Pol­ish pol­icy in Volyn:

Hen­ryk Józewski rep­re­sents some of the most in­ter­est­ing as­pects in the Ukrainian-Pol­ish his­tory of the 20th cen­tury. What was his legacy as the voievode of Volyn and why he re­signed on April 13, 1938

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - Svi­atoslav Ly­povet­skiy

The legacy and strat­egy of Volyn voievode Hen­ryk Józewski for Ukraini­ans in the 20th cen­tury

“A for­eigner try­ing to un­der­stand any­thing in the pol­i­tics of Poland con­stantly runs into un­ex­pected things,” wrote Czes­law Milosz, a Pol­ish writer awarded the No­ble Prize for Lit­er­a­ture, about Rzecz­pospolita, the Sec­ond Pol­ish Repub­lic. A re­porter for Dilo, the Lviv-based top news­pa­per for Ha­ly­chyna launched in the late 19th cen­tury, had echoed this pop­u­lar thought ear­lier, on June 1, 1926: “A fu­ture his­to­rian of Poland will have a hard time. If he wants to com­pre­hend the re­vival of the Pol­ish Repub­lic with a prag­matic ap­proach and use the ar­gu­ments of log­ics in de­scrib­ing them, he will walk into a closed door.”

This was true both of the poli­cies im­ple­mented in Sec­ond Pol­ish Repub­lic, and of a num­ber of ac­tors be­hind them. It was also true of the na­tional mi­nori­ties which made up 30% of thenPoland’s to­tal pop­u­la­tion and were con­cen­trated in 40% of its ter­ri­tory.


Pol­ish lead­ers did not wait for the in­ter­war eth­nic pas­sions to fade or the bor­ders to be agreed to man­i­fest their vi­sion of the fu­ture for Kresy Wschod­nie, to­day’s parts of West­ern Ukraine, West­ern Be­larus and Lithua­nia that were then the east­ern bor­der­land of the Sec­ond Pol­ish Repub­lic. On March 2, 1919, Na­tional Democ­racy move­ment leader Ro­man Dmowski and the Pol­ish Na­tional Com­mit­tee de­cided to col­o­nize and Pol­o­nize Volyn. Jozef Pil­sud­ski, the de fac­tor leader of the Sec­ond Pol­ish Repub­lic, was on a more rec­on­cil­ia­tory note. “I was brought up in the Kresy and ex­pe­ri­enced all of the mis­ery in­flicted on us in abun­dance as a de­feated na­tion […] Kresy pol­i­tics across the world is iden­ti­cal to ours where we were an ob­ject. I don’t know any kresy poli­cies, other than the pol­icy of hu­mil­i­a­tion and op­pres­sion with “Grieve the de­feated” as its motto. We, Poles, know well from

our own ex­pe­ri­ence what con­se­quences it has, how it doesn’t take us far and what lit­tle ac­com­plish­ments it brings […] While poli­cies to­wards the bor­der­line ar­eas are un­fair across the world, I would like our poli­cies along the bor­der to be fair.”

When Pil­sud­ski was de­liv­er­ing this speech, the Ukrainian Peo­ple’s Repub­lic or UNR was on the verge of col­lapse. The Treaty of War­saw signed in April 1920 by Ukraini­ans and Poles was met con­tro­ver­sially: Symon Petliura, the head of the UNR Direc­torate, signed West­ern Ukraine away to Poland, and got Poland as the UNR’s mil­i­tary ally. The ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tance of the Pol­ish side would be less vis­i­ble than its mil­i­tary as­pect: it del­e­gated two of­fi­cials, Min­is­ter of Land Af­fairs Stanis­law Stem­powsky and Vice Min­is­ter of In­te­rior Af­fairs Hen­ryk Józewski, to the UNR.

