Massacre of Poles in Berezowica Mała
72 years ago, during the night of 22 February 1944, Ukrainian Nationals murdered over 100 residents in the village of Berezowica Mała, in Tarnopol province. Over 20 Polish homesteads were set on fire. Poles who were still alive hurriedly buried all the victims and fled from the district.
The murders in Berezowica Mała were typical of the murders by the Ukrainian Nationalists on Polish people during 1944-45 in the “Kresy” region. During the attacks on individual villages the number of victims was counted in hundreds, sometimes in tens, but single and often forgotten victims were seldom found.
During the night when the tired residents of Berezowica Mała were already asleep the Banderittes came. There were a few hundreds of them as they approached the village quietly planning an element of surprise. The first attack took place in the neighboring village about a kilometer away from Berezowica. People in the village were being murdered in a bestial manner. Piotr Szewczuk was killed by being axed into pieces . Widow Katarzyna Tomków and her 7 children were killed with bayonets. Jan Nowakowski was killed with an axe-blow to the head. Others that were lucky to survive were the Kurylczuk family that were away that day from the village. Shocked Kurylczuk ran through the village yelling “Rizut, Rizut”( they are butchering us ) thus saving lives of other residents in Berezowica. There was panic in the village; people run to hide in the sheds and in the forest.
Those who quickly hid in the sheds under and behind the farm machinery were set alight. A similar misfortune fell upon 30 people who hid themselves in the barn of Mikolaj Sesiuk. Banderowcy first removed all the machinery and then fired a machine gun at the people who were gathered in the barn sitting against the wall. Some people managed to escape the burning sheds as the Ukrainians were in hurry to attend the next. Among the survivors were Michal Budnik, Hrynko Panczyszyn and Maria Dzygala. The brothers Kubowów returned to Berezowica the next day. They were met by the burnt corpses.
“When we walked through the village there were corpses everywhere” remembers Władysław Kubów. In front of his house lay the dead body of Jan Szymkow, the father of his friend. Some of the corpses were so badly burnt that it was impossible to identify the individuals. During that night there were 131 Polish people killed by the UPA. They were all being buried hurriedly. Those who survived had to bury the dead during the day so that they did not have to spend the night at the cemetery. Majority of population from Berezowice found a safe place in Tarnopol. Many had family and friends there. Soon there were the Soviets who tried to take the city. The fight for Tarnopol lasted 5 weeks.
More executions followed; In November in broad daylight there was a murder which shocked the people of Berezowica Mała. “I was standing by the window looking at the street” remembers Maria Kozibroda. “There was a person being led and he was begging for his life. This was Franek Kubów. They executed him by hanging. On 14 December there were more killings, one was Paweł Wiśniowski and Piotr Kubów.”
The world knew about this genocide, but said nothing. The Ukrainians engaged in this ethnic cleansing convinced that this is a good way to achieve political objectives ans support Nazi Germany.
Excerpts taken and edited from:
The change in Polish-Ukrainian relations. Warning Graphic image!
Bestial murders ( English sub.)
According to Władysław Filar from Polish Institute of National Remembrance, a witness of the massacres, it is impossible to establish whether these events were ever planned. There is no documentation proving that UPA-OUN made a decision to exterminate Poles in Volyn. However, Filar cites numerous statements of the Ukrainian officers, who reported their actions to the leaders of UPA-OUN. For example, in late September 1943, commandant of the Lysoho group wrote to the OUN headquarters: “On September 29, 1943, I carried out the action in the villages of Wola Ostrowiecka and Ostrówki. I have liquidated all Poles, starting from the youngest ones. Afterwards, all buildings were burned and all goods were confiscated”. Professor Filar adds that on that day in Wola Ostrowiecka 529 Poles were murdered (including 220 children under 14), and in Ostrówki, the Ukrainians killed 438 persons (including 246 children).
The slaughter, which in early 1944 moved southwards, did not stop after the Red Army entered into the areas. On Christmas Eve of 1944, the Ukrainian nationalists killed 90 Poles in the Podolian village of Ihrowica. In late December 1944, 106 Poles were killed in Lozowa. In the night of February 5-6, 1944, Ukrainian groups attacked a Polish village of Barycz, near Buchach. 126 Poles were massacred, including children and women. A few days later, a local group of OUN, under Petro Chamchuk attacked Polish settlement of Puźniki (February 12-13), killing around 100 persons and burning houses. Those who survived, moved mostly to Prudnik.
Then, in the village of Korosciatyn, 78 Poles were murdered, the victims were later counted by a local Roman Catholic priest, rev. Mieczysław Kamiński. Father Kamiński stated that local Greek Catholic priests were urging the Ukrainian faithful to kill all members of mixed, Polish-Ukrainian families. One of the most infamous massacres took place on February 28, 1944, in a Polish village of Huta Pieniacka, where around 1,000 Poles were murdered, including a significant number of children. Among scores of Polish villages, whose inhabitants were murdered and all buildings burned, there are such places as Berezowica near Zbaraz, Ihrowica near Ternopil, Plotych near Ternopil, Podkamien near Brody, Hanachiv and Hanachivka near Przemyslany and many, many more.
According to a Polish historian Piotr Łossowski, the scheme used in most of the attacks was the same. At first, local Poles were assured that nothing would happen to them. Then, at dawn, a village was surrounded by armed members of the UPA, behind whom were peasants with axes, hammers, knives and saws. Murdered were all Poles encountered, sometimes they were herded into one spot, to make it easier. After a massacre, all goods were looted, including clothes, grain and furniture. The final part of an attack was setting fire to the village.
Massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia