Anti-Communist Resistance In the South-Eastern Borderlands After 1944 – Kresy południowo-wschodnie po roku 1944
A Historical Brief:
At the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944, according to reports, there were 30,000 soldiers of the Home Army in the Southeastern Region III, including the eastern part of Lwów voivodeship, as well as Stanisławów and Tarnopol voivodeships: 15,000 in Lwów Province, over 10,000 in Tarnopol Province and 4,000 in Stanisławów Province. Between March and July 1944, poor weaponry of the Region was strengthened thanks to provisions from the Headquarters of the Home Army and the collection of 24 airdrops, which enabled the construction of 18-20 partisan companies just in Lwów Province alone. As part of the alliance, the Home Army was joined by the units of NOW (Pol. Narodowa Organizacja Wojskowa - National Military Organization), KN (Pol. Konfederacja Narodu - Confederation of the Nation), a part of NSZ (Pol. Narodowe Siły Zbrojne - National Armed Forces), BCh (Pol. Bataliony Chłopskie - Peasants' Battalions) and SOB (Pol. Socjalistyczna Organizacja Bojowa - Socialist Combat Organisation).
From March 1944, Soviet troops began to enter the Region, and in mid-April the front stabilized along the river Strypa in Tarnopol Province and the northeastern part of Stanisławów Province. Earlier, from February 1944, UPA (Ukr. Українська Повстанська Армія – Ukrainian Insurgent Army) launched attacks on poorly defended Polish villages in the whole Region as far as Lwów. As a result of the total destruction of many villages and forced conscription into the Soviet military immediately after entering the area, the Home Army units managed to remain only in the western part of Tarnopol Provice, in Lwów Province from Lwów to Przemyśl, in Stanisławów Province, in the Oil Basin, in the Sambor region, as well as in the region of Stryj and Nadwórna. These regions still remained under German occupation and were the only ones included in the Operation Tempest (Pol. Akcja Burza) in July 1944. However, the operation was not conducted as intended: the Home Army forces took joint action with the Soviet troops, among others, in the conquest of Lwów and eradicating the last German troops in the area.
Initially the relations between the Home Army and the Soviet command were good; however, the Soviets soon demanded disarmament of the Home Army and when on 31 July 1944, at their invitation, the Region Commander Col. Władysław Jakub Filipkowski nom(s) de querre “Cis” and “Janka” [at the time of the talks with the Soviets the Headquarters of the Home Army allowed him to use the rank of generał brygady (Major General) to raise his prestige] and a few officers went to Żytomierz, the department of the Soviet counter-intelligence SMERSH (Rus. abbr. СМЕРШ - СМЕРть Шпионам) started treacherous arrests of the Home Army soldiers.
Left: Col. [titular Major General] Władysław Jakub Filipkowski noms de querre “Cis” and “Janka”. Professional officer of the Polish Army. In the 1939 Defensive War, he was the last commander of the independent unit fighting until 2 October; captured by the Soviets, but managed to escape. From 1940 to July 1943, he worked as an Inspector of the Home Army Headquarters for Lwów Province. From 1 August 1943 to 31 July 1944, he was the Region Commander. Leading the Home Army delegation, he went into talks with general “Michał Rola-Żymierski” [proper name Artur Łyżwiński, an NKVD agent] in Żytomierz, where he was treacherously arrested on the night of 2/3 August 1944. He was held in Kiev; then in counter-intelligence prison camps of the 1st Ukrainian Front and in internment camps in Kharkov, Ryazan, Gyagilev, Gryazovets and Brest, until the beginning of November 1947. He died in 1950.
On the night of 2/3 August 1944 in Żytomierz, Gen. “Janka” ’s unit was also arrested. Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces Gen. Kazimierz Sosnkowski, as well as the Commander of the Home Army, Gen. Tadeusz “Bór” Komorowski, considered the possibility that diplomatic relations with USSR would not have been established by the time the Soviet troops entered Poland, and reaching the end of 1943, they considered the need to form a new secret organization whose separate command structure would remain hidden during the ‘Operation Tempest’.
