3. In the Commandantura of Kharkiv

On our way to Slavyansk we were informed that there had been a coup-d'etat in Kiev: with German help, the Congress of Landowners elected General Pavlo Skoropadsky to the office of Hetman of all Ukraine. Within the Zaporozhian Corps, which wished to follow the old tradition of the Zaporozhian Cossacks and generally had democratic leanings, the opinion on the change of Government was divided. Part of the Corps was opposed to the Hetmanate and Col. Petriv was its chief spokesman, while another part believed that the Hetman, being an old soldier, would preserve order in Ukraine. This was imperative in Ukraine at that time due to the Bolshevik threat and it would also be beneficial to curb the overly individualistic Ukrainians. It was also hoped that the Hetman would be capable of dealing with the Germans who had begun to behave like conquerors in Ukraine, and not like allies.
There being no immediate prospects of action for my armored train and mobile artillery, I decided to take a furlough and visit my family in Kharkiv. On arrival in Kharkiv I registered in the local Commandantura. There, I made the acquaintance of chief of the Commandantura office Captain Borys V. Homzyn, a man of high intelligence and culture and, as I was to find out later, a descendant of a noble Ukrainian family.
I asked him whether I could perhaps be assigned to the Commandantura, in view of the fact that fighting operations were finished. After consulting the chief of the inspection department. Captain of Cavalry M. Dobrzanski (formerly of the 29th Regiment of Dragoons. I met him again later when he was a Lieut. Colonel in the Polish Cavalry Officers' School), Captain Homzyn went to the Commandant, Colonel Anisimov, and the latter assigned me to the Commandantura, with proper notification to the staff of the Zaporozhian Corps.
During the time that I worked in the Commandantura, i.e., from August 23rd to the uprising against the Hetman, there were no events worthy of note. While there, I met members of the Ukrainian National Association (UNS) who were opposed to the Hetman. On orders of the Commandant, I intervened frequently at the German Command in matters of arrests which the Germans made without consulting the Ukrainian authorities, although as a matter of principle these matters were within the competence of the Gubernial Commissar and district commissioners.
It became known in October that the Hetman had surrounded himself with former officers of the Tsarist army and appointed as Prime Minister V. Kolokoltsev, a well-known local leader of the Kharkiv Zemstvo (Zemstvo was a unit of local self-government under Tsarism) and Russian patriot, although a progressive.
Meanwhile the German and Austrian troops, following the defeat in the West and also due to Bolshevik propaganda, began to disintegrate. Their conduct toward the local Ukrainian population, on which they levied a tax in kind, over the protest of the Ukrainian Government, and which they collected ruthlessly, dispatching armed detachments to the countryside and executing recalcitrant peasants; their wrecking of entire villages and restoration of land of the great estates to the landowners; and finally, exportation of huge quantities of chornozem (black top-soil) by the thousands of carloads to Germany, all this caused numerous riots and uprisings. The population was solidly against the Germans and this in turn could not remain without its due influence upon the Ukrainian military, and particularly upon the Zaporozhian Corps. The behavior of the Germans also swayed the feelings toward hostility to them of two Ukrainian divisions, the Synezhupannyky which had been formed in Germany and the Sirozhupannyky which had been formed in Austria, both recruited from among Ukrainians, former Russian prisoners of war. The political organization behind these military formations was the Association for Liberation of Ukraine, known by the letters SVU (Soyuz Vyzvolennya Ukrainy). Because of unrest in these divisions, the Germans partially demobilized them, in spite of the fact that they were excellent fighting units and indispensable for the defense of Ukraine. On top of all this, the Germans arrested Simon Petal who was already a legendary hero to the whole country.
The gravest political error committed by Hetman Scoreboards was his signing, along with the Otaman of the Don Cossacks, P. Krasnov, on November 14, 1918, of an agreement in which Gen. Krasnov purported to be representing a "future Russia" promising federation of Ukraine with Russia. Our officer group was the first to find out about this, because the meeting and signing took place at a railroad station east of Kharkiv. This act of the Hetman, unwarranted by the existing political situation, placed the entire conscious Ukrainian community in opposition and the UNS then proclaimed an uprising against the Hetman. Faced with the pressure of public opinion, the Germans released Simon Petlura. To direct the movement against the Hetman and to restore to Ukraine all political rights provided for by the Fourth Universal Proclamation, the UNS elected a Directorate (Dyrektoria) composed of 5 prominent Ukrainian leaders: Volodymyr Vynnychenko, Simon Petlura, Fedir Shvets, Opanas Andrievsky and Andriy Makarenko. They represented all strata of society and all political trends of the country. The Zaporozhian Corps and all other military units which had been formed by the Hetman Government and even the so-called Serdyuk Division which consisted of the sons of wealthy farmers and was the Hetman's mainstay, all joined the rebels. The Directorate relied in the first days of the uprising mainly on the USS Legion (Ukrainian Sitch Riflemen) which was quartered in the area of Bila Tserkva near Kiev. The USS Legion, aided by demobilized former Tsarist soldiers from the neighborhood, attacked Kiev, defeated the Hetman's volunteer detachments which were composed chiefly of former Russian officers, and on December 15, 1918 the Directorate entered Kiev, the Hetman leaving for Germany.
