Poles of Right-bank Ukraine. Part 1. History

Poles of Right-bank Ukraine. Part 1. History

Definition of terminology

Right-bank  Ukraine – this is how in Russian empire was called terry of three Russian governances (Russian term – gubernia’s) – Kyiv, Podol and Volyn governance, that have been included to it’s territory after Second and  Third partitions of Poland in years 1793 – 1795. Different names are South-Western land or «Poles» gubernias.

The Poles of Right-Bank Ukraine are mainly descendants of the landless Polish nobility who colonized the region during the 17th and 18th centuries. To a lesser extent, these are the descendants of the local nobility, polonized in the 18th century. In the 20th century, they (together with the Poles of Belarus) formed the basis of the Polish national minority in the USSR.

Features of this population category were:

  • detachment from the Polish cultural and linguistic environment;
  • loss of the Polish language;
  • preservation of the Roman Catholic faith;
  • preservation of national identity;
  • limiting family contacts within their group;
  • own historical path.



One of the features of the Poles of Right-Bank Ukraine is the fact that they come mainly (more than 90%) from the Polish nobility. This is how they differ from the Poles of modern Poland, who mostly (more than 60%) come from Polish peasants.

Therefore, if we talk about the Poles of the Right Bank Ukraine of the 19th century, we are talking about the Polish nobility. The nobility was also not homogeneous in composition and was divided into the following categories:

  • Large landowners
  • Middle nobility
  • Peripheral and partial nobility
  • Czynsz nobility
  • Landless nobility

Large landowners – owners of large land latifundiums in Right Bank Ukraine; in percentage terms, they made up less than 1% of Poles and will not be reviewed in this article. There are enough published materials about them. After 1917, they left Ukraine and settled in Poland, which regained its independence.

Middle nobility – owners or tenants of one or more settlements; in percentage terms, they made up about 5% of Poles. The vast majority of them, like the Polish landowners, left Ukraine after 1917.

The surrounding gentry are the descendants of the Old Russian boyars who lived in the suburbs in the north of Kyiv and Volyn provinces, and, to a lesser extent, in Podillya; owners of parts of villages. As a rule, they bore the same surname because they came from one distant ancestor. Some of them were Polonized during the 18th century, but the majority kept the memory of their Ukrainian origin. This article will not consider them, because they did not belong to the Polish ethnicity. Later, they took part in the formation of the Ukrainian people.

Partial nobility are the owners not of whole settlements, but of their individual parts. They arose as a result of the fragmentation of patrimonial possessions in noble families with many children. They differ from the neighboring gentry of the Right Bank Ukraine in that they are not native inhabitants of the local region, but come from Polish gentry-colonists of the 17th-18th centuries; usually belonged to the Polish ethnic group.

Landless gentry in the 19th century, these were usually servants at the courts of large and medium-sized landowners, representatives of the gentry intelligentsia, urban gentry. The life of the first and second subgroups was closely connected with the life of the landowners, and the urban nobility during the 19th century was Russified and became part of the so-called Ukrainian Russian-speaking urban culture.

The majority – more than 90% – of the gentry of the Right Bank of Ukraine consisted of czynsz nobles. We will consider them as representatives of the Polish ethnic group in this work.

It is worth noting that, according to some historians, some part of the czynsz nobility could have Ukrainian autochthonous origin. They were assimilated (Ukrainized) quite early and later became part of the Ukrainian people; they will not be discussed in this article.

Different categories of Polish nobility

Who are the czynsz nobles?  Tenancy law came to Poland from Germany in the 13th and 14th centuries, and its meaning was in the right of hereditary lease – a procedure according to which the tenant of land (tenant) had the right to use and inherit it, while its real owner was satisfied with a certain regular fee (rental). The tenant could sell the rented property, but in this case the buyer also had to pay rent to the land owner. The owner of the plot could punish his tenant for some fault, but he could not take away the land.

Czynsz nobles were the majority of the gentry even during the existence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In order to feed their large families, the poor nobles, same as the peasants, had to personally work on the cultivation of land plots. For this purpose, they concluded oral land lease agreements with representatives of the king, or more often with large landowners, and settled with the rights of tenants in the new area, on the territory of their estates. This is how the Right Bank Ukraine was colonized by landless nobles, natives of ethnic Poland (mainly from densely populated Mazovia), Lithuania and other regions. The peak of this process falls on the period from the end of the 17th to the middle of the 18th century.

Types of nobility: large landowners

How did nobles become peasants? Undoubtedly, this process is related to the large number of noble families and the small amount of free land in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, since most of it was concentrated in the hands of big magnates. Younger sons, as a rule, did not get anything from their father’s estates, and they passed into the category of landless nobility. Some went to serve in the army or in the courts of large landowners, and some became rent workers. The process of crushing small noble estates and forming the category of landless nobility began as early as the 16th century and reached its peak in the middle of the 17th century. Most of the landless nobility moved to the vast eastern outskirts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (modern Ukraine and Belarus).

Large landowners were interested in settling tenant (czynsz) farmers in their estates and granted them all kinds of privileges. First, it made it possible to populate huge territories with loyal and mentally close compatriots, which was especially relevant during conflicts with neighbors and peasant riots, which were hostile to Polish lords. Secondly, it gave the landowner hundreds of “pocket” votes at the local sejm (noble meeting).

After the Four-Year Sejm of 1788 – 1792, an attempt was made to exclude the poor peasants from the political life of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, depriving them of the right to vote at noble meetings. Later, this decision returned with very sad consequences: the majority of wage earners supported the “treasonous” confederation and even the invasion of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by foreign troops. Russia, which took part in the division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1793 – 1795, canceled all previously adopted Polish constitutions and restored the rights of the small landed gentry. But at the same time, the nobility had to provide the new owners with evidence of their noble origin.

From the history of the Kozlovsky family

Coroner of the Crown Troops Andrei Kozlovsky, coat of arms Kozlovsky, and his younger brother Jan were among the first settlers of the village of Huta Borisovskaya in the Volyn Voivodeship, which belonged to Prince Yablonovsky. They moved here as czynsz nobles shortly after the Uman massacre in 1768. Their father Stanislav Kozlovsky, the owner, lived in Uman region. Armed detachments of Haydamak burned his house, and he was killed. Stanislav was the son of the captain of the Crown Forces, the partial owner of the village of Fusov, Vladyslav Kozlovsky, coat of arms Kozlovsky, who came from Lithuania [TsDIAK, F.481, Op.1, Spr.243].

Incorporation of the nobility, 1795 – 1863

After the incorporation of the eastern outskirts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth into the Russian Empire (1793 – 1795), according to the decree of Empress Catherine II, all those who lived in the newly annexed lands retained their rights and privileges. In particular, the numerous local rent gentry were promised the preservation of their rights and, in the future, enrollment in the nobility.

In order to determine the number of the nobility in 1795, a revision was conducted (according to the overall imperial calculation – the fifth, and for the studied region – the first). So-called noble information was compiled; those who were included in them were temporarily recognized in the rights of the Russian nobility (did not pay taxes, had freedom of movement, etc.), but at the same time undertook to submit documentary evidence of their origin for approval.

Those who were not included in the nobility were included in the category of peasants-serfs. Often the nobles were mistakenly recorded in the lists of the peasants, without paying any special attention to it. However, later they had the right to contest this moment, submitting evidence of their noble origin and “removing” themselves from peasant audits(lists).

Document about nobility ancestry

The process of incorporation of the Polish nobility into Russian society lasted several decades. As a result, the nobles were divided into several categories: the first (Polish landowners), the second (those who provided documents about their origin) and the third (those who did not provide documents, but continued to enjoy the privileges of the Russian nobility). It is worth noting that the last two categories of nobility did not own real estate and serfs, which was characteristic of Russian nobles. On the contrary, in the economic life and daily life of these ranks of the nobility, there was little difference from the Ukrainian peasants.

In general, until 1830, the everyday life of the small-land Polish nobility was not much different from life during the existence of the Polish Commonwealth. Many did not feel any difference at all: they continued to live on their suzerain’s lands, paying him rent, participating in local sejms.

In 1830, the Polish November National Liberation Uprising took place, which gave impetus to the wave of declassification of Polish rentiers: during the 1830s, almost all the 3rd-class gentry were excluded from the nobility and transferred to the social status of courtiers.

