Stepan Fedak

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Stepan Smok Fedak (1901 in Lviv – 1945 in Berlin; aka Smok, "Dragon") was a Ukrainian independence activist who, on September 25, 1921, attempted to assassinate Poland's Chief of State, Marshal Józef Piłsudski, as the latter visited Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine) for the opening of that city's first Eastern Trade Fair.

Early life[edit]

Stepan Fedak was the son of a prominent Lwów attorney and Ukrainian activist, Dr. Stepan Fedak.

The younger Fedak was a graduate of the Austro-Hungarian Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt. He served in the Legion of Ukrainian Sich Rifles, then in the Ukrainian Galician Army and the Army of the Ukrainian People's Republic. In 1920 he joined the clandestine Ukrainian Military Organization.

Fedak was also a member of the secret Committee of Ukrainian Youth and of Vola, an underground militant organization of Ukrainian students and ex-officers of the Ukrainian Galician Army whose purpose was to fight for an independent Ukraine. It was steered from abroad by Colonel Yevhen Konovalets' Ukrainian Military Organization, acting in Czechoslovakia and Germany.

The Ukrainian Military Organization planned to organize underground attacks and sabotage in southeastern Poland, with its majority-Ukrainian population, to be followed by open warfare conducted by the Ukrainians against Poland and the Soviet Union until an independent Ukrainian state was reestablished in southeastern Poland and Dnieper Ukraine (Great Ukraine).

Assassination plot[edit]

A meeting of Lwów Vola members decided to assassinate Polish Chief of State Marshal Józef Piłsudski during his planned visit to Lwów on September 25, 1921, to help open the first Eastern Trade Fair. The conspirators had detailed information about his visit to the city. Vola divided itself into five-man groups, one of which was to carry out the assassination. The actual assassin, chosen by lot, was Stepan Fedak. Furnished with a false passport and German visa, immediately after the operation he was to escape to Berlin. He was to be assisted by the remaining members of his group. Paliyiv, a law student, was to stand beside Fedak and, after Fedak had fired, overpower him and summon police. Another conspirator, disguised as a Polish Army major, would hasten to assist. The two would conduct Fedak out of the crowd, get into a rented automobile with him, and ostensibly drive him off to jail, but actually out of town.

The attack[edit]

Having earlier that day participated in the opening of the Trade Fair and then met with bankers, journalists and civic leaders, about 8 p.m. Piłsudski left the city hall, accompanied by Lwów Province Governor Kazimierz Grabowski. They got into an open limousine, with Piłsudski seated on the left. Stepan Fedak pushed his way toward them through the crowd. The car was moving very slowly, when a loud noise rang out. The Governor, sure that it was a back-fire, continued sitting upright; Piłsudski, however, immediately recognized it for a pistol shot and reflexively ducked. The bullet had just missed him by a hair and struck the windshield. Two more shots rang out. One struck the Governor's right shoulder, the other—his left arm. The Governor slipped off his seat, and was supported by Piłsudski.

Police senior constable Jakub Skweres threw himself at Fedak and seized him by the throat. Fedak, as he fell, fired a fourth round, wounding himself in the chest. The crowd pounced on him; he was saved from certain death by policemen and soldiers of the guard standing before the city hall, who knocked the would-be lynchers aside with their rifle butts.

Aftermath[edit]

The Governor was treated by physicians and went home, while Piłsudski, as planned, proceeded to Lwów's Great Theater, where he received an ovation from the gathered public.

The wounded and badly contused Fedak was taken under police escort to a hospital. Immediately interrogated by the police, he falsely stated that he had wanted to shoot only the Governor, who was an enemy of the Ukrainian people, and had planned to then hand his pistol over to Chief of State Piłsudski.

After the performance at the Great Theater, a banquet was held at the provincial administrative offices, with the wounded Governor Grabowski in attendance.

Fedak subsequently escaped abroad. Toward the end of World War II he disappeared without trace in Berlin.

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