Since that summer the Bolsheviks had been massing troops on the northern and eastern borders of Ukraine, whose nucleus consisted of alien brigades (Latvian, Bessarabian etc.) augmented by Moscow volunteers who proclaimed the motto "Ukraine does not give us bread – let's go to Ukraine after bread." And while the morale of German troops in Ukraine became shaky, the Bolsheviks made contact with German Councils of Soldiers' Deputies and got their promise that the Germans would maintain neutrality during an attack by the Bolsheviks against Ukraine. In return, the Bolsheviks promised the Germans peaceful return to Germany. Early in November large numbers of Bolshevik agitators appeared in Kharkiv, going first of all after railroad workers. With the eruption of the uprising against the Hetman, the great railroad yards of Kharkiv and the locomotive factory were completely dominated by the Bolsheviks. A Soviet of railroad management was set up and it refused to provide transportation which would bring parts of the Zaporozhian Corps to Kharkiv. There was a change in the Kharkiv military command. Prior to the uprising the Gubernial Commander of Kharkiv, with jurisdiction over all county commands, had been Colonel Myronenko-Vasiutynsky, who was replaced by Otaman P. Truba, Colonel M. Popsuy-Shapka replaced Col. Anisimov as city commander. The personnel of the Commandantura did not change, except that Captain H. Simantsiv became chief aide of Col. Popsuy-Shapka. Simantsiv was a very intelligent and energetic person, a leader of the Kharkiv branch of UNS and by his political convictions a socialist-revolutionary. The only armed force on which both commands could rely, the Gubernial and local, was the headquarters battalion of about 80 men under the command of Captain Havrylenko. I had been appointed chief of the Commandantura's technical department with the task of taking over all transportation means in Kharkiv, primarily the very few automobiles. In this role I made my appearance at the Soviet of the Southern Railroad, accompanied by only two non-coms of the headquarters company. In conversation with the chairman I demanded that orders be issued in my presence providing railroad transportation for units of the Zaporozhian Corps located at Kupianske station and anywhere else where representatives of the Corps would demand. I threatened that upon refusal I would arrest the entire Soviet and place them before a court-martial, with simultaneous appointment of experienced officers to manage the railroad and all stations. I pointed to the window and said: "Look and see that the building is surrounded with our patrols and no one is going to leave this place." I was lucky that none of them took up my challenge because there was not a single soldier in sight, but such a bluff could be pulled off only during those perilous times when human life was worth nothing. My ultimatum was accepted and the chairman of the Soviet issued orders right there in my presence that all commands of Ukrainian military authorities should be complied with. This was an unexpected success, and as a result the very next day units of the Zaporozhian Corps under the command of Colonel I. Lytvynenko appeared on the streets of Kharkiv. An attempt by the Communized workers to seize the State Bank, the Telephone Exchange and Post Office was nipped in the bud and complete quiet reigned in Kharkiv. Colonel Popsuy-Shapka appealed to Ukrainian students and to the Ukrainian population of Kharkiv to establish units of self-defense in connection with the Bolshevik movement in the city and the approach of the reds from Bilhorod. Several thousand volunteered and the Commandantura organized them. This put us on 24-hour duty and all the sleep we could catch was on chairs.
It was only toward the end of November that we were informed about the "November Coup" in Galicia, where the Ukrainian National Council under Dr. Evhen Petrushevych seized power and declared the independence of the Western Ukrainian National Republic (ZOUNR), i.e. of all Ukrainian territories which had formerly been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Secretariat of Military Affairs under Colonel D. Vitovsky began organizing the Ukrainian Galician Army (UHA) taking advantage of reserves of the USS Legion as its center. There was no time for organization, however, since from the very first day the Poles, who had a military organization in Lviv, rose against the Ukrainian authorities in arms: this was the beginning of the Ukrainian-Polish war. Ukrainians were now compelled to fight on two fronts: east and west. We in Kharkiv were so absorbed in the struggle against the Bolsheviks that we knew little about events in Galicia, but news reached us soon that the Poles had taken Lviv and that the Directorate, in spite of a shortage of manpower to defend the front against the Bolsheviks, dispatched some units to help our Galician brothers. This was more in the nature of a display of national unity, just as the Galician USS Legion had been helping us politically and militarily; Meanwhile the Bolsheviks were pushing their way into Ukraine from the north and east. The volunteer self-defense units offered to go to the front lines, but this could not be done for lack of arms and difficulty in organizing supply lines, and of course, there was a great reluctance to send untrained young boys to the front. Nevertheless they did man the defense of several important points and one company was assigned to the chief of the Kharkiv militia. Students also helped in setting up defense posts and barricades which were to be manned by the Zaporozhian Corps. By Christmas the Bolsheviks were already close to Kharkiv. Fighting went on for a whole week, however, and only on December 31 Col. Truba issued orders to evacuate and proceed to Poltava. It was too late to do anything, but nevertheless Col. Truba ordered me to salvage the valuables from the vaults of the Bank. I was given several teams of horses hitched to sleighs and a guard of four officers. The Bolsheviks were already within the city limits. We had hardly finished loading three sleighs when local Bolsheviks opened fire on us from windows and the unloaded sleighs dispersed. We barely escaped with our lives, but managed to transfer everything to a train. Only some of our gallant youths joined the Zaporozhians and withdrew with us. When we were ready to start, we found out that the engineer had disappeared and we lost hope of ever leaving Kharkiv. When I had been in command of an armored train I had handled the throttle several times and volunteered to take the train out in view of the hopeless situation. I went quite slowly, but still I managed to reach Poltava and it was high time, because the Bolsheviks were approaching Poltava from Sumy! During a brief stop in the Poltava Depot, I was called to appear before Colonel Popsuy-Shapka and ordered to take over the command battalion, which was also being evacuated by the same train, from Capt. Havrylenko. According to Commander Truba's orders my unit would be completed to full strength from all county command companies which were marching toward Poltava. After completion, the battalion was to become a fighting unit in the Zaporozhian Corps as the Independent Zaporozhian Rifle Battalion. To complete its organization, the battalion was moved to the city of Lubni, but it also had combat duty in holding the front toward Romen and keeping a small garrison at the Hrebinka railroad station. Captain Havrylenko was to be either my aide or company commander.


