Danylo Shumuk

Last updated
Danylo Shumuk
Данило Шумук
BornDecember 30, 1914
Boremschyna, Ukraine
DiedMay 21, 2004
Krasnoarmiisk, Ukraine
OccupationPoet, writer, and political activist
Nationality Ukrainian

Danylo Lavrentiyovych Shumuk (December 30, 1914 in village Boremschyna, Russian Empire, now in Volyn Oblast, Ukraine – May 21, 2004 in Krasnoarmiisk, Ukraine) was a Ukrainian political activist who served a total of 42 years imprisoned by three different states, Second Polish Republic, Nazi Germany and Soviet Union.

Russian Empire former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Volyn Oblast Oblast in Ukraine

Volyn Oblast is an oblast (province) in north-western Ukraine. Its administrative center is Lutsk. Kovel is the westernmost town and the last station in Ukraine of the rail line running from Kiev to Warsaw. Population: 1,042,918 (2015 est.)

Ukraine Sovereign state in Eastern Europe

Ukraine, sometimes called the Ukraine, is a country in Eastern Europe. Excluding Crimea, Ukraine has a population of about 42.5 million, making it the 32nd most populous country in the world. Its capital and largest city is Kiev. Ukrainian is the official language and its alphabet is Cyrillic. The dominant religions in the country are Eastern Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism. Ukraine is currently in a territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Including Crimea, Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world.


Living in the Second Polish Republic

In 1918 in what now is western Ukraine, the Ukrainian forces fought in the Polish-Ukrainian War, but the Ukrainians in Galicia were alienated after what they saw as a compromise in the Paris Peace Conference with Poland. The Ukrainian People's Republic delegation could not gain recognition at the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the World War. The representatives of the exiled government of the Ukrainian People's Republic fared poorly during Polish-Soviet War where they formed a late alliance with Poland and supported the latter's unsuccessful Kiev Offensive. According to the Peace of Riga which ended the war, the combined territories of the Ukrainian and West Ukrainian People's Republics ended up split again between the Ukrainian SSR in the east, and Poland in the west (Galicia and part of Volhynia).

Ukrainian Peoples Republic country in Eastern Europe from 1917 to 1921

The Ukrainian People's Republic, or Ukrainian National Republic, a predecessor of modern Ukraine, was declared on 10 June 1917 following the February Revolution in Russia. It initially formed part of the Russian Republic, but proclaimed its independence on 25 January 1918. During its short existence the republic went through several political transformations - from the socialist-leaning republic headed by the Central Council with its general secretariat to the national republic led by the Directorate and by Symon Petliura. Between April and December 1918 the Ukrainian People's Republic did not function, having been overthrown by the Ukrainian State of Pavlo Skoropadsky. From late 1919 the UNR operated as an ally of the Second Polish Republic, but by then the state de facto no longer existed in Ukraine. The 18 March 1921 Treaty of Riga between the Second Polish Republic, Soviet Russia and of Soviet Ukraine sealed the fate of the Ukrainian People's Republic.

Treaty of Versailles one of the treaties that ended the First World War

The Treaty of Versailles was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919 in Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which had directly led to the war. The other Central Powers on the German side signed separate treaties. Although the armistice, signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 21 October 1919.

Treaty of Warsaw (1920)

The Treaty of Warsaw of April 1920 was a military-economical alliance between the Second Polish Republic, represented by Józef Piłsudski, and the Ukrainian People's Republic, represented by Symon Petliura, against Bolshevik Russia. The treaty was signed on 21 April 1920, with a military addendum on 24 April.

The ethnic policies in the inter-war Poland were directed towards the Polonization and cultural assimilation of ethnic minorities. Contrary to the international obligation, Poland had to grant autonomy to ethnic Ukrainian territories. [1] The tensions between Poles and Ukrainians increased in such a political environment.


Polonization is the acquisition or imposition of elements of Polish culture, in particular the Polish language. This was experienced in some historic periods by the non-Polish populations of territories controlled or substantially under the influence of Poland. As with other examples of cultural assimilation, it could either be voluntary or forced and is most visible in the case of territories where the Polish language or culture were dominant or where their adoption could result in increased prestige or social status, as was the case of the nobility of Ruthenia and Lithuania. To a certain extent Polonization was also administratively promoted by the authorities, particularly in the period following World War II.