Isaak Mazepa, the last UNR prime min­is­ter, wrote that Józewski “was ap­par­ently in­structed from War­saw to be a Pol­ish “eye” in our gov­ern­ment.” Józewski re­jected this claim: “I wasn’t Poland’s in­stru­ment in the Ukrainian gov­ern­ment, nor an agent or a spy. Poland could trust me. Ukraine could trust me as much.” He seemed to gen­uinely be­lieve that the two pa­tri­o­tisms could merge with­out dam­ag­ing any of the na­tions.

When the united Pol­ish-Ukrainian army en­tered Kyiv shortly af­ter and pa­raded through Khreshchatyk on May 9, 1920, it was Hen­ryk Józewski, the Pol­ish vice min­is­ter, who as­sumed power from Ed­ward Rydz-Śmigły, Com­man­der-in-Chief of Poland’s armed forces, on be­half of Ukraini­ans.

“My ar­rival in Kyiv was quite orig­i­nal, un­be­liev­able in a way. Hen­ryk Józewski, known in the Pol­ish so­ci­ety, born Kyivite, a stu­dent of the First Kyiv Gym­na­sium, then St. Volodymyr Univer­sity [to­day’s Taras Shevchenko Na­tional Univer­sity], civic ac­tivist, chair­man of Fi­larezia [a Pol­ish stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion], as well as mu­si­cian, cre­ator and scenog­ra­pher for Stu­dio, a Pol­ish theatre along with Stanis­lawa Wysocka, now ap­pear­ing in Kyiv as a Ukrainian min­is­ter, ac­cept­ing Kyiv from the UNR gov­ern­ment, and set­ting up the Kyiv ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Józewski re­called.

Barely a year later, he showed him­self in yet an­other mis­sion. Based on mem­oirs, Symon Petliura owed his life to Józewski. Af­ter the gov­ern­ment of the Sec­ond Pol­ish Repub­lic signed the Peace of Riga with the Bol­she­viks, its union with the UNR was de­nounced. A joint com­mis­sion of the Bol­she­viks and the Poles was to set out to the Pol­ish city of Tarnów to de­tain Petliura and hand him over to the Bol­she­viks. Józewski got there first, took Petliura to War­saw and shel­tered him in his res­i­dence at the Raczyński Palace.

“No­body knew what hap­pened to the Ota­man [Petliura] and where he was. Nei­ther the Poles nor the Ukraini­ans knew any­thing. A few days later, they were com­ing to me to find some­thing out. Ap­par­ently, they didn’t find out any­thing,” Józewski wrote. “Depart­ment Two [the Bol­she­vik mil­i­tary coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence unit] tried to find out where he was, so did the min­istries of in­te­rior and for­eign af­fairs.”

When an of­fi­cial of the east­ern depart­ment at the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs put Józewski up against the wall seek­ing to find out where Petliura was, he said that the ota­man was in the next room just be­hind the wall. The of­fi­cial did not be­lieve Józewski and left the res­i­dence in­sulted.


While Jozef Pil­sud­ski was of­fi­cially hold­ing the Chief of State ti­tle, it was Ro­man Dmowski who ac­tu­ally won the thoughts and ideas of the Poles. As a re­sult, as­sim­i­la­tion and Pol­o­niza­tion be­gan in Volyn right away. Col­o­niza­tion of land was the first step. In 1921 alone, 1,055 Pol­ish troops came to Volyn, out of the to­tal 1,396 in all of east­ern Kresy. That’s how the os­ad­niks ap­peared there. Their set­tle­ments were of­fi­cially called Pil­sud­chanka, Hal­lerivka, Ulanówka etc. af­ter mil­i­tary of­fi­cials and the mil­i­tary tra­di­tion that brought them to Volyn in the first place.

Ukrainian schools faced a greater blow. Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics, Volyn had 442 schools in 1922-1923 and 2 in 1926, which jour­nal­ists failed to lo­cate.

