“Didu, write you memoirs”, they ask me. Who needs this, I ask? “Your grandchildren, otherwise they will forget where they come from, who their ancestors are. This is America, if we were in Ukraine we could find this information from source documents, and even then who knows if they would be available.”
All right, lets’s start with Baba Halia (Olena).
Yavoriv is a picturesque village in Halychyna. I’ve never been there, but they say it has a pretty lake and oak forest, filled with mushrooms in summertime.
That is where Halia was born, November 23, 1912, two years before the breakout of the storm which shook the world – World War I. The Muscovites immediately attacked the Austrians, and Yavoriv found itself under Czarist rule. Halia’s father, a young Ukrainian priest and staunch patriot, was transported to the depths of Russia, and on to Siberia. It was not until the Revolution that Father Theodore was permitted to return to Ukraine. He stayed in central Ukraine for a while, then returned to Yavoriv, determined to help establish an independent Halytsian Ukraine. He was only able to spend a little time with his wife and small daughter, finding it necessary to first defend Yavoriv, then all of Halytsian Ukraine, from Polish invaders. The cross and the rifle were his weapons: he was a chaplain of the Ukrainian Halitsian Army (UHA), sharing the fate of the army across the vast expanses of Ukraine. He died during an anti-Bolshevik cavalry mission somewhere near the town of Zhyromyr (Zhytomyr?). Father Theodora Czajkivskyj’s biography was included in a publication of the Vasylian (Basilian) Priests: “Field Chaplains of the UHA”.
Halia, his only child, remained in the sole care of her mother, Stefania, nee Vynnytska. Stefania was the daughter of a well-off priest. Her parents provided their children with a sound education, and she completed a pedagogical seminary, becoming a professional teacher. Under the Polish occupation it was not easy to find a teaching position, but the energetic Stefania, an accomplished mathematician, despite various difficulties, managed to find and maintain a position as a teacher. Not long afterwards the small family moved to Peremyshl, where Stefania taught at the famous Shashkevych Gymnasium, while her daughter attended the Ukrainian women’s gymnasium. In those times an education consisted of four years of primary school, followed by eight years of gymnasium. Having completed the matriculation examinations, a student went on to study at a university.
During her years at the gymnasium, Halia was active in sports, and an enthusiastic member of Plast. Each summer she attended camps in the Carpathians, on Sokol mountain. The Polish authorities banned Plast, but it continued to exist illegally, as an underground organization. While in gymnasium, Halia also belonged to the illegal Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the young women’s (yunachky) group. At that time most idealistic youth were active in the underground OUN.
After completing her matriculation exams, Halia traveled to Danzig to continue her studies at the Polytechnicum. At that time Danzig (now the Polish city of Gdansk) was a German city. In 1934 Halia completed her studies of chemistry and obtained a diploma as an “Inzhener”. But studies were only a small part of her life in Danzig. There was an active branch of the OUN in the city, and various student corporations, as well as a student hromada (Osnova). Halia was active in all of them, but especially in the OUN.
1934: in Warsaw the OUN precipitated an attack on the Polish minister Pieracki. He was killed with a revolver shot. The assassin managed to break through the cordon and escape out of Poland. Organizers of the attack fled to Danzig, so they could travel from there to Germany. Halia was given the assignment of escorting one of the participants of the attack group (Daria Hnatkivsky) across the border. She was able to complete the assignment, even transporting Hnatkivsky’s revolver in her purse through customs and the police barricade. But still the spy system found them out, and Halia ended up in a Polish prison in Warsaw. It was only her conscious efforts and strong will during the investigation that saved her from many years of incarceration. Her imprisonment lasted only a year, during which time other participants in the attack (named the Process of Bandera, Lebed and Colleagues) received sentences ranging from ten years to life imprisonment. They were set free in September 1939, with the start of the German-Polish war.
