Push and hold

Ukrainians at the Secret Front of World War II

As part of activities to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazism in Europe and the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, in the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, events are conducted to honor the heroic deed of the Ukrainian people, its outstanding contribution into the victory of the Anti-Hitler Coalition, to give tribute to all fighters against Nazism, fallen soldiers, victims of war, members of the Ukrainian liberation movement of that period.

Of course, special attention is paid to intelligence officers who counteracted the plans of the enemy, gaining valuable military information, by their invisible work helping to bring nearer the victory over Nazi Germany.

At this, against the background of the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the Kremlin’s propaganda, which tries to distort and negate the role of Ukrainians in obtaining the victory, is taking place redefining of the events of 70 years ago and destruction of old Soviet myths and stereotypes.

In general, the role of Ukrainian intelligence officers in accelerating the victory over the Nazi invaders was multifaceted and comprehensive. Long before the war, they had been collecting important information on Germany’s preparations to the attack against the Soviet Union. One of those informing in advance about Hitler’s plans, was a prominent Ukrainian artist Mykola Glushchenko. And collected by him drawings of German aircraft engines for fighter jets and other military equipment made it possible in the short term to speed up creation  of Soviet counterparts.

Petro Hudymovych from Chernihiv, in 1940-1941 was with a special task in Poland as a resident of Soviet intelligence and passed important information about the concentration of Nazi troops near the border with the USSR. In addition, he received information about the exact date of the attack.

Many specific details of the German troops’ arrival in March-May 1941, in Romania and Hungary, deployment of military units near the border, increase in the intensity of rail transportation, building strategic communications and engineering structures, mobilization and other measures were got by the Intelligence Departments of the Kiev Special and Odessa Military Districts. This is eloquently confirmed by declassified documents from the Branch State Archive of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine.

In the first months of the war, intelligence residencies were established and were actively working in the occupied territories: in Kyiv –led by Ivan Kudrya born in Kyiv region, in Mykolayiv – led by Viktor Lyagin born in Bryansk region, in Odesa- led by Volodymyr Molodtsov from Ryazan and in other cities. These consisted of many Ukrainian intelligence officers, partisans and underground fighters, some of whom made truly heroic deeds.

In particular, one of the most important subversive actions against German occupiers in Mykolaiv was organized by Oleksandr Sydorchuk from Volyn region, who was a member of the local intelligence residency. Then a German airfield was destroyed in a series of explosions and fires. In total, the Germans lost 27 planes, 27 spare aircraft engines, a petrol store house with fuel, two warehouses with equipment and spare parts, aviation work-shops. For the scale of losses caused to the enemy, this operation and its main executor entered the history of the Second World War.

Forever inscribed in the history of intelligence of World War II is the name of the Hero of the Soviet Union Mykola Prokopyuk from Khmelnytskyi – the Commander of the intelligence- diversion group, and before the war – one of the leaders of the intelligence residency in Spain and Finland. Now in his homeland there is a museum devoted to him.

Among women –intelligence officers of that period, unique, full of many adventures and dramatic episodes is the biography of a native of Kherson Maria Fortus, who first had been performing intelligence tasks in the flames of war in the Republican Spain, and later – in the occupied by Nazis territory of several European countries, for which she was awarded five military orders. As an outstanding intelligence officer she became known after the screening of the feature film “Salute, Maria!” with Ada Rogovtseva starring. One of the streets in Kherson is named after her.

The cohort of most prominent Soviet writers and film wrights who best reproduced the image of an intelligence officer in fiction and films of the war period, includes Mykhaylo Maklyarskyi from Odesa. 14 feature films, including “The Heroic Deed of an Intelligence Officer” with Pavlo Kadochnikov in the title role, which for years was a cult film in the postwar period. Maklyarskyi himself during the Second World War was rather successfully engaged in intelligence activities, helped to develop the famous operations “Monastery” and “Berezino”, which eventually allowed him to truthfully and accurately show the work of intelligence officers.

