainian fighters, and the same number of Polish troops were to take part in the operation. Because, in Hrubieszów itself, the Poles would have only approximately 100 men, what trickled into the literature, is that more Ukrainians than Poles were involved in the operation.
On May 26, 1946, its agents, “Korzen” and “Samostij”, informed the NKVD that 120 UPA fighters were spotted in the Terebin forests. On the same day, the commander of the 98th Regiment, 64th NKVD division, Colonel Medvedev, sent 65 soldiers from the Petty Officers' School, and an additional 40 men of the 3rd Battalion of the 18th Regiment, to begin their “clean-up” operation on the 28th. Despite the fact, that the Soviet 18th Regiment Troops didn’t arrive in town on time (they stayed overnight in the Alojzów colony), altogether, however, the Soviets had 214 men at their disposal. It was still 60 men more than the earlier intelligence suggested.
On May 27, 1946 around midnight, the partisan units crossed the bridge from the direction of Sławęcin. The Ukrainian team, whose task was to overtake the Resettlement Commission, separated from the main taskforce, and took up positions. The remaining units, crossed the Chełmski Bridge and entered the city. It is at this point that they had separated. The UPA units, heading towards the NKVD headquarters, and “Młot’s” formation, turned onto the Ulica Partyzantów (Eng. Partisans’ Street), and reached their position, at a distance of 40 meters from the NKVD garrison, and around 30 meters from the NKVD headquarters. Once there, a rocket propelled launcher, and a number of small-caliber grenade launchers were readied. The second rocket launcher was deployed on the roof of the co-operative “Społem” warehouse; it was manned by few of “Młot’s” soldiers, who were to open up on the upper floors of the Polish secret police building.
The assault didn’t begin as planned at 1:30, as the Ukrainians had problems with launching their rockets. The first launched “torpedo” hit neither the NKVD headquarters, nor the garrison, and triggered a fierce machine gun exchange. The NKVD soldiers took up the fight, and a long exchange of fire ensued. According to the UPA reports, two “zvena torpedove” (Eng. torpedo teams) launched six missiles, four of which, hit their targets. The partisans’ fire had silenced one of the two Soviet heavy machine gun positions (two others didn’t fire at all, probably due to the panic that ensued among some Soviets); those escaping from the PUBP building were fired upon. After the one-and-a-half hour engagement, two of the Ukrainian Sotnias began to disengage.
A few moments after the assault on the NKVD garrison began, two “torpedos” were launched into the UBP building. The first one missed its target, but the second one scored direct into the office of the UB chief. At the same time, and simultaneously, from the direction of the cinema building, and from the roof of the warehouse, the partisans covered the upper floors of the building with machine gun crossfire (the prisoners’ cells were in the cellars).
A 1.5 meter-high wall with barbed wire atop surrounded the UB headquarters. To get through, “Młot” used blankets and coats; after eliminating the guard who was shooting at them, and they rushed into the building. Stefan Winiarczyk, one of the “Młot”’s soldiers, remembers that a young girl ran down the stairs, and unfortunately, was killed. They thought that only UB-men were upstairs. Miss. Nieborak, nom de guerre “Flores” was a sister of one WiN’s members. She was a paramedic who was earlier captured by the secret police, and brought-in for an interrogation at night. Immediately after that, the partisans ran upstairs, and Roman Kaszewski, nom de guerre “ Zdybek” took out four UB-men; the rest of them fled outside, and hid in the vicinity. When the building was secured, they began to free the prisoners. Because the UB prison elderly, Władysław Wasilczuk, was WiN’s secret supporter, everything went very smoothly. Altogether, 20 prisoners, among them 5 Ukrainians were freed. In addition to the medic “Floresa”, one more prisoner died as well under unknown circumstances.
Throughout the entire operation, Lt. Henryk Lewczuk’s “Młot”’s unit was accompanied by Lt. Kazimierz Witrylak, nom(s) de guerre "Hel", "Druk", who commanded the entire Polish taskforce.