Lt. Col. Feliks Janson, the former Chief of Staff in the Region’s Headquarters, was appointed Commander of Region III. He did not disclose his identity during the ‘Operation Tempest’, and upon taking command of the Region III Headquarters he used a nom de guerre “Rajgras”. ”
Niepodległość” (Independence) (NIE)
The new organisation was called “Niepodległość” (Independence) (NIE). At the beginning of August 1944, Lt. Col. Feliks Janson nom de querre “Carmen” – still the Chief of Staff – ordered withdrawal of the staff structure at the Home Army Headquarters, which had already been reduced due to, among other causes, the arrest of the intelligence chief [Lt. Col. Henryk Pohoski] and the counter-intelligence chief [2nd Lt. Jerzy Polaczek]. Underground magazines stopped being published. Only the Province Government Delegate’s Office published a daily newspaper (copied) until the beginning of 1945. Until mid-1945, there was still radio communication with London; 2nd Lt. Julian Stefan Wiktor nom de querre “Adam” was appointed the Chief of Operational Communications, and 2nd Lt. Roman Wiszniowski nom de querre “Joasia” – the Chief of the Radio department.
Left: Col. Franciszek Studziński nom de querre “Kotlina”, professional officer of the Polish Army. At the end of September and the beginning of October 1939, he went to Hungary where he was interned and then gained employment in the institution of officer redeployment. He was arrested whilst trying to return to the country; he escaped from a penal camp in Hungary. From August 1941, he was in the ZWZ (Pol. Związek Walki Zbrojnej - Association for Armed Struggle) – AK (the Home Army). At the end of 1941, he assumed the post of Tarnopol Province Commander of the Home Army. He increased the number of soldiers in the Province to 11,000. From March 1944 when the majority of the Province was under Soviet occupation, he was in Lwów, and on 1 July he was appointed the Region’s Deputy Commander. On 31 July 1944 he went into talks with the Soviets in Żytomierz with Col. “Janka”. He was treacherously arrested and held in Soviet forced-labour camps. He died in 1964.
The command of Lwów Province, after Lt. Col. Stefan Czerwiński nom de guerre “Karabin” left to Żytomierz, was taken by his deputy Lt. Col. Franciszek Rekucki nom de guerre “Bak”, who assumed a pseudonym “Topór” in the NIE organisation and Maj. Bolesław Tomaszewski nom the guerre “Warta” was appointed the Chief of Staff after the arrested predecessor.
They were both known to Soviet counter-intelligence, thus with Lt. Col. Janson’s approval, they went to the Rzeszów Region at the end of August, where they moved the centre of command for the Province’s partisan companies, which were transferring onto this region in large numbers. Formally, they both kept their positions, so Maj. Anatol Sawicki nom de guerre “Młot”, the former Commander of Bóbrka Inspectorate, was appointed acting Commander and Maj. Alfons Jabłoński nom the guerre “Radca” was appointed acting Chief of Staff. Staff structure also changed and now consisted of three departments. Lwów was organised into four quarters [formerly five], and outside of Lwów two Inspectorates were set up [Bóbrka and Gródek Jagielloński]. Until 1944, BiP (Pol. Biuro Informacji i Propagandy - Bureau of Information and Propaganda) published a weekly “Lwowski Informator” (Lwów Guide) in the form of type scripts. Commander Capt. Dr. Władysław Herman nom(s) de guerre “Globus”, “Kudak” from the composition of Stanisławów Province NIE Command, was active until his arrest in February 1945, as well as initially three Inspectorates: Stryj, Kołomyja and the most powerful Drohobycz, and particularly Sambor Province. For a short period of time, and intermittently, four magazines were published in Lwów, Drohobycz and Sambor.