The process of declassification in the 1830s affected the Kyiv province the most: the vast majority of local nobles were transferred to single-family homes. The process affected the Volyn province to a lesser extent, and the Podilska province was practically not affected: almost the entire local nobility was included in the accelerated regime among the nobles of the 2nd rank on the basis of various types of secondary documentary evidence. Since such decisions were made by local noblemen’s meetings, it turns out that there was the greatest surge of Polish nobility’s solidarity in Podillya.

In 1840, the Central Revision Commission (CRC) was organized in the city of Kyiv, the purpose of which was to check documents on the noble origin of the right-bank gentry. Since there were unnaturally many nobles in the West of the Russian Empire compared to other provinces (an average of 7%, while this figure was 1% of the population in general throughout the empire), the “Highest Decree” decided to correct this discrepancy.

All local nobles, regardless of their financial situation, had to pass the inspection of the Central Committee, including landowners (nobles of the 1st category). As a result of the Central Committee’s activities, more than 90% of the nobles (almost the entire 2nd rank) during 1840 – 1844 were declassified and transferred to the social status of courtiers, or citizens.

After the termination of the activity of the Central Committee in 1845, the declassified nobles of the 2nd category received the right to appeal the decision of the commission by providing additional evidence of their origin to the provincial Noble Deputies’ Assembly (DDZ) (as a rule, documents were accepted that their ancestors owned estates during the existence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ). Thus, many families continued to collect documents and during the years 1845 – 1863 submitted them to the DDZ, after which they were restored to noble dignity for a while. However, the final decision, which was made by the Heroldia in St. Petersburg, was not made. The process was in a “suspended” state until January 1863.

After the beginning of the Polish January Uprising of 1863 (when a part of the right-bank gentry took part in it), a decree was issued on the termination of record keeping on the “Polish gentry”, almost all previously submitted documentary evidence was rejected. The Poles of the Right Bank, who had previously been included among the 2nd class nobles, and who received the hope of legal entry into the Russian nobility, were finally transferred to the taxable estates: burghers and peasants.

Mainly, only representatives of the 1st category, i.e. Polish landowners (less than 6% of the total number of nobility), and only those who did not take part in the January Uprising, retained the nobility.

Герби польської шляхти зі справ про дворянське походження

From the history of the Kozlovsky family

After the entry of the village of Huta Borysovskaya of the Ostroh District into the Russian Empire in 1795, an audit was conducted here. The settlement was partly inhabited by the Polish nobility, who paid annual rent to the owner, Prince Yablonovsky, and partly by peasants, the prince’s subjects. Separate audits were conducted for both estates. Now the audit materials are stored in the Zhytomyr regional archive, in the fund of the Treasury Chamber (for peasants), and in the Kyiv regional archive, in a similar fund (for the nobility). The Kozlovskys were recorded as nobility [DAKO, F.280, Op.203, Spr.1a]. Soon they collected and submitted to the Volyn nobles’ deputy assembly documents about their noble origin, among which were extracts from Grodsky books that their ancestors owned villages with serfs, merchants and other documents. On the basis of this evidence (despite the fact that at that time they were chinsheviks), they were recognized as Russian nobility and entered on 12.07.1820 in the 1st part of the Genealogical Book of the Volyn Province [DAZHO, F.146, Op.1, Case 433]. In November 1844, the Kozlovskys passed the inspection of the Central Committee: the documentary evidence provided earlier turned out to be insufficient, and they, as nobles of the 2nd category, were excluded from the Genealogical Book and transferred to the tax class of the odnodvortsev [CDIAK, F.481, Op.1, Case No. 243]. According to the audits of 1854 and 1858, they were recorded as members of the Kryvynskyi Odnodvorcheskoho Society; lived in the village of Huta Borysovskaya [DAZHO, F.118, Op.14, Spr.238]. Documents related to the noble origin of the Kozlovskys are stored in the Zhytomyr archive, in the fund of the Volyn noble deputy assembly; documents related to the declassification of the Kozlovsky family are stored in the Kyiv Historical Archives, in the Center of Central Committee; Revizskie tales of the odnodvortsev of the Volyn province are stored in the Zhytomyr archive, in the Fund of the Treasury Chamber.


Polish uprisings of 1830 and 1863

The Poles were the most restless nation of all that inhabited the vast Russian Empire. They caused a lot of trouble with their proud demeanor and independent behavior, and during the century that they were part of the metropolis, the Poles revolted against the ruling regime twice with an interval of 30 years. The disaster in both cases ended with a defeat in rights for them; in particular, this applies to the Poles of Right-Bank Ukraine.

After the first uprising, as mentioned above, the vast majority of the Polish nobility of the 3rd degree was transferred to the social status of courtiers. After the second uprising, the policy of Russification of Polish territories and Polish identity in general was strengthened. The goal of the tsarist officials was the complete elimination of the Polish-noble cultural autonomy, the integration of the former territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth into the Russian Empire, the suppression of the Polish language and Polish national culture, primarily in the administrative and educational spheres.

January rebels, 1863. Painting by A. Grotger

From the history of the Kozlovsky family

According to oral tradition, some representatives of the Kozlowski family and the related Krasowski family, among other Poles inhabiting the village of Huta Borysovskaya, took part in the January Polish National Liberation Uprising, to which they were instigated by local Polish landowners. Documentary confirmation of this has not yet been found, only fragmentary information confirming the family legend has been found. Thus, Luka Rafalskyi, an eyewitness to the events and the author of notes devoted to a trip to the Ostroh District in 1864, writes: “Many rebels were beaten near the village of Mynkovtsy, but not many were captured, especially since the Zaslavsky correctional officer gathered peasants from neighboring places , stood with them at known points and caught fugitives. However, many of the rebels, local residents, familiar with the paths of the forest, of which there are many, safely returned to their homes and pretended to be civilians.” In addition, we find some information in the rent registers for the village of Borisov, which are now kept in the Rivne archive: “landlord Vladyslav Yablonovsky, who did not personally take part in the January Uprising, was assessed a contribution, the payment of which he assigned to the Borysov gentry, increased the annual rent land use fee”.


Assimilation processes

One of the peculiarities of the Poles of Right-bank Ukraine was that they lived surrounded by Ukrainian peasants, who differed from them both in origin and rights, as well as in religion and language. In this way, the Polish gentry of Right-Bank Ukraine differed from the Polish gentry who inhabited Polish ethnic lands – the so-called Vistula Land (Kraj Nadwiślański), where only Polish peasants lived.

Based on this, from the middle of the 19th century, the processes of assimilation began to intensify among the Poles of the Right Bank. Mainly, it is about Ukrainization: the transition to the use of the Ukrainian language in everyday life and the change of religion – from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy.

The native language of the Right-bank Poles, with which they came here in the 18th century, was Polish. But over time, living surrounded by the Ukrainian peasantry, they began to switch to the Ukrainian language. Initially, this process consisted in the format of bilingualism: among themselves (within their community, in families) they communicated in Polish, with Ukrainian neighbors in Ukrainian. After some time, the Polish language became a cult language: it was used to say prayers, perform religious ceremonies, and preserve folklore (songs, proverbs). In everyday life, the Ukrainian language began to dominate exclusively (although with a large percentage of Polonisms).

In cities and towns, the Polish language was preserved longer; in large cities, Polish was replaced by Russian only at the beginning of the 20th century.

The process of losing one’s native language did not happen at the same time: it happened differently in different areas. For example, already in the 1830s, in the rural areas of the Kyiv province, the peasant gentry spoke mainly Ukrainian. Most of the Polish population of the Volyn province lost their native language in the period from the middle of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. Around the same time, the Poles of Podilia also switched to the Ukrainian language in everyday life.

Although Polish “language islands” in certain areas of the Right-bank fell in the middle of the 20th century (mainly in Podil and Zhytomyr region), this is more of an exception than a mass phenomenon.

Roman Catholic Church of St. John, Zaslav, Volyn Province

As for religion, the Right-bank Poles belonged to the Roman Catholic faith. It was one of the most important factors that protected the ethnic group from assimilation processes. Poles lost their language, historical memory, forgot their roots, but did not lose their faith. It was faith that helped them stand as a nation throughout the 19th century. And it was faith that became a key factor in the national self-identification of Poles in the 20th century.

The task of the Russian authorities was to try to erase all political signs and symbols of the Polish past of the peasantry. O. P. Bezak (1800 – 1868), the governor-general of Kyiv, Podil and Volyn, ordered to report cases of patriotic audacity by Poles.

