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Intelligence Starshyna (Senior Officer) Ivan Vyslotskyi

Ivan Vyslotskyi inscribed his name in the history of Ukrainian intelligence having written detailed memoirs about his service in the Intelligence Department of the Ukrainian Galician Army (UHA) and the activities of the Intelligence Service in that difficult period of life of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR).

They were published in the 1930s in Lviv and allow to get some idea about the establishment of the Intelligence Service of the UHA, achievements and shortcomings in its work, specific episodes of the intelligence activity from a direct participant of the events.

The very personality of Ivan Vyslotskyi is very interesting. He was born July 24, 1893 into the family of a priest in the village of Lelyukhiv, Novyi Sanch district, the Lemko region. At the age of 18 he as a volunteer joined the Austrian army, later finished the Intelligence School in Brehen, then was engaged in specific tasks at the headquarters of the corps, based in Przemysl. During the First World War he was in Russian captivity and was taken to Chita, and later to Ufa. In the revolutionary days of 1917 he and other Ukrainian prisoners from Galicia got (with lots of adventures) to Kyiv, where he joined the Sich Riflemen Corps in the rank of a Commander of a platoon, and later was ranked Khorunzhyi (Ensign).

Following the establishment in November 1918 of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic, a regular Ukrainian Galician Army began being formed to protect its statehood. An important place in its structure was given to the Intelligence Department which structurally was subordinated to the Supreme Command – the highest commandment of the UHA.

The initiator of the establishment of the Intelligence Service in the Galician troops became the Commander of the UHA Colonel Dmytro Vitovskyi. The Chief of the Intelligence Department in early 1919 was appointed Lieutenant Rodion Kovalskyi, who, according to archive documents, was also a “Chief of the Intelligence Service”. The Department included units that were engaged in both, intelligence and counterintelligence activities. The counterintelligence officers were called detectives. One of the detectives who had been acquainted with Vyslotskyi since their service in the Austrian army, once in the spring of 1919 happened to meet him on the street and offered to return to the Intelligence Service. Having received Vyslotskyi’s prior consent, he introduced him to the Chief of the Department Kovalskyi. A short conversation about the previous service made quite a positive impression and Vyslotskyi becomes a senior officer of the Intelligence Department.

”This Department was the leader of the entire Intelligence Service – wrote in his memoirs Ivan Vyslotskyi – and was originally called Vyvidchyi Department, abbreviated VV, and later, until the end of its existence, the Department was called Rozvidchyi (Intelligence) Department or RV. It included senior intelligence officers of Brigade Commands and of district support Commands in Halychyna, as well as senior officers who were at some important places on both sides of the then Ukrainian-Polish front and the border with Romanians”. Besides, there were units of field intelligence, reconnaissance aviation, “propaganda” department, which organized information- propaganda activities.

The work of the Intelligence Service of that time by the stages can be divided into two main periods: Galician period, during which there was the long war with Poland, and the Dnieper period, when there were combat actions against the Red and the Volunteer Armies. The UHA intelligence officers also collected intelligence about their allies – the Acting UPR army, because they had a good reason to do so. Vyslotskyi was sent to the Dnieper region with one of such tasks as the only intelligence officer who knew the territory. Upon his return, he wrote a detailed report on everything he had seen, and that report somewhat shocked the leadership of the UHA.

In the document the intelligence officer pointed out that many senior officers of the Acting UPR army and Otamans of rebel troops did not participate in combat actions against the Bolsheviks, treated the civilians with abuse, and the funds allocated by the government were spent on drink. Vyslotskyi himself was interrogated by one of such Otamans in Bar, near Zhmerynka. It was morning, but the Otaman looked pretty drunk, with a mace in his hand. Only the intelligence officer’s legend that he came there with some instructions from Galician Army saved his life.

At one point he, dressed in the uniform of a senior officer of the Bolshevik Divisions, located between Vinnytsya and Zhmerynka, made his way to the rear, where he met with its soldiers and collected a lot of important information. He was lucky the Division consisted mainly of captured Hungarians and Germans of the Austrian army, and the experience of previous service in the Austrian Army helped Vyslotskyi to quickly find common language with them and to pretend to be an “insider”.

But perhaps the intelligence officer’s most significant achievement was the successful fulfillment of another task in the rear of the Bolshevik troops. He had to pass by the southern wing of the Bolshevik Front, to go into the rear and learn what kind of manoeuvres were used by the retreating, and most importantly – to find out whether the Bolsheviks had tanks there. Vyslotskyi spent a foortnight among the enemies, risking to draw their attention, and found out that the Bolsheviks did have tanks, but sent them against the Volunteer Army. For the fulfillment of this task, he was promoted to the rank of Chotar (Platoon Commander).

One of the significant achievements of the Chief of the Intelligence Department Poruchnyk (Lieutenant ) R. Kovalskyi at that period of time was the arrest in Vinnitsa of the Chief of the Polish Intelligence Captain Kovalevskyi, who reported very valuable information concerning the actions of the Polish Army on the Eastern Front.

In general the Intelligence Service of the UHA, despite some success, could not equal with Polish, Soviet or Denikin’s intelligence services because of lack of qualified experts, lack of money and insufficient attention to this important matter. Besides, the intelligence work of the ZUPR in occupied territory of Halychyna was complicated by the strict counterintelligence control by Poland’s secret services.

Finally, the UHA’s forced merger with the Red Army led to the elimination of the Intelligence Service of the Galician Army since the Bolsheviks first of all tried to seize the employees of the Intelligence Department and shot them without trial. Poruchnyk Rodion Kovalskyi was also arrested, but being convoyed to Moscow, he managed to jump out the window of the carriage and, despite a broken leg, to escape. His further fate is unknown. Another 26 employees of the Intelligence Service managed to get abroad through Poland and Romania.

In spring of 1920, the UHA and its security services actually ceased their regular activities. At that, the majority of army officers and riflemen, intelligence and counterintelligence staff went underground, joined insurrectional-guerrilla forces and national liberation movements and continued the struggle for independence and unity of the Ukrainian state.

Similar fate befell Ivan Vyslotskyi. With his young wife Nadia Oleksiyiv, with false passports he managed (with adventures) through Odessa, Varna and Belgorod to arrive in Vienna. Then he moved to the Trans-Carpathian Ukraine, which at that time was part of the Czechoslovak Republic. In 1936-1939 he worked in Lviv Publishers House. Before the arrival of the Red Army in September 1939 he and his family got to his native Lemko land, and in autumn 1941 he settled in Sambir, where he was publishing new school textbooks without communist stereotypes. In 1944, his family and he found themselves in the camp for displaced persons in Germany, from where in 1948 he left for Paraguay. Overseas in his later years he taught children of immigrants to read and write Ukrainian. He died in 1969 in Argentina.


Oleksandr Skrypnyk

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