Left: Lt. Col. Anatol Sawicki noms de guerre “Młot”, “Cybulski”, “Kowalski”, professional officer of the Polish Army. In the 1939 Defensive War, he was the commander of an artillery battalion. He escaped German captivity and hid in Krasnystaw County where, in mid-February, he joined underground activity. From May 1941 for a year he was the Commander of Krasnystaw District of ZWZ (Pol. Związek Walki Zbrojnej - Association for Armed Struggle) – AK (the Home Army), and then until September 1942, the Commander of the Home Army Chełm District and Inspectorate. Facing arrest, he escaped to Lwów at the end of 1943 where, from January 1943 until August 1944, he was the Commander of the Bóbrka Inspectorate increasing the number of soldiers, including the partisan companies, to 2,600. In the ‘Operation Tempest’ he led two companies. In NIE, he was an acting Commander of Lwów Province. In December 1945, he went to Silesia and, from the beginning of 1946, he was organizing an Extraterritorial Lwów District of WiN (Pol. Wolność i Niezawisłość - Freedom and Independence). He was the Commander there until his arrest on 16 March 1948. He died on 8 August 1948 after being tortured during an interrogation in the prison on Sądowa Street, Wrocław, or, according to a different account – was thrown out of the window.
Although the Headquarters of NIE in Tarnopol Province survived until the end of 1945, there is not much information about it. The Commanders there were Maj. Bronisław Zawadzki nom de guerre “Soroka” until his arrest in December 1944, and then Capt. Bronisław Żeglin nom de guerre “Ordon”. Three magazines were published in 1945. Unfortunately, not a single copy has survived to the present day.
NOW - Narodowa Organizacja Wojskowa (National Military Organization)
NOW - Narodowa Organizacja Wojskowa (National Military Organization), existing as part of NIE, was, after the ‘Operation Tempest’, a highly autonomous organization, although the Commander of Eastern Lesser Poland Province, Lieut. Bernard Grzywacz nom de guerre “Marek”, was a director of the organizational department in the centre of NIE Lwów Province. The centre of NOW District Command had ceased to exist, as it had been defeated through arrests at the end of May 1943. The only person who escaped the arrest was the propaganda director of the centre Zbigniew Nowosad, who just after the ‘Operation Tempest’ went to Jarosław on assignment to get in touch with the central management of SN (Pol. Stronnictwo Narodowe – National Party) and NOW. Jerzy Wojdyła nom de guerre “Górniak” took his place in Lwów. He managed to reconstruct active structures of the department, and initiated the continuation of the periodical SN-NOW “Słowo Polskie” (The Polish Word). A satirical magazine, “Sowizdrzał” was published intermittently and at the beginning of 1945 - “Żołnierz Wielkiej Polski” (The Soldier of Great Poland).
At the end of January 1945, a group of NOW soldiers led by Lt. B. Grzywacz nom de guerre “Marek”, financially lacking resources for the needs of the organization, performed a successful operation on the shop “Gastronom” in Lwów, but amongst its participants was an NKVD agent and everyone was arrested. At the beginning of March 1945, NOW suffered a severe loss, as the Soviets surrounded a partisan company near Brzozdowce, south of Lwów. Nearly everyone died in the battle, two soldiers were captured and only one managed to escape, and survived.
NSZ (pol. Narodowe Siły Zbrojne - National Armed Forces)
NSZ (Pol. Narodowe Siły Zbrojne - National Armed Forces). Most of the soldiers from XIV Southeastern Province of NSZ joined the Home Army in May 1943. There is no information about the actions of the others including their Commander, Lieut.Maj. Wojciech Stefankiewicz nom de guerre “Gromski”.
KON (pol. Konwent Organizacji Niepodległościowych - Convention of Independence Organizations)
Among other military organizations, a vestigial group of KON was active in Lwów under the “second” Soviet occupation. Its commander was Lt. Col. Jan Sokołowski nom de guerre “Trzaska”, and the group remained outside the Home Army. However, he left Lwów quickly and the group itself did not show any signs of activity, but for publishing “Komunikat” (Announcement) twice a week until mid-1945, edited by Jadwiga Tokarzewska nom de guerre “Teresa”.