Danylo began his struggle against Polish control and cultural assimilation of this area when he was 17 years old. In 1933, he was arrested by Polish police four times and detained for a short terms. In 1934, he was arrested by the Polish police and held in jail in Kovel until he was sentenced in 1935, to eight-year term for his role in the underground Communist Party of Western Ukraine. He served his term in a prison in Łomża. In 1938 under an amnesty for political prisoners, his sentence was reduced by a third. In the spring of the following year, he was transferred to a jail in Białystok, and on May 24, 1939, he was released.

Kovel City of regional significance in Volyn Oblast, Ukraine

Kovel is a town in Volyn Oblast (province), in northwestern Ukraine. Serving as the administrative center of Kovel Raion (district), the town itself is designated as a town of oblast significance and is not part of the raion. Population: 69,342 (2015 est.)

Communist Party of Western Ukraine was a political party in eastern interwar Poland. Until 1923 it was known as the Communist Party of Eastern Galicia.

Łomża Place in Podlaskie, Poland

Łomża is a city in north-eastern Poland, approximately 150 kilometres to the north-east of Warsaw and 80 kilometres (50 mi) west of Białystok. It is situated alongside the Narew river as part of the Podlaskie Voivodeship since 1999. Previously, it was the capital of the Łomża Voivodeship from 1975 to 1998. It is the capital of Łomża County and has been the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Łomża since 1925.

Living under Soviet Government

On 23 August 1939, the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany. The two governments announced the agreement merely as a non-aggression treaty. A secret appendix to the pact outlined a plan to divide Poland and Eastern Europe into Soviet and German spheres of influence.

A non-aggression pact or neutrality pact is a treaty between two or more states/countries that includes a promise by the signatories not to engage in military action against each other. Such treaties may be described by other names, such as a treaty of friendship or non-belligerency, etc.

An addendum or appendix, in general, is an addition required to be made to a document by its author subsequent to its printing or publication. It comes from the Latin verbal phrase addendum est, being the gerundive form of the verb addere meaning "(that which) must be added." Addenda is from the plural form addenda sunt, "(those things) which must be added".

Eastern Europe eastern part of the European continent

Eastern Europe is the eastern part of the European continent. There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic connotations. There are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region". A related United Nations paper adds that "every assessment of spatial identities is essentially a social and cultural construct". One definition describes Eastern Europe as a cultural entity: the region lying in Europe with the main characteristics consisting of Greek, Byzantine, Eastern Orthodox, Russian, and some Ottoman culture influences. Another definition was created during the Cold War and used more or less synonymously with the term Eastern Bloc. A similar definition names the formerly communist European states outside the Soviet Union as Eastern Europe. The majority of historians and social scientists view such definitions as outdated or relegated, but they are still sometimes used for statistical purposes.

Initially, the Soviet rule gained much support of the non-Polish population largely alienated by the nationalist policies of the Second Polish Republic. Much of the Ukrainian population initially welcomed the Soviet occupation, hoping for unification with the rest of Ukraine [2] which fell to Bolshevik forces forming the Ukrainian SSR, a constituent republic of the Soviet Union in 1919.

Republics of the Soviet Union top-level political division of the Soviet Union

The Republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or Union Republics were the ethnically based proto-states of the Soviet Union. For most of its history, the USSR was a highly centralized state; the decentralization reforms during the era of Perestroika ("Restructuring") and Glasnost ("Openness") conducted by Mikhail Gorbachev are cited as one of the factors which led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

During the round of repressions that followed the Soviet takeover, Danylo's older brother Anton, who worked for the Polish National Railway was arrested as an "enemy of the people."

On 15 May 1941 the Soviet authorities force Danylo Shumuk to join a 'work camp' as a brother of an enemy of the people. Such treatment did not make Danylo lose faith in the benevolence of communists. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union, the work camps were transformed into Red Army Penal military units, [3] which were usually given the most dangerous assignments and were considered expendable.

Living under German Occupation

Danylo Shumuk and his penal battalion never received military training, proper equipment and few weapons. They were forced to attack German tanks unarmed while screaming "For Stalin!". To prevent desertion, communist political officers aimed machine guns at their backs and shot anyone unwilling to charge the advancing tanks. Yet Danylo's deep belief in communism never wavered even after thousands of his comrades died around him, miserably failing to penetrate the 8 centimeter thick armor of the German Panzer tanks, possessing only their fingernails as weapons. Danylo Shumuk, along with 600,000 other soldiers were captured by the Germans on the Kiev front.

