Push and hold

Special Forces airborne group “Storm”

For the observance of the 70th anniversary of Ukraine’s liberation from Nazi invaders the departmental state archive of the SZRU continues a series of publications following archival affairs.

Now you have the opportunity to be made aware of the story on the basis of archival documents on activities in the enemy’s rear of reconnaissance and sabotage group “Storm”formed in the territory of Ukraine and its contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany.

On July 27, 1944, three months before the liberation of Ukraine from fascist invaders, by means of the aircraft “Douglas” which took off from the airport of Zhytomyr into the rear of the enemy in Nazi-occupied Poland, the special reconnaissance and sabotage group “Storm” was thrown. It included:  group commander – Karavayev Ivan Ivanovych (codename – “Lvivsky”), born in 1910, his deputy – Zevin Olexandr Ivanovych, born in 1918, doctor – Levchuk Georgiy Antonovych, born in 1916, demo man – Bratus Petro Leonidovych, born in 1925, two radio operators – Pozdnikina Vira Vasylivna, born in 1923, and Kosterina Galyna Ivanivna, born 1925, and six fighting men – Chernomordin Olexandr Ivanovych,  born in 1918, Gorily Ivan Artemovych, born in 1922, Blokhiv Ivan Omelyanovych, born in 1925, Gryschuk Olexandr Olexandrovych, born in 1913, Viganivsky, Edward F.elixovych, born in  1915.

All members of the group were available of a short-term training in sabotage and subversive activities, topography and were familiar with the operational situation in the landing zone. For the task performance the group received weapons, ammunition, explosives, food for ten days, medicines, ten thousand zloty and thirty-five thousand German marks, as well as two radio stations to communicate with the Center.

Tremendous challenge faced the group. It was necessary to organize and equip it’s base deployment, to perform reconnaissance, sabotage and subversive activities, to create a network of agents. All that had to contribute to the successful offensive of the 1st Ukrainian Front.

Appeared to be difficult the whole operational record pulled through by the group while performing the task. Already during the flight, having received the corresponding signal, the group had been ready for landing, but the plane was flicked. An experienced pilot immediately reacted, did a professional maneuver and dodged the dangerous light, but the plane was still in the zone of antiaircraft artillery fire. When there was a command to jump, suddenly one of the soldiers opened the parachute in the plane, and that had led to the delay and disruption of landing interval.

Before the plane boarding it had been agreed, that a gathering place for the group would be the forester hut which situated in some three kilometers from Czchow village. After landing, commander of the group I.Karavayev began to collect the fighters using conventional signals. The sun was coming up, so because of the threat to catch the eye of the enemy the commander decided to suspend the further search. Only at the end of the day the group had huddled together, but not intact, only 9 people. Having explored the countryside they realized that they had landed not in the planned area, but in another place. After checking the found cargo bags the fighters found out that at their disposal there was none  too many needed items for the full performance of a mission behind enemy lines. They lacked three bags of ammunition and money, and in addition, they had lost one radio station.

With the support of the Podlesna Wolya village local population the group went in search of deputy commander Zevin, doctor Levchuk and radio operator Kosterina. After a while, Levchuk took to the group and said that the lost bags with cargo had fallen into the hands of the Germans at the Tunnel station. They failed to found radio operator Kosterina immediately. Only later they received information, that she was in one of the detachments of the Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa). They failed to find Zevin as well.

And as they continued to look for him, at the same time the group was engaged in covert intelligence work, development of works and defensive structures, deployment of military enterprises, new airports of enemy, sabotage, as well as awareness-raising activities among the locals.

The obtained intelligence gave the opportunity to establish contacts with two detachments of former prisoners of war who had escaped from Nazi captivity and located in the area of Kozluv forests.   Commander of the special group “Storm” I.Karavayev, having talked to the soldiers of those groups, emphasizing their unity and fighting spirit, took them to the task force. Thus, there was a need of weapons for the new fighters. Given the circumstances, they sent to the NKGB of the Ukrainian SSR the coordinates of the “Storm” location with a request to send the needed weapons and equipment by aircraft. On the night from 6 to 7 of July, 1944 near the village of Poreba they accepted the aircraft with the appropriate cargo.