The soldiers of KON, like NSZ, did not participate in the ‘Operation Tempest’. Since the Soviets had entered Eastern Lesser Poland, the Soviet counter-intelligence (SMERSH) and NKVD started to track the Home Army-NIE soldiers with support from spy networks. After short “trials”, they were sent to camps deep in the USSR. From 31 July 1944 to the end of 1945, the counter-intelligence arrested ca. 130 officers, NIE and Home Army soldiers, almost everyone in Lwów, including the commanders who were arrested in Żytomierz. They were put into forced labor camps in Kharkov (Ukr./Russ. Харків or Харьков), Ryazan (Russ. Ряза́н), Diaghilev (Russ. Дя́гилев), and other smaller camps where they remained until 1947-1948. Lt. Col. H. Pohoroski and the Deputy Commander of the partisan companies of 14th Home Army regiment, Capt. Dragan Sotirović nom de guerre “Draży”, who was a Serb, both managed to escape from this 130-person group.
Among the prisoners, those from Lwów were a majority. Later, some of the Lwów soldiers, captured mainly in the Rzeszów Region, were also put into camps in Borowicze and Stalinogorsk (Russ. Сталиного́рск). Parallel to this [from 31 July 1944 to the end of 1948] the NKVD arrested NIE-the Home Army soldiers in the whole of Region III; in February 1945 the Region Commander, Lt. Col. Feliks Janson was arrested and his position taken by Lt. Col. Jan Władysław Władyka. The arrested were often tried in large groups [up to 40 people] by NKVD War Tribunals [or the NKVD Railway Department] mainly in Lwów, Drohobycz and Czortków (Ukr. Чортків), but also in other places. The first collective trial of this kind took place on 21 January 1945 and concerned 20 members of the Province Government Delegate’s Office. Others, including a trial of a group of around a dozen soldiers of Kedyw from Lwów Province, took place on 20 August 1945. 40 people from Sambor were tried in Lwów on 23 August and on 22 September, 30 arrested people in two groups faced the NKVD Tribunal, due to the discovery near Lwów in June 1945 of a radio station that belonged to the Region’s Command. The others were tried in smaller groups. Some were judged by default and the decision was made by the so called “troika” [“three judges” or “triumvirate” set up in the years of Great Purge 1937-1938, Special Council of the USSR NKVD “Osoboje Sovieshtshanye”]. The sentences were between 6 and 10 years of detention-labor camps for women and minors [Isprawitelno-Trudowoj lagier] and 20 years, later 25 years, of penal servitude for men. Death sentences were also pronounced, however, they were almost always changed into penal servitude.
Only two executions are known to have occurred; both were NIE soldiers from Lwów. A large number of the condemned was released in the years of 1947-1948 [mainly women], but many remained in the camps until 1955 and longer. From mid-May 1945 Soviet prosecutors commenced talks aimed to select those prisoners accused of participation in actions of the Home Army who would be suitable witnesses in the “Trial of the Sixteen” which was in preparation, and would include Gen. Leopold Okulicki nom de guerre “Niedźwiadek”. On 25 May 1945, around a dozen people were transported to Moscow to Lubyanka (Russ. Лубянка) and Butirka (Russ. Бypmка) prison where the “work” on them began. Its aim was to prepare them for testifying against the leaders of the Polish Underground State. Five officers from Region III were forced, by means of torture, to give false testimonies. Those who participated in the trial received “low” sentences: Lt. Col. Feliks Janson – 5 years, Capt. Władysław Herman and the Commander of Stryj Inspectorate, Capt. Zdzisław Kuźmiński nom de guerre “Pacak” – each 3 years, but they were released after 1 year. However, those who had refused to “play” the roles imposed on them by the NKVD, received very high sentences, including the death sentence [Lieut. Bernard Grzywacz nom de guerre “Marek”]. All the sentenced in Lwów were kept in a transition camp [“pieresylka"] on Peltvna Steet before they were taken to forced-labor camps.
