by Mark Howansky (May 16, 2017)
The Organization for the Defense of Lemkivshchyna (OOL) and the Ukrainian-American Youth Association (CYM) have partnered to help educate people about the 1947 forced resettlement of the Ukrainian minority in Poland, codenamed Akcja “Wisła”. This action was carried out by the Soviet-installed Polish communist authorities as the second phase of their plan to eliminate the Ukrainians (mostly Lemkos and Boykos) who resided in Poland after the post-WWII borders were established. The first phase was a Soviet-Polish population exchange, where 490,000 Ukrainians were relocated from Poland to the Soviet Union and 790,000 Poles were relocated from the Soviet Union to Poland. Akcja “Wisla” was the Polish communist government’s attempt to deal with the remaining 150,000 Ukrainians who refused to leave their ancestral lands. During the three months beginning April 28, 1947, about 140,000 civilians were forcibly resettled to the formerly German territories ceded to Poland at the Yalta Conference at the end of World War II. Polish government documents show that the goal of the action was to force Polonization of the Ukrainian minority by removing them from their historical lands and deliberately spreading them across the country in low concentrations.
One of the goals of OOL is to obtain recognition and reparation from the current Polish government for this ethnic crime. Another is to educate people about this tragic chapter in Ukrainian history. Therefore, current OOL president Mark Howansky welcomed the offer to partner with CYM when they decided to include Akcja “Wisla” as one of their annually selected education topics for the 2016-17 academic year. The teaching materials on the topic were compiled by members of the CYM’s National Educational Council. OOL members Zenon and Olenka Halkowycz, Mark Howansky, Diana Howansky Reilly, Lena Howansky, Petro and Julia Kosciolek and Toma Pyz supplemented their work by giving guest lectures in Jersey City (NJ), Whippany (NJ), Irvington (NJ), Passaic (NJ), Goshen (NY), Stamford (CT), Yonkers (NY) and New York City.
The CYM’s National Educational Council also wanted young members of CYM (sumivtsi) to interact with eye witnesses and survivors of Akcja “Wisla”. With the help of OOL, a list of interview questions was created and survivors were identified. The questions were used as a template by the young interviewers of the different “oseredky” (branches) of CYM in the US and Canada to interview survivors of Akcja “Wisla”, which include OOL Members Petro Lukachyn in Jersey City (NJ), Anna Soroka in Irvington (NJ), Evhenia Komanecka in Passaic (NJ), Yaroslav Miskewicz in Chicago (IL), Maria Heletkanych in Philadelphia (PA), John Hlywa in Stamford (CT), Andrij and Teresa Kaszcak in Goshen (NY), Mikolaj and Anna Filak, Maria and Melanie Kowalczyk in Yonkers (NY), and Tekla Hnatyshyn in New York City.
The interviews conducted by the young sumivtsi are posted on the CYM website and Lemko-OOL YouTube channel. The sumivtsi were also tested on their knowledge and presented their interview projects at the CYM Zlet youth gathering on Memorial Day weekend in Ellenville, NY.
Mikolaj and Anna Filak in Yonkers, NY
Ivan Hlywa in Stamford, CT
Tekla Hnatyshyn in New York, NY
Melanie Kowalczyk in Yonkers, NY
Maria (Kocur) Kowalczyk in Yonkers, NY
Evhenia (Petrovska) Komanetska in Passaic, NJ
Yaroslav Miskevich in Chicago, IL
https://cym.org/us-chicago/2017/02/06/aktsiya-visla/?lang=uk (transcript only)
Anna Soroka in Irvington, NJ