Thus, on August 15, 1867, Yan Slyvinsky, a courtier from the city of Berdychev, was arrested for two months for insulting the emperor while drunk in an inn with the words: “So that he dies.”

On December 12, 1870, Ludwik Zazycki, a Polish peasant from the town of Yampolya, at the request of the foreman to speak Russian, declared that the Polish language was not forbidden and that he did not care about the decision of the Russian government, because soon “the Polish crown will be restored and no one will be forbidden to speak Polish.” ; after two months in prison, he was placed under house arrest.

On November 10, 1870, an illiterate 19-year-old former courtier, recorded by a Kremenetz burgher, was “spreading absurd rumors” in the presence of four peasants who rushed to report him. “Do you think,” he said, “will you be able to keep your fields as they are today?” Soon you will once again serve as lordship over Polish lords, who will regain their former rights.” The very mention of the Polish past was unacceptable, so the young man was sent to live in the vicinity of the town of Ovruch.

The desire of the tsarist regime to erase all hints about the past of the peasantry reached its climax in the work of the “Ethnographic and Statistical Commission of Western Russia.” Her results, published in 1872 by P. Chubynskyi, did not correspond to reality. The commission reduced the “Polish question” in Right-Bank Ukraine to a folk wonder, presenting a ridiculously small number of the Polish population. In three provinces, the members of the expedition found only 91,000 Poles. In an article written in July 1875 and published in the Herald of Europeor Messenger of Europe, M. Drahomanov showed how absurd and irresponsible these figures were, because it was known only from the far from complete confessional information of the Roman Catholic churches that 389,100 Poles lived in these provinces; the police had 412,000 of them.

Researcher I. Rykhlikova wrote about the Poles of the Kyiv province: “The small gentry, living among the dynamic Ukrainian and Russian elements, lost their national identity and dissolved in the “Ukrainian sea” to such an extent that the landlords, who lived in their estates from generation to generation, already it was not distinguished at the beginning of the 20th century.”

The situation was different in the Podilsk and, especially, in the Volyn provinces. We see the survival of Poles, descendants of the small-land nobility in 1918-1939 in the east of Poland at that time, i.e. in the part of Volhynia that was annexed to Poland after the Treaty of Riga. This social group also survived on the territory of the Volyn province, which became part of the USSR. Even J. Stalin had to pay attention to the local Poles, the descendants of the czynsz gentry, creating in 1925 an autonomous Polish region near Zhytomyr – Markhlevshchyna (in honor of J. Marchlevsky, one of the leaders of the Polish Bolsheviks).

An eyewitness of those events, V. Valevskyi, wrote that “people in the villages speak Ukrainian, but have kept their loyalty to the Catholic faith.” A special place in the mentality of the Right Bank Poles, according to the author’s observations, was the fear of mixed marriages: between them and Ukrainian peasants.

In our opinion, a very interesting document that reveals the socio-economic situation and mental characteristics of the Poles of the Right Bank after the uprising of 1863 is a brochure that was distributed among the Polish emigration in the West. “In addition to the peasants, it was written there, there are other people in Russia who are not descendants of Ham (son of Noah). I am referring to nobles-hires, who are called courtiers; they are poorer than peasants, there are hundreds of thousands of them. They, agriculturists by tradition and out of necessity, not having their own land, parted with the boundless possessions of the rich nobility, confirmed by Heraldry. A forgotten, defenseless, exploited and unfortunate fellow courtier, whose ancestors participated in the elections of the king in Warsaw, were repeatedly the honor, shield and weapon of the country, today he leads the life of a beggar and an animal, he drinks, he is stupider and more unhappy than a peasant, he does not hear his brother anywhere words and loses its traditions.”

The policy of the tsarist government regarding the cultural life of the Right Bank Poles was based on the principles of chauvinism. The Polish uprising of 1863 gave the Russian government a reason to impose a final ban on any manifestation of Polish movements in the region, in particular, in the field of education. After 1863, the Roman Catholic parish schools, where children were taught elementary literacy, were closed. If we talk about the Volyn province, schools in Ivnytsia, Kodna, Korostyshev, Krasnopol, Lyshchyna, Pavlynov, Stetskov, Chudnov, Yanushpol were liquidated in the Zhytomyr district; in Dubnivsky District – in Berestechko and Mizochi; in Kremenets County – in Shumsk; in Novohrad-Volynskyi district – in Polonnyy; in Ostroh District – in Annopol; in the Starokostyantyniv district – in Kupel.

At the end of the 19th century, Poles ranked among the national minorities of the Southwest in one of the last places in terms of literacy: only 25.53%. The 1897 census testified to the high level of Russification of Polish education on the Right Bank. Thus, among Poles, 17.2% out of 25.53% were educated in Russian.

Religion has always played a special role in the educational sphere of the Polish population. The Roman Catholic Church was the organizer of secret educational institutions, propagandist of national culture. Therefore, she had unlimited authority among the masses.

From the history of the Krasovsky family

Stefan (b. 1848) and Karolina (b. 1854) Krasovsky were religious people and were parishioners of the Zaslav Roman Catholic Church of St. John, which is now in ruins. Every year, they confessed in this church, as we are informed by the confession records preserved to this day in the Zhytomyr archive. In addition, they had a strong sense of their national identity, which, in addition to religion and traditions, was expressed in the historical memory of their origin. Also, a characteristic feature of their ethno-cultural uniqueness was the fear of mixed marriages with representatives of the overwhelming Ukrainian Orthodox majority surrounding them. A vivid example of this can be the fact that all the children of Stefan Krasovsky married and got married to representatives of their ethno-religious group exclusively. Although the material culture, living conditions and ways of running a household, as well as the language of communication, the Poles of that period did not differ too much from the Ukrainian peasants. Already at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Polish language was not colloquial for the Poles of the village of Borysov and, in general, for the former courtiers of Right Bank Ukraine. It was preserved as a cult language: it was remembered, known, but rarely used, speaking in Ukrainian (although with a large share of Polonisms). The “Geographic Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland” reports that even in the 1860s, Polish was the spoken language of Borisov Poles (in its turn, with a large percentage of Ukrainianisms). Accordingly, the full transition to the Ukrainian language in everyday life occurred roughly at the end of the 19th century. The Polish language, which Stefan and Karolina learned from their parents, they also taught their children. True, with each generation in the absence of the Polish educational system and language environment, the level of language proficiency decreased.

“Land hunger”. The second half of the 19th century

As it was mentioned above, the majority of Poles of Right Bank Ukraine used the right to own land as a tenant from the moment they settled in the region.

The situation with tenements was in many ways unclear, because on June 25, 1840, the Lithuanian statute was abolished in the territory of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and with it, tenancy law. But, despite this, as well as the declassification of the nobility and the transition to the status of courtiers, its economic situation, based on the tenancy law, was stable during the years 1831 – 1863.

After the abolition of serfdom in the period between 1861 and 1895, the rural population of the Russian Empire increased by 58%, which led to an increase in the demand for land and an increase in its value. Therefore, the landlords tried to increase the amount of rent from the tenants, or even to take away the land, giving it to those who would pay more. Tenements later became an obstacle to capitalist land mobilization. “Land hunger” dictated high prices. Thus, in the period from 1854 to 1914, land prices increased by 615%. Therefore, the landowners sought to eliminate the medieval tenement land ownership, which prevented them from receiving a high income from their land.

After the January Uprising of 1863, the declassified gentry continued to enjoy the tenancy right to land plots, but, as a rule, the cost of rent was increased. If the tenants refused to pay the increased rent, the landlord took their land and forcibly evicted them from the land.

Documents on tenant land ownership

The imperial decree of July 25, 1864 on the provision of land to “free people”, which included peasants, allowed the latter to use their land for 12 years, provided they signed new leases with the owners, who in turn reserved the right to terminate them for of their own accord. This way could be the best solution for the office workers. However, in 1867, O. Bezak, the governor-general of Kyiv, Podilsk and Volhynia, in his letter to the Volhynia governor, reported that the decree of July 25, 1864 applies only to “free people” who belong to a special category, and they should not be confused with courtiers . Yes, the refusal of renters condemned them to more than 40 years of wandering and conflicts.

On January 8, 1868, a decision was made in St. Petersburg to “abolish the rights of the Polish nobility and courtiers with the aim of their further merging with the rural and urban population.” Odnodvortsi had to be attached to the peasantry or the bourgeoisie, depending on the administrative location. The social status and name of courtiers in Right Bank Ukraine were liquidated. All those who lived in cities or towns became burghers, and those who lived in villages became peasants.

