Expulsion of Ukrainians from Poland to the Soviet Union
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An expulsion of Ukrainians from Poland to the Soviet Union took place between 1944 and 1946 as part of mass population transfers that took place following border changes in Central and Eastern Europe during and following World War II (see World War II evacuation and expulsions) that sought the ethnic consolidation of the territory of Poland and Soviet Ukraine. A treaty signed on 9 September 1944 between the Polish communist PKWN government and Ukrainian SSR set the Curzon Line as the new border between Poland and the Soviet Union, which then formed the basis for this repatriation as well as for the repatriation of Poles (1944-1946) who were in the territory now to become part of Soviet Ukraine and Byelorussia. About 480,000 people who found themselves west of the Curzon Line, in territory called by the Ukrainians Zakerzonia, were affected by this repatriation, which was in addition to the people, Ukrainian and others, who now found themselves on the Soviet side of the new border.
With the signing of the agreement in September 1944, individuals identified as of Ukrainian origin were required to register for resettlement. The number of individuals registered between October 1944 and September 1946 was 492,682. Of this total, 482,880 individuals were eventually relocated to the Ukrainian SSR, settling primarily in the Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Lviv Oblasts (provinces), in the southern and south-western oblasts of Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk, and to a lesser extent the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine. The largest resettlement of Ukrainians from Poland took place in the border counties of Hrubieszów, Przemyśl and Sanok followed secondarily by Lubaczów, Tomaszów, Lesko, Jarosław and Chełm.
During the resettlement campaign, all eligible individuals were required to register with local district commissions set up in the key centers of Jarosław, Gorlice, Krasnystaw, Chełm, Lublin, Biłgoraj, Jasło, Zamość and Nowy Sącz. The function of the commissions, which were staffed with both Polish communists and Soviet personnel, was not only to register, co-ordinate and facilitate the transportation of individuals, but also to conduct propaganda work among the target population. Because of the propaganda, which falsely promised Ukrainians better living conditions in Soviet Ukraine, there was some initial success but the number of applications for resettlement tapered off by mid-1945 as word spread concerning the actual conditions of the agreement, as well as the fact that the Ukrainians were not permitted to leave Soviet Ukraine.
In August 1945, the campaign to resettle entered a new phase. In order to achieve the political objective of relocating the Ukrainian ethnic population from Poland, the Polish government abandoned the relatively benign character of the policy in favor of a more aggressive approach because the plan met with significant resistance, as most Ukrainians did not want to abandon their ancestral lands and resettle to Soviet Ukraine. In this regard, Polish and Soviet security forces (KBW and MVD respectively) were deployed. Polish authorities conducted mass arrests of local Ukrainian elites (usually clergy) and applied a variety of coercive measures to pressure families and individuals to relocate.
As the forcible nature of the campaign became routine, the pretense of "voluntary resettlement" was dropped. Groups and entire villages were forced out of their homes and directed to embark on transports bound for the Soviet Union. Within the course of a single year, July 1945 - July 1946, some 400,000 Ukrainians and Rusyns were uprooted and deported in this manner. The resettlement operation concluded in September 1946.
The campaign to resettle Ukrainian civilians fed the ranks of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which had operated in the region since 1943. UPA was somewhat successful in disrupting the 1944-1946 operations. Difficulties in suppressing the insurgency incited the Polish communist government, at a later date, to pursue the Operation Vistula of 1947 in the resettlement of the remaining population that they identified as of Ukrainian origin and hostile to Polish authority in the territory.
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- Bohdan Kordan, "Making Borders Stick: Population Transfer and Resettlement in the Trans-Curzon Territories, 1944-1949" International Migration Review, Vol. 31, No. 3. (Autumn, 1997), pp. 704-720.