Danylo was kept in a POW camp in the town of Khorol in the Poltava Oblast. He described the German POW camp as a 'pit of death with prisoners dying like flies from hunger, exposure and epidemics.' On a cold rainy night he escaped along with three other prisoners. During his travels he learned from Ukrainian villagers about the artificial famine (now known as Holodomor genocide) perpetrated by Communists and responsible for close to 10 million deaths from starvation. His deep love of communism faded and he began to describe communism as an abomination. Danylo Shumuk credits Ukrainian farmers who lived through the communist genocide with 'clearing my mind of the opium of communist ideology and opening my eyes.'

In 1943, Danylo joined the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) understanding that Ukrainian struggle for independence was doomed, since the forces involved were unequal. A two front war against Germany and the Soviet Union could not be won. He stated later that he 'considered it my duty to fight to the end.' In February 1945, Danylo Shumuk was captured by the NKVD and sentenced to death which was commuted to 20 years of hard labor.

Living under Ukrainian SSR government

In 1953 when Stalin died, Shumuk was one of the leaders of prison revolt called the Norilsk Uprising. Outbreaks like these throughout the Gulag led to a wide-ranging release of prisoners. [4]

In the 1970s Shumuk shared a prison cell with Eduard Kuznetsov for five years.[ citation needed ]

When Andrei Sakharov accepted his Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 he said:

Here in this hall I should just like to mention the names of some of the internees I am acquainted with. As you were told yesterday, I would ask you to remember that all prisoners of conscience and all political prisoners in my country share with me the honor of the Nobel Prize. Here are some of the names that are known to me:

Plyushch, Bukovsky, Glusman, Moros, Maria Seminoova, Nadeshda Svetlishnaya, Stefania Shabatura, Irina Klynets-Stasiv, Irina Senik, Niyola Sadunaite, Anait Karapetian, Osipov, Kronid Ljubarsky, Shumuk, Vins, Rumachek, Khaustov, Superfin, Paulaitis, Simutis, Karavanskiy, Valery, Martshenko, Shuchevich, Pavlenkov, Chernoglas, Abanckin, Suslenskiy, Meshener, Svetlichny, Sofronov, Rode, Shakirov, Heifetz, Afanashev, Mo-Chun, Butman, Łukianenko, Ogurtsov, Sergeyenko, Antoniuk, Lupynos, Ruban, Plachotniuk, Kovgar, Belov, Igrunov, Soldatov, Miattik, Kierend, Jushkevich, Zdorovyy, Tovmajan, Shachverdjan, Zagrobian, Arikian, Markoshan, Arshakian, Mirauskas, Stus, Sverstiuk, Chandyba, Uboshko, Romaniuk, Vorobiov, Gel, Pronjuk, Gladko, Malchevsky, Grazis, Prishliak, Sapeliak, Kolynets, Suprei, Valdman, Demidov, Bernitshuk, Shovkovy, Gorbatiov, Berchov, Turik, Ziukauskas, Bolonkin, Lisovoi, Petrov, Chekalin, Gorodetsky, Chernovol, Balakonov, Bondar, Kalintchenko, Kolomin, Plumpa, Jaugelis, Fedoseyev, Osadchij, Budulak-Sharigin, Makarenko, Malkin, Shtern, Lazar Liubarsky, Feldman, Roitburt, Shkolnik, Murzienko, Fedorov, Dymshits, Kuznetsov, Mendelevich, Altman, Penson, Knoch, Vulf Zalmanson, Izrail Zalmanson, and many, many others.

Living in exile to Canada

In 1987, having spent a total of 42 years in Soviet and Polish prisons, a Nazi POW Camp, Soviet penal colonies and a forced exile, Shumuk was allowed to leave the country. He moved to Toronto, Canada, where his memoirs Life sentence: memoirs of a Ukrainian political prisoner [5] were published in English by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (1984).

Living in an independent Ukraine

On 28 November 2002 he returned to Ukraine, independent by then, and moved to Krasnoarmiysk of the Donetsk Oblast (province) in the east of Ukraine. He died there on 21 May 2004 at the age of 89.


