Tadeusz Hołówko

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Tadeusz Hołówko

Tadeusz Hołówko (September 17, 1889 – August 29, 1931), codename Kirgiz, was an interwar Polish politician, diplomat and author of many articles and books.

He was most notable for his moderate stance on the "Ukrainian problem" faced by the Polish government, which due to its nationalist policies in Poland's largely Ukrainian- and Belarusian-populated eastern territories, faced increasing tensions there. Despite, or perhaps because of, being a relative moderate in policies toward the Ukrainian population, and a supporter of peaceful cooperation, he was assassinated in 1931 by two members of the radical Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.


Born on September 17, 1889, in Semipalatinsk, Russian Empire (now Semey, Kazakhstan), Hołówko became a close collaborator of Józef Piłsudski,[1] first in the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), later in the Polish Military Organization (POW) and finally in the pro-Sanation Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government (BBWR) party and the Polish government (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). In 1918 he became a vice-minister in the first government of the Second Polish Republic led by Prime Minister Ignacy Daszyński.[2]

One of the organizers of the POW and the BBWR, he was the BBWR's vice president and chief ideologist. From 1930 he was a deputy to the Polish parliament (Sejm); he advocated increasing the presidential and executive powers and decreasing the powers of the Sejm. He is credited by many English and Polish authors for advocating and improving relations with Poland's ethnic minorities, chiefly the Ukrainians and Belarusians.[3][4][5][6] However, certain Ukrainian authors[7][8] consider otherwise pointing out his opposition to granting the autonomy to Ukrainian regions and even to creation of the Ukrainian university in Galicia[9] and to his efforts aimed at convincing the Ukrainian leaders to recall their complaints about pacification submitted to the League of Nations.[10] Modern research however notes he was supportive of giving wide autonomy to the minorities[4][5] and supported their cultural development,[5][11] for example, by advocating for using Belarusian language in schools.[11]

Considered one of the ideologists and activists of the "Prometheist" policies[4][12] that sought to destabilize the Soviet Union by encouraging national uprisings among the non-Russian nations that had been conquered by the Soviet Union, particularly the Ukrainians and the peoples of the Caucasus,[12] Hołówko took an active part in preparing the 1929 Soviet-Polish treaty, called the Litvinov's Pact after the Soviet diplomat Maxim Litvinov. In his published comments to the Treaty,[citation needed] Hołówko stated apparently contrary to the "Prometheian" ideas that the Soviet control over the Dnieper Ukraine is the most beneficial condition for the Polish "solution of the Ukrainian problem" as any genuinely Ukrainian government would have likely raised territorial claims towards Polish state. On the other hand, he was frequently cited as an advocate for independence of Ukraine, Belarus and other countries.[4][12]

His controversial stance towards the Ukrainian problem made him a target for Ukrainian extremists. Approximately 1/3 of population of the Second Polish Republic was formed of ethnic minorities,[13] but their problems were marginalized by the Polish government, whose heavy-handed policies were only serving to antagonize the Ukrainian population.[14][15] Eventually the extremists among Ukrainians started sabotage and assassinations campaign and Polish government responded with further respressions. Hołówko was one of the few who tried to deal with that problem with negotiations and compromise; he mediated between willing Polish and Ukrainian politicians and proposed various plans to solve the tensions, from releasing Ukrainians prisoners and granting the minorities more rights,[6] up to giving the Kresy regions, inhabited by those minorities, substantial autonomy.[4][5] However, such pro-Polish Ukrainian politicians were viewed as collaborators by the radical Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, and Hołówko's stance made him enemies among extremist politicians on both sides, who saw profit in further inter-ethnic conflict.[4][6]

He died in Truskawiec (Truskavets) on August 29, 1931, one of the first victims of an assassination campaign carried out by militants of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).[3][6] Having experienced heart-related illness, and unable to go to abroad due to financial constraints, he had decided to stay at the health resort of Truskawiec in eastern Poland's Kresy, an area with a largely Ukrainian population. He had, moreover, chosen to stay at a guest house run by Greek-Catholic nuns of Basil of Caesarea (Sorores Basyliae), partly as a declaration of his pro-Ukrainian stance, and partly because it was less expensive.[6] At the news that he had chosen Truskawiec to spend his vacation, the local police commissioner, unable to change Hołówko's mind, assigned a man to shadow him as a bodyguard. August 29 was Hołówko's last day in Truskawiec; unable to leave as planned because he was waiting for a cash transfer to pay for his stay, he was further delayed by a storm. Then in his room he was met by two OUN activists, Vasyl Bilas and Dmytro Danylyshyn, who shot him and left the scene.[6]

His death, widely discussed in the Polish press, and mentioned in the international press and even at a League of Nations session,[16] was part of a vicious circle involving the Polish government's brutal repression of ethnically-Ukrainian citizens (the Polish government's "pacification" campaign)[14][15] and the OUN's campaign of terror. Some time later, the Polish police commissioner in charge of investigating Hołówko's death, Emilian Czechowski, himself became an OUN assassination victim.[16]


  • O demokracji, polityce i moralności życia publicznego
  • Kwestia narodowościowa w Polsce (1922).