4. 1919 Independent Zaporozhian Rifle Battalion

We all left for Lubni immediately and arrived there on January 4. I made a personal check of the personnel and material resources of the battalion: there were no weapons, no food, no supplies of any kind nor people to perform medical duties. Everyone had to scrounge for food by himself, and for lack of uniforms most soldiers wore civilian clothes; only one out of ten men had good shoes. I immediately appointed my brother Oleksander to the quartermaster command; although I was decidedly opposed to any form of nepotism, I had no other choice. Knowing my brother's knack for organization, I knew he would go out of his way to help me. As I have already noted, he had been staying in Lubni and had many friends there; he got in touch with the city administration and they gave him woolen goods for 100 uniforms and overcoats (there was a first-class woolen mill in Lubni, owned by S. Shemet the well-known Ukrainian leader of the land-owner-hetman movement). Local shoemakers received orders for 200 pairs of boots. From military warehouses we were issued weapons, utensils, mattresses, sheets and blankets.
We had to send part of our better-equipped men in the direction of Romen to Hrebinka, a very important railroad junction to us and the Zaporozhian Corps because it provided communication with Kiev. Within a few days we were able to produce a company of over 70 well-dressed and well-armed men which we paraded across the city making an impression upon the people: respect for us grew immediately and the population felt safe. It is interesting to note here that prior to our arrival in Lubni, a local communist sergeant formed a cavalry company in the village of Tymky, terrorizing Lubni and the entire neighborhood. The city even paid him 100,000 rubles ransom. As garrison commander I ordered a curfew to prevent night robberies and I called upon youth to volunteer for service in the battalion. About thirty local high school students volunteered, among them one Jew, Bukhman. My staff and myself, with part of the battalion, were quartered on a train in the station, as this facilitated better contact with Poltava, Kiev, Hrebinka and Romen. The guard in the direction of Romen was inspected by me daily. Everything looked all right, but my men noticed that some civilians, probably as a result of news coming through "scuttlebutt" were hostile toward them and called them hirelings of the bourgeoisie. There was good discipline and morale in the battalion and this was not to the liking of peasants who had been agitated by the Bolsheviks. Many Bolshevik agents swarmed over the countryside and I had neither the time nor the men to watch for the appearance of hostile agents. It was easy for them to penetrate into the villages in which no authorities were present. Warfare between the Bolsheviks and all Ukrainian Forces was waged along railroad lines: our forces were inadequate and because of winter we very rarely policed the villages, and not even the towns which were situated far from the railroad.
Among others, a classmate of mine from the Ostrih High School (Gymnasium), class of '07, V. Moshynsky, who was a teacher of mathematics at the time in the local girls' high school came to see me. He learned about me from posters and immediately stated that he was a Communist, but a Ukrainian one. He said that he condemned the Russian Bolsheviks' attack upon Ukraine and their undemocratic methods and political demagoguery, but that he was certain that the Moscow Bolsheviks would leave Ukraine when the war was over because, he alleged, they had been invited to Ukraine by the Ukrainian Bolshevik Government. He made a proposition to me that I should remain in Lubni on his assurance and join the reds when they come; he said that he knew the reds were in dire need of imaginative and experienced officers. He added that a Ukrainian Red Government was already functioning in Kharkiv and that its members were our classmates and colleagues: D. Z. Manuilsky, H. Lander and Georgi Pyatakov, who would certainly welcome me into the ranks of the Ukrainian Bolshevik Army. On my part I reminded him that we were Ukrainians and that at one time in high school we had been members of the Ukrainian "Hromada" which stood clearly aloof from Muscovite political trends. I added that I fully realized that the Bolsheviks would never leave Ukraine voluntarily. At the same time I expressed my surprise at his detailed information of what was going on in Kharkiv. When he saw that his talk had left me unconvinced, on taking his leave he said: "perhaps you are right, we shall see." Indeed, later that year, in August, he was executed by the Bolsheviks for his attitude of opposition in spite of the fact that he had held the high position of commissar of the province of Zhytomir.
Within a few days, a delegate of our Government, Mr. Stepan Skrypnyk2 came to me from Kiev with orders to evacuate the county state treasury. He was the first to tell me that Simon Petlura had been designated by the Directorate as commander-in-chief with the title of Chief Otaman of the Armies of the Ukrainian National Republic. Out of the money requisitioned in the county treasury, S. Skrypnyk gave me 20,000 rubles (their value was about 500 pre-war rubles) for the needs of the battalion. This was the first sum which gave me an opportunity to purchase a lot of indispensable things, primarily medical supplies, and to pay each soldier 25 rubles.
Within days the battalion was engaged in action. Captain Musiyenko informed me from Hrebinka by telephone that he was engaged in battle with a Bolshevik band which was approaching Hrebinka from Drabova-Baryatynska; the attack of the band was temporarily repelled, probably with great losses, but the Captain feared that he might become surrounded at night because the band was ten times as strong as his forces and fought in full battle order. I took two platoons and immediately left for Hrebinka and, along with Capt. Musiyenko, led an attack toward Drabova: as a result we simply dispersed that company with machine gun fire. I had to reinforce Capt. Musiyenko, however, leaving him one of my platoons, and I ordered him to keep strong patrols on the outskirts of Hrebinka.