Above: Władzin Village (in Uchanie Municipality, Hrubieszów County); beginning of August 1946, few moments before the partisans met with British journalist, W.D. Selby. Standing from left are: Lucjan Kisiel, nom de guerre “Lutek”, Roman Kaszewski, “Zdybek”, Roman Koccęmirowski, “Jar”, Mieczysław Hawryluk, “Syrena”, Czesław Skiba, “Granit”, NN (pol. abbr. Unknown and Unidentified – Nieznany i Niezidentifikowany) soldier, nom de guerre “Błysk”, Ryszard Gałecki, “Grom”, Eugeniusz Kulik, “Wicher”, Bogdan Sołdun, “Majtek”, NN soldier, nom de guerre “Poruta”, Czesław Jarosz, “Hiena”, Leon Piekut, “„Orzeł”, Lieuenant Mieczyslaw Niedzielski, “Grot” (Lewczuk’s deputy officer), Piotr Lichaczewski, “Piter”, Janusz Flach, “Pazur”, Roman Matejski, “„Skała”, Jan Fic, “Ryś”. Kneeling from left are: NN, “„Słodki”, NN, “Zdziebko”, NN soldier, “Miś”, Jerzy Śliwiński, “Śliwa”, Jan Madejski, “Szabla”, Jerzy Baran, “Poreba”. At the bottom, from left are: Lieutenant Henryk Lewczuk, nom de guerre “Młot” (the unit’s commander), and Mieczyslaw Patkowski, nom de guerre “Gruby”.
After one o’clock, the People's Militia (abbr. MO) station was attacked. While the WiN soldiers managed to enter the building, the militiamen opened fire, and shortly thereafter, were reinforced by others shooting from the upstairs. In the end, the partisans secured the ground floor, but after grenades were thrown at them from the upstairs, they were forced to withdraw. Soon after, another assault began, and the situation repeated itself - the partisans took the ground floor, the Communist militiamen threw their grenades, and forced the partisans to withdraw once again. During the third attack, UPA fighters reinforced the WiN unit. After the militiamen ran out of grenades, the partisans began to finally make their way upstairs. Under these circumstances, the head of the militia station ordered his men to counterattack (this is the only existing written report of the MO commandant Stanisław Rząd), and forced the partisans to withdraw. The County Command of the People’s Militia was not taken.
At the same time, and according with the earlier plan, the unit of Lt. Hajduk, nom de guerre “Ślepy”, surrounded the Szturmówka buiding on Górna Street, opened fire on the windows and doors of the building, preventing anyone from exiting.
The Ukrainian Internal Security team carried out two unsuccessful assaults on the Resettlement Commission. The intelligence provided by the Poles, and indicating that the Communists are equipped only with side arms, was inaccurate. In reality, the guards at the Commission's building, were well armed with automatic machine guns. The partisans managed to take and destroy the post office.
The operation was gradually coming to end, and the withdrawal of the partisan units began. The Poles headed towards Sławęcin, where in the meadows, horses and carriages awaited to transport them as far as the remote village Glinisko. The Communist pursuit didn’t detect them. The Ukrainians, on the other hand, headed into the direction of the Tereiński Forest, and were pursued by the NKVD.
After 1:00 o’clock, the 5th Regiment of the Communist People’s Army, was put on alert. But, due to the lack of communications, and total chaos as to the target of the partisan attack, it was decided not engage them, but rather, to take up defensive positions around the garrison. Only at 2:00 o’clock, one platoon of 25 officer-cadets, under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Marian Fleming, was ordered to head towards the location of the battle. It is noteworthy, that on that very day, Lieutenant Wojciech Jaruzelski [sic!] a reconnaissance aid to the Regiment’s Chief of Staff accompanied Fleming on that operation. The Communist soldiers were slowly, and fearfully heading towards the sounds of gun fire, exploding grenades, bursts of machine gun fire, and the smoke from a huge fire that erupted in the town’s centre. The County Office of Public Security (abbr. PUBP – Polish secret police) was ablaze.