Therefore, the category of the population under study, first the nobility, then the former nobility and, finally,  feudally dependent peasants to their lord (czynsz peasants), later lost its name in the official terminology of the Russian Empire. But despite the fact that the name disappeared, the people themselves remained, because renaming is not enough to end people. In addition, the descendants of the Polish nobility differed mentally from the mass of Ukrainian peasants.

Joining the state of peasants did not mean that the former courtiers would be able to use the land subsidies granted to the former serfs as a result of the Agrarian Reform of 1861. They, as before, remained  feudally dependent peasants to their lord (czynsz peasants)

Palace of the Potocki landowners, Antonina, Volyn province

Since the source of conflicts between landowners and Polish rentiers was the belief in ancient values, it came into conflict with the new capitalist concept of the land of its owners. The latter, as mentioned above, began to demand an increase in rent and the signing of lease agreements with the aim of revising them. But in the requirement to sign the contract, the nobleman saw an image of the sacred right of his ancestors, his noble dignity, and compared it to a peasant who had to sign a contract for the purchase of land.

At the end of 1877 the Senate ruled that tenements had nothing to do with tenancies. Accurate digital data were needed to implement this resolution. At the beginning of 1878, the Commission on tenements received from each province lists of tenements with a description of their property status and an indication of the area. You can learn a lot from this document, which was entitled “Information on the number of tenants in the settlements of the South-Western region”. In particular, we see that tenant farmers were divided into gardeners, who have a house and a plot of land without a harness, and laborers, who have a house and arable land with a harness. Thanks to this document, it becomes clear that more than half of the tenants had only a house with a small allotment next to it, which could provide a minimum standard of living. Gardeners owned an average of 2.02 (tithe of land) per yard, that is, less than the average of 2.9 (tithe of land) among peasants. Accordingly, rentiers could survive by engaging in additional crafts or earnings in addition to farming.

An interesting aspect of the aforementioned document is the fixation of religion, which gives an idea of ​​the level of assimilation of the declassified Polish nobility in the 1870s: Roman Catholics 45.5%, Orthodox 51.5%.

In 1886, the “Regulations on the Land System of Rural Tenants in the Western and Byelorussian Governorates was adopted. It had a solution to the problem of rent ownership, the main part of the new thing was the elimination of rent rights to land. Tenants who documented their tenancy rights as peasants in 1861 had to buy their land from the owners in three years with the help of a state loan. A small part of the tenant farmers managed to buy back their land, but the right of majority remained in an “elevated state” until 1917 itself.

From the history of the Krasovsky family

In 1865, the owner of the village of Borysova raised the amount of rent for the use of land for the Borysov tenant farmers. So, starting this year, our Krasovsky family began to pay 11 rubles a year instead of 9 rubles and 30 kopecks, as it was before. This amount included the use of homestead, hayfield and field land. Apart from this, Mateusz Krasovsky (and later his son) paid the landowner a certain amount of money for the use of the land for cattle grazing. The rent was paid every year on October 1. After the death of Mateusz, his younger son Stefan inherited the tenement land ownership. Stefan Krasovsky had 2 tithes of 1,620 fathoms of manor and garden land, for which he paid an annual rent of 11 rubles, as mentioned above. This land fed eight people. At the same time, according to the calculations of the economy of Yablonovskaya, 55 rubles were not paid extra by the Krasovsky’s for the previous time. On January 15, 1888, Stephan Matveevich filed a request to be present in the Ostrozh district for tenant affairs. In this document, he indicated that since ancient times he, like his ancestors, owned land in the village of Borysov by inheritance on a perpetual tenancy right – manorial, arable and hayfield land. Mediator in the presence of witnesses according to Art. 40, 42 and 43 of the Supremely approved on June 9, 1886 provision on the land structure of rural eternal chinsheviks, Borisov began to draw up protocols for chinsheviks to verify their rights to land. On the first day, protocols were drawn up for the chinsheviks of Penkov, and on the second and third days – for the chinsheviks of Guta and Provalya. All these are the names of parts of the village of Borysova, inhabited mainly by Poles. Both parties were called to the inspection – Princess Yablonovskaya’s attorney Evstafiy Ivanovich Slyshinsky, who provided a copy of the power of attorney for the management of tenancy affairs, and the tenants themselves. They were attached to the protocol as evidence. The rest of the receipts were apparently lost. The trustee of the estate, Slyshinsky, agreed in everything with the testimony of Stefan Krasovsky. According to the report, the estate of Stefan Krasovsky was assigned to the second locality. The mediator came to the conclusion that Stefan Matveevich’s rights to the estate in the village of Borisov should be recognized, both in terms of the rent receipts provided to him, and in terms of recognition of his rights as a patrician. On February 13, 1894, Stefan Krasovsky, together with other chinsheviks of the village of Borysov, arrived in the village of Pluzhno to take part in the Ostrozh-Kremenets meeting on chinsheviks of the presence. The peace mediator of the 1st precinct and the commissioner for the affairs of Princess Yablonovskaya E. Sleshinsky were present there. In the end, they did not agree on anything. Stefan Krasovsky, together with the rest of the tensheviks of the village of Borisov (representatives of 58 families), refused to sign the conditions of redemption proposed by the landlord. The economy offered to buy back the available plots (small, mostly homesteads, which were not even enough to feed a family) at an inflated price (calculated the arrears of previous years for each of the tenant farmers), and also denied the tenant farmers the use of ancient easements (cattle grazing on the landowner’s property forest, wood collection, lake use). Borysov’s Chinsheviks drew up a corresponding complaint, in which they outlined the reasons why they refused the conditions of redemption [DARO, F.377, Des.1, C.5].


The first decades of the XX century

So, the result of more than a century of history of the Poles of the Right Bank, who were part of the Russian Empire, was their status evolution – they went from landless Russian nobles at the beginning of the 19th century to peasants and burghers at the beginning of the 20th century. In addition, most of the Poles in the region lost their ethnic identity – they were assimilated by their neighbors (Ukrainized in the countryside and Russified in the cities). The other part managed to preserve its national identity (mainly thanks to historical memory and the Roman Catholic faith). Only the nature of land ownership of the majority of Poles in Right-Bank Ukraine remained almost unchanged throughout the 19th century: they were tenant farmers. The 20th century prepared new tests for them…

Most of the Poles of the Southwest, like representatives of other ethnic groups of the Russian Empire, took part in the First World War. Those who had previously served in the Russian Imperial Army were mobilized in the summer of 1914 from the reserve. Recruits were drafted into secondary regiments. Some of the mobilized served as militia warriors.

It is worth noting an interesting point: in 1917, new forms appeared for the admission of wounded and sick soldiers and officers, where the column “nationality” appears. Most of the Catholic peasants of Right Bank Ukraine who served in the Russian army were recorded as Poles.

Officers of the 244th Krasnostava Infantry Regiment, 1915

After the revolution of 1917, the Right Bank Poles who lived in the countryside took part in the distribution of landlord land. The one who had not managed to buy out the tenement land by that time became the owner of the allotment.

During the civil and Soviet-Polish wars, the majority of Poles remained aloof from the conflicts, being apolitical. But individual Polish families living on the territory of the former Volyn and the western part of Podilska gubernia actively and passively supported the Polish army, seeing in it the hope of restoring their long-lost rights.

After the Peace of Riga, the western part of the Volyn province became part of the newly created Polish Republic. The local Poles, former rentiers, finally got a chance to return to the long-lost cultural and linguistic society. The rest of the Right-bank became part of the Ukrainian SSR.

After the establishment of Soviet power in Right-bank Ukraine in the early 1920s, realizing their unpopularity among the rural population, the Bolsheviks soon abandoned their old methods of forcible collection of agricultural products, and in order to pacify the people, they switched to a radically new policy. This policy went down in history as Lenin’s NEP (New Economic Policy), and it did its job. The peasants ended their passive and active resistance to the Soviet government, and went to their traditional pre-revolutionary occupations. By the end of the 1920s, there was a “calm before the storm.” During this period, many Polish families recovered better than ever: farms and traditional occupations were established.