Prime Min­is­ter Władysław Siko­rski, a sym­bol of the émi­gré Pol­ish gov­ern­ment dur­ing World War II, pro­posed in the early 1920s to play on the dif­fer­ences be­tween Ha­ly­chyna and Volyn to un­der­mine Ukrainian unity. De­spite the lower level of na­tional aware­ness, the share of the Ukrainian pop­u­la­tion was higher in Volyn (68.4% of Ukraini­ans and 16.6% of the Poles) com­pared to Ha­ly­chyna. And that was in 1931, af­ter an in­tense col­o­niza­tion cam­paign.

In 1926, the May Coup brought Pil­sud­ski to power in Poland. The price paid was nearly 400 Pol­ish lives and the launch of the Sa­na­tion regime. From the ranks of the Pil­sud­chyks, the fig­ure of Hen­ryk Józewski, a one-time ac­tive mem­ber of the Pol­ish Mil­i­tary Or­ga­ni­za­tion, emerged. He be­came the tenth voievode of Volyn in 1928. His gov­er­nance lasted a decade, which was longer than the ten­ure of all other lo­cal voievodes com­bined.

It’s dif­fi­cult to find a more con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure in the his­tory of Ukrainian-Pol­ish re­la­tions than Józewski. This con­tro­versy may have been less about his per­son­al­ity and more about the Pol­ish pol­i­tics to­wards Ukraini­ans which its Chief of State’s en­vi­ron­ment en­vi­sioned only vaguely but the voievode had to im­ple­ment. It was recorded in his­tory as a “Volyn ex­per­i­ment” and hints at what Pil­sud­ski’s con­cept of na­tional mi­nor­ity pol­icy had been.

De­spite the lower level of na­tional aware­ness, the share of the Ukrainian pop­u­la­tion was higher in Volyn (68.4% of Ukraini­ans and 16.6% of the Poles) com­pared to Ha­ly­chyna. And that was in 1931, af­ter an in­tense col­o­niza­tion cam­paign

Ukrainian life in Volyn de­vel­oped with di­rect sup­port of the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. As the voievode used it against Rus­sian in­flu­ences, he en­cour­aged the Ukrainiza­tion of the Ortho­dox Church and the ap­point­ment of Ukraini­ans to var­i­ous pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions. His ac­tions were risky at times but done with “Ukrainian hands”. In an at­tempt to pre­vent a pro-Rus­sian rally at the Pochayiv Lavra, a ma­jor Ortho­dox shrine in Ternopil Oblast, he urged Ukraini­ans to take it to the streets un­der their flags and in a Ukrainian tone.

“I ad­mit that the plan was quite risky,” Józewski wrote. “A crowd of thou­sands squeezed within the walls of the monastery in such ma­neu­vers could have led to tragic con­se­quences and hu­man vic­tims. I de­cided that it was best for the voievode to not stay in Lutsk on the Day of St. Job of Pochayiv, so that no­body knew where he was. I went grouse hunt­ing early in the morn­ing and re­turned late at night. I was ex­pect­ing dis­cour­ag­ing news, po­lice re­ports, losses, protests, com­plaints of the met­ro­pol­i­tan, in­for­ma­tion on the killed and the in­jured […] Any­thing could have hap­pened.” Con­trary to Józewski’s fears, the event ended suc­cess­fully and with no vic­tims.

While Ha­ly­chyna used the terms “Rusyns” and “Ruthe­ni­ans” for Ukraini­ans of­fi­cially, Volyn had “Ukraini­ans” as the of­fi­cial name thanks to Józewski. Blue and yel­low flags were raised with the con­sent of the au­thor­i­ties, the Ukrainian an­them was some­times per­formed in the voievode’s pres­ence, and Ukrainian ac­tivists were elected to the Sejm un­der the lists of the pro-gov­ern­ment Non-Aligned Bloc.

Józewski him­self was fight­ing against pro-Rus­sian in­flu­ences that in­creas­ingly sig­naled of so­vi­etophilia, as well as Pol­ish na­tional democrats. He coined the phrase about “na­tional democrats’ men­tal­ity, widely pro­moted by the clergy, be­ing en­emy num­ber one in the shap­ing of the Pol­ish at­ti­tudes in the east­ern bor­der­land”.