  • "Influence of communism diminishes with progress... [In a wealthy, educated village], a communist agitator has nothing to do. Thus two things are needed do combat influences of communism: objective, independent and just administration, and cultural work."[17]
  • "Independence of Poland is inconceivable without independent Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Ukraine and Belarus. Independence of Poland is only one of many examples of a process seen throughout modern Europe - freeing of nations from political slavery. If Poland is alone, if other countries created on the ruins of Russian Empire will fall - dark will be Poland's future."
  • ..."such policies [needs to be used] that ethnic minorities would feel good in Poland, not attempting to break away from Polish state, but on the opposite, they would see such a break away as a defeat. [...] [Thus] those national movements must be supported [...] Therefore that population which would have complete freedom within borders of the Republic would not be loured by Russia."[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pracownia Literatury Ukraińskiej. Instytut Slawistyki PAN (Department of Ukrainian Literature. Institute of Slavistics, Polish Academy of Sciences. Last accessed on 30 September 2006
  2. ^ (in Polish) w dziejach i kulturze Polski (Lublin in history and culture of Poland). Last accessed on 30 September 2006
  3. ^ a b Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History, University of Toronto Press, 2005, ISBN 0-8020-8390-0, Google Print, p. 428, Google Print, p.445
  4. ^ a b c d e f Timothy Snyder, Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist's Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine, Yale University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-300-10670-X, Google Print, p.33, p.41, p.75
  5. ^ a b c d e Marian Siemakowicz, Założenia programowe głównych obozów politycznych wobec szkolnictwa dla ludności białoruskiej w II Rzeczypospolitej (Plans of main Polish political camps towards education of Belarusian minority in the Second Republic). Last accessed on 30 September 2006
  6. ^ a b c d e f (in Polish) Włodzimierz Kalicki, Gazeta Wyborcza, 2002-08-29, 29 VIII 1931: Morderstwo podczas burzy (29.8.1931: Murder during the storm). Last accessed on 30 September 2006
  7. ^ Petro Mirchuk. "Narys istoriï Orhanizatsiï ukraïnskyh natsionalistiv.." LCCN 76-244029 Section "Vbyvstvo polskogo posla Tadeusha Holufka" in V Chastyna: Rozdil 2
  8. ^ Zynoviy Knysh. "V sutinkah zrady (Ubuvstvo Tadeusha Holufka na tli zrady Romana Baranovskoho)", LCCN 2002-618275
  9. ^ "Peace to his sole, Holowko was absolutely against any autonomy thoughts, wherever they came from. More than that. He was against the creation of the Ukrainian university anywhere in Galicia. He, and for very good reasons, considered that in the current state of affairs, when the painful for us problem is yet always presented as the political one, giving to the Ukrainian population any kind of autonomy or University is only to preserve and aggregate this political issue, and by this, separatism, and as such to make the realization of the program impossible..."
    Słowo Polskie, October 5, 1931, as quoted by Petro Mirchuk.
  10. ^ "His government activity consisted in conducting negotiations... His main task were negotiations with UA politicians to convince them to recall from Geneva their complaints on Pacification.", Nashpud, October 2, 1931
  11. ^ a b Eugeniusz Mironowicz, Oleg Łatyszonek, Historia Białorusi. Last accessed on 30 September 2006.
  12. ^ a b c Timothy Snyder, Covert Polish missions across the Soviet Ukrainian border, 1928-1933' in Cofini, Silvia Salvatici (a cura di), Rubbettino, 2005, (p.1, p.2, p.3, p.4, p.5).
  13. ^ Norman Davies, God's Playground, Columbia University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-231-12819-3, Google Print, p.299
  14. ^ a b Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999, Yale University Press, ISBN 030010586X Google Books, p.144
  15. ^ a b Davies, God's Playground, op.cit.
  16. ^ a b (in Polish) Wojciech Kujawa Ukraińcy w międzywojennej Polsce (Ukrainians in the pre-war Poland). Last accessed on 30 September 2006.
  17. ^ (in Polish) Andrzej Chojnowski - Piłsudczycy wobec komunizmu (Piłsudskiites and communism). Last accessed on 30 September 2006.

Further reading[edit]

  • WERSCHLER Iwo; Z dziejów obozu belwederskiego. Tadeusz Hołówko, życie i działalność. Warszawa 1984 PWN