By Danylo Shumuk:

Related Research Articles

Institute of National Remembrance Polish government-affiliated research institute with lustration prerogatives and prosecution powers

The Institute of National RemembranceCommission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation is a Polish government-affiliated research institute with lustration prerogatives, as well as prosecution powers. It was created by legislation enacted by the Parliament of Poland. The Institute specialises in the legal and historical examination of the 20th century history of Poland in particular. IPN investigates both Nazi and Communist crimes committed in Poland between 1939 and the Revolutions of 1989, documents its findings and disseminates the results of its investigations to the public.

Territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union after the German invasion of Poland in 1939 the Soviet Union invaded the eastern regions of the Second Polish Republic

Seventeen days after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which marked the beginning of the Second World War, the Soviet Union invaded the eastern regions of Poland, which Poland re-established during the Polish–Soviet War, and annexed territories totaling 201,015 square kilometres (77,612 sq mi) with a population of 13,299,000. Inhabitants besides ethnic Poles included Czech, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Jewish, and other minority groups.

Nazism and the acts of the Nazi German state profoundly affected many countries, communities, and people before, during and after World War II. The regime's attempt to exterminate several groups viewed as subhuman by Nazi ideology was eventually stopped by the combined efforts of the wartime Allies headed by Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States.

NKVD prisoner massacres

The NKVD prisoner massacres were a series of mass executions of political prisoners carried out by the NKVD, the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union, across Eastern Europe, primarily Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic states, Bessarabia. At the outbreak of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the NKVD troops were supposed to evacuate political prisoners into the interior of Russia. However, hasty retreat of the Red Army, lack of transportation and other supplies, and general disregard for legal procedures often meant that the prisoners were executed.

Salomon Morel was a Polish officer in the Ministry of Public Security in the Polish People's Republic. He is known as the commander of a number of concentration camps run by the NKVD and Polish communist authorities until 1956.

<i>Polish Operation</i> of the NKVD

The Polish Operation of the NKVD in 1937–1938 was a mass operation of the NKVD carried out in the Soviet Union against Poles and other minorities during the period of the Great Purge. It was ordered by the Politburo of the Communist Party against the so-called "Polish spies" and customarily interpreted by the NKVD officials as relating to 'absolutely all Poles'. It resulted in the sentencing of 139,835 people, and summary executions of 111,091 Poles. The operation was implemented according to NKVD Order № 00485 signed by Nikolai Yezhov. The majority of the shooting victims were ethnically Polish, but not all, wrote Timothy Snyder. The remainder were 'suspected' of being Polish, without further inquiry, or classed as possibly having pro-Polish sympathies. In order to speed up the process, the NKVD personnel reviewed local telephone books and arrested persons with Polish-sounding names.

Eduard Kuznetsov Soviet dissident

Edward Samoilovich Kuznetsov is a Soviet-born dissident, human rights activist, Prisoner of Zion and writer who settled in Israel in 1979.

The Jaworzno concentration camp was a concentration camp in WW2 German-occupied Poland and later in Soviet-occupied Poland. It was first established by the Nazis in 1943 during the Second World War and was later used from 1945 to 1956 by the Soviet NKVD and then by the Ministry of Public Security and other agencies of the Polish communist regime. Today the site is an apartment complex and also houses a memorial to the camp's victims.

Soviet war crimes

War crimes perpetrated by the Soviet Union and its armed forces from 1919 to 1991 include acts committed by the Red Army as well as the NKVD, including the NKVD's Internal Troops. In some cases, these acts were committed upon the orders of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in pursuance of the early Soviet Government's policy of Red Terror, in other instances they were committed without orders by Soviet troops against prisoners of war or civilians of countries that had been in armed conflict with the USSR, or they were committed during partisan warfare.

Bereza Kartuska prison

The Bereza Kartuska prison was a Detention Camp in the Second Polish Republic, based in Bereza Kartuska, Polesie Voivodeship.

As a result of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, hundreds of thousands of Polish soldiers became prisoners of war in the Soviet Union. Many of them were executed; 22,000 Polish military personnel and civilians perished in the Katyn massacre.

Capital punishment remained in Polish law until April 1, 1997, but from 1989 there was a moratorium on executions, with the last execution taking place one year earlier. The death penalty is now prohibited in Poland for all offences.

Henryk Józewski Polish artist

Henryk Jan Józewski was a Polish visual artist, politician, a member of government of the Ukrainian People's Republic, later an administrator during the Second Polish Republic.

Ukrainian Helsinki Group organization

The Ukrainian Helsinki Group was founded on November 9, 1976 as the "Ukrainian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords on Human Rights" to monitor human rights in Ukraine. The group was active until 1981 when all members were jailed.

