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Ukrainian Losses And The Role An Austrian Archduke Has Had In Them

Published: May 9, 2024 | Print Friendly and PDF

A recent piece in the New York Times connects us to a name which played a serious role in the last century of Ukrainian 'nationalism'.

The history of the western Ukrainian region is, like in some other European areas, a quite convoluted drama that still plays out today.

The first reports of war fatigue in the 'nationalist' western Ukraine are coming in. Natalia Yermak, a Ukrainian cartoon producer turned New York Times journalist, reports from the Galician area near Lviv:

In Western Ukraine, a Community Wrestles With Patriotism or Survival (archived) - New York Times
As the war drags on, communities that were steadfast in their commitment to the war effort have been shaken by the unending violence on the front line.

It was sunset when Maj. Kyrylo Vyshyvany of the Ukrainian army stepped into the yard of his childhood home in Duliby, a village in western Ukraine, just after his younger brother, also a soldier, had been buried. Their mother was still crying in the living room.

“I can already see that she’ll be coming to visit him every day,” he said that day. He was right, but he would not be by her side. A few days after the funeral, in March 2022, he was killed in a Russian missile strike on a Ukrainian military base and buried next to his brother, Vasyl.

The Vyshyvany brothers were the first deaths from Duliby and the surrounding community after Russia began its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. Since then, 44 more Ukrainian soldiers from the area have been killed — more than four times the local death toll from the previous eight years of fighting Russian-backed separatists in the east.

For Duliby and its surrounding enclave of Khodoriv — total population around 24,000 people — waiting for the next solemn death notification and the funeral that follows has become a bitter routine. But even as the town meets and buries the fallen with modest ceremony, some neighbors are quietly weighing the price they are willing to pay for a war with no end in sight.

Divisions have started to form between residents agnostic about the war — often those whose family members have dodged the draft or fled the country — and those who have loved ones on the front line or who fully support the war effort.

The name Vyshyvany looked quite familiar to me. I'll come back to it.

The reporter depicts Galicia, the hotbed of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) fascists, as 'nationalist':

In the earliest days of the war, before the news of the first combat deaths arrived, people in communities across Ukraine flocked to draft offices. Among them was Khodoriv, whose families have a long history of fighting for Ukraine’s independence and being executed or sent into exile during violent Soviet repressions of its nationalist movement in the last century.

Even in the region with deeply seated Ukrainian nationalism lots of people have skipped the draft by paying bribes or other means:

Petro Panat, the leader of the territorial defense unit, an ad hoc military unit formed in the early days of the war to protect local communities, said 10 out of 30 men from the unit had since obtained documents to legally exempt them from fighting. The exemptions are granted for reasons like health problems or relatives in need of care.
In the Khodoriv area, relatives of soldiers who are fighting or who have died at the front said that in the last two years they have begun to resent men in the community who are said to have bought their way out of service while their own sons and fathers are fighting — a feeling that may be shared by many across the country as the Ukrainian government wrestles with how to mobilize up to 500,000 more troops.

After the war is lost, with whatever other outcome, there will be a deep acrimony between families who's members have fought and died in it and those families who had the means and foresight to bail their members out:

There is no legal way to pay for an exemption from military service in Ukraine, but there have been widespread reports of corruption in draft offices, with bribes ranging from $1,000 early in the war — “a buyout from death” — to as much as the $10,000 per head price that was revealed in a Kyiv draft center.

In future the distance between the 'nationalists' and pragmatist draft dodgers will get even bigger than it has been before the war. I wonder how much that could contribute to further internal strife or even a civil war in western Ukraine.

Now back to the Vyshyvany family name which was the first mentioned in the above piece. I had stumbled over it a while ago.

If one searches for that name it brings up the Wikipedia page of the Archduke Wilhelm Franz of Austria who was born in 1895. Wilhelm's  rather complicate history and Ukrainian fascist-'nationalism' are deeply interwoven:

Archduke Wilhelm Franz of Austria, later Wilhelm Franz von Habsburg-Lothringen (10 February 1895–18 August 1948), also known as Vasyl Vyshyvanyi (Ukrainian: Василь Вишиваний), was an Austrian archduke, a colonel of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen, a poet, and a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.
Wilhelm was raised in his parental estate located in the Austrian city of Saybusch, Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. His father was a patriot of Poland [..]. Accommodating the 19th-century rise of nationalism, he decided that his branch of the Habsburg family would adopt a Polish identity and would combine a loyalty to their Habsburg family with a loyalty to Poland. Accordingly, he had his children learn Polish from an early age and tried to instill in them a sense of Polish patriotism.
Wilhelm, the youngest child, rebelled, and came to identify with the Poles' rivals, the Ukrainians. ... [H]e developed a fascination with Ukrainian culture that he kept for the rest of his life.

