This area describes the events that occurred in Strubowiska during the 1945-1947 period following World War II, based on my interview with Michael and Danna Berezonsky and materials they provided.
This map was loaned to me on October 5, 1997 when I visited with Mr. Berezansky and his family in New York. It is one of the most valuable things I have found in my research and I could hardly believe my eyes when he showed it to me on my visit. I never in my wildest dreams thought that such a map would be found.
Michael Berezansky is the son of Iwan and Maria (Podolak) Berezansky. He was born in 1926 in Strubowiska, Poland and is married to Bohdanna (Danna) Danyliv, from Smerek (Born in 1923 in Carynskie, Poland, about 10 miles east of Strubowiska). After Akjca Wisla, Michael’s family was relocated to Trzebiatow in the Koszalin Region of Poland. Michael and Danna came to the U.S. in December 1965 and live in New York. They have four children - Eugenia, Bogdan, Luba, and Steven.
The original map was obtained from Michael’s friend (about the same age as Michael), who now lives in Roznyativ, Ukraine. The map was drawn by the son, an architect, of Michael’s friend. I believe this map was then used to make the map that I borrowed. The original was on a darker, brownish paper - like a thermal photocopy. On the map (vellum) I borrowed it is apparent that some revisions were made, since the numbers on some of the houses were "whited out" and renumbered. The materials borrowed from Mr. Berezansky also included a letter concerning those inhabitants of Strubowiska who were killed, removed, and sent to Siberia. It seems that the list of names of inhabitants identified in the letter were the original list of names before possible revisions by Mr. Berezansky. The translations of the Cyrillic writing on the map were performed by Mr. Walter Maksimovich on October 11, 1997, and were recorded onto tape. The tape was then transcribed by George Warholic. The key or legend at the left of the map provides a listing of resident’s names as well as their nicknames. In my research, I was previously informed of the frequent use of nicknames in the village of Strubowiska and the surrounding villages. For example, in my interview with Mrs. Madeline Rusin of Madera, PA, she said that everybody had nicknames and she had a difficult time trying to identify her relatives surnames such as Rusin, Warcholak, Kopalce, and other families and how they were related. Also, on my visit to Poland in 1987, through an interpreter, I talked to a Berezansky family in Cisna and was told that they remembered a Warcholak family (possibly my relatives) who lived at the far end of the village, near the forest. This family was known as Warcholak-Wróbel. Wróbel means sparrow (the bird) in Polish and Ukrainian.
I use the spelling Warcholak for my surname as it relates to the families referenced in Strubowiska. This is the translation used in Polish books. However, I believe the correct transliteration from Cyrillic to English is best spelled as Varkholjak.
Map of the Village of Strubowiska - 1945
The following is the translation of the Map of Strubowiska as translated by Walter Maksimovich and recorded and transcribed by George Warholic. The house or farm numbers shown on the map are listed below, by family name and nickname. Although no orientation or directions are shown on the map, the roads and streams through the village run in a north-south direction. The Carpathian Beskid Mountains are south of the village, while the main road is north of the village.
At the top of the map: Plan of the Village of Strubowiska.
Heading at the right above numbered items: Meaning of the Legend.
Subheading at right: Names of Houses and Other Objects
(Note: all names are translated and written phonetically using Polish spelling and pronunciations, J=Y, W=V, C=TS, etc. )
|2||The Jew Wolosky||Hershko|
|3||Ferensewitch, Fedor & Iwan||Halushka|