At 3:30, realizing that the UPA units retreated, Major Sokolov [of the Soviet NKVD] dispatched one reconnaissance armored vehicle commanded by Lieutenant Soloviov, followed by an armored personnel carrier of the Polish Communists People’s Army, and a cavalry unit. When they reached the bridge, they noticed the partisans and instantly opened fire. Few WiN soldiers who didn’t manage to cross the river took cover behind the bales laying alongside the bridge. When the vehicles approached, they opened fire and threw grenades. Because of the chaos that resulted from the explosions, the partisans managed to “jump over” the bridge. Lieutenant Soloviov, who commanded the armored vehicle, was wounded.
Above: Hrubieszów 1946. Officers of the 5th Infantry Regiment; who have pursued the partisans after their assault on Hrubieszów on the night of 27/28 May, 1946. Standing first from left, is Lieutenant Wojciech Jaruzelski, already then honing his skills in shooting at his countrymen. Standing on the right, are Communist People’s Army officers, Lieutenant Pietrykowski, and Captain Kotwicki.
At 7:00 AM, the NKVD finally managed to collect itself from their state of shock, and dispatched its reconnaissance-pursuit teams towards Chełm, Zamość and Sławęcin. Already at 7.30 AM, while moving towards Zamość, a group of 30 NKVD soldiers from the 9th Company lead by Lieutenant Andreevskyi, made visual contact with the UPA units. Since the Soviet formation was too weak to destroy the Ukrainian units on its own, the Russians decided to follow them. In order to reinforce them, 44 Soviets from Lieutenant Ivanov’s unit, including a small number of Polish soldiers, and Major Sokolow in an armored vehicle, combined their forces. At approximately 9:00 AM, a short distance from Metelin, the Soviets began their operation against the withdrawing Ukrainian forces. Taking up defensive positions along the edge of the forest, they welcomed the approaching Soviets with a barrage of machine gun fire. Under heavy machine gun fire, the Communist pursuit force retreated, and didn’t make any moves until 1400 hours. Only after 1400 hours, when the reinforcements consisting of the Officer Cadets’ Platoon, Cavalry Platoon, MO and WP (Polish Communist People’s Army), supported by 100 NKVD troops from the 3rd Battalion, the 18th Regiment of the NKVD, arrived, and the operation against the Ukrainian partisans began. It wasn’t successful, by any stretch of imagination. A similar fiasco befell another Communist pursuit group between May 29th, and June 2nd. According to Ukrainian documents, only sporadic skirmishes took place, and those were won by the UPA partisans.
The losses suffered by the anti-Communist fighters who took part in the assault on Hrubieszów were relatively small. During the assault itself, only three Ukrainians were killed, while three others were wounded during the retreat. With an exception of accidental shooting of the paramedic “Flores”, the Polish WiN partisans didn’t suffer any losses. If we are to trust the “sanitized” official Communist reports, the NKVD lost ten men, the Polish Border Guard Forces lost five, the Polish Workers’ Party and the Secret police detachment lost two men.
The partisans managed to take control of the UB and the PPR files, vandalized the Polish Workers’ Party buildings, the County’s City Hall, and the UB building. For the time being, the partisans undermined the conduct of terror activities within the County. The Resettlement Commission, however, was not taken over during the assault and remained under the Communist’s control; it was a serious failure, as it was one of priorities of the Ukrainian partisans.
The joint WiN and UPA military operation in Hrubieszów became a source embarrassment for the Communist “people’s government”, in particular, because it was perceived, at the time as being only a prelude to the main assault, that was yet to come. It resulted in a considerable panic among the Communists, and all official field-trips were reduced to bare minimum. The Communists dug trenches and surrounded the militia building with barbed wire. Its staff was allowed to work only during the day, while at night they manned the trenches. A similar mood was observed in Tomaszów Lubelski, where a stationed NKVD battalion postponed its operations, and began to organize defense systems around its headquarters. At the same time, in its reports to the WUBP [District Headquarters of the secret police], that “The Internal Security Corps left the County, motivating it with the fact that they didn’t have sufficient provisions, and there isn’t enough of them to effectively conduct operations."
About the author: Grzegorz Makus is a Polish historian, and author of Poland's most informative website dedicated to the history of the Doomed Soldiers, the "Żołnierze Wyklęci - Zapomniani Bohaterowie"
Translated by Maksymilian Fojtuch, with additional editing by Jan Czarniecki.
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