Subsequently, two sabotage and reconnaissance groups – “Valka” (translated from the Polish as “struggle”) led by “Lieutenant Colonel Kalinowski” (Kazin Mykola Oleksiyovych, born on April 29, 1910, who had worked as a miner in the Donbass before the War, then was admitted to the state security organs, and later became the commander of the Special Operations Group) and “Vanguard” led by “Major Zolotnykov” (Geft Mykola Arturovych, born on April 18, 1911, who during the occupation of Odesa had headed an underground group in the shipyard) arrived to the location of the “Storm” group.  Along with them came and deputy commander of the “Storm” O.Zevin, who reported that after landing at night he had lost a landmark and lost himself, then he walked through the woods to the east and near the Wiślica village he met “Lieutenant Colonel Kalinowski”.

The name of “Lieutenant Colonel Kalinowski” was legendary in Poland. He became famous primarily  by undermining of a large number of strategic bridges. Besides, they were undermined several in one area, and it delayed the movement of enemy troops for a long time. For the head of “Lieutenant Colonel Kalinowski” the fascists appointed extremely generous compensation – 50,000 Reichsmark and 20 hectares of land. But Kazin-Kalinowski was elusive and even managed to help other reconnaissance and sabotage groups.

In the course of preparation of the group to perform subversive activities they established relationship with the 1st Brigade of Krakow named after Bartosz-Glovadski under command of “Tadek White”. During this period they received information that the Germans had brought up their reserves through railway lines and evacuated valuable equipment from military factories. Those circumstances were not given the time for commander of the group for long-term thinking, so it was decided to begin sabotage and subversive activities on the railway lines Warsaw-Krakow, Czestochowa- Kielce, Katowice – Warsaw immediately.

The available archival documents information reveals the chronology of sabotage and subversive operations group “Storm” activity (translated from the original):

  • "0/8/1944, a group of 20 people, led by Bratus and Blokhov in the area of Sosnowiec-Kielce railway, on the river Shinyava, near the Hshonentovitse settlement, which is 8 km. southwest Volbrom, blew up the railway and highway bridge 20 meters long, along with the bridge the enemy echelon was blown up. At the same time were destroyed: locomotives – 1, platforms – 22, cars with manpower – 15, tanks – 22, killed soldiers and officers – 380, wounded – 519. The road was not running for three days. ”
  • "11/8/1944, a group of 13 people, under the command of Gorily and Levchuk, in the area of Kielce -Krakow railway, which is 3 km north of Station Kozlov, the railway bridge length of 15 meters was blow up. Along with the bridge the train of the enemy was blown up. At the same time were destroyed: locomotives – 1, commodity cars – 15, killed soldiers and officers – 35. The road was notrunning for 18 hours.
  • "8/12/1944, a group of 18 people, under the command of Blohov and Smirnov, in the area of Czestochowa-Sosnowiec Railway, near the Maslonska settlement which is in 4 km. south of Zawiercie, has blown up a special train of the enemy. At the same time were destroyed: locomotives – 1, platforms – 15 cars, with manpower – 10, cars – 10, guns – 7, armored cars – 1, killed soldiers and officers – 136, wounded – 170.
  • "A group of 20 people, under the command of Lazarev and Viganovskiy in the area of Czestochowa-Kielce Railway, in the vicinity of the Staropoli settlement, which is in 10 km west of the Konets-Paul station, has blown up a special train of the enemy which went to the west. At the same time were destroyed: locomotives – 1, railway goods wagons with ammunition and weapons – 17, killed German soldiers – 7 “.
  • "13/8/1944, a group led by Bratus and Grischuk in the amount of 22 people in the area of  Czestochowa-Kielce Railway, in the vicinity of the Zloty Potok settlement, which is in 16 km. west of the Paul station, has blown up a special train of the enemy. At the same time were destroyed: locomotives – 1, railway goods wagons with ammunition and weapons – 18, killed German soldiers and officers – 19 “.
  • "15/08/1944 a group of 13 people, under the command of Gorily and Viganovskiy in the area of  Czestochowa-Sosnowiec Railway, near the Nirada station which is located in 4 km. north-west of the Zawiercie settlement, has blown up a railway bridge with a special train of the enemy. At the same time were destroyed: locomotives – 1,  railway goods wagons with ammunition and weapons – 36, killed German soldiers and officers – 23, injured – 19. The road was not running for two days.”
  • "8/16/1944, a group of 15 people led by Bratus and Blohiv in the area of the Kielce-Krakow Railway, near the settlement of Kamenka, which is 4 km. south of the train station Kozluv, has blown up a special train of the enemy. At the same time were destroyed: locomotives – 1, railway goods wagons with ammunition and weapons – 14, killed German soldiers and officers – 11, injured – 14. The road was not running  for 13 hours.”
  • "8/17/1944, a group of 15 people, led by Nazarov and Gryschuk, in the area of Railway Kielce- Sosnowiec, near the settlement of Bzhezuvka which is 2 km. southeast of Wolbrom, has blown up a railway bridge with a special train of the enemy. At the same time were destroyed: locomotives – 1, cars with manpower – 20, killed German soldiers and officers – 180, wounded – 250. The road was not running for 24 hours.”
  • "20/8/1944, a group of 12 men, under the command of Bratus, Gryschuk and  Viganovskiy in the area of  Railway Kielce-Krakow, near the Linden municipality, which is in 7 km. north of Station Kozluv, has blown up  a special train of the enemy. At the same time were destroyed: locomotives – 1, cars with manpower – 19, killed German soldiers and officers – 205, wounded – 284. The road was not running for 6 hours.”

