the cruel repression of Stalin’s secret police


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As much as General Charles de Gaulle repeated it in his slogans, the resistance movements were not just a thing of France strangled by Nazism during World War II. In 1945, the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) brought together some 100,000 combatants, was equipped with hospitals and even had its own uniform. Its objective, as revealed to ABC by the professor of Contemporary History at the Complutense University, José M. Faraldo, was to confront the Poles and the Soviet Union in pursuit of a free Ukraine. However, his dreams were crushed by the forerunner of the KGB, Iósilf Stalin’s NKVD.

The teacher, who attends us a few minutes later than the agreed time via videoconference – one of his classes has been extended due to the interest of the students, as he apologizes – is convinced that the germ of hatred between Ukraine and Russia was born those years.

This is also confirmed in his new historical essay, ‘Against Hitler and Stalin‘ (Publishing Alliance); a work that aims to demolish myths and immerse itself, once and for all, in the ins and outs of a complex subject with as many edges as the resistance movements that were forged in Europe as a reaction to the Nazi and Soviet invasions.

Although the pages go from the mythologized French resistance to the Spanish maquis, the conversation soon turns to the territory that today awaits the start of a possible armed conflict. One that experienced its darkest moments with the birth of the UPA. «This army came from a series of nationalist parties that gained importance in the Eastern Galicia, then held by Poland.

Starting in the 1930s, they opted for armed struggle to seek liberation,” he explains. Internal pressure forced its leaders to leave for Nazi Germany awaiting the inevitable: the start of the invasion of Russia in 1941, the so-called Operation Barbarossa. “When it happened, they returned to Ukraine and tried to declare it independent, but the Reich did not allow it,” he adds.

A double resistance then began on the part of this group: against the Nazis for immediate liberation, and against the communist partisans for the long-term future. The clearest example, according to the professor, was that the UPA initiated a “cleansing policy in which they annihilated thousands of Jews, Poles and Germans” to “prepare an end to the war without ethnic minorities.” But his dreams did not last. “The advance of the Soviets and their entry into the Ukraine forced them to gradually withdraw into the forests,” he says.

The arrival of the Soviet Union catapulted the UPA to its peak in 1945. They became, in practice, an army on the ground. According to Faraldo, its members were capable of developing their own secret service (the dreaded SB OUN) and even internment camps. Until 1949 they orchestrated considerable armed resistance in almost the entire territory, although especially in Lviv, Stanislaviv, Drohovich, Ternopil and Rivne. From these regions located in the western zone they became a nightmare for the Red Army and they assassinated General Nikolai Vatutin, commander of the 1st Ukrainian Front.

But the splendor was short-lived. “The Soviet Union expanded throughout the country crushing those who, during the war, had tried to create an independent Ukraine. Those in charge of Stalinizing the area were the members of the NKVD, who were endowed with well-equipped armed forces,” he explains. For years there was a real warlike conflict between both forces; a small “civil war”, in the words of Faraldo. The turning point was the so-called ‘Great Blockade’ in the winter of 1945, in which villages suspected of having insurgents were closed and the forests combed.

The war ended in the sixties, and with it the desire for independence. It was a massacre that cost the Ukrainian movement 155,000 victims and 300,000 arrested and deported. In return, the Russians mourned 30,000 casualties; although they gained one thing, the animosity of that town.

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