In the spring and summer, the Home Army underground structures started to prepare a mass escape from this camp through sewers. Hideouts and documents were prepared in the city. The escape took place on 14 November 1945. 16-18 random prisoners managed to escape. The last one got stuck in a drain manhole to the sewer and was taken by surprise by the attendant. Three days later, three more prisoners taken to work in the city managed to escape, also through sewers. In January 1945 in Lwów, and a little later in Drohobytsh County, Sambor County and Gródek County, the NKVD carried out mass arrests as part of “state verification” [“gsproverka”] according to the lists which had been prepared earlier. This was a review of political loyalty of people who survived Nazi German occupation. In this large group there were NIE-the Home Army soldiers. There was no evidence against them, only suspicion of underground activity. A few thousand people suspected of “disloyalty” were taken to a testing-monitoring camp [Proverotshno-Filtracyonny lagier] in Krasnodon and the arrested near Lwów – to Kamieńsk and Szachty in Donbas. These were the hardest of all the camps; hard work in primitive and wet bituminous coal mines, along with simultaneous investigations, resulted in the death of up to 20% of the prisoners from disease or accident in less than six months – this was an approximate percentage loss of prisoners who spent 10 years in prison.
The arrests of the former NIE-the Home Army soldiers from Region III. also took place after they had returned to Poland. Some of them were handed over to the Soviet authorities and tried in the USSR. Polish society, particularly country dwellers including NIE soldiers, also suffered losses because of UPA assaults (Ukr. Українська Повстанська Армія - Ukrainian Insurgent Army). During the so called “Second Soviet Occupation”, the villages in Tarnopol voivodeship suffered most, particularly in the first months of 1945. Young men were inducted into “People's” Polish Army, whereas the Ukrainians fled into the ranks of UPA to avoid enlistment into the Red Army. As a result, Polish villages were left almost unprotected and UPA – reinforced. In February 1945 over 1,000 Polish people were cruelly murdered, and over 50 villages burnt down in the Tarnopol Region alone. However, as early as January 1945, Polish dwellers of this area started to organize civil defense units. It is true that on 16 January 74 people were killed and 60 were injured in Latacz in Borszczów county, but the Ukrainian invaders also suffered serious losses. Further defensive battles took place in February. On the night of 5/6 February, approximately 100 were killed and 100 injured on the Polish side, in the defense of the village centre as a result of a 600-people UPA troop attack in Barysz (Buczacz county); several dozen Ukrainians also died. Simultaneously, an 800-men strong UPA unit attacked Czerwonogród in Zaleszczyki county. The battle lasted 10 hours. The Polish side organized by NIE company commander Bronisław Stachurski, lost 48 soldiers and 24 were injured, but UPA’s losses were 100 killed and injured. At the same time, Hleszczawa in Trembowla county was attacked by UPA units of 500 men; 48 died and 36 were injured, but 20 attackers were also killed, and the Ukrainians supporting the Poles were also killed. In Boryczówka, in the same county, the battle also lasted about 10 hours. The Poles were supported by Soviet units. Młyniska in Trembowla county, where civil defense was well-organized, was attacked by a 600-people UPA troop equipped with heavy machine guns. The Poles lost 70 people and 100 were injured, and the Ukrainians lost about 50-60. 5 Catholic priests were also killed in those attacks. The Poles were subject to sophisticated and cruel tortures before their death. Children were nailed to walls of houses that had been set on fire [Eleonorówka, Skałat county], the adults were tied and thrown alive into wells [Ostapie, the same county]. In Byczkowice (Czortków county) young Ukrainian women participated in the attack and dug eyes with sickles, cut off noses, ears, etc. Defending themselves against UPA, the Poles joined the so called “istrebitel'nyi battalions” (destruction battalions) which, although led by Soviet officers, provided weaponry for battles; those battalions participated in defending many Polish villages.