That same day an improvised armored train entered the Lubni station quite unexpectedly from the direction of Hrebinka. Capt. Musiyenko could not warn me in time due to a disruption of telephone and telegraph communications which shortly, however, we succeeded in restoring. There were about 30 men on the train under Otaman Myasnyk. At first, it was hard to find out from his words and behavior what he had come for, but his mysterious and bandit-like appearance made me order the battalion to an alert. I ordered half a company with machine guns to proceed from the Theological Seminary in Lubni to the railroad depot. This seemed to cool the enthusiasm of Myasnyk. Meanwhile the Tymky Communist company entered the city and began skirmishing with my patrols. I proposed to Myasnyk that he help me liquidate this Bolshevik band and he put 20 of his men at my disposal. At the same time he declared that he had orders from the Government, to take the money from the country treasury, but when I remarked that the money had been taken to Kiev, he became very angry and said that he would have to check this. He immediately recalled his men who were on their way to help my men. It was now quite clear to me that Myasnyk had come to rob the treasury and perhaps also the city and that we were in his way. He left with his armored train toward Hrebinka. I was very much alarmed by the question: who had permitted him to organize an armored train and to roam all over the railroad tracks without any control? This fact alone gave an idea of the complete lack of military and administrative control in our hinterland. We found out later that Myasnyk had taken money from the treasury in Pyryatyn and then robbed all railroad stations on the Yahotyn-Hrebinka sector. After this, his name disappeared from the annals of the liberation struggle completely. He probably joined the Bolsheviks.
We fought a battle with the Bolshevik company of Tymky and liquidated it. We had it quiet for a few days after this. Several boys from the Bolsheviks joined my battalion, saying that they had been pressed into service, and kept by the Bolsheviks under terror. Subsequently, they were exemplary soldiers. It was also quiet on the Hrebinka front.
During those days Colonel Popsuy-Shapka passed through Lubni on his way to Kiev and, naturally, spent some time with me. He informed me that the Zaporozhian Corps was going through Kremenchuk and Znamenka for the purpose of defending that sector and joining our forces which were operating in the Odessa-Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovske-Zaporozha region, and that in case of necessity it would cross Romania into Galicia to join the rest of the Army which, for purposes of reorganization was stationed in the area of Lutsk-Rivne-Proskuriv-Husiatyn. On the advice of the General Staff, Col. Popsuy-Shapka told me, Commander-in-Chief Petlura agreed that the Army detach itself from the enemy under cover of rear-guards and take a rest and regroup for a counter-attack in the early spring. To keep the Bolshevik hinterland under threat, the Commander-in-Chief left trusted men in many places from which we withdrew with orders to organize insurgent partisan units. Such units, based on forests in the Trypilla area of Kiev province and in the Kovel-Sarny region would keep communications under control. This insurgent-partisan movement developed to such an extent in 1919, that the Bolsheviks could not cope with it. These were really large units, some several thousand men strong and they operated behind Bolshevik lines entirely unimpeded, as for example the group of Otaman Yurko Tyutyunnyk, which was 4,000 strong and was subsequently incorporated in the Army as the so-called Kiev Division. Colonel Popsuy-Shapka also brought me orders from Colonel Bolbochan that my Battalion was being transferred to the command of the Army Staff in Vinnytsya.
Right after Col. Popsuy-Shapka left I was advised by the Army Staff that I must take part in liquidation of a Bolshevik band in the area of Yahotyn. The band would be attacked from the direction of Kiev by the SS Brigade (Sitch Riflemen) under the command of Col. R. Sushko. After liquidation of the band our Battalion was to proceed to Vinnytsya via Berdychiv and there await further orders. The following day the Battalion proceeded on two trains toward Hrebinka, the Company of Capt. Musiyenko joined us, and under cover of two armed trolleys we went on toward Yahotyn. Before we reached Yahotyn we found evidence of battle along the track and learned that Col. Sushko's Brigade routed the Bolshevik band in a surprise night attack and immediately went back toward Kiev, leaving orders for us with the station master to go through Kiev without stopping to Vinnytsya because Kiev was threatened from the direction of Kruty-Nizhyn. Our trains started and we reached the station of Kiev III (a junction on the left bank of the Dnipro). The picture I saw at this station was horrible: all tracks were filled with evacuation trains, mainly freight trains and the only bridge across the Dnipro could be crossed by trains on an average one train every half hour. The station commandant was Otaman Samusenko who told my aide, Capt. Linytsky, without any hesitation that he would let our trains through before our cum on payment of 100,000 rubles. And to think that such people who were out to make money on the people's misfortune were given positions of trust. This was the same Samusenko who subsequently staged a pogrom in Proskuriv for which he was sentenced to the firing squad by court-martial. Revolution produces odd situations with which the law cannot cope, particularly if it is going on during the tempest of war. I ordered Samusenko's arrest, took over command of the station and in cooperation with the station master I began to untie the bottleneck. It took about 12 hours to check the contents and destination of trains, the number and condition of locomotives, and to coordinate matters with the commandant of the Kiev passenger station on the Right Bank of the Dnipro clear the tracks for smoother communications. Our trains began to move late at night and we reached Vinnytsya after 24 hours.
At that time Vinnytsya was the seat of the Army Staff and I expected to find things to be more orderly. Far from it. Only much later, when I began to understand the laws or lawlessness of revolution, I became aware of my lack of experience and adaptability to conditions of anarchy, and to the ruthlessness of clever people. I never changed my hard soldierly nature which at that time seemed out of place, but actually indispensable, unless one would become an opportunist and sacrifice the future for the present. Only those who lived through similar circumstances will be able to understand what I mean. Nevertheless I found out that sometimes it was necessary to apply political and psychological flexibility. I never acquired a moral flexibility, even in the face of death. No soldier, and especially the one whom fate calls to a position of high responsibility, should ever try to be "morally flexible," but unfortunately, during our revolution, subsequent difficult times of exile, under new hardships of World War II and finally upon closer contact with the West, I observed many instances of such superfluous flexibility, which nearly bordered on lack of backbone. I have never been able to observe that denial of moral principles would pay off: either to the cause or to the person.
