Monday, March 8, 2010

Pavlo Shandruk

Born in Kremenets, Volhynia, on February 28, 1889, Pavlo Shandruk joined with Czar Army after completed his studies at the Nizhyn Institute. In 1917, as a Russian lieutenant colonel, he had lead one of the early tank detachments of the Russian Imperial Army. In 1920, after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, he commanded a Ukrainian brigade in the Ukrainian struggle for liberation. In 1921, after the Ukrainian National republic collapse, he had fled to Poland where Marshall Jozef Pilsudski gave him an appointment in the Polish army.

While most of the Ukrainian officers in the Polish army were regarded by Ukrainian nationalist as collaborators with Poland, Shandruk was an exception. In his dealings with Poles, Shandruk had always advocated an independent Ukrainian nation-state. During Hitler invasion to Poland in September 1939, Shandruk, now a colonel, led a Polish regiment which succeed to rescue a Polish brigade from annihilation. Taken as a prisoner by Germans and held in a prison camp near Breslau, he was later released due to his injuries. He later lives in Skierniewice and working at a humble job in a movie theater.

In 1944, when the SS tried to reshaped the anti-Communist Ukrainian organizations, which were rife with dissension, under theirs umbrella, they got an advice from a Ukrainian leader that Shandruk was a right man to lead them. In February 1945, with some conditions, Shandruk accepted the SS offering to lead the Ukrainian National Committee and simultaneously became the commander of the newly-formed Ukrainian National Army (or UNA) into which all Ukrainian units which had fought on the German side were collected. But, he refused the SS other offering to become an SS-Gruppenführer.

In his capacity as the leader of the Ukrainian National Committee and Ukrainian National Army, Shandruk declined invitation of General Andrei Vlasov to join the K.O.N.R. although the Russian general offering him the post of his first deputy in both political and military matters. Shandruk appreciated that the Ukraine would have little hope of independence if he made his armed forces subservient to a Russian.

In April 1945, Shandruk joined his men of the Ukrainian National Army in Austria. He lead the 1st UNA Division, former 14th SS ‘Galicia’ Division, fought theirs way over Tauern Pass into Radstadt pocket and surrendered to the US and British force in the area. While his men were put behind POW cages, Shandruk tried to make contact with higher British and American authorities. With help of Polish General Anders, he persuaded the British and Americans that his force were made up of Galicians, that is, Polish citizens whose homes had been occupied in 1939 by the invasion of Soviet armies and the incorporation of eastern Poland into the Soviet Union. His tenacity, cleverness, and diplomatic agility succeed keeping his division status away from extradition to Soviet Union because they were accepted as Polish pre-war citizens (without any check whether they had Polish citizenship or not). This provoked fierce protests from Moscow.

After live for some times in Germany, Shandruk emigrated to the USA. Decorated with Polish Virtuti Militari order for his performance in Polish Army during the September Campaign, he wrote a number works about military history in Ukrainian, Polish and English.

Pavlo Shandruk died on February 15, 1979, in Trenton, New Jersey.

Copyright © 2010 by Nino Oktorino

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