Yet an­other en­emy from which Józewski was try­ing to pro­tect the lo­cals was Ha­ly­chyna, of­fi­cially known then as East­ern Lit­tle Poland. While en­cour­ag­ing the de­vel­op­ment of Ukrainian in­sti­tu­tions un­der his con­trol, he dili­gently ob­structed the spread of le­gal press or civic or­ga­ni­za­tions from Ha­ly­chyna in Volyn. As a re­sult, Volyn saw nearly 800 li­brary cen­ters of Prosvita [En­light­en­ment], the so­ci­ety that pro­moted na­tional aware­ness and ed­u­ca­tion among Ukraini­ans in the 19th and 20th cen­turies, as well as other Ukrainian cul­tural and com­mer­cial com­mu­ni­ties shut down.

The Ukrainian Na­tional Demo­cratic Union, the big­gest po­lit­i­cal force in Ha­ly­chyna, was not al­lowed in Volyn. The Volyn Ukrainian As­so­ci­a­tion was set up to counter it, in­volv­ing politi­cians with the UNR back­ground: nearly 40,000 peo­ple mi­grated from the UNR to the Sec-

ond Pol­ish Repub­lic af­ter the ar­rival of the Bol­she­viks, so Volyn was the re­gion where they could man­i­fest them­selves.

Józewski worked to trans­form Ukraini­ans into a loyal Pol­ish group. The “Sokal bor­der”, named af­ter a town on the bor­der be­tween the two prov­inces and de­signed to block the in­flu­ence of Ha­ly­chyna in Volyn, thus be­came a real in­ter­nal bor­der within Poland. Józewski re­jected Lviv as a re­gional cen­ter and held joint con­fer­ences with the voievodes of north-east­ern ter­ri­to­ries treat­ing Vilnius as the lo­cal cap­i­tal. The Volyn voievode­ship was the sec­ond largest af­ter Polis­sya voiyevode­ship. To­gether with Vilnius and Nowogrodek voievode­ships, they ac­counted for 30% of Poland’s ter­ri­tory.

“The key task of state pol­icy in Volyn, based on the Pol­ish na­tional in­ter­est and the lo­cal cir­cum­stances, is state as­sim­i­la­tion of this land and the deep­est pos­si­ble merg­ing of it with the pop­u­la­tion of the Sec­ond Pol­ish Repub­lic,” Józewski stated as he opened a con­fer­ence of the east­ern Kresy voievodes in 1929.

Other voievodes ap­proved these state­ments. What this as­sim­i­la­tion ac­tu­ally was shows in the in­ter­est­ing phe­nom­e­non of tute­jszy, a unique na­tional iden­ti­fi­ca­tion that de­vel­oped in the north-east­ern land. Józewski had a sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion for this: “Ukrainian na­tional aware­ness was mak­ing its first steps. Most Ortho­dox res­i­dents of Volyn are tute­jszy”.

How­ever, a look at the two cen­suses held in Poland in 1921 and 1931 re­veals a prob­lem with this state­ment. The first one showed 38,943 peo­ple iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves as tute­jszy in the Sec­ond Pol­ish Repub­lic. Ten years later, the num­ber was 20 times higher at 707,088.

As­sum­ing that this change did not re­sult from fal­si­fi­ca­tions by the ad­min­is­tra­tion, the most likely ex­pla­na­tion for this was the de­na­tion­al­iza­tion of those liv­ing in the north-east­ern Ukrainian ter­ri­to­ries. It would be more ac­cu­rate to ad­mit, how­ever, that both fac­tors had con­trib­uted to the emer­gence of a na­tion­al­ity in the in­ter­war Poland that was al­most equal to the num­ber of the Ger­mans or Be­laru­sians in the coun­try, and three times larger than the Lithua­ni­ans, Czechs and Rus­sians com­bined.