In Vinnytsya I reported to the Minister of Military Affairs, Col. 0. Shapoval, former commandant of the 1st Bohdanivsky Regiment in the Zaporozhian Corps. It must be noted that although Col. Shapoval was a member of one of our leftist socialist groups, he proved to be a true statesman. He was a soldier-patriot, a man of firm character who placed military matters above party tactics. After hearing my report, Col. Shapoval ordered a review of my battalion for 7 A.M. the next day, February 8. On a bright cold morning the men appeared for the review in front of the station: four rifle companies, one machine-gun company, one cavalry platoon and units of liaison and supply. We were not full strength, only about 250 men, but trim in appearance and indentically uniformed. They were well trained because I had been exercising them during every free moment; even I was impressed by their appearance and awaited the Minister with a feeling of pride. A large group of officers and officials of various ministries immediately gathered around the depot and they all asked what group this was. The most impressive thing about my men was the fact that they were all wearing steel helmets which my brother, Captain Shandruk procured during our prolonged stay in Kiev. At 7 o'clock sharp I issued the command for a salute by presenting arms and gave my report to the Minister who had come to take the review accompanied by the whole Staff, including Col. M. Kakurin and Otaman Truba. Colonel M. Kakurin, an officer of the Russian General Staff was an advisor to the Minister and a noted expert in military affairs.3 I was very pleased to hear from Col. Shapoval and Col. Kakurin that they had never seen such a fine unit before and that I should present the battalion for review by the Commander-in-Chief Simon Petlura the following day. I was given a special citation of the High Command of the Armies of the Ukrainian National Republic signed by S. Petlura. Later, I had a lengthy talk with Cols. Shapoval and Kakurin and Otaman Truba in which I made known the battalion's requirements. All my requests were granted with firm orders issued: the battalion would be completed to full strength in Brailov (the next station west of Vinnytsya), where all command units from Kharkiv already had been dispatched; I would receive all necessary equipment with material for uniforms and footwear (there was nothing ready; everything would have to be custom-made) and finally, a physician was ordered to join the battalion, Dr. Yurko Dobrylovsky. Otaman Truba also gave me 250,000 karbovantsi, in the presence of the Minister, for the battalion's expenses. After completing all organizational work, on which I had to make weekly progress reports, the battalion was transferred to the railroad junction of Yarmolyntsi with orders to hold this point and to defend the Husiatyn-Yarmolyntsi line. This was an example of real good care of a military, unit which had not as yet had an opportunity to prove itself in battle. Probably that same day we left for Brailov via Proskuriv.

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[2] At present Archbishop of the Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church in the United States.
[3] Late in 1919 Colonel M. Kakurin joined the communists and was chief of operations under Gen. Tukhachevsky in the war of 1920 against Poland. He was later a professor of Tactics in the Red Army General Staff and Command College (so-called Frunze Academy in Moscow). It is very unfortunate that after the resignation of Col. Shapoval our military command was unable to enlist the services of Col. Kakurin in our cause. Colonel Kakurin was co-author of a book "Voyna s Belopolakami v 1920 g." (War against the White Poles in 1920.)



5. Surprises at Brailov

It was at the end of the month of February. Cossacks from country command companies from Kharkiv province were indeed waiting for us. We began feverish activity of bringing the battalion to full combat strength. The battalion was then completed as follows: four rifle companies with three officers and one hundred and twenty men in each, machine gun company with three officers and sixty men, six machine guns of which two were on carriages; a cavalry company with three officers, sixty-five men, three portable machine guns and ninety horses; liaison unit with necessary technical equipment for communications up to twenty miles; medical unit and supply unit. The total strength of the battalion was twenty-seven officers, about six hundred men and one hundred and ten horses. I appointed Captain I. Shevtsiv to be my aide; commanders of companies were: Lieut. V. Petriv, Capt. Vodianytsky, Capt. Musiyenko, Capt. Blahovishchensky, Capt. Havrylenko, Capt. P. Moroz (nick-named "Taras Bulba" for his huge physique, he had been a colleague of my brother and myself in the seventieth Russian Regiment). Captain V. Linytsky was battalion aide-de-camp, Capt. O. Shandruk-Shandrushkevych was quartermaster and Dr. Yu. Dobrylovsky was medical officer. The battalion was quartered in empty school buildings near the depot tracks. All tailors and shoemakers of Brailov were hired to make uniforms which were identical from mine down to the ranks. Notwithstanding the severe winter the battalion never missed a day's training.
One day a Jewish delegation from the town headed by the Chief Rabbi I. Feldfix appeared before me and asked that the town be patrolled at night because local bandits were robbing the Jewish population. The railroad depot was nearly four miles away from the town, but I complied with their request and there were no more robberies.
