top of page

The Bieszczady

Border: Poland – Czechoslovakia (Hungary from April 1939)
At present: Ukraine

In the years 1944–1946, under the so-called republican treaties Poland and the USSR exchanged citizens, deporting the Polish population from the former territories of the Second Polish Republic occupied by the Soviets, and at the same time - at first voluntarily and then forcibly – casting away the Ukrainian population to the Soviet Union, including the Carpathian highlanders: Boykos and Lemkos. The deportations covered the area from Włodawa, located on the Bug River east of Lublin, to Sanok and the Bieszczady Mountains. During the operation, there were often rapes, robberies and even murders. Some Polish soldiers, especially those from Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, treated the action as an act of revenge for the persecution of local Poles by the Ukrainians. In total, almost half a million people had parted with their homeland, including over 250,000 who were forced to leave. The displaced persons were scattered throughout the territory of Soviet Ukraine, from Galicia and Volhynia, through the Odessa Oblast to the Donbass region.

Then came Operation Vistula, inspired by the Kremlin and organized in 1947 by the Polish communist authorities, as part of which about 140,000 Ukrainians from south-eastern Poland were resettled to the so-called Recovered Territories (former German land granted to Poland after the war). Finally, in 1951 there was a correction of borders enforced by the USSR. Poland gave Russia the eastern portion of the Lublin region called the Sokalszczyzna and in return it received a fragment of the Bieszczady around Ustrzyki Dolne. At the same time, about 30 thousand Boykos from the Bieszczady Mountains were deported to the Odessa, Donetsk, Kherson and Mikolajewski Oblasts. They were taken from mountain forests, rich in mushrooms, berries and fish - snatched away from one place and thrown into another, where they were not welcome. Still, their roots remained in the Bieszczady range. 

“In reality, this steppe land turned out to be extraordinary, but we associated it with an inhospitable desert, rather than a promised land. In the Bieszczady Mountains, we never knew hunger except in the worst time of war, and now it has become our everyday life. Fear, fear, fear. It is with fear that they pushed us around, bashed us into the Black Sea steppe. When a man fears another man, you can do anything to him,” says Marija from the village of Jeremijewka near Odessa. 

bottom of page