Representative of the Minister of Military Affairs of the UPR Government in Exile in the Balkans

4/26/2021
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Vasyl Fylonovych was one of the most prominent representatives of the Ukrainian emigees. Leaders of the UPR government in exile rightly considered him a priceless source of reliable information about both former servicemen of the UPR Army and the situation in the emigrant environment, and often involved him in various delicate tasks. Although he was not a staff member of the Intelligence of the State Center of the UPR in exile, the GPU of the USSR closely monitored him and called him a “resident of the UPR intelligence in the Balkans” in operational documents preserved in the Branch State Archives of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine.

Fylonovych Vasyl Zakharovych was born on 15th January 1894 in the village of Rohizne, Sumy district (now Severynivka village council of Sumy district) in an ancient Cossack family. He spent his childhood in Sumy. As a young man, he was arrested for participating in the national movement and sent to Saratov region for settlement, which was at least 70 miles to the nearest town and railway. He soon escaped from exile and got to the Kuban.

With the outbreak of World War I, Vasyl was called up for military service. At first he was a private in the Russian army. After graduating from the Chuhuiv Military School, he served as a Junior Captain and was promoted to the rank of Captain. But the revolution of 1917 did not let him get new shoulder straps. In the wake of revolutionary changes, he became chairman of the regimental and soon divisional council. And when the process of Ukrainization of military units began, he led it in his regiment. Then he managed to create 23 hundreds. Feeling personally responsible for their future, Fylonovych went to Kyiv to get instructions on what to do next. He intended to form a separate Ukrainian military base. But he did not get to Kyiv.

In his native Sumy, he was appointed Assistant District Military Commandant, and soon - Military Commandant of Sumy region. In January-February 1918, during the Bolshevik offensive on Kyiv, he was assigned to lead the Vorozhba-Sumy-Gaivoron section of the front. During the new aggression of Bolshevik Russia against the UPR in 1919, Vasyl Fylonovych created a separate Sumy Sich Kurin (Regiment) consisting of 1,500 bayonets, marched half of Ukraine, and received 12 wounds in combats.

Then he provided assistance to Ukrainian insurgent units, passed through the rear of the Red and White Russian Armies from Yekaterynoslav to Odesa. He was soon arrested by the Denikinites and convoyed to Novorossiysk. There, one of the Ukrainian patriots helped him escape from captivity.

He went to the Kuban, where he joined the insurgent unit of Kuban Cossacks, who fought for the independence of their land. With the fighting they retreated to the territory of Georgia. There, in early 1920, V. Fylonovych was assigned to the Ukrainian Military Mission of the Ukrainian People's Republic. And when there was a need for a Ukrainian representation in the city of Poti, he was appointed Vice Consul of the Ukrainian People's Republic in Georgia.

Later he managed to fully show his worth on the secret front. He was instructed to go to the Crimea to sound out the situation. Having used all his relations, he found common language with influential people from Kuban who included him into the Kuban Military Otaman's Mission, which was going to Crimea to Wrangel. Fylonovych was in the Mission as a senior officer of the Kuban. Later in Crimea, he met with officials from the similar Mission from the Ukrainian People's Republic and reported on everything he had learnt during his stay on the Peninsula.

At that time the situation was changing rapidly. The UPR Army was forced to retreat westwards. Fylonovych received an order to leave Crimea for Turkey, and from there to go to Bulgaria. And then a special and unique period of his work in exile began.

In Bulgaria, he led the Sich military organization and became the head of the Ukrainian community. He sincerely sought to unite the scattered centers of Ukrainians, to protect their rights, and to preserve national traditions abroad. His activity was immediately appreciated by the UPR government, and in the autumn of 1922 the General Staff of the UPR State Center in exile appointed Colonel Fylonovych the Military Attache in Bulgaria.

Bolshevik Russia was closely monitoring his work, and through the pressure on the Bulgarian government, made him leave Bulgaria within months. Fylonovych was accused of disloyalty and hostile activity. Vasyl moved to Czechoslovakia. There he graduated from the Higher Technical School with a degree in forest engineering and began working as an engineer in road construction. But he did not give up his work for the sake of restoring Ukrainian statehood.