The trains in the station were guarded. One morning at six o'clock, the guards alerted the Company and me aboard the train. We were surrounded by a large number of soldiers armed with hand-grenades who were warning us not to leave the train. It was still fairly dark and difficult to see with whom we were dealing. Within a few minutes, however, my soldiers who were quartering in the school-house came running under the command of Lieut. Petrov, and in turn surrounded our would be captors. One careless move and we might have a battle on our hands. I came out of the train, ordered my men to lower their arms and asked the strangers who they were and what they wanted. One of the men answered that they were Ukrainian Sitch Riflemen. Their commander came closer and asked me whether I was the man in charge. We now learned that this was a battalion guarding the Army Staff, that this unit was under the command of Lieut. Kmetyk4 who had received orders from Chief of Staff Col. A. Melnyk to disarm us because "we were a Bolshevized unit which refused to go to the front." This was a perfect example of disorganization and misinformation, one of the immutable laws of revolution: the Commander in Chief and the Minister of Defense had inspected the battalion and given it a citation, while the Army Staff believed that it was in sympathy with the Communists. I suspected that this was due to an attitude of bias toward me on the part of the Staff Intelligence Service and my suspicion was later confirmed. Together with Lt. Kmetyk I went to the station carrying the Commander in Chief's citation in my hand and we called Col. Melnyk on the telephone. Lt. Kmetyk assured the former that the citation was genuine. He stated that this was a case of some misunderstanding and that even if he were to proceed with carrying out the order of disarming us, this could not be done because of the strength and attitude of my battalion. Colonel Melnyk showed himself a gentleman, apologizing to me for the misunderstanding and ordering Lt. Kmetyk to return to Vinnytsya. I requested, however, Col. Melnyk's permission to let both our units search the neighboring countryside for weapons concealed by demobilized soldiers in the villages, in order to protect the people from robberies. We found a lot of arms and even machine guns hidden in haystacks.
Sometimes we had odd situations arising, like after this joint expedition, my battalion quartermaster Capt. Shevtsiv gave Lt. Kmetyk's boys dinner. After they had left, he came to me and told me in a voice of despair: "we fed them, but they took all the spoons with them – what are our boys going to eat with now?"
Several days later, I received orders from Col. Melnyk to proceed with the whole combat part of my battalion to the city of Proskuriv in order to put down the pogroms raging in that city and to arrest the guilty. Identical orders were issued to the Sitch Riflemen Battalion. The pogrom, not only of Jews, but of the entire population, had been staged by "Otaman" Samusenko, the same man with whom we had had trouble in Kiev. Right after we entered the city, the bandits disappeared and we found only a few exotically uniformed "Samusenkists" whom we sent to Vinnytsya under guard. I stepped into the local Commandantura, where I found Captain Kalenik Lessiuk to be in charge (living in the United States since 1922, at present director of the Ukrainian Museum in Chicago, Ill.). He told me that Samusenko, accompanied by several soldiers, had raided the Commandantura, terrorized the crew with hand-grenades and began a pogrom. Captain Lessiuk did not have enough men to cope with the situation and the local police force went into hiding. Soon after word spread that we had restored order, a delegation appeared in the Commandantura from the City Council, including the Rabbi representing the Jewish population. They thanked us profusely for restoring order and particularly Capt. Lessiuk for keeping the city under control until this latest incident; they even called him "father." We learned later that Samusenko had been arrested on orders of Commander in Chief S. Petlura and a court-martial condemned him to death. It is noteworthy that one of the results of our appearance in Proskuriv was that 8 young Jews, former soldiers of the tsarist army, enlisted in our battalion, among them the wealthy local merchant H. Roytberg. I remember him very well, since I had appointed him to be the liaison man with the Jewish population at the suggestion of my aide. Roytberg, who is at present in the United States, did a lot of good for the battalion, he helped us in getting food supplies and other material, especially medical supplies; he also did a lot for the Jews, calming them in their fright. The Jews were at that time living in terror of exaggerated reports about pogroms. They took extremes for the average and would not believe that anyone would stand up for them. It was a known fact that the Jews kept a good line of communication among themselves throughout the country: they told me that wherever the Reds appeared, they would appoint Jews to all kinds of responsible positions, as city or county commissioners, etc. and require them to deliver all sorts of goods, including such valuables as watches, Jewelry and gold; if the commissars were unable to comply with the orders, the Bolsheviks would make them personally responsible. The population was hostile toward those commissars since it was widely believed that the requisitions were ordered for their own personal benefit. The Bolsheviks strengthened this naive belief through a whispered campaign: this was clear provocation which resulted in pogroms. The Jews used all available means to dissuade their compatriots from collaborating with the Bolsheviks. In a majority of the cases the Reds robbed the Jews and instigated Jewish pogroms.

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[4] Subsequently a General in the Red Army.


6. Defense of the Yarmolyntsi-Husiatyn Sector

It had become necessary to move the Government and Army staff west and away from the front-line. Early in March I was therefore ordered to move to the railroad junction of Yarmolyntsi and simultaneously I was appointed garrison commander of an area within a 15-mile radius of Yarmolyntsi. I was to make the area ready for defensive action and to evacuate a huge depot of artillery supplies located at Victoria, about 5 miles west of Yarmolyntsi, to Galicia. When the news spread in Brailov that our battalion was leaving, a delegation of the local populace came to me, headed by the above mentioned Chief Rabbi I. Feldfix. They made a desperate appeal to me to leave a small crew in Brailov to preserve order. There was only one advice I could give the Rabbi: that he should make this request to the Army Staff or to the Minister of Jewish Affairs. Rabbi Feldfix then handed me an envelope with a document written in Hebrew, and lifting both hands high, he said: "Whenever in your life you will find yourself in a position of danger, show this paper to any Jew, and you will be given all possible help by the Jews".5
After the arrival of my battalion at the Yarmolyntsi station, I dispatched two rifle companies and one cavalry company to the near-by city of Yarmolyntsi and left the rest at the station. I placed a string of patrols all along the eastern line of my command sector. One day a cavalry dispatch rider came galloping to me with a laconic message from Capt. Moroz, commander of the cavalry company, stating that my presence in the city is immediately required. When I came there, Capt. Moroz told me that about two hours earlier a group of 19 riders headed by "Otaman" Bohun had entered the city and began robbing the people. Moroz had surrounded them, disarmed them, and now the robbers were under arrest in the schoolhouse. I summoned Bohun, and he declared with an air of arrogance that I had no right to detain him and his troops, demanding immediate release and return of their arms. When I explained to him that he was a common robber and that according to the laws of war he will be court-martialled, he laughed. I immediately convened a court-martial headed by Captain Moroz and with 2 officers and 2 enlisted men as members. Only Bohun was sentenced to death and the sentence was confirmed by Commander in Chief Simon Petlura within 24 hours. I had a talk with Bohun's group of men and they all enlisted in my battalion. I found them to be very good and disciplined soldiers. As the Ukrainian proverb justly says: "fish stink from the head down."