In 1935 Halia moved to Lviv, where she worked as head of a laboratory for the Ukrainian battery producer “E-KO”. From Lviv she would travel on vacation to Danzig, and at the same time I would travel there from Munich – and on one such meeting during vacation time we were married. Later, after many attempts, Halia finally managed to get a passport and join me in Freizing, Germany. But more about those events later…
The Turula clan must have accidentally arrived in Ukraine. (There are those who say that “Turula” is a Finnish surname.) Great-grandfather Isidor was descended from a village family, from somewhere in Berezhanshchyna. He was a priest, and over a hundred years ago he was pastor in the village of Khorostiv in Podilya. That is where my father Evhen grew up, with two sisters. One married a priest, The other, Dora, married an officer of Petliura’s army, Tyshchenko. Dora was beautiful, winning prizes in beauty contests at dances and balls in Lviv.
A comment about my father. One time when I met Polkovnyk Konovalets, he asked me: “Evhen Turula, he is your father? ‘ferlorene grosse’.” (German, meaning an untapped, unrealized great talent). He was a multi-talented, handsome man. He was a musician and composer, organizer of choirs, producer of theatrical performances, a teacher and artist. His basic instrument was always the violin, but he also learned piano and other instruments played in an orchestra.
Short vignettes and innumerable photos present a complete image of his activities. One could also append a listing of his publications, with articles about his work, and many collections of Ukrainian choral music. He completed the Clerical Academy in Lviv, and was conductor of its student choir. His journey to Jerusalem in 1905, during which he organized quite a few performances, was immortalized in the book “How Rus Marched on Jerusalem” by ????. Before the war he was a Chaplain at the seminary in Yavoriv. At that time he became friends with the artist Burachok, and possibly it was under his tutelage that he began to paint. During his life he would often return to this hobby, and was a talented primitivist. He was recruited into the Austrian army as a chaplain, was wounded in the head and released from further service. He remained in Vienna, later moving to Berlin.
During the war he was a member of the Soyuz Vyzvolennia Ukrainy (SVU) and proved to be an able organizer of Ukrainians within the camps of Russian captives in Austria and Germany. He organized choirs of captive soldiers, and they performed throught Austria, even in Switzerland. Following the war he chose not to return to Ukraine, remaining as an emigrant in Berlin, where he founded his own school of music. In 1924, Bishop Budko invited him to travel to Winnipeg, Canada. For several years he fulfilled the duties of a priest, but soon entered into conflict with the bishop. From that time he reverted to civilian status and gave himself over to music: a music school, theatrical and operatic productions (Gypsy Baron, Star of Bethlehem – the first Ukrainian ‘film’, and so on). An exhibit in the Winnipeg Ukrainian Museum catalogs his life in that city.
My mother, Theodora, daughter of Father Petro Yatsyshyn, was a student at the Teacher’s Seminary in Lviv, and at the same time studied solo voice (soprano) at the conservatory. Her younger sister Olenka was a student of the conservatory, with piano as her primary instrument. It was most likely my mother’s enchanting voice and the musical atmosphere within their family home that capativated my father. He asked the gifted soloist to be his wife, despite their differences in opinion about so many of life’s pleasures and problems. In the end these conflicts cause them to choose life apart, even on separate continents.
But to return to events closer to my own difficulties and experiences…
My brother Petro, who was older than me, inherited my mother’s face, but his character and abilities came from our father. He never studied music, with the exception of beginner piano lessons. He studied forest engineering, but organizing choirs and conducting them were his passion. Even as a student at the gymnasium in Stanislaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk) he organized a choir, the so-called “Sixteen”, which acquired quite a reputation in its time. During his studies in Lviv, he organized a choir of student-engineers. His choirs of villagers from Podilya won many awards at song festivals.
Unfortunately he was not able to avoid the Soviet destruction machine: in the first years of the Soviet-German war he was arrested, and the NKVD led him, among a thousand other captives, from the prison in Chortkiv to Uman, where they were all murdered.
More about the massacre at Uman later.
Ryp’ianka: a very typical mountainside village, spread along the banks of the Lukva river, which a bit lower falls into the Dnister River. Together, these two rivers formed the boundaries of the historic city of Halych. Villages dot the riverside. Upriver, a smaller village lies nestled in the woods, - Yavorivka. Its residents are derisively called ‘Pidialychnyky’. Dense woods stretch along both sides of the settled river valley. These woods became renowned in Ukrainian history as the ‘black woods’ of the Ukrainska Povstanska Armiya (UPA). It was in these woods that the UPA built its independent, impenetrable fortress.
