3,000 in Rebel Band Terrorize Galicia
Ukrainian Nationalists, German Deserters Led by SS Colonel Burn 3 Villages in a Night
By Wireless to The New York Times
(The article appeared The New York Times on April 18, 1946)
Sanok, Poland, April 17 – A strong, well-organized and elusive band of Ukrainian nationalists and German deserters estimated at more than 8,000 under the leadership of a German colonel, in a fortnight have succeeded in transforming this sector of the Carpathian foothills of old Galicia into a virtual partisan stronghold.
With the burning of three large villages on a single night two weeks ago, they now have made 10,000 of this areas total pre-war population of 135,000 homeless and are resisting with complete success all efforts to quell what is tantamount to open insurrection. By burning an average of two bridges a day for the last three months, they have completely disrupted communications in this thickly populated but primitive backwoods country and have made it virtually impossible for security police and two Polish divisions to rout them out.
By stealing cattle and demanding tributes of a million zlotys [about $10,00] they appear capable of holding out indefinitely in their wooded hide-outs.
The origin of the insurrection is more complex than obscure. It began when under the repatriation agreements, the Ukrainians were to be shipped back to the Soviet Union and their farms given to Polish repatriates from what is now the Russian zone of former eastern Poland. Many refused to return and took to the hills. There as nearly as the story can be pieced together, they met and were incited by small bands of armed German deserters, including officers familiar with the tricks of partisan warfare.
Gradually the small bands joined forces with a leader said by Polish officials to be a German SS [Elite Guard] colonel, which is plausible, since the Ukrainian SS was organized by the renegade General Pethuse, whom the Germans reportedly liquidated in 1943 after he had served his purpose as the rallying point for the traditionally anti-Communist Ukrainians.
The present insurrectionist leader is known by all – by peasants and officials alike – as “The Colonel,” The band itself is known as the Banderowce, after one Colonel Banderowce, a Ukrainian who apparently became a legend in this part of the world for his fight with the Ukrainians against the Communists after the last war.
The writer of this dispatch last week went to the heart of the bandit country to the village of Bukowsko, where on the night of April 4 the bandits burned down all but eleven of the 400 houses and made more than 3,000 persons homeless. Our escort consisted of the refugee Mayor, now in Sanok and two squads of well-armed Security Police under the command of a nervous 20-year-old second lieutenant.
Before burning the village the bandits, who were well armed with German and Russian automatics and machine guns, had demanded 1,000,000 zlotys tribute, and the village had raised 300,000. On the night of the fire the villagers received scant warning a few hours before from a peasant that the bandits were coming, but had not had time to remove their cattle. Among those in Bukowsko was Andrew Kotalik, who in 1924 returned to Poland from Jersey City, where he had worked as a boilermaker with the Lackawanna Railroad.
“From the war,” he said in English, which he had not spoken in twenty years but which he still had a Jersey accent, “we ain’t had enough. From the Joimans we ain’t had enough. Then them bandit fellas come and they boint down the houses and boint my horse and four sheepses. Excuse my English, I ain’t spoken for so long. But can you folks do something for us folk?”
Aid from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration has not yet reached the bandit country, but the Caritas organization has received and is distributing the first shipments of food, clothes, and medicines.