Soon thereafter Lieut. Fedorchak and Subaltern Fedak from the Chief Command of the Ukrainian Galician Army came to me with a document confirmed by the Army Staff which stated that they were authorized to evacuate the artillery stores from Victoria and that they should load 20 carloads each day. I put the 4th Company under Capt. Musiyenko at their disposal and transferred it to Victoria. I continued to equip my battalion while in Yarmolyntsi and succeeded in obtaining 200 pairs of shoes. Several days later the Army Staff ordered me to transfer the entire battalion to Victoria in order to speed up the evacuation of artillery stores. I was to turn over defense of the Yarmolyntsi junction to the Haydamak Group under Otaman M. Sereda. The latter appeared the same day and I moved the battalion to Victoria. I saw an extraordinary picture on my arrival at Victoria: Capt. Musiyenko told me that a few hours before a unit under the command of Major Kaspariants (an Armenian by birth, former Non-Corn in the Russian tsarist army) arrived there. There were 9 men who placed a 3" cannon in front of the railroad station and Kaspariants personally fired the cannon around a 360° radius all over the distant countryside. When I asked him why he was doing this, he replied: "to keep the Communized countryside frightened." I told him to leave the place immediately and reported the incident to the Army Staff. I never heard of Kaspariants again. This is the kind of behavior we had to contend with, in spite of severe punishment meted out to culprits. These are obviously quite normal occurrences of every revolution. As a student of history, I knew well what went on in France in the late 16th century, in England over a period of nearly two centuries, and again in France during the Great Revolution. The difference was, however, that revolutionary events in Ukraine were more in the nature of purely accidental and quite petty banditism, whereas in the great historical revolutions tens of thousands of people perished, particularly those of another faith, as e.g. Jews. The Ukrainian revolution never assumed the character of mass destruction, as in the Soviet Union, where millions died, including nearly all Bolshevik leaders, and in the artificially induced famine when several million of my hapless countrymen died. In Ukraine, in the 1917-1921 period things were comparatively well under control, mainly thanks to the attitude of our Government and the Commander in Chief, Simon Petlura. Nevertheless, some newspapers in the West, which on one hand were misinformed about events in eastern Europe, and on the other hand deliberately inspired by Russians, attempted to slander the entire Ukrainian liberation movement, and particularly the Ukrainian Armed Forces for an alleged lack of culture and tendency toward anarchy. It is quite obvious that the newly established Ukrainian Government could not have the same kind of political and diplomatic contacts as the Russians, it did not have financial means for propaganda counteraction which in our materialistic epoch, is actually the only factor of political decision. The Ukrainian Government should certainly have publicized all positive manifestations of the struggle for independence and corrected unfounded falsehoods. In this instance it would have been well to the point to answer both the White, as well as the Red provocateurs in the words of the Ukrainian proverb: "people might believe some of your lies, but not for long."
In order to investigate the veracity of Kaspariants' report about pro-Communist sympathies of the countryside, I immediately dispatched patrols under Capt. Musiyenko to the largest village in the area, the name of which I no longer remember. The patrols came back with quite disturbing reports: the people in the villages were not basically pro-Communist, but there were large numbers of Bolshevik agitators all over. There was a bright side to the reports: the peasants were not inclined to offer resistance to our battalion, saying: "it would be a hard job to fight those boys in steel helmets." That same night, however, Captain Musiyenko disappeared, and there was all reason to believe that he had gone over to the Communists. Special security measures had to be undertaken. The next day I took a motor trolley toward Yarmolyntsi to get a report from Otaman Sereda, and on my way I nearly fell into a Bolshevik trap: they were there, but well concealed and they permitted my trolley to get quite close. I had to hurry and set up defenses around Victoria, as one railroad employee had found out that night over the telephone from his colleague in Yarmolyntsi that a Bolshevik armored train had arrived there. We blew up all bridges between Yarmolyntsi and Victoria immediately, but the Bolshevik armored train could reach us by artillery fire and we had to move about 1,5 miles west of Victoria. For about 3 days the Bolshevik troops did not bother us at all, but we learned later that they had forcibly armed the entire countryside in order to surround us. While we were still in Yarmolyntsi, a Rumanian officer, Lieut. S. Madij reported to me. He was an artillery man and with his help I organized a battery in Victoria, two 3" cannon mounted on wheels and two more on flat-cars, something in the nature of an improvised armored train. I placed the cavalry company and the battery in Horodok, 2 miles west of Victoria, and I told Capt. Moroz specifically that his squadron was the combat protection for the battery. The battalion was well uniformed and well armed, with a total complement of 700 men; this was a lot at a time when some of our entire divisions did not have more than 400-500 men. I was not surprised when one day, one of many days so full of different and difficult work that I and my officers often slept with our clothes on, and sometimes had to go without sleep for 2-3 days at a time – the battalion was visited for a full inspection by the Commander in Chief accompanied by the Commander of the Chortkiv Military District, Major M. Orobko. The Staff usually transmitted my reports to the Commander in Chief, and the latter, upon inspection, expressed his satisfaction with the condition of my troops and the order prevailing in areas which were under our control. The next day after the Commander in Chief, Simon Petlura left, our battalion passed a difficult trial of battle, unfortunately with heavy and unexpected losses.