In the period from 1921 to 1927, hundreds of residents of the border areas transported agricultural products for sale to such cities as Ostrog, Rivne, Dubno, and Lviv, located in neighboring Poland. The Soviet authorities called this process smuggling, because legally they were illegally crossing the new border. On February 25, 1927, the resolution of the USSR “On approval of the provision on state crimes against the order of administration” was issued. After that, trade relations with Poland were incriminated as illegal smuggling routes to a state hostile to the USSR. The punishment for this could be the highest measure of punishment – execution.

From the history of the Krasovsky family

Dionysiy Stepanovich was mobilized to the front in the summer of 1914 as a recruit, a soldier of the 1st rank of the militia upon mobilization on July 22, 1914 (the so-called “first echelon”). After that, he underwent military training for three months in one of the reserve infantry regiments. Warriors, unlike reserve lower ranks, could be assigned anywhere, since they did not undergo combat training and required additional training (stepping in step, walking in formation, shooting). After military training, the warriors were distributed in parts. Dionysiy Stepanovich was enrolled in the 244th Krasnostava Infantry Regiment and took part in the offensive in the Carpathians in the winter of 1915, during which he fell ill and was sent to the hospital. It is known that in July 1914 Dionysius’s cousin, Lukyan Ivanovich Krasovsky, who served in the rank of junior non-commissioned officer in the 126th Ryl Infantry Regiment, and his cousin Andrey Danylovich Krasovsky, who served in the rank of senior, were also mobilized to the front non-commissioned officer in the 7th rifle regiment. It is known that the first was wounded near the village of Germanov during the Battle of Galicia on August 18, 1914, and the second was killed on August 25, 1915 (dates according to the old style). On September 20, 1915, Dionysiy Stepanovich was sent from the Proskurovsky Distribution Hospital for treatment to the Moscow City Infirmary No. 1615, which was under the patronage of the Moscow City Public Administration “Organization of Aid to Wounded and Sick Soldiers.” The history of his illness in the documents was listed under number 89, and the nature of the illness sounded like chronic bronchitis. It is not known how long Dionysiy Stepanovich stayed in Moscow for treatment. It is only known that on October 8, 1916, he was enrolled in the Simbirsk convalescent team, which was located, presumably, also in the city of Simbirsk. Dionysiy Stepanovich returned home after being in the Simbirsk convalescent team. Presumably, he was demobilized due to poor health. A less probable version is the assumption that he could desert at home. Be that as it may, at the beginning of 1917 he should have been in his native Borisov, since at the end of 1917 his son Stanislav was born. At home, Dionysius Krasovsky found a gradually growing civil war. Shortly after the February coup of 1917, Bolshevik agitators appeared in Borisov, who quickly gained support among the local poorest peasant masses. In the villages of the Ostroh district, the so-called kombeds – committees of the poorest peasants – began to appear. These organizations first engaged in the division of landlord lands and property, and later set their sights on the households of prosperous and moderately prosperous peasants, who were then called kulaks. By the way, the Yablonovsky palace in the village of Pluzhno, next to Borisov, was barbarically burned down in Kombed, together with a rich collection of masterpieces of art and a valuable archive (which stored documents with information about Borisov’s small landed gentry). Since the summer of 1919, the village of Borisov was under the rule of the Second Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Polish troops under the command of Józef Piłsudski, in alliance with Simon Petliura, attempted to take control of Kiev, which had previously been captured by the Bolsheviks. At first, the campaign was successful for the Allies. But already at the beginning of the following year, 1920, the Red Army, reinforced by Budenny’s First Cavalry Army, launched a counteroffensive, which ended with the Battle of Rivne (July 2-10) and the Warsaw Battle (August 13-25). Therefore, in June of that year, Soviet power was again established in Borisov. As a result of these events, the Riga Peace Treaty was signed. According to this agreement, a border was established between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ukrainian SSR, which ran along the Zbruch River, the Vyliya River, and the city of Otrog. At the same time, the village of Borysov with the surrounding territories and all the Poles inhabiting the region moved to the Soviet side. During the control of Borisov by Polish troops, Dionysiy Stepanovych, like other local Poles, who remembers and feels his origin, sympathized and, to the best of his ability, actively helped the soldiers of Pilsudsky. After all, as the sources report, most of the Poles of Volhynia and Podolia, descended from the small-land Polish nobility, were distinguished by a peculiar patriotism and during the Soviet-Polish war supported the idea of ​​reviving “their” Polish state. Dionysius Stepanovich’s cooperation with the Polish army could be expressed in various spheres. Thus, Dionysiy Stepanovich, who did not support the Soviet government and its policy of military communism, took part in the destruction by Polish soldiers of the Borisov Kombed cell, which had gone underground. After all, his activists were well known to him. We find indirect and slightly distorted information about this episode in the protocols of the interrogation of witnesses that took place in the criminal case of Dionysius Krasovsky in 1937. In addition to the above-mentioned episode, other moments also took place: help in food supply for Polish soldiers, as well as help in orientation in the area. Then the Poles of Borisov hoped that their settlement would become part of the young Polish state, but it was not destined to come true… After the counteroffensive of the Red Army and the withdrawal of Polish troops from the territory of Borisov’s vicinity in June 1920, the village again began to restore Soviet power, which, due to a number of draconian innovations, was not supported by the entire population of the region. Detachments started gathering in the forest massifs of the region to fight against the Soviets. A similar anti-communist detachment operated in 1920-1921 and in Borisov, it was headed by a relative of Dionysius Stepanovych, Tadeusz Krasovsky. After the introduction of the NEP and until the end of the 1920s, Dionysiy Stepanovych’s family lived well, the household was established. In the period from 1921 to 1927, Dionysiy Stepanovych and his eldest son Iosif, like hundreds of other residents of the borderlands, transported agricultural goods for sale to the town of Ostrog, located in neighboring Poland. Also, at that time, Dionysiy Krasovsky, along with his older sons, periodically worked on forestry, additionally earning money for his larger family. In the dense forests north of Borisov, there was always enough work, and woodcutters were constantly needed. For some time in the 1920s, Dionysiy Stepanovych was elected to the post of village executor.

Policy of indigenization in the USSR

The period of the 1920s marks the beginning of the so-called indigenization policy. In many settlements of the Ukrainian SSR, where a more or less significant share of Poles lived, Polish national village councils, primary schools, libraries were established, and the publication of newspapers and magazines in Polish was launched.

On the territory of the modern Zhytomyr Oblast, a Polish national region was created – Marchlevshchyna – or, as it was still unofficially called, the Polish Soviet Republic as an alternative to the existing “bourgeois” Poland. Marchlevsky National District as part of the Ukrainian SSR existed during 1925 – 1935. The district was formed as part of Zhytomyr (since 1926 – Vinnytsia) district on the territory inhabited mainly by Poles, descendants of the local tenement nobility. The center of the district was the village of Markhlevsk (before that it was called Dovbysh). In 1930, the district came under the direct control of the Ukrainian SSR, and in 1932 it became part of the Kyiv region.

There were 55 Polish schools, 80 libraries and reading houses in the district, and the newspaper “Marchlewszczyzna Radziecka” (“Soviet Marchlewshchyna”) was published. According to the All-Union Census of 1926, 40,904 people lived in the district, including 28,332 (69.3%) Poles, 7,734 (18.9%) Ukrainians, 3,575 (8.7%) Germans, and 1,016 (2.5%) Jews, 145 (0.4%) Russians.

Also, during the years 1932-1937, a national Polish district existed on the territory of the BRSR, Dzerzhynshchyna, which was inhabited by the descendants of the Polish nobility of the North-West. This district was formed in the western part of the Byelorussian SSR, on the territory inhabited mainly by Poles, who made up 49.4% of the total population of the district at the time of its formation. The center of the district was the town of Dzerzhynsk (previously called Koidanovo), named after the famous Bolshevik F. Dzerzhinsky, who came from the middle-class Polish nobility. Polish schools and libraries also operated in the district, and books and newspapers in the Polish language were distributed. The Polish language was used in local administration.

The city of Dzerzhinsk, 1932

However, the attitude of the Bolsheviks towards national minorities soon changed. On January 24, 1938, the Organizational Bureau of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Ukraine (b) ordered the republican people’s commissars to transform national (German, Finnish, Polish, Latvian, Estonian, and other) schools, declared “centers of bourgeois-nationalist influence on children” into ordinary Soviet schools with teaching “in the language of the appropriate republic”, or in Russian. Indigenization was curtailed: Polish schools, newspapers and libraries were liquidated.