My maternal grandfather, Father Petro Yatsyshyn, was pastor of the picturesque village of Rypianka for many years. This is where, I’m told, as is proper, the world first heard me cry on May 11, 1909. With the exception of those first years of which I have no memory, when I was at times transported to Terebovlia, it was in Rypianka that I spent my youthful years: primary school, followed by vacations and holidays during my years at the gymnasium. During my last two years of schooling our family had moved to Peremyshl.
As a whole, life in Rypianka was calm and uneventful. We survived two waves of occupation by Russian armed forces during World War I. During the first occupation, the Russian army was fairly disciplined, but during the second occupation, following the Russian revolution, as they retreated the soldiers plundered and destroyed everything which fell into their hands. Our grandfather kept bees. After the departure of the Russian army all that remained of the hives were broken stumps, and swarms of bees hanging from branches in the orchard. We were only able to save a part of the bees, gathering them into hastily constructed hives. This was August, the soldiers took the honey from the barrels and hives, destroying part of our household.
November 1918. Joyous news reached Rypianka: the Declaration of Independence in Lviv. That Sunday there was a declaration in our regional town of Kalush. The villagers arrived in their wagons, and my grandfather drove us there in a buggy. To this day I remember the town square filled with blue and yellow flags, the festive atomsphere. But less than a year later Polish soldiers rode into our yard and two officers strode into the house. They were polite, and even had written orders telling them they had no right to confiscate anything. The remained for dinner and stayed the night. The head of the household accepted their presence, because that was what was required out of politeness, but my mother did not even come out to chat with them, she was a patriot – truth be told, we all hated the Poles.
Following completion of my gymnasium studies in Lviv, I tried unsuccessfully to enroll in the chemical department of the Lviv Polytechnic Institute. The Poles had decreed that Ukrainians were to be allowed entry to the university only in special circumstances. It became necessary to wait a year, so I lived with my mother in Peresmyshl, earning some money by tutoring gymnasium students. One year later I traveled to Danzig and began my studies at the German Technical School.
My contacts with OUN began in the gymnasium, and I was more active during my time in Peremyshl. The field leader for Peremyshl at that time was Vasyl Kachmar, and we worked together amiably. We organized the school youth, in the gymnasium, in a sports organzation “Syan”, and a youth organization, “Luhy”. (Far later, in Chicago, together with Kachmar and another student, Zahaykevych, we founded the Student Hromada, which for that time was the leading youth organization in the city. Leaders of the Hromada were, as a rule, of course, members of the OUN.)
The sports organizations “Syan” and “Luhy” were primarily for the youth in various trades. In Peremyshl I unintentionally found myself at odds with the Polish police. It so happened that one politically active young Ukrainian soldier had access to the army’s library and its training manuals, which were not available to the public at large. In Danzig our group continually held paramilitary training sessions, and we needed training manuals. This young soldier – also a member of the OUN – “organized” a whole series of these army training manuals and, following instructions, turned them over for temporary safekeeping to one tradesman, another OUN member. Unexpectedly he was detained by the police and during the investigation a trace of the missing books was found. During the interrogation, under pressure, he stated that I had given him the books. Soldiers arrested me, claiming that he had stolen the books and given them to me.
I was arrested in Staryi Uhryn, where I was vacationing at the home of the Bandera family (Stepan Bandera’s father) and I was transported in chains from Kalush to Peremyshl, where I remained in custody for nearly a year. The court case was brought by the army. I contradicted the eyewitness accounts, saying that I had never met this soldier, and he also stated that he did not know me, and would not admit to stealing the books. In the meantime the individual at whose residence the books had been found refused to accuse me of any wrong-doing – and this time somehow I managed to avoid a lengthy incarceration.
The Ukrainian Academy of Science in Berlin granted me a scholarship to attend the Polytechnical Institute, and so in 1934 I traveled to Berlin. Once there, I immediately became active in the OUN organization. The central offices of the “young” (at that time) émigré OUN group in Berlin included Kordiuk, Stakhiv, Gabrusevych and others. The leader of the group was Rico Yaryi. Less than a year later the attack on Pieracki brought about serious complications. Danzig was a strategic point, since the organizers of the attack traveled through Danzig. The Polish underground spy network discovered that Mykola Lebed was bound for Berlin by ship from Danzig, and the Polish embassy demanded that the German police turn him over to the Polish government. In order to establish contact with other members of the group, I was given an assignment to travel to Danzig. Most likely the Polish spies were also informed of my mission, because the Polish embassy asked that I be turned over to them on my return to Berlin.