Left: Maj. Witold Paweł Szredzki noms de guerre “Sulima”, “Sum”, professional officer of the Polish Army, participated in the 1939 Defensive War. On 19 September he was captured by the Soviets; he then escaped to Hungary, and at the end of the year returned to Lwów. In ZWZ (Pol. Związek Walki Zbrojnej - Association of Armed Struggle) he took command of a sector. From May 1942 he was the head of the Home Army counter-intelligence in Lwów Province, and from 1 October 1942 he was in the counter-intelligence of the Region Command and the Home Army Lwów Province intelligence. In September 1943, he was the commander of Gródek Jagielloński Inspectorate. During the ‘Operation Tempest’, he was the leader of the group “San”. In August 1944 he took the group beyond the river San, and then on 16 August, in response to summons from the Home Army Commander, set off to the relief of Warsaw. After being surrounded by Soviet units, he managed to escape, and after reporting to the “Warta” units command, he took command of the “C” battalion. From 1 April 1945, he worked as an organizational reporter in the command of the units. After the Home Army was dissolved in WiN Lwów Province, he was the Commander of the Jelenia Góra Region until 10 October 1945, and then of the Żary Region, until he was arrested on 1 June 1946. He was sentenced by WSR (Pol. Wojskowy Sąd Rejonowy – Regional Military Court) in Wrocław to the death sentence, which was then changed into 15 years’ imprisonment. He was released on 1 May 1956.
The following partisan companies, which in mid-August came from the Home Army Lwów Province beyond the river San: of Capt. Zenon Kubski nom de guerre “Lech” and of Lieut. Tomasz Matyszewski nom the guerre “Ćwikła” from the group in Mościska as well as the 1st Sambor company of WO Adam Ekiert nom de guerre “Pogarda”, under the general command of Capt. Witold Szredzki nom de guerre “Sulima” - 200-300 soldiers altogether, set off on 16 August 1944 to the relief of insurrectionary Warsaw, as an answer to “Bór”- Komorowski’s summons. However, those troops reached only as far as Sarzyna and Rudnik nad Sanem where they were surrounded by Soviet troops, which demanded them to surrender. Most of the solders managed to escape with weapons, but the officers from the 6th company of the Home Army’s 26th infantry regiment, as well as WO Adam Ekiert, were arrested and then confined. Separately, a group of 2nd Lt. Mieczysław Szymański nom de guerre “Paproć” set off from Mościska and reached as far as Kock. 1st company of the Home Army’s 26th infantry regiment of Lieut. Józef Biss, nom de guerre “Wacław” from Lwów, learnt about the fall of the Warsaw Uprising while near Lublin and went back to the Rzeszów Region. Meanwhile, in the first days of September 1944, Lt. Col. Franciszek Rekucki nom de guerre “Topór”, the commander of NIE Lwów Province and well as Maj. Bolesław Tomaszewski nom de guerre “Warta”, the Province Chief of Staff, arrived from Łódź to Jarosław, and in agreement with the Region Commander Lt. Col. Feliks Janson nom de guerre “Carmen”, started to organize a group of Lwów partisan companies “Warta” in Rzeszów Region.
Four battalions were formed: - “A” battalion – Lieut. Ludwik Kurtycza nom de guerre “Mazurkiewicz”, previously the Commander of Mościska District; - “B” Battalion – Capt. Julian Bistroń nom de guerre “Godziemba”, the Commander of the Lubaczów District [“L”]; - “C” battalion – Capt. Witold Szredzki nom de guerre “Sulima”; - “D” Battalion – cavalry Capt. Włodzimierz Białoszewicz nom the guerre “Dana”.
Continue to Part 2