The Vistula Operation

After these transfers, about 35,000 Lemkos remained in Poland, mostly in the western Lemko Region. Following conflicts between the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Polish Army in the area, and the ensuing killing of Polish General Karol Swierczewski in 1947, the Polish government, in cooperation with Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, removed the remaining "Ukrainian" population (including the Lemkos) from Poland in a military operation known as the Vistula Operation (Ackja 'Wisla"). The official purpose of the Vistula Operation was to destroy the Ukrainian Insurgent Army units and their base of support from the local population. (27) This, from April 28 to July 31, 1947, the remaining Lemkos were resettled to the formerly-German "recovered lands" of southwestern (Silesia) and northern Poland (Pomerania).

This action was swift and efficient. Deportees were given at most a few hours to gather what of their belongings they could carry and were taken to their destinations in crowded boxcars. The process was accompanied by considerable violence; some deportees died in transit and others trying to resist were killed or imprisoned. Most were sent to the provinces of Olsztyn, Szczecin, Wroclaw and Gdansk; the "Ukrainian" population was to be dispersed (to make up less than ten percent of the population in any one location) for eventual assimilation into the Polish majority. 28

The Lemko Region was resettled mostly by Poles, though sparsely, and many villages have ceased to exist or are underpopulated. These newcomers had little respect for their new villages; it was easier to gather firewood by tearing down houses, barns or churches than by cutting trees in the forest. Thus, in the early 1950's, much of the Lemko Region's cultural and material traits were obliterated.29

continue on]
Return to Table of Contents