An­other man­i­fes­ta­tion of po­lit­i­cal tam­ing was the “Volyn mar­riage”, a pledge of al­le­giance by the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion to the “late Jozef Pil­sud­ski” ini­ti­ated by Józewski. The lists of the “mar­riage” sig­na­to­ries were to be ce­mented into the walls of Lubart’s Cas­tle in Lutsk but the idea was never im­ple­mented. The Volyn ex­per­i­ment failed as well. The Pol­ish and Ukrainian in­ter­ests were too dif­fer­ent at that time, and too hard to merge. As a re­sult, Józewski was crit­i­cized and treated as an en­emy both by the Poles, and by Ukraini­ans. The Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Ukrainian Na­tion­al­ists con­demned him to death penalty but an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt never hap­pened.

The late 1930s were the pe­riod of grow­ing op­pres­sion of Ukrainian life in the Sec­ond Pol­ish Repub­lic. Churches were ru­ined in the Chelm re­gion, the units of the Bor­der Pro­tec­tion Corps were forc­ing the con­ver­sion of the Ortho­dox pop­u­la­tion into Ro­man Catholi­cism and de­port­ing the lo­cals. At the same time, the os­ad­niks tried to in­tro­duce a new church cal­en­dar for the Ortho­dox re­gion.

“What was hap­pen­ing in Volyn in 1938 was be­com­ing in­tol­er­a­ble. It was an at­tack not only against the Ortho­dox, but against Poland,” Hen­ryk Józewski wrote in his mem­oirs. “I tried to re­sist it. I spoke to the top state of­fi­cials. The mo­ment I re­al­ized that I could do noth­ing, I went to War­saw, asked to meet with Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter of In­te­rior Af­fairs, Gen. Sla­woj-Sk­lad­kowski and de­liv­ered to him my res­ig­na­tion from the of­fice of the Volyn voievode.”

Józewski was leav­ing Volyn to Do You Hear Me, Brother?, a rit­ual song for the Pol­ish in­sur­gents fight­ing against for­eign op­pres­sion in the 19th cen­tury and the mis­for­tu­nate Ukraini­ans forced to leave their home­land, and the Pol­ish an­them per­formed in Ukrainian.

“The en­tire Pol­ish cit­i­zenry of Volyn and Ha­ly­chyna, and most of the Pol­ish cit­i­zenry in the whole of Poland took the news of a change of voievode in Lutsk with true joy,” the Pol­ish press re­ported on the res­ig­na­tion. “While ‘the en­tire Pol­ish cit­i­zenry’ met the res­ig­na­tion ‘with joy’, the en­tire Ukrainian cit­i­zenry met it with no sad­ness, too,” the Ukrainian news­pa­per Dilo added.

Both Pol­ish and Ukrainian re­porters were right. No­body liked Józewski. But it was less about his per­son­al­ity than about the chimeri­cal and in­con­sis­tent poli­cies on na­tional mi­nori­ties in the Sec­ond Pol­ish Repub­lic. The voievode of Volyn was a unique and prob­a­bly the bright­est rep­re­sen­ta­tive of it.

Dis­crim­i­na­tion. Voievode Józewski's in­struc­tion ban­ning “assem­blies and marches to the Cos­sack Graves near Ber­estechko”, a site of a ma­jor bat­tle be­tween Bo­hdan Kh­mel­nyt­sky and the Cos­sacks, with Crimean Tatars as al­lies who be­trayed the Cos­sacks, and...

Hen­ryk Józewski, the voievode of Volyn

A march in Lutsk, the cap­i­tal of Volyn, to grieve the death of Mar­shal Jozef Pil­sud­ski. Hen­ryk Józewski stands on the podium un­der the por­trait of the Chief of State. He came up with the idea of “Volyn mar­riage”, a solemn pledge of al­le­giance by the...

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