Quite famous in the postwar period was the name of Mykola Arturovych Heft (Odesa’s native, German by nationality) who successfully operated in the occupied Odessa. He was the prototype of the main hero of several films based on documentary novels by Victor Mykhaylov. He had been nominated for the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union, but for some reason, probably because of his national origin and limited due to this  civil rights in the past, the award has not happened. But this does not diminish his heroic deeds at the secret front.

Somewhat in the shadow of the excessively glorified by the Soviet propaganda Russian intelligence officer Mykola  Kuznetsov, was his fighting colleague from the partisan group “Winners” Mykola Strutynskyi from Rivne, though his military achievements were quite significant. He acted in Rivne region as an intelligence officer and organizer of intelligence groups, had communication with the underground, provided partisans with samples of various Nazi documents, fulfilled other risky tasks.

One of the prototypes of the Soviet intelligence officer Oleksandr Belov – Johann Weiss from the film “Shield and Sword” was Oleksandr  Svyatohorov from Kharkiv (intelligence pseudonym “Zorych”), who operated in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Even more has been written about Major “Vykhor” (“Whirlwind”) – Hero of Ukraine Yevhen Bereznyak. Thanks to decisive actions of the  headed by him military intelligence battle group “Holos” (“Voice”), ancient Krakow mined by Nazis was rescued from destruction.

Apart from Yevhen Bereznyak, during the Second World War had been actively working military intelligence officers Anatoliy Hurevych, Semen Poberezhnyk and Yan Chernyak, born in Ukraine, who for a long time had been performing specific tasks of the GRU of the General Staff of the Soviet Army in Europe. They all were collecting extremely important information that dramatically influenced the course of hostilities. However, after the war they got into  disgrace, and some- into Stalin’s camps, and a true recognition of their merits, full rehabilitation, honor, awards came to them only a few decades later.

Besides those already mentioned heroes- intelligence officers, we may mention the Kharkovite Leonid Linytskyi, Yevhen Mitskevych from Volyn region, Volodymyr Vertyporokh from Zaporizhzhya, Kievite Raisa Sobol and others. For many years they had been identified as Soviet intelligence officers, purposefully with no special emphasis on their nationality.

It’s no secret that Ukrainian intelligence units prepared and threw into the deep enemy’s rear a huge number of intelligence and subversive, underground-partisan, behind- the- front- line  operational groups, intelligence officers and agents with specific tasks who effectively operated in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Germany and other European countries. And here no one can deny that the role of these groups in bringing closer the victory was quite significant.

In particular, since early 1943 intelligence activities behind the front line acquired new forms and methods. One of the promising forms of it became operational groups of 5-10 people who acted in the occupied territory of Ukraine based on partisan groups and units. At that time, the Foreign Intelligence subunits sent about twenty such groups (D. Medvedev’s “Peremozhtsi” (”Winners”), V. Khondozhok’s “Unitartsi”, N. Onyshchuk’s “Druzhba”( “Friendship”), G. Burlachenko’s “Roz’hrom”(”Defeat”), P. Formanchuk’s “Volyntsi”(”People from Volyn”) and many others) across the front line. Behind-the-front-line groups created an extensive intelligence-information network, planted their agents into military and administrative institutions of occupiers, committed diversions.

Just to compare, while from November 1941 to March 1942 the Ukrainian SSR State Security units formed, trained, armed and sent into occupied territories 150 partisan formations numbering 1119 fighters, in 1943 this work intensified considerably. At that time there was established qualitative and comprehensive training (3-4 months instead of 3-4 weeks) of commanders of partisan groups and special groups. At partisan schools there were now trained frontline officers, commanders with higher engineering education. In Ukraine, from those so-called “forest academies” graduated 5000 intelligence officers and saboteurs. This immediately influenced the results.

