The destruction and dislocation in Ukraine caused by the Second World War surpassed even that of the First World War. An estimated 6.8 million Ukrainians were killed, and direct material damage came to 285 billion rubles (1941 prices). After a forced repatriation of more than two million Ukrainian slave laborers (Ostarbeiter), prisoners of war, and concentration camp survivors from Germany to the USSR, about 200,000 Ukrainian displaced persons ended up in the emigration in the West. At the same time, many of those repartiated to the USSR suffered death, imprisonment, and persecution at the hands of Soviet authorities. The extermination of much of Ukraine's Jewish population during the war and a series of wartime and postwar population transfers and deportations substantially altered the ethnic composition of Ukraine. After the expulsion and emigration of most Poles, the cities of Western Ukraine became Ukrainianized and for the first time developed a Russian minority. In general, there occurred a large in-migration of Russians into all Ukrainian cities and towns and a new period of Russification began. The once substantial German settlements in Ukraine, particularly in the south, as well as those of the Tatars in the Crimea, disappeared following the Stalinist regime's mass deportations of Germans and Crimean Tatars to Siberia and Central Asia. During the so-called Operation Wisla, Ukrainians in the Sian region and Lemko region were deported from their ancestral territories into the new lands that Poland acquired from Germany. In the immediate postwar years thousands of Ukrainians, mainly in Western Ukraine, were tried for their political or religious activity and sent to Soviet labor camps. Overall, the victory against the Nazis in 1941-5 became an important source of legitimation for the Soviet regime and figured prominently in its propaganda at home and abroad. The USSR's position in international politics was greatly strengthened because of the Western Allies' concessions made at the Yalta Conference in 1945 which, in effect, resulted in the beginning of the Cold War... Learn more about the history of Ukrainians during the first postwar years of 1945-7 by visiting the following entries:


YALTA CONFERENCE. The conference of the 'Big Three' Allied leaders held in Yalta, in the Crimea, on 4-11 February 1945. There F.D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and their foreign ministers, military chiefs of staff, and other advisers planned the final defeat of Nazi Germany and determined the political order of postwar Europe. Among the most important decisions reached were those concerning the dismemberment of Germany and Austria into military-occupation zones of the United States, Great Britain, France, and the USSR; the reparations to be imposed on Germany; the prosecution of Nazi war criminals; the repatriation of American prisoners of war and displaced Soviet citizens; the redrawing of Poland's borders (ie, Poland's withdrawal east of the Curzon Line in exchange for the incorporation of Germany's eastern borderlands within Poland); the establishment of the Moscow-sponsored Polish Provisional Government of National Unity; and the admission of Soviet Ukraine and Belarus in addition to the USSR as members of the proposed UN General Assembly. The conference's 'Declaration on Liberated Europe' allowed the USSR to interpret broadly its 'aid' to the countries it 'liberated'; the result was the Sovietization of Eastern Europe and the Cold War. Joseph Stalin and his advisers maximally exploited the Soviet military victories against Germany and the Soviet military occupation of most of Eastern Europe to gain an upper hand in the conference's decisions. Roosevelt yielded to most of the Soviet demands. The conference formally recognized the Soviet annexation of eastern Galicia and Volhynia and western Belarus (ie, half of prewar Poland's territory), sealed Eastern Europe's fate within the Soviet sphere of influence, and strengthened the position of the USSR in world politics...

Yalta Conference


DISPLACED PERSONS. Designation for various categories of the approximately six million persons who, during and after the Second World War, found themselves away from their homeland in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Most of them were labor conscripts (Ostarbeiter), war prisoners, concentration camp prisoners, refugees, and other victims of war. The term 'displaced person' was applied initially to citizens of German-occupied countries; after 1945-6, when most of them had been (often forcefully) repatriated to their homelands, it was applied only to those refugees who refused to return to their countries, particularly those that were Communist-dominated. In 1946, after the repatriation of most displaced persons, about 1.2 million remained in Germany and Austria, including over 200,000 Ukrainians. They lived mostly in displaced persons camps in the three occupation zones of West Germany and Austria. About 80 camps were predominantly Ukrainian; other Ukrainian refugees lived in mixed camps, and 25-30 percent lived outside the camps. The largest Ukrainian DP camps (2,000-5,000 people) were in the American zone, near Munich, Augsburg, Mittenwald, Regensburg, and other cities. As early as 1945 Ukrainian camps established their own local agencies of self-government, parallel to the military administration of the camps. An active civic, political, cultural, educational, religious, economic, literary, and artistic life developed in the camps during their brief existence. In 1948, for example, 102 elementary schools, 35 gymnasiums, 12 other secondary schools, and 43 trade schools functioned in the camps; as well, 232 periodicals and 818 books were published. Most of the displaced persons emigrated across the Atlantic in 1947-52...