Soviet repressions of Polish citizens (1939–1946)

In the aftermath of the German and Soviet invasion of Poland, which took place in September 1939, the territory of Poland was divided in half between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviets had ceased to recognise the Polish state at the start of the invasion. Both regimes were hostile to the Second Polish Republic as much as to the Polish people and their culture, thus aiming at their destruction. Since 1939 German and Soviet officials coordinated their Poland-related policies and repressive actions. For nearly two years following the invasion, the two occupiers continued to discuss bilateral plans for dealing with the Polish resistance during Gestapo-NKVD Conferences until Germany's Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union, in June 1941.

Eastern Bloc media and propaganda

Eastern Bloc media and propaganda was controlled directly by each country's Communist party, which controlled the state media, censorship and propaganda organs. State and party ownership of print, television and radio media served as an important manner in which to control information and society in light of Eastern Bloc leaderships viewing even marginal groups of opposition intellectuals as a potential threat to the bases underlying Communist power therein.

<i>Bloodlands</i> book by Timothy Snyder

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin is a book by Yale historian Timothy D. Snyder, first published by Basic Books on October 28, 2010. In the book, Snyder examines the political, cultural and ideological context tied to a specific area of land, under which Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union and Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany committed mass killing of an estimated 14 million non-combatants between the years 1933 and 1945, the majority outside the death camps of the Holocaust. Snyder's thesis is that the "bloodlands", a region which comprised what is modern-day Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and the Baltic states, is the area where the regimes of Stalin and Hitler, despite their conflicting goals, interacted to increase suffering and bloodshed many times worse than any seen in western history. Snyder notes similarities between the two totalitarian regimes, while also noting enabling interactions that reinforced the destruction and suffering brought to bear on non-combatants. Making use of many new primary and secondary sources from eastern Europe, Snyder brings scholarship to many forgotten, misunderstood, or incorrectly remembered parts of the history, particularly noting that most victims were killed outside the concentration camps of the respective regimes. Snyder estimates that the Nazis were responsible for about twice as many noncombatant killings as Stalin's regime.

Modern history of Ukraine

Ukraine emerges as the concept of a nation, and the Ukrainians as a nationality, with the Ukrainian National Revival which is believed started sometime at the end of 18th and the beginning of 19th century. According to Ukrainian historian Yaroslav Hrytsak, the first wave of national revival is traditionally connected with publication of the first part of "Eneyida" by Ivan Kotlyarevsky (1798). In 1846, in Moscow the "Istoriya Rusov ili Maloi Rossii" was published. During the Spring of Nations, in 1848 in Lemberg (Lviv)the Supreme Ruthenian Council was created which declared that Galician Ruthenians are part of the bigger Ukrainian nation. The council adopted the yellow and blue flag.

Occupation of Poland (1939–1945) Occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during the Second World War (1939–1945)

The occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II (1939–1945) began with the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, and it was formally concluded with the defeat of Germany by the Allies in May 1945. Throughout the entire course of the foreign occupation, the territory of Poland was divided between Germany and the Soviet Union (USSR) with the intention of eradicating Polish culture and subjugating its people by occupying German and Soviet powers. In summer-autumn of 1941 the lands annexed by the Soviets were overrun by Germany in the course of the initially successful German attack on the USSR. After a few years of fighting, the Red Army drove the German forces out of the USSR and across Poland from the rest of Central and Eastern Europe.

Soviet Union authorities and leaders officially condemned nationalism and proclaimed internationalism, including the right of nations and peoples to self-determination. However, in practice they conducted complete opposite policies including but not limited to; systematic large-scale cleansing of ethnic minorities, political repression and various forms of ethnic and social discrimination, including state-enforced antisemitism and Polonophobia.


  1. Western Ukrainian National Republic at the Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  2. Tadeusz Piotrowski, "Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife: Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918–1947", McFarland & Company, ISBN   0-7864-0371-3, p. 199
    "How are we ... to explain the phenomenon of Ukrainians rejoicing and collaborating with the Soviets? Who were these Ukrainians? That they were Ukrainians is certain, but were they communists, Nationalists, unattached peasants? The answer is "yes—they were all three"
  3. In Memory of Danylo Shumuk, Prava Lyudyny, 13.09.2004
  4. UKRAINE REPORT 2003, ArtUkraine
  5. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press