Our own “spy network” within the German ministry found out about this in time, and so, taking advantage of the upcoming summer holidays, I borrowed a friend’s bicycle, obtained a student pass with a slightly different surname, and headed south. I still had my Polish diplomatic passport (the Poles were, oddly enough, fairly liberal – it was, after all, a democratic country!) and this enabled me to cross the borders, by bike, through Switzerland and on to Italy, eventually returning to Berlin (more about this trip later)
In Berlin our spies discovered that the Germans, in cooperation with the Polish government, had sent out (or promised to send out) letters calling for my detainment. Our connections, however, enabled me to continue my studies in Zurich, Switzerland.
My bicycle journey through Europe lasted over two months. In Germany there was a youth hostel in nearly every village, where it was possible to spend the night almost for free; in Switzerland the farmers allowed travelers to sleep in their haystacks, often treating me to a piece of Swiss cheese as well. While in Switzerland I spent several days in Lauzanne, at the apartment of Konovalets’ secretary, Sorol. I remember evenings of interesting conversation at Konovalets’ home, especially with his wife. She was an amateur photographer, and maintained a collection of her photos, and also admired my photos of the Bodensee. Konovalets was a friend of my father, and we reminisced about past meetings.
Travel over the St. Bernard alpine divide into Italy was arduous. It was late at night before I finally crested the mountains with my bicycle and backpack, but the hospitable monks with their great dogs found me a room for the night, and fed me. The trip down into the Aosta valley into Italy was no less difficult. No matter how carefully I rode, I still completely burned out my brakes and had to rest a whole day as they were repaired.
In Italy it was more difficult to find overnight accommodations. Of course, I could not afford to stay in hotels. On the other hand, the nights were warm, and I often slept in the vineyards. The grapes were delicious, especially with “panne duro”, hard white bread – this was the most delicious, and cheapest meal. My first swim in the Mediterranean was unforgettable, although I suffered afterwards. I jumped into the chilly sea water and chilled my spine – it hurt for days afterwards. Travel down the Via Appia into Rome was very attractive. It was a joy to photograph myself alongside the sign which read “100km to Rome”. Just a few more hours…
In Rome I stopped at the well-known Pension of Onacky, remaining there over a week. They gave me an inexpensive room close to the entryway, at a third of the cost of regular rooms, but even so this was far to expensive for me, leaving that much less to spend on my return journey. I wandered around Rome with a Ukrainian student studying there, who also was on summer vacation at the time. I considered traveling further south by bike, to Naples, but decided not to risk it, as time was passing swiftly. I started my trip back that same day.
At that time the Italians hated the Germans, because Hitler had an argument with Mussolini. For some time during the return trip a German student traveled with me. Often the Italians would ask: are you Germans, or Austrians? If my German travel mate admitted his nationality we were scorned, but if he said he was Austrian, that made them happy, so they would treat us to some wine. I traveled for some time on side roads through the Apenine Mountains. In one village I met a truck driver working on road repairs. He was a Ukrainian who had married an Italian and remained in Italy after the first World War. I returned to Switzerland through the Gottard Pass, down the beautiful valley of the Tichino River. I remained in Switzerland for a few days, sightseeing in several cities, so that Zurich was no longer unfamiliar to me when I returned there a short while later from Berlin, this time by train.
Seleshko, who was Konovalets’ foreign liaison officer, soon moved in with me in Zurich. Often Konovalets came to Zurich on official business. He enjoyed hiking and mountain climbing, once even showing up on my doorstep dressed casually, with a backpack. Konovalets lives in Switzerland, a neutral country, because it was politically expedient to be disassociated from Hitler’s Germany, although it was materially inconvenient.
Switzerland was far too expensive a place for me to live and study. After a year I decided to risk returning to Germany, but this time to Munich. The Polish-German “friendship” was no longer active. In truth, the Gestapo in Munich “remembered” the detainment letters, and they paid me a visit, but decided to leave me alone. The Warsaw Process had become history! My scholarship was continued, a period of intensive study ensued, and following my examinations I received an appointment to pursue doctoral studies in the chemical department in Vaigenstefan near Freising (a brewing institute).