Displaced persons


REPATRIATION. The repatriation of Ukrainians in the period immediately following the Second World War was part of a larger effort by the victorious Allies to return home the estimated 5.6 to 8.4 million Eastern Europeans who were displaced during the war. The majority of them found themselves in Germany and Austria. Of those, several million were Ukrainians, including 2.2 million forced laborers, the so-called Ostarbeiter, brought by the Nazis to Germany from Ukraine. The legal basis for Eastern European repatriation was established in February 1945 at the Yalta Conference, when the Western Allies signed an agreement with the USSR which guaranteed repatriation of all Soviet nationals. The term was understood, particularly by the Soviets, to mean (if necessary) forcible repatriation. By mid-1945 the Soviets repatriated some three million people from their areas of occupation. By the fall of 1945 an additional 2.2 (or more) million persons had been transferred to areas of Soviet control. Most of those people had to be moved by force. The zeal with which the Soviet authorities pursued repatriation may be explained by their desire to punish those who had neglected their duty to the 'Soviet homeland' and assisted the Nazis. The need for workers in the process of postwar reconstruction was also a factor. Finally, the Soviet authorities probably feared that their international reputation would be severely damaged by the revelations concerning life under the Soviet regime that would surface if a large number of their ex-nationals were living in the West, particularly Ukrainians; the Soviet authorities were especially vigilant in pursuing their repatriation. The worst fears of many repatriates were later realized: some 300,000 of them were executed upon their return to their homeland, and about 2.5 million were sentenced to labor camps for periods ranging from 3 to 25 years. About half of those sentenced to labor camps did not survive the inhumane conditions of their imprisonment...



FAMINE OF 1946-47. A year after the end of the Second World War, many of the inhabitants of central and eastern Ukraine experienced hunger as a result of a drought that exacerbated the general wartime collapse of agriculture. However, the Soviet government refused to lower delivery quotas on grain and other products that it had imposed on the peasants. Moreover, the authorities pushed hard for the delivery of foodstuffs and threatened local officials for hoarding or sabotage if they failed to meet their quotas. A substantial amount of the foodstuffs that were requisitioned were exported to Soviet-controlled Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria. As a result of the onerous food confiscations, famine conditions emerged. The famine did not occur in newly annexed Western Ukraine because the collective-farm system had not yet been introduced there and the resistance of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army rendered food procurement difficult. Therefore many peasants traveled there from Ukraine's central and eastern oblasts to beg for bread, and in the summer of 1946 trains going westward were crammed with starving people. The authorities tried to stop the exodus by police methods, forbidding western Ukrainian peasants to sell food to newcomers and spreading rumours of epidemics and poisoned food in the western oblasts. The Soviet regime did not acknowledge that a famine occurred in Ukraine in 1946-7. Estimates of the number of people who died vary widely, ranging from 100,000 to upwards of one million...

Famine of 1946-7


LVIV SOBOR OF 1946. The central formal event in the annexation of Halych metropoly of the Greek Catholic church by the Russian Orthodox church following the Soviet occupation of Western Ukraine. Held on 8-10 March 1946 in Lviv, the sobor was the culmination of a lengthy campaign against the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church. The death of Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky (1 November 1944) had left the church without a strong figurehead. On 11 April 1945 the new metropolitan, Yosyf Slipy, as well as Bishops Hryhorii Khomyshyn, Mykola Charnetsky, Nykyta Budka, and Ivan Liatyshevsky were arrested by the Soviet authorities and sentenced to lengthy terms in labor camps. At the same time the Soviet authorities prevented the election of the vicars to administer the vacant sees, thus rendering the church leaderless. A government-approved 'Sponsoring Group for the Re-Union of the Greek Catholic Church with the Russian Orthodox Church' emerged publicly on 28 May 1945 and proclaimed itself as the only legally constituted leadership of the Greek Catholic church. In spite of a letter of protest from some 300 clergymen, the group was given an exclusive jurisdiction over the church by Soviet authorities. The group consisted of three priests, Havryil Kostelnyk, Mykhailo I. Melnyk, and A. Pelvetsky, who led a campaign to convince the Galician clergy of the benefits of 'reunification.' Priests who were not convinced by them were subjected to persecution by the Soviet security police. Since none of the imprisoned Ukrainian Catholic bishops would succumb to Soviet pressure to convert to Orthodoxy, the Moscow patriarchate undertook the extraordinary action of ordaining two of the Sponsoring Group leaders as Orthodox bishops. The sobor itself was a carefully staged showpiece which abolished the Church Union of Berestia and 'returned' the Halych metropoly to the Russian Orthodox church. It was followed by a wave of repression against those priests and monks who had refused to accept the 're-union'...

Lviv Sobor of 1946


OPERATION WISLA. The code name of the military operation, by Polish military and security units (28 April to 31 July 1947), that resulted in the deportation of 150,000 Ukrainians from their autochthonous territories in southeastern Poland to Poland's 'regained territories,' newly acquired from Germany, in the north and northwest. Officially the purpose of Operation Wisla was to destroy Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) units active in the Lemko region as well as to deprive them of a base of support among the local population. Most Polish sources claim the decision was provoked by the death of Gen Karol Swierczewski, the Polish deputy minister of defense, in a UPA ambush on 28 March 1947. In reality the operation had been prepared well in advance, and represented the last of several measures taken by the Soviet and Polish authorities during and after the Second World War to 'solve' Poland's 'Ukrainian problem.' Earlier, on the basis of a Soviet-Polish agreement, signed on 19 September 1944, to 'repatriate' Poles in the Ukrainian SSR and Ukrainians in Poland, almost half a million Ukrainians in Poland had been resettled in the Ukrainian SSR. During the Operation Wisla all Ukrainians in the affected territories, regardless of their political views and affiliations, were deported. The deportation process was swift and brutal: deportees were often given only a few hours to prepare themselves, could take only limited belongings, and were transported in crowded boxcars. The deportation process was accompanied by considerable violence and some deportees died in transit; those who resisted deportation, or were suspected of aiding the UPA, were imprisoned in the Jaworzno prison camp in Silesia. The deportees were dispersed over a wide area. They were to constitute no more than 10 percent of the population in any one location, and the eventual goal of government policy was their assimilation into the Polish majority...

Operation Wisla

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