At the same time, national districts and national village councils were being liquidated. On December 17, 1937, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine (b) approved the Resolution “On the Liquidation of National Districts and Village Councils”, which stated that “many of these districts were created by enemies of the people with destructive purposes” and ordered “the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine (b) of Ukraine, The Far Eastern, Altai, and Krasnodar regional committees, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, the Krymsky, Orenburg, Leningrad, Arkhangelsk regional committees, on whose territory there are national districts and village councils, will submit to the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) by January 1, 1938, proposals for the liquidation of these districts by reorganization into ordinary districts and village councils”.

Markhlev Oblast was also liquidated, and most of its population was deported to Kazakhstan on national grounds. Ukrainians were resettled in their place in the Markhlevsky district. The district lost its national status and was renamed Shchorsky district. In a report to Y. V. Stalin, the secretary of the Kyiv Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine P. Postyshev and the head of the Kyiv Regional Executive Committee M. S. Vasylenko reported: “In the spring of 1935, according to the Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine (b), the people were evicted to distant places of the Union and relocated to remote places from border regions of Ukraine – 1,188 households of anti-Soviet and unreliable elements, and 745 households of verified Ukrainian collective farmers, strikers, selected in the southern districts of the Kyiv region, were resettled in the Markhlevsky district. These measures gave significant results in the strengthening of the Markhlevsky district.” In the same document, the authors appealed to Stalin with a request to give instructions on the eviction of another 350 families, which was soon implemented.

Dzerzhyn National District was also liquidated by the Central Committee of the BRSR dated July 31, 1937, the territory of the district was divided between Zaslavsky, Minsk and Uzdensky Districts. Most of the Polish population of the area was deported.

Investigative cases related to the “Polish operation” of the NKVD


The collapse of the NEP and the beginning of Stalin’s collectivization became fatal for the majority of Polish families in Right-Bank Ukraine. For them, 1929 was “the beginning of their complete defeat by the communist regime.” Thus, on November 7 of that year, the newspaper “Pravda” published an article by Y. Stalin entitled “The Year of the Great Break”, in which it was stated that “the middle-class peasant went to the collective farms en masse”, and the Communist Party and the Soviet authorities created all the conditions for the mass collectivization

The plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b), which met a few days after the publication of the article, supported such statements and adopted a resolution on the beginning of general collectivization in the USSR. At the same time, peasants who did not support the policy of collectivization and refused to generalize forms of management were declared kulaks. The Kurkuls were to be liquidated as a “class-hostile” social group. For example, since the end of 1929, the majority of Poles of the Ukrainian SSR, who in their mass were opponents of collectivization, were declared by the Soviet authorities to be kulaks, and their families to be kulaks.

The material and financial basis for the collective farms was to become the property seized from dispossessed peasants. In the Ukrainian SSR, the operation of mass disarmament began with a secret telegram from the Central Committee of the CP(b)U dated January 23, 1930, in which the following was stated: “First, immediately start measures against the kulaks, with the calculation that by March 15, they will mostly be finished. Secondly, the events should be held in the border zone, which is densely populated by Poles, first of all.”

Collectivization in Ukraine, 1930s

But in the border areas, these measures encountered resistance from the peasants, both Ukrainian and Polish, which went down in history under the name “Volinka“. During February-March 1930, the peasants of many border regions, from which seed and equipment were taken, gathered near the newly created collective farms and began to forcibly take back the taken property. Similar uprisings, most of which took place in the villages of the Shepetiv District (including many Polish villages), were suppressed with the help of weapons.

Most Polish families categorically refused to join collective farms. They had no desire to give honestly acquired stock, livestock, movable and immovable property into collective ownership. After the first wave of collectivization in the Ukrainian SSR, this category of peasants began to be called single-persons.

The anti-collective bagpipes of 1930 gave their results. J. Stalin shifted the blame for a number of offenses during forcible collectivization to local leaders. After that, voluntariness in the formation of collective farms was restored for some time, which led to a mass exodus of peasants from them. Therefore, in the autumn of 1930, the second wave of collectivization and decentralization began, which did not stop after that. However, the majority of Polish families of the Right Bank, as before, refused to join the collective farm.

In the conditions of tense interstate relations between the USSR and Poland at that time, representatives of Polish nationality living in the “Land of the Soviets” were considered as a potential “fifth column”. It was believed that Poland would immediately use its active help if it attacked the USSR. And the probability of war between the countries was very high then.

In 1932 – 1933, Polish families living in Ukraine, together with Ukrainians, experienced an artificial famine, during which they suffered severe and irreversible losses.

In the mid-1930s, the majority of Polish farms, as single-person peasant farms, were taxed with an exorbitant export tax. For this reason, the forced sale of farms became a mass phenomenon. The Soviet authorities, in addition to land, livestock and inventory, also took away houses with outbuildings. Many families, left homeless, began a real struggle for survival.

In 1935, some Polish families were deported to the south-eastern regions of the Ukrainian SSR.

From the history of the Krasovsky family

In 1935, as Dionysiy Stepanovich himself later told, his household, as the household of a single farmer, was subject to an export tax in the amount of 3,600 rubles, which turned out to be too much for him. For this reason, his farm was forcibly sold off in the same year. As Dionysia’s wife, Kamiliya Nikolaevna, later recalled, the Soviet government, in addition to land, cattle and equipment, also took away a large beautiful house and barn from them, and gave these buildings to local communists, some Blacks. Dionysius Stepanovich, having lost a roof over his head and all his belongings, remained homeless along with his large family; For some time they lived in the house of their Pekarsky relatives. In 1936, shortly after dispossession, Dionysius Krasovsky, along with other so-called “kulaks-exporters”, Pyotr Tkachuk, Vladimir Ravchuk and others, was arrested and kept in Shepetivka prison for six months. The reason for their arrest was the same refusal of the peasants to join the collective farm. In December 1936, Dionysius Krasovsky was released from prison. In the spring of 1937, not far from their former home, he dug a dugout in the garden under a pear tree, where his family huddled for some time. In the spring and summer, Dionysius earned money from logging and in the fall of that year he bought a barn in the neighboring village of Belotin, which he dismantled and transported to Borisov. Using building materials obtained from this stable, he built a small house for his family at the foot of the hill. Construction ended in the late autumn of 1937. In parallel with these events, on December 1, 1937, in the regional center, the town of Pluzhno, the head of the local NKVD branch, junior lieutenant Patrushev, drew up a resolution and signed a new warrant for the arrest of Dionisy Stepanovich… On that day, he and his family had just moved to live from dugouts to a new home… Archival documents concerning the dispossession of the Krasovsky family and the arrest of Dionisy Stepanovich are stored in three volumes in the State Archive of the Khmelnitsky Region.

Deportation of Poles in 1936

In 1936, the beginning of the great anti-Polish operation in the USSR began – deportation to Kazakhstan. The problems of collectivization in the border areas, the Radyanskaya Vlada were concerned, the actions were carried out very carefully, they prepared the local kerivniki and asked at the address of the republican structure to hang everyone who resisted official policy.

On September 17, 1936, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks praised the decision to resettle five thousand dominions from Right Bank Ukraine to Kazakhstan (their number increased to fifteen thousand) from the number of Poland whom is the minority of the German population. This approach has nothing to do with such concepts as disintegration and collectivization, which were characteristic of Ukraine. Deportation to Kazakhstan bears all the signs of genocide; Polish families were deported with a national sign (both Kurkuli and same-sex people, poor people and kolgospniks). Hundreds of families were about to lose their fatherly rights in the future…

Deportation of Poles in 1936

In Kazakhstan, the deported Poles received the status of special settlers, even though they would not have their civil rights abated, or even the right to deprive their place of residence and return to their native towns in Ukraine. Moreover, in Kazakhstan, without special permission, they were prevented from depriving the territory of the settlements, which were completely subservient to the newly created special commandant’s offices. The rest continued to watch the transition.

From the history of the Krasovsky family

On April 16, 1936, the secretary of the Pluzhansky district committee, Voloshin, reported that 408 Polish and 92 German families from 18 villages were prepared for deportation. At the same time, 37 Polish families, with a total number of 157 people, were to be deported from Borisov. In particular, the eldest sons of Dionisy Stepanovich, Joseph with his wife Anna and her children from his first marriage, and Maryan with his wife Yadviga, were exiled to Kazakhstan from Borisov. Dionisy Stepanovich himself, with his wife Kamilia and younger children, were not deported, since he was under arrest in the city of Shepetovka at that time.