Baba Halia and I were married in Danzig, to which she had traveled from Lviv while I arrived there from Munich, for a “vacation/honeymoon” in July 1938. During the Christmas holidays we again met in Danzig, but it was not until a year later that Halia, with some difficulty, was able to obtain a passport and travel to Freising. It was in Freising, December 5, 1939, that our first child, Daria, was born. With my PhD in hand, I immediately obtained employment in the food industry, at a company in Milheim Ruhr, in western Germany, and Halia was also able to find a job there.
Less than a year later the Germans attacked the Soviet Union, and right away I was instructed by the leaders of the OUN to come to Berlin. The owner of the company in which I was employed, Tengelmann-Schmidt-Scholl was a member of the planning staff responsible for provisioning the army. He gave me a referral to the leader of this group, Kerner, who was responsible for arranging a food base in Ukraine for the army. Kerner accepted my memorandum on organizing the food services base in Ukraine. My plan called for turning over planning and administration of the farm sector to Ukrainians, providing assistance only with technical specialists and inventory.
Obviously all this was proposed with the hope that the Germans would allow a Ukrainian state to be created, at least one similar to that which the Slovaks had. My last conversation with Kerner was in Krakow. He admitted that he considered my project to be the proper way to proceed, that he thought German policy in Ukraine would follow those lines, but… The party line ended up being just the opposite, to not allow the local populace any control at all, - and that only Germans were to work in his staff. Kerner was convinced that I was a German citizen, since I spoke German perfectly, but I did not have German citizenship, and didn’t want it. Besides – other plans existed. By that time there was no hope the Germans would allow Ukraine any autonomy whatsoever.
I traveled on to Lviv via the underground network, even crossing the river Syan at night, since the bridges were all guarded by soldiers. The June 30th proclamation found me in Peremyshl – this had been an attempt to surprise the Germans with the “fait accompli”, a Ukrainian state.
I managed to avoid the many arrests of OUN members in Lviv, because at the time I had left for Podilya, to see if I could discover what fate had befallen my brother Petro. I found out that he had been arrested in the first days of the war and transported east from the Chortkiv prison. I was able to procure a car and driver, and together with my brother’s wife we followed his trail eastward, taking along a couple of bottles of alcoholic spirits (vodka) to exchange for gasoline. There were rumors that the NKVD had led the prisoners on foot in the direction of Uman. We followed the trail to Uman. In the villages east of Uman there was no trace of the column of prisoners. The people in Uman claimed that the column was led to the prison building, and that afterwards all one heard was the rumbling of truck motors.
At our insistence, the foundations of the prison were checked, and it was discovered that the giant basement of the prison was packed solid with the corpses of murdered prisoners. The entrance had been covered over with gravel, lime, old furniture, barrels and other garbage. It was only when fresh air was allowed into the structure through hastily dug openings that it became possible to descend into the basement for at least a few minutes at a time. The stench was overwhelming. German soldiers forced their laborers to remove the bodies, and these were transported in wagons to the cemetery, - wagonload after wagonload, all week long. My sister-in-law and I checked each corpse as it was brought out. Many documents found in the pockets of the prisoners, mostly receipts and other papers from the Chortkiv prison, were collected in a box. The corpses were a mixture of prisoners from the Chortkiv prison – “westerners”, as the local villagers referred to them, but also included locals, some of whom the villagers even recognized.
I counted over 700 corpses before my sister-in-law recognized her husband Petro by his clothing. All the corpses had been murdered with a shot in the back of the skull. Some had their arms bound together behind their back, and bits of clothing clenched in their teeth – an indication that they had not died from the gunshot wound itself. City finery, village homespun and women’s skirts – all were mingled together with the partially decomposed bodies. No one dared enter the rooms where we spent the nights, because we were seeped in that dreadful stench of death. We washed my brother’s body as well as we could, wrapped him in a blanket and took off that same day for Derenivka, where my sister-in-law’s family lived.
My testimony about the tragedy at Uman, where the Bolsheviks murdered over 700 Ukrainians from Chortkivshchyna, was eventually recorded and printed in the Congressional Record in Washington DC.