Meanwhile the situation on the fronts against the Bolsheviks was not rosy at all. Our army was in retreat on all fronts, as I found out from reports coming to me from the Army Staff. The Zaporozhian Battalion and the Odessa Group were retreating in the direction of Tiraspol, and was trying, with the aid of our Government, to be permitted to cross Rumania into Galicia, in order to reach the region of Proskuriv or Volochyska. The Sitch Riflemen Corps and other units attached to it were retreating on the Proskuriv Volochyska line, and the Northern and Kholm Groups were moving toward Sarny and Lutsk. At that time, a thing quite usual under conditions of military failure, all kinds of adventurers began to appear, who were not dedicated to any ideals, but merely sought to satisfy their personal ambition or to gain material profit. Thus, for example, Commander of the Northern Group, Major P. Oskilko6 proclaimed himself commander of all military forces of Ukraine and went so far as to put members of the Government under arrest. This certainly contributed to a decline of morale and combat readiness of our troops on the northern front. Another self-styled "Otaman," Volokh, who became commander of the Zaporozhian Corps in some mysterious manner, announced that he was in favor of a communist order in Ukraine and began unauthorized negotiations for an armistice with the head of the Ukrainian Soviet Government, Christian Rakovsky. There was disorganization and demoralization among our troops. The Commander in Chief and the Army Staff made feverish attempts to restore discipline, and they were soon successful, because the masses of the Ukrainian troops were patriotic and understood that adventurous moves were harmful.
Since the very beginning of its assumption of power, the Directorate sought all possible diplomatic means to get help from the victorious Allies in order to continue resistance against the Reds. Delegates of the Ukrainian Government negotiated with Allied representatives wherever possible, particularly in Rumania. This was all fruitless, however, because the Allies were in favor of restoring Russia and their statesmen believed that Russia could be rebuilt on democratic principles. In this they were duped by foreign agents of Moscow abroad who had old contacts with foreign governments. Indeed, it was perhaps difficult to foresee at that time that "Satan is ascending," but we know that the West helped Poland and the newly established Baltic States, the only country refused help was Ukraine, and the whole world, together with the Russians, opposed the struggle of the Ukrainian people. Old Russian diplomats of the Tsarist times, pictured the Ukrainian national movement as Ukrainian Bolshevism. When I had a chance, much later, to become acquainted with memoiristic literature, and primarily that of the Russians, I observed that the Russians were ready to accept the existence of Bolshevik Russia, but of an independent Ukraine – never. The world has suffered much harm because of the Russophile tendencies and political shortsightedness of such political leaders, or rather dictators, as Georges Clemenceau, David Lloyd George, and to some extent Winston Churchill. We should always keep in mind that they were the undertakers of the Ukrainian freedom cause and actual creators of the power of Bolshevism. It was not the Germans, who delivered Lenin and Co. to Russia in 1917, but the Allied statesmen, who were the real authors of Bolshevism because they would not help wreck the rule of the Reds and thus contributed to the ascendancy of the Soviet empire. They are responsible for the decline of the power of their nations: France will surely never rise again, and England is slowly following her. There existed, however, sure possibilities of finishing off Moscow imperialism by aiding Ukraine and the other nations, Turkestan, Byelorussia, and others. Instead, we now have rampant Red imperialism which is on its way to conquer the world without even attempting to conceal its plans. While it is true that to err is human, the French have a better saying: "c'est plus qu'un crime, c'est une faute" (mistakes are worse than crimes). To what extent the West was politically and militarily demoralized at the time of the close of World War I is evidenced by the following fact: yielding to the persistent demands of the envoy of the Provisional Russian Government, P. Izvolsky and delegate Paul Milyukov, M. Clemenceau decided to establish a staging area in southern Ukraine near Odessa, for operational aid to the Russian Volunteer Army which assembled in the Caucasus under General L. Kornilov, and after his death of Generals Aleksieyev and A. Denikin and fought the Reds. Four Allied divisions landed in Odessa supported by appropriate naval forces. The divisions were: one French, one Greek and two French colonial. Fighting began between the Ukrainian garrison in Odessa and Russian White Guards which were being organized under Allied protection. The Ukrainian garrison retreated from Odessa, which was immediately attacked by the insurgent group of Otaman Hryhoriyiv 6,000 strong, which not only dispersed the Volunteers, but also forced the entire Allied Corps to flee from Odessa, with the Greek units offering the only real resistance as attested to by memoiristic sources. Unfortunately, Hryhoriyiv was one of the many naive who trusted Moscow. He joined the Bolsheviks and was subsequently liquidated by them.

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[5] First of all I asked my liaison officer H. Roytberg to translate the contents of the document for me. He read it, then kissed it and said: "You deserve it, I have observed your attitude toward the populace and particularly toward the Jews." He would not, however, tell us what the document said. No other Jew would tell me its contents cither. There were several occasions when the document came in handy. As noted before, H. Roytberg is now living in the United States.
[6] Later murdered by the Communists in Volhynia under Poland 1930.