“From May 28, 1936 until the end of work, the commissioner must remain in the assigned point and not leave the populated area without the knowledge of the PKK. On May 28 at 10 a.m., the commissioner must attend the PKK briefing and receive all instructions and resettlement lists. After instructions, he must immediately leave for the populated area. At 6 o’clock in the evening, he must gather and hold a meeting of the village activists (communists, Komsomol members, the presidium of the village council and a reliable activist of collective farmers and labor intelligentsia), at which he must explain in detail the tasks of the country’s defense capability and strengthening the border and about one of the government’s measures – the resettlement of all those who did not justify the trust of the Soviet government and did not prove themselves in strengthening the borders and the collective farm system. He must explain to the activists that those being resettled are sent deep into the country, to Kazakhstan, that they are provided with a number of benefits and the opportunity to show devotion to Soviet power and the collective farm system in a new place. Next, he should outline to the asset the objectives of the asset to facilitate the successful completion of this activity. Finally, he must outline a plan for the operation of the asset. At this meeting, the lists submitted for deportation could under no circumstances be made public; the commissioner had to warn the activists that this would be known tomorrow. On May 29 at 8 a.m. he was supposed to hold the second meeting of the asset (where the conversation about the tasks of the asset was repeated). In conclusion, the commissioner had to ensure that the activists made decisions approving these government measures, the activists’ tasks for further strengthening the border, the development of the Stakhanov movement, for exemplary preparation for the harvest and grain distribution campaigns, and the struggle for a high harvest and the further strengthening of collective farms. In conclusion, the work procedure of the activists was outlined and responsibilities were distributed among activists for calling people subject to resettlement (it was instructed to give no more than 2 families of resettled persons per activist). At 10 o’clock in the afternoon they began to make announcements to those being resettled, organizing and carrying out this work in such a way that no more than 2-3 heads of those being resettled were immediately announced, who had to be briefly but clearly told about the need to strengthen the border strip and about one of the measures carried out by the Soviet government – relocation into the interior of the country of all those who have not justified themselves in completing this task, and then announce to them that they are subject to eviction. Next, the procedure for packing and departure was indicated (a period of 5-6 days, transportation benefits were explained in detail, and what those resettled could take with them: they had the right to take with them livestock that was in their individual use, as well as poultry, equipment, personal property and food – bread, potatoes, vegetables, etc.). To groups of farms belonging to the collective farm, the collective farm allocated their share of the horses and carts and harnesses that were due to them. Each resettled person had the right to hand over bread to a grain procurement point and receive it at the place of new residence; they were also allowed to take with them a certain amount of pressed hay. With the departing collective farmers, the collective farm board made a full calculation of the accrual due to them for workdays for 1936, and also made a payment for the cultivated and sown estates they left behind, according to the assessment of the collective farm commission. Payments were also made to individual farmers for abandoned crops and sown estates, also according to the assessment of the collective farm commission. All those resettled had to be collected from all government debts owed to them. It was necessary to warn those resettled so that they prepared sufficient quantities of food and baked bread for 7-10 days (12-14 days). It was necessary to explain in advance that by the day of departure they had to carefully prepare and wash their clothes, also explain the procedure for packing things – labeling (whose things should be written in detail), and that assistance in packing and packing would be provided by the collective farm board. It was explained that they would not be given compensation for the abandoned hut and outbuildings, since in return they would receive an equipped hut(house) and the necessary outbuildings at the site of the new settlement. It was explained to the resettled person that he would be informed additionally about the day of departure, and also that his property would be carefully guarded, both here on site and along the way. For any information, those being resettled had to contact the resettlement commissioner. The commissioner, together with the team and the activists, had to organize assistance to those resettled in packing and collecting things, as well as organize the sanitary treatment of animals. After this, the commissioner, together with the chairmen of the village council and collective farms, had to strengthen the security of the village, not allowing unauthorized persons – residents of other settlements – to enter there, in order to organize farewells; also prevent the influx of people from other villages to buy food and things. In addition, it was necessary to take all measures and in no case allow hostile demonstrations, both from those being resettled and from those who sympathize with them. When people appeared opposing this event and trying to demonstrate demonstratively, they should have been immediately arrested and sent to the district department of the NKVD. It was necessary to carefully study political sentiments, both positive and negative, both among the remaining parts of the population and among those resettled; specifically take into account and analyze facts and attempts at provocations, taking immediate measures to improve political sentiment. Each hut of the resettled person was immediately registered, and a guard was posted near it to prevent destruction (pulling out windows, tearing out floors, removing doors, destroying stoves, and so on) [DAKHMO, F.P.268, Op.1, Ref.134].

“Polish Operation” 1937 – 1938

Many Poles, who for these and other reasons were not deported to Kazakhstan, were physically liquidated in 1937 – 1938. Thus, on the 4th of June 1937, the “enemies of the people” in the border zone, who were in charge of the operation of collectivization, were divided into two categories by the People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR M. Yezhov: 1) the greatest enemy elements, they ordered arrest and execution in order to carry out administrative inquiries through such called “three”; 2) less active warlike elements that pushed the population to the regions of the Pivnochi SRSR. Many Poles were brought to the first category… Their incorporation into the communist dominion under the Radian rule was seen as impossible.

Thousands of reports were fabricated: participation in the mythical “Polish Organization of the Military Forces”, anti-radyan activity, espionage… Those arrested, who were carrying out the operation and were not allowed to confess to it beaten with evil evils, fed with additional drinks and cakes. Often the stench was overwhelming, stagnant with physical infusions and blackmail. The prisoners, tormented by beatings, were exposed to “anti-Radyan evils.” Searching for “spies and counter-revolutionaries,” the Chekists went to the extent of fabrication and falsification. Lies were put into other people’s words. The reports that were held by the criminal authorities did not even know about the authorities, although there were none of their signatures on the protocols.

Photo by Zelinsky Franz Faustinovich from the trace certificate, 1937

Falsified accusations, as can be seen from thousands of archival criminal records of reprisals, were massively filed by the Chekists against representatives of Polish nationality and against fellow citizens who lived in the border zone and they were not allowed to enter before the college. The main task of the government, which did not respect collectivization, was the reduction of the Polish national minority in the border region, for which all methods were used.

The Poles of the USSR in the other half of the 1930s were respected by the warlord of nationality, because they favored the current state, which pursued an anti-soviet policy – Poland. In the provincial stakes there was an outcry of dissatisfaction because it was not necessary for the citizens of Polish nationality to enter the kolgospy. In addition, the Poles, for the most part, lost their historical patristicism to their followers, and constant propaganda attacks could not preserve the faith of their ancestors in them.

A total of 139,815 people were convicted under the so-called “Polish operation” in the USSR during 1937 – 1938, of which 111,071 were shot. Of these, 13,078 people were exterminated in the period from October 1937 to October 1938 in one Kamianets-Podilskyi region. As a result, by the beginning of the Second World War, single families remained from the once large population group – mainly women, the elderly, teenagers and children.

Certificate on the rehabilitation of D. S. Krasovskyi, who was executed in 1937

From the history of the Krasovsky family

Late in the evening, on December 1, 1937, Chekists came to the yard, among whom, in particular, was an employee of the local NKVD named Klyus, as well as a resident of the village of Pluzhno Kravets Ivan, who acted as a witness. They conducted a search and seized some documents of Dionysiy Stepanovych, after which they arrested the head of the family. As his son Florian later recalled with tears in his eyes: that evening, for the first time, the father climbed the stove of the newly built house to warm himself, when there was a knock on the window… That evening, the wife saw her husband for the last time in her life, and the children saw their father … The second arrest of Dionysiy Stepanovich had been planned since the summer of that year. He was charged with Article 54 (part 10) of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR from 1927, which was devoted to counter-revolutionary crimes. Part 10 of the article has approximately the following content: “For propaganda or agitation, which consists in calling for the destruction, subversion or weakening of Soviet power or for the commission of certain counter-revolutionary crimes, as well as for the distribution or production or storage of literature of the same content.” After the arrest of Dionysiy Stepanovych, he was placed in the NKVD prison of the village of Pluzhno and immediately began to conduct interrogations. Dionysiy Stepanovych, despite all the inhuman methods of the Chekists, did not admit his guilt. Then, after a few days, he was transferred to the Shepetov prison together with other prisoners. During Dionysius Stepanovich’s detention in the Shepetov prison, his wife, Kamiliya Nikolaevna, somehow found out about her husband’s whereabouts. Together with the other wives of the arrested, she went on foot from Borysov to Shepetovka and carried groceries to her husband. But when they came to the prison building, it was already too late. They were informed that their husbands had been taken in an unknown direction. This was Dionysius Stepanovich’s last earthly journey… He was sentenced at a court session on December 9, 1937. Despite the falsification of most of the evidence, Dionysiy Stepanovych was sentenced to the highest punishment – execution. All his property was confiscated. On that day, a similar sentence was handed down for another hundred and twelve people. The sentence was executed on December 13. Not far from the city of Kamenets-Podolskyi, with a vile shot in the back of the head, the Chekists took the life of a man who always lived by honest and hard work… A man who was loved by his wife and children… A man who valued freedom above all else in his life… On that fateful day together with Dionysius Stepanovich 21 more people were shot… The exact place of his burial is unknown. Dionysius Stepanovich was only 47 years old at the time of his death. His wife, Kamiliya Nikolaevna, remained a widow, and his children were orphans. They did not know anything about their father’s fate after his arrest on December 1, 1937 until 1994. There were only guesses, but no one knew anything about exact place…