In the fall of 1941 I returned for a short time to Milheim Ruhr, where Halia, with her mother and baby Dada, had remained. My wife, who was expecting a child, had continued to work at the Tengelman company. This part of Germany was under constant bombardment from English and US forces, every night and often during the day as well. November 13, 1941 our family grew once more with the birth of a son, whom in memory of my recently murdered brother, we christened Petro. In early 1942 we traveled to Lviv, with the hope that we were returning to a homeland freed from the Bolsheviks.
In Lviv I was in charge of an analytical laboratory, and also taught food chemistry at the Pharmaceutical Institute. In time, when the Ukrainska Povstanska Armiya (UPA) began its activities, medications were bought through the laboratory. Also, various immunizations and shots were produced for the UPA in the laboratory. Meetings were often held in the laboratory’s offices, especially when preparations began for the founding congress of the Ukrainska Holovna Vysvolna Rada (UHVR) – the Greater Ukrainian Freedom Council.
The Founding Congress of the UHVR was held in July 1944, in the forests of Turchan, in territory held by the UPA. The discussions took place in a roomy cottage, with a kitchen and dormitories. The territory was tightly guarded by the UPA, and each representative was led to the cottage under armed guard. There were over 20 participants, and the discussions lasted over a week. There was a feeling of great importance dominating the meetings, a regard for the serious nature of the matters under consideration, a feeling of responsibility for the fate of a nation. Of course the meetings were not without their heated arguments and disagreements. There was a weighty atmosphere, a need for haste, because one could already hear the sound of gunshots echoing through the mountains. The Bolshevik army had already broken through into the territory of Kolomiya. Our return journey to Lviv was also fully guarded through underground connections.
Our stay in Lviv was short. In August we sent part of our baggage ahead with the German evacuation transport to Berlin (it disappeared completely), and we joined the army transport out of the country by train. We traveled first through Lemkivshchyna, then through Krynytsia into Slovakia. The hospitable Slovaks greeted us with naïve comments: “Why are you running away, after all it is our brothers who are coming.” We remained in Bratislava nearly half a year, then continued onward by various means of transport, freight trains and trucks, to Munich. It was there that my wife’s mother, Stefania Czajkiwska, suffered a trauma when two train cars rammed each other in a switching yard, and she remained paralyzed for the rest of her life.
The German authorities directed our train car to the mountainside town of Traunstein, and we were quartered in the village of Matzing. There, one spring day, a column of tanks entered the town. The stars painted on the sides of the tanks frightened us, - we thought they were Soviet stars. But soon we were convinced that these were Americans.
Traunstein became a clearing center for refugees from Eastern Europe, and for the forced laborers who had been transported to Germany. This great mass of multihued humanity, and there were thousands of them, began to organize themselves into nationality groups and to settle down in the roomy army casernes. There was one group of over a hundred Ukrainian youth, who had been mobilized by the Germans straight out of the classroom and trained as assistants to the anti-aircraft defense forces – the so-called “fljag-jugend”. With the help of several educators who happened to be in the area, we formed a youth organization, brought the youngsters together, found appropriate teachers and founded a school. These were primarily youth in their final years of gymnasium. Soon we were able to find qualified faculty to fill all the teaching slots for subjects needed to complete a secondary education. Under the leadership of ?????, the school soon became certified by the UNRA (United Nations Relief Agency).
Within a year, the youth had finished their education, received their matriculation certificates and many went on to continue their studies at universities. Today many of these youngsters occupy important positions (for example, professors Labunka in Philadephia, Rozumny in Winnipeg, and the initiator and “founder” of the Harvard Institute, ????). The Ukrainian camp also grew: I was appointed as its commandant. During our stay in Traunstein our family grew once more – our daughter, named Theodora, was born December 25, 1946.
In time the Ukrainian group moved to Dillingen, along with the gymnasium. Our family did not follow, moving instead to Neu Ulm. Besides my various camp responsibilites, I also taught food chemistry at the Pharmaceutical School in Munich, which was created first under the patronage of the UNRA, and later was transferred to the direction of the “UTHI” (??).
In 1950 we traveled to Chicago, where we settled, making this our permanent home.
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