On August 21, 1944, by order of the 4th Directorate of the NKGB of the Ukrainian SSR the special groups of Karavayev, Kalinowski and Zolotnykov went to the route Soltsy-Peremba-Kshetovitsy and began to move toward the Carpathians. After some time, it was found by intelligence of the groups that on their way there was concentrated a large number of German garrisons. But after three days, near the village of Dube, over the forest the enemy’s planes appeared which bombed and fired the location of battle groups, and later the enemy began its offensive supported by tanks.

A fierce battle continued until evening. Given the significant number of the enemy, it was decided to disentangle by separate groups under cover of darkness. Difficult battles were fought in the area of  Colonia Podlyesyem, Nezhanovitsy Dolne, Ostrow settlements. Approximately during two weeks, hard-fought, actually without having ammunition and proper food, the group broke through a dense ring of enemy having payed a high paying for it. During unequal fighting were killed most of the personnel. Zolotnykov, Zevin and radio operator Pozdnikina held on like grim death while covering their military counterparts. In order not to be taken captive, they shot themselves. Radio operator Kosterina and nine soldiers were captured by invaders and hanged in a wood in place of the battle. Owing to the courage and dedication of special groups fighters the enemy also suffered heavy losses, were killed over three hundred occupants and a lot of military equipment was destroyed.

In view of this Karavayev made a well-considered decision: to cross the front line with the remnants of the group. On September 17, 1944, a “Storm” group went to the route Grushko-Suhidniv-Vezhbnik-Ostovets. In the area of “Svinaya Gora” they met with a Soviet partisan unit of the former prisoners of war under the command of Colonel Petro (Novak), and with a special group of Soviet military intelligence “Sashka-13.” Taking advantage of the radio transceivers available in those groups, Karavayev immediately sent a telegram to the Center with coordinates of the group’s location requesting to provide radio transceiver, ammunition and explosives.

Without waiting for a response, a “Storm” group with a group of Colonel Petro performed six combat operations against the enemy’s punitive expeditions. Given the significant accumulation of enemy garrisons, and that the operational space needed for the proper performance of combat missions had been reduced, Colonel Petro got permission to cross the front line. On November 16, 1944, the “Storm” group of seven fighters under the command of Karavayev together with the part of the group of fighters “Sashka-13″ near the village of Neskuzhevo passed the front line fighting their way forward and got into the disposal of the 13th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front. Subsequently, on December 25, 1944, the commander of the “Storm” group Karavayev and doctor and Levchuk got into the disposal of  the NKVD of the Ukrainian SSR, and the group of P. Bratus, I. Gorily, O.Gryschuk were left behind enemy lines for the further performance of tasks.

Commander of the group I. Karavayev according to the results of that raid had presented to the command a detailed report, which applied for the representation of groups of soldiers to the state awards: O. Zevin – the Order of the Patriotic War II degree (posthumously), V. Pozdnikina – the Order of the Patriotic War I degree (posthumously), G. Kosterina – the Order of the Patriotic War II degree (posthumously), O. Chernomordin – the Order of the Patriotic War II degree, G. Levchuk – the Order of the Patriotic War I degree, P. Bratus – the Order of the Red Banner, I. Gorily – the Order of the Patriotic War II degree.

Unfortunately, the Departmental State Archive of the Foreign Intelligence Service has not preserved the materials and data, which would witness about the future fate of the special reconnaissance and sabotage group “Storm” fighters.

At the same time, the memory of heroic deeds of those who in the various military units confronted the enemy onslaught from the early days of World War II and approached the Great Victory, is revered, studied and preserved. The search is in progress.


Igor Boyko,
Departmental State Archives of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine

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