From 1922 to 1939 he was the Representative of the UPR Minister of Military Affairs in the Balkans, conducting intelligence and counterintelligence work. The combination of his life experience with professional knowledge of secret methods made him an extremely valuable employee. He knew everything about everyone, could make a detailed and accurate description of many Ukrainian emigrees and corresponded with many. He also became involved in journalism. He was even elected Secretary of the Union of Ukrainian Journalists and Writers in Exile. This expanded his ability to collect intelligence, analyze it, and to make reports to the Minister of Military Affairs which he sent regularly.

For example, in one of the letters to the Head of the UPR's special service Vsevolod Zmiyenko Vasyl Fylonovych put forward quite interesting and useful ideas how to increase the efficiency of intelligence work. In particular, answering the question about the selection of “reliable people” for cooperation with special services of the State Center of the Ukrainian People's Republic, he said: “I went through many - but have not chosen any, because I understand all the weight and importance that should have these people who would be trusted the work - many requirements should be set for them - the main thing is self-confidence and the ability to remain silent, but… unfortunately, there are no such people here today… All this made me think about the way out of this situation… I came to the conclusion - to organize information departments at the missions of the Minister of Military Affairs - these departments would provide You with the whole course of events of the life in exile… “(CSAGO of Ukraine. - F. 269. - Personal documents of V. Fylonovych. - File 140 a. - V. Fylonovych's letter to V. Zmiyenko from April 2, 1928 - Page without a number).

In archival materials of Soviet special services of that period there are mentions of V. Fylonovych as a person involved in the activities of the special services of the State Centre of the Ukrainian People's Republic in exile. Thus, one of the documents contains the following information: “Fylonovych is a resident of the UPR intelligence in Czechoslovakia and works in the Balkans” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. - Case 1812. - Vol. 1. - P. 171).

Another document states: “According to the available data, Vasyl Fylonovych is carrying out intelligence work for the Ukrainian People's Republic. There was information that he intended to personally make an illegal trip to Ukraine” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. - Case 1812. - Vol. 1. - P. 167).

With this in mind, the GPU authorities began operational study of Vasyl Fylonovych's close relatives. This is evidenced by the paper entitled “On Citizen Fylonovych H.Z.”, prepared by the Head of the Sumy Operational Sector of the GPU of the USSR. It is about Heorhiy- V. Fylonovych's brother, “the former Khorunzhyi of the Petlura's Novhorod-Siverskyi Regiment” and “a very reactionary personality”, as he is described in the document. Through him, the GPU tried to get information about his brother, but in vain. They only got a photo from the family album, which has been preserved in the case and which now allows us to see what Vasyl looked like when he was young.

”We provide you with a photograph of Fylonovych Vasyl Zakharovych”, reads the document, “dated 1916, and at the same time we inform you that the latter has two more brothers who live in the USSR, of whom: Volodymyr, about 45 years old, works as a foreman at Veronadezhdynska gold mine in Kuznetsk district, and Petro, born in 1892, a salesclerk by profession, works at one of the stations of the Ussuri Railway as a shipper of timber for export to Japan. Appendix: photograph ”(BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. – Case 1812. - Vol. 1. P. 163).

Vasyl Fylonovych at that time, at the end of 1933, got married. Soon he had a son. Despite family affairs, he left neither community service nor work on a special secret front. The turning point in his life came in the late 1930s. At that moment he lived in Transcarpathia. And it was then that Carpathian Ukraine was proclaimed an autonomous republic within Czechoslovakia. In March 1939, V. Fylonovych became Chief of Staff of the Defense of Carpathian Ukraine against the attack of Hungarian troops. As a result of the defeat of the Carpathian Ukrainians in the struggle for the establishment of Ukrainian statehood in the region, he was taken prisoner of war by the Hungarians and suffered incredible persecution.

After liberation he moved to Slovakia, from 1951 he lived in the United States. For several years he worked as Chairman of the Society of Supporters of the Ukrainian People's Republic in Minnesota, and later headed the Union of Ukrainian Veterans in the United States. In 1973 - 1978 he was promoted to the rank of Khorunzhyi-General and served as Minister of Military Affairs of the UPR government in exile. He died on 3rd June 1987 in Minneapolis (USA). He did not live to see Ukraine's independence which was declared 4 years later.

To his last day, V. Fylonovych considered the Ukrainian People's Republic to be the best state system as a democratic state of the Ukrainian people. He repeatedly emphasized: “As a soldier, I swore on the Constitution of the Ukrainian People's Republic, I fought for it and never betrayed it and will not betray it”.