The family eventual accepted his Ukrainian tendencies and groomed Wilhelm to become a ruler of Galicia, then part of Austria-Hungary and today of western Ukraine.

During the first world war Wilhelm became a Ukrainian 'nationalist':

The most acceptable course to solve the "Ukrainian issue", for Wilhelm, was the creation of an autonomous Grand Duchy of Ukraine with federalist principles, within the Habsburg monarchy. That duchy, beside the Eastern Galicia and Bukovina provinces, could include as well Ukrainian lands that at that time belonged to the Russian Empire and which had to be reconquered.

Supported by the German-Empire and Austria-Hungary William fought as commander of Ukrainian draftees against the Bolsheviks.

When the world war ended William was hospitalized. Ukraine, the name translates to 'border land', again experienced the fate that comes with such an estate:

As he lay in the hospital, World War I ended, Austria-Hungary fell apart, and the Habsburgs lost their throne. In Eastern Galicia the West Ukrainian National Republic was proclaimed, while the Ukrainians of Bukovina tried, unsuccessfully, to unite their land with the new Ukrainian republic. The Bukovina was occupied by hostile Romanian forces, causing Wilhelm to flee to Lviv to avoid arrest. As Lviv was occupied now by Polish forces, Wilhelm again was forced to leave, moving to the Carpathian region where he was hiding in local monasteries for almost half a year. Meanwhile, while Germany was withdrawing its troops from Ukraine, the regime of Skoropadskyi in Ukraine was overthrown by republican forces of "Directorate", led by Volodymyr Vynnychenko and Symon Petliura, and interest in seeing Wilhelm as sovereign of Ukraine faded.

During that era other nation's rivalries affected the region - as they had done before for many centuries and as they still do today.

Between the world wars Wilhelm was mostly in Vienna but continued his Ukrainian 'nationalist' activities:

In circles of Ukrainian political emigrants, a hope was burning that the loss was not yet final and the Soviet regime could still be overthrown. In Vienna, Wilhelm became involved with pro Ukrainian monarchists who saw in him an opportunity, but nothing came out of it.
In Paris Vyshavanyi renewed his communications with Ukrainians when members of the newly formed Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) found him. He twice met with head of OUN Yevhen Konovalets. Through Wilhelm, nationalists tried to find new sources of financing.

Wilhelm supported the German Nazis who, with the avid support of the Ukrainian OUN militia, killed many Poles and Jews after invading the Soviet Ukraine. When the Nazis turned against the OUN Wilhelm stayed with the Ukrainian 'nationalists':

Soon however, Wilhelm realized that the Hitlerites would not allow for creation of independent Ukraine even as a puppet state similar to Slovakia. After he and his brother Karl Albrecht were arrested and interrogated by Gestapo, Wilhelm changed his political views and soon joined the local anti-Nazi resistance in Vienna.

When the second world war came to an end Wilhelm was engaged by the British(?) and French secret services to instigate a Ukrainian nationalist terror campaign against the Soviet forces in Ukraine:

At some point Maas introduced Wilhelm to his colleague Jack Brier who in his turn in 1946 introduced Wilhelm to French military officer Jean Pélissier. The latter had been tasked by the French authorities to revive contacts with Ukrainian nationalists who continued to fight the Soviet regime. Confrontation between yesterday's allies, the collective West and the Soviet Union, was becoming more obvious and eventually had grown into what now is known as the Cold War. The French representatives promised help with delivering by planes political agitation on the Soviet territory as well as Ukrainian militants who would join the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). At first the French representatives requested to meet personally with Stepan Bandera, but since it was too complicated, agreed to meet someone from his closer associates.

The 'western' allies, especially the U.S. between 1948 and 1952, spent a lot of effort and money to instigate an insurgency in Galicia against the Soviet forces.

Wilhelm was eventually caught by the Soviets. In 1948 he died in of tuberculosis a prison hospital

One wonders what else but the name connects the Vyshyvany family in the recent NYT piece with the Austrian aristocrat turned Ukrainian 'nationalist'.

In the early 1950s, after the Soviets had launched a serious counter insurgency campaign, the post WWII fascist OUN insurgency in Ukraine eventually petered out.

In 2014 the U.S. revived it.





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