Ukrainians fought against the Nazis not only in the Soviet partisan units, but in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army’s detachments. Confessing the idea of struggle for a free sovereign state, the UPA was at war at two fronts – against Hitler’s and Stalin’s regimes. In this unequal confrontation, the OUN and UPA lost more than 100 thousand people, or one in four of those who with arms were defending the people’s right to its own state.

In general, if we talk about Ukraine and Ukrainians in the context of the Second World War, the statistics is quite eloquent. According to the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, from Ukraine to the Soviet Armed Forces had been taken over 9 million persons. The whole Soviet Union during the war lost 16.2 million soldiers, about 4 million of them were from Ukraine. 1.7 million inhabitants of Ukraine returned from the Red Army disabled. All major decisive events on the Soviet-German front were connected with Ukraine. Almost 61% of the German army were destroyed in the territory of Ukraine. From January 1943 to October 1944 the Red Army made 13 offensive and two defensive operations in Ukraine. And from June 22, 1941 to October 28, 1944 in Ukraine the warring parties held 29 of the 76 strategic offensive and defensive operations. In 1944 50% of all ground forces of the Red Army were fighting in Ukraine.

Ukrainian SSR was the second by representation  in the Soviet Armed Forces after the Russian Federation. Units of the four Ukrainian and two Belarusian fronts by 50-80 percent consisted of residents of the republic. Natives of Ukraine accounted for a significant part of the higher Commandment of the Armed Forces of the USSR. Generals and Marshalls of the Ukrainian origin led more than half of the 15 fronts. About 300 Generals and Admirals were representatives of Ukraine.

Huge losses were caused by the German occupation of Ukraine and almost continuous combat actions. During the war, from 1939 to 1945, Ukraine lost 4.5 million civilians (together with the military its losses were about 8.5 million people). In Ukraine, partially or completely were destroyed 714 cities and towns, 28 thousand villages, 16 thousand 150 industrial enterprises, 2 million houses, 1 000 916 railway stations, 18 thousand hospitals, clinics and medical points, 32 thousand 930 schools, colleges, technical schools, institutes, universities and research institutions.

The correspondent of “Saturday Evening Post”, having visited Ukraine in 1945, with horror wrote: “What someone is trying to portray as the “Russian glory”, was primarily the Ukrainian war. No European country has suffered more from the deep wounds inflicted on its cities, its industry, agriculture, population“.

These facts convincingly prove that the Ukrainian people did make an enormous contribution into the victory of the anti-Hitler coalition over Nazism in Europe, incurring enormous human and material losses. Attempts of the Kremlin’s propaganda to belittle this contribution are immoral, to say the least.

After all, today it is more important not to make calculations and comparisons, but to worthily honor the fighters against Nazism, to immortalize the memory of fallen soldiers, victims of war, war crimes, deportations and crimes against humanity, committed during the war, to improve the care about war veterans, participants of the Ukrainian liberation movement of that period, victims of Nazi persecution, to establish continuity of traditions of warriors-winners over  Nazism and today’s defenders of our Motherland, to consolidate the society around the idea of ​​defending Ukraine.

The same can be said about the intelligence officers born in Ukraine. Their contribution into the victory in World War II can’t be measured by some figures, the number of received materials, operations or acts of sabotage, committed heroic deeds. Probably there is no point in doing so, singling someone out from millions of known and unknown heroes for whom above all was the military duty and desire to defend their homeland. At the same time, paying tribute to all soldiers of visible and invisible fronts, each nation and state, first of all, has to remember and honor its heroes.


Victor Hvozd,
The Chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine,
Candidate of Military Sciences

What's more interesting

SZRU Is Expanding Its Interaction with NATO Member States' Intelligence Community
1 055
Foreign Intelligence of Ukraine: From Bohdan Khmelnytskyi's Scouts to Euro-Atlantic Integration
1 024
A Presentation of the Documentary about a Ukrainian Intelligence Officer