Soviet-German war

In 1941, after the start of the Soviet-German war, many young Poles joined partisan units. In particular, in the north of the present-day Khmelnytskyi region, a partisan association operated under the command of A. Z. Odukha (1910 – 1967).

Since the beginning of 1944, after the liberation of most of Right Bank Ukraine from the Germans, individual Poles, together with the rest of the local residents who survived the occupation, were mobilized into the Red Army.

The oath of soldiers of the First Infantry Division named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko

In 1943, the Polish First Infantry Division named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko was created, which accepted ethnic Poles, citizens of the USSR, as well as former Polish citizens. The formation of the division began on May 14, 1943 in the Seletsk military camps near Ryazan. The units were armed with Soviet weapons, the USSR also provided combat equipment, equipment and was responsible for the rear support of the Polish division. Training was conducted according to the regulations of the Red Army. The personnel were dressed in the Polish military uniform of the 1939 model, but with their own insignia (for example, the Piast eagle was approved as a cockade).

Providing the personnel of the division with food products met the standards established for the Soviet Guards Rifle Division. The families of servicemen received pensions and assistance on an equal basis with the families of servicemen of the Red Army, enjoyed all tax and other benefits (including the right to receive additional financial assistance and land plots for individual and collective gardens).

Many Polish teenagers who were orphaned in 1937 – 1938, by 1943 – 1944, when they had already come of age, were called up to serve in the division named after T. Kościuszko.

As of July 5, 1943, the division numbered 14,380 people (including 13,520 Poles, 439 Jews, 209 Ukrainians, 108 Belarusians, and 112 Russians). On July 15, 1943 (the anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald), the soldiers of the division took a military oath, on the same day, the “Union of Polish Patriots” presented the division with a red and white battle flag with the motto “For your and our freedom!”. On the same day, due to the lack of command personnel and technical specialists (as of June 15, 1943, only 37.6% of the regular number of officers were available), the Soviet command assigned 325 Soviet officers to the disposal of the First Polish Infantry Division (150 of them officers were appointed to replace the positions of the middle command staff of the division).

At the same time, the training of Polish command personnel began – 920 cadets were sent to Soviet military educational institutions. Officers were trained at the Ryazan Infantry School, the 3rd Leningrad Artillery School (Kostroma) and the Rybinsk Tank School; non-commissioned officers were trained in the regimental school of the 1st infantry regiment and in the training battalion of the division. As a result, already in August 1943, the division had 60% of the full-time number of officers.

As part of the division, in the period 1943-1944, the Poles of the Right Bank took part in the liberation from the Germans of the Mogilev region (the Battle of Lenino), as well as the city of Kyiv. In March 1944, Polish units on the territory of the USSR were united into the First Polish Army, as part of which Kosciuszko’s division took part in the liberation of Poland, the storming of the Pomeranian Wall and battles on the territory of Germany (in particular, in the storming of Berlin).

On January 16-17, 1945, the T. Kosciuszko Division, together with other units of the 1st Army of the Polish Army and the Soviet 47th and 61st Armies, took part in the liberation of Warsaw (at the same time, the division’s soldiers were the first soldiers to enter the city).

Parade of the 1st Army of the Polish Army on St. Marshalkowska, Warsaw, January 19, 1945

After 1945, most of the soldiers and officers of the division returned home, back to Ukraine and Belarus; but some continued their service in the Polish People’s Republic, remaining to live there. In 1955, the division was transformed into the 1st Warsaw Mechanized Division of the Polish Army.

From the history of the Krasovsky family

From approximately the end of 1943 to April 30, 1944, Demyan Denisovich Krasovsky served as a partisan fighter in the partisan detachment named after L. Beria, which was part of the unit under the command of A. Odukha. On May 1, 1944, he was mobilized into the Polish army, the First Infantry Division named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko, as part of the First Belorussian Front. In September 1944, Demyan Denisovich took part in the first attempt to liberate the city of Warsaw. On September 18, during intense fighting, he was contused in the suburbs of Warsaw, Prague. After the injury, he was in the hospital until the end of September. At that time he had the rank of corporal. After recovery, Demyan was sent to training: from October 1, 1944 to January 1945, he studied at the Officer’s School in the city of Lublin, completing an accelerated course. Since January 1945, Demyan Denisovich is again in the ranks of the Polish army, as part of the 1st Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 1st Panzer Corps of the Polish Army, already in the Guards rank of lieutenant (lieutenant) and commander of a machine gun platoon. By the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR “On awarding orders and medals to officers and soldiers of the Polish Army” dated February 27, 1945, Demyan was awarded the “Order of Glory” of the third degree. From April 16 to May 8, 1945, Demyan Krasovsky fought in the First Ukrainian Front (Nisa-Dresden). In the same year, 1945, he was awarded two Grunwald crosses of the third class, as well as medals “For Warsaw 1939-1945”, “For the liberation of Prague”, “For victory over Germany”. The personal file of Demyan Denisovych Krasovsky is kept in the Central Military Archive in the city of Warsaw. Most of the biographical information about him was gleaned from there (the latter’s autobiography is a particularly valuable document). In addition, documents related to the military service of Demyan Denisovich are stored in the TsAMO of the Russian Federation.

The second half of the 20th century

In 1947, the special commandant regime was abolished in Kazakhstan for a short time, and several thousand Polish families managed to return to their historical homeland. But the main part of the Poles of Kazakhstan returned to Ukraine only after 1954, when the regime of special commandants was completely abolished. At the same time, some families remained in Kazakhstan, where their descendants still live; there was nothing to return to: their houses and farms were confiscated in 1936. As a rule, those who had relatives in Ukraine or Belarus had returned.

Pekarsky and Dobzhansky families, Kazakhstan, second half of the 20th century.

Those Poles who returned to Ukraine, living among ethnically close Ukrainians, were subjected to a new wave of assimilation. In the second half of the 20th century, a large number of mixed Polish-Ukrainian marriages appeared (previously they were single), as a result of which new generations lost the national identity of their ancestors.

The Poles of Kazakhstan, who decided to stay there, living among ethnically alien Kazakhs, managed to preserve their national identity better than the Poles of Ukraine; mixed marriages were rare here, the Roman Catholic faith was preserved. The language of communication of Kazakh Poles later became Russian.


Since the beginning of the 21st century, a large number of ethnic Poles of Ukraine and Kazakhstan have left for permanent residence in their historical homeland – Poland. To this end, the Polish government has launched such state programs as issuing a Pole card with the possibility of obtaining citizenship in the future, and repatriation.

Descendants of Right Bank Poles, Dom Polski in Kyiv

Currently, there are very few ethnic Poles left in Right Bank Ukraine. According to the 2001 census, 144,100 Poles lived in Ukraine. Currently, in our opinion, this figure does not exceed 50 thousand people. These are people, mainly of the older generation. As it was said above, the majority of the younger generations are either Ukrainized and do not associate themselves with the Polish ethnic group, or have left Ukraine and moved to Poland.

Poles who remained in Ukraine are trying to unite in territorial cultural communities in order to preserve historical memory and study the lost Polish language. Similar communities operate in Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytskyi and other cities.

To be continued.


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Aleksander O. Krasowski

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