Push and hold

Native Foreigner, Foreign Native

After the arrest in February 1919 at the station Volnovakha by Anton Denikin’s Volunteer Army soldiers of the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in the Kuban and execution of the Ambassador Fedir Borzhynskyi, the Directory of the UNR (Ukrainian People’s Republic) began to look for new ways to collect information on the situation in the People’s Republic of Kuban.

 At the time the Whites had been trying to actively use Kuban locals to replenish their ranks and to further advance deep into the Ukrainian territory. One of those who were collecting intelligence about Denikin’s  plans and intentions and trying to persuade members of the Kuban government to create a common front against the Volunteer Army, was Yuriy Skuhar-Skvarskyi.

In early August 1919 in Kamyanka, where then stayed the Directory of the UNR, Yuriy was invited for a talk with one of its members — A.Makarenko. The conversation took place behind closed doors and was confidential. Makarenko had every reason to trust the vigorous, active Socialist, moreover, it was Makarenko who proposed Yuriy’s  candidacy for the specific task.

Fate brought them together back in November 1918, during the preparation and conduct of Anti-Hetman uprising. At that time A. Makarenko with V. Vynnychenko, Ye. Konovalets, P. Bolbochan and other opponents of the Hetman regime was part of the Secret Rebellions Staff and Skuhar-Skvarskyi was among those who strongly and consistently had been making Staff’s plans true.

Yuriy had his own scores with  Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi. At some point, working in the newspaper “Slovo”(“Word”), he published the correspondence between Skoropadskyi and General Krasnov, for which deed he was outlawed and forced to go underground. Yuriy had no choice and started developing methods of conspiracy and carrying out secret work. And in this field, he had achieved some success.

Since then, his life had two dimensions: the visible and the hidden from prying eyes. First, on the instructions of the Central Committee of Ukrainian SR Party, he repeatedly passed the front line, installed and maintained contacts with the anti-Soviet underground, collecting information about the state and plans of the Red Army. To do this, he used a false passport and a scooped out pass issued by the Kyiv Region’s Cheka (The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Speculation and Sabotage).

After the evacuation from Kyiv of central institutions of the Republic, he and the Directory of the UNR moved in the direction of Vinnitsa, Rivne, Kamyanets. At this time from abroad returned Sotnyk (centurion) O. Yevtukhov, who had been in the Kuban region with a special mission. He had been sent to the Ukrainian Embassy in the Caucasus under the guise of a courier of the UNR MFA. Such trips abroad were considered as a way of collecting intelligence by the UNR’s Secret Services. This form of work was appropriate for the conditions of the UNR’s  being cut off from the areas occupied by the enemy, which did not allow to create proper intelligence networks.

During his stay in the Kuban, O. Yevtukhov had collected important information about the attitude of the ruling circles of the Kuban autonomy to Ukraine. At his return, the intelligence officer reported that Kuban Regional Council was strongly opposed to the Volunteer Army and was not going to provide Cossacks to fight against Ukrainians. At this, he strongly recommended the UNR’s government to develop contacts with the Kuban authorities in opposition to the interests of the White movement and to use the large Ukrainian diaspora in favour of the UNR  in this important region.

Now O. Yevtukhov’s work had to be continued by Yuriy Skuhar -Skvarskyi. During the conversation with him, before setting a specific task, A. Makarenko first described in detail the state of relations between Ukraine and the Kuban. He pointed out that even the Tsentralna Rada (Central Council) late in 1917 sent a diplomatic delegation to the Kuban to find allies. In the Cossack capital Yekaterinodar, UNR representatives then met with the leader of the regional government and representatives of the government bodies of the Autonomy. However, those were mainly consultations and no diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Kuban were established.

The recovery occurred during Pavlo Skoropadskyi’s Hetmanat, who was leading a policy aimed at joining Kuban to Ukraine as an autonomy or federation, secretly supplied weapons to fight the Russian White movement. At that time the Ambassador of the Ukrainian State to Yekaterinodar was appointed Fedir Borzhynskyi, who did much to establish diplomatic relations, due to which fact he fell out of favor of the Commandment of Anton Denikin’s Volunteer Army. When he was returning to Kyiv in February 1919, he was arrested at the station Volnovakha and was shot a few days later. After this it was very dangerous for Ukrainian representatives to stay in the Kuban.

A. Makarenko asked Yuriy Skuhar-Skvarskyi to secretly go to Kuban, collect intelligence about the force and action plans of the Volunteer Army and to try to persuade Kuban authorities to start open armed actions against A. Denikin. Judging by the nature of the task that required a significant life experience, certain diplomatic masterfulness and knowledge of bases of confidential intelligence, after all, courage and bravery, Yuriy Skuhar- Skvarskyi must have been exactly such a candidate. We can assume that before he had shown himself at fulfillment of other serious tasks, otherwise he would not have been trusted such a highly responsible mission.

Foreign Minister of UNR Oleksandr Levytskyi gave him 18 thousand royal and Kerenskiy’s rubles from the Directory’s secret fund for operation expenses and the address of the influential figure in Kuban M. Levytskyi to solve some specific problems through him. August 5 Yuriy Skuhar- Skvarskyi left for the occupied by Denikin Kyiv. He did not dare to rely on false documents in his further travels. On the railroad, military patrols detained any suspect, and he could be trapped, thereby disrupting the task. The plan matured unexpectedly. In the city, he found old friends who worked on the railroad. They helped him to get a job of an engineer and thus without obstacles to get to Yekaterynodar.

In the Kuban he was in hiding. In conversations with local influential figures he was studying possibilities to create a unified armed front against the “White” Army. He also attended a secret meeting of the Kuban Council, at which he called for a joint struggle for independence. But the Head of the Council I. Krymhyrey only verbally supported the liberation struggle of the Ukrainian people and gave him fraternal greetings from Ukrainians of Kuban, having promised nothing concrete. The member of the Special Meeting of the Dobroarmiya(Volunteer Army) I. Makarenko’s reaction was similar, though he sympathized with the Ukrainian state and had detailed talks with Yuri. I. Makarenko was not too optimistic about the UNR’s ability to continue the armed struggle and said that until the return of the Head of the local government from Paris, where he was on business, no  specific steps can be considered. At the same time he provided important information on the redeployment of Denikin’s units and their future plans, which was later highly appreciated by the leadership of the Intelligence Service of the Ukrainian People’s Republic.

After returning from Kuban Yuriy Skuhar- Skvarskyi made a detailed 28-page written report which, together with his comments, passed over to A. Makarenko and S. Petlyura. But one of the proposals on the need to develop and strengthen ties with the Cuban community did not find its realization.

In the situation of retreat, defeat, chaos in the management of the Army and government agencies, Yuriy Skuhar-Skvarskyi’s political views slightly changed. He openly expressed a negative attitude to some leaders, and in October 1919 he broke with the SR Party. Later he was taken into custody on charges of alleged “corruption of the armed forces” of the Republic. Later he explained that he became disloyal to the party comrades, watching the troops coming over to the Reds’ side.

A few days later he was released having given an undertaking not to leave. Using this, Yuriy crossed the front line and went to Kyiv. There he decided to struggle for independence of Ukraine in the underground. As a well known expert in the sphere of intelligence he was assigned to manage the Intelligence Service of the Kyiv branch of the Central Ukrainian Insurgent Committee, which actually served as chief coordinator of the center of the underground movement in terms of isolation from the State Center of the UNR.

But thw underground work did not last long. Just then the Ukrainian Cheka (Extraordinary Commission)’s activity began to gain momentum. Chekists (Cheka officers) quickly traced active participants of the Central Ukrainian Insurgent Committee. Arrests began. April 5 they came for Yiriy Skuhar- Skvarskyi. After the first interrogations, representatives of the new Bolshevik government concluded that the detainee could be used in the indicative “case of the CC UPSR”. He was transferred from Kyiv to Kharkiv prison. The verdict was announced a year later, in May 1921, when the case had accumulated many persons involved and it was possible to talk about elimination of an extensive anti-Soviet organization.

The High Extraordinary Revolutionary Tribunal of Special Purpose sentenced Yu. Skuhar- Skvarskyi to five years in concentration camps. But in three months he was released with cancellation of the criminal record. This metamorphosis was not accidental. Bolsheviks estimated Yuriy’s professional qualities and his intelligence past quite realistically. At this time the new political authorities were facing the task to actively collect information on attitudes, plans and intentions of many members of immigrant communities. Their own trained personnel for such work was not numerous, so they decided to use the services of those who knew how to do it, could easily understand the relationships of new political formations of compatriots abroad.

Further use of Yu. Skuhar- Skvarskyi was controlled by the  Secretary of the Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) D. Manuilskyi himself. It was decided to send Yuriy to Czechoslovakia on a mission to collect information about anti-Soviet activities of the local Ukrainian community and to persuade its members to return. He was engaged in this in 1923 – 1924 years, during which time even managed to marry the daughter of a local miner.

And he must have been pretending that he was doing the job for Bolsheviks. In fact, he did not provide any important information. It was quickly understood by his curators. Not surprisingly, after his arrival in Moscow to report on the stay abroad, Yuriy was arrested and subsequently by the decision of the Tribunal of the OGPU he was sentenced to five years in prison in Solovki camp and three years evictions in the Northern Territory.

He served the full sentence, though never understood why. In 1933, he was released. At first he lived in Arkhangelsk, from where due to his daughter’s poor health had to move to Kara-Kalpakiya. But even there he was not left alone. In 1938, during another wave of repressions his SR past was remembered again and he was arrested and sentenced to three years of imprisonment. When the sentence ended, the war began, and his fate, like that of many other unreliable people, fell under the decision “not to release until special order”. Such an order appeared  in 1947. And two years later – a new arrest and exile to Krasnoyarsk Territory.

Yuriy became free only after the so-called “Beriya’s” Resolution of 27 March 1953. There was great hope for “Khrushchev thaw”, but his request for rehabilitation, renovation of the work record and a pension remained unsatisfied. The Order dated by December 2, 1958, signed by Deputy Prosecutor of Kharkiv region read as follows: “the sentence for anti-Soviet activities of May 25, 1921 was found correct”.  Unfortunately, attempts to trace his further life failed.

Such was a difficult fate of the Intelligence officer of the Ukrainian People’s Republic Yuri Skuhar-Skvarskyi. Like many of his colleagues, he was posthumously rehabilitated in the 1990s, when Ukraine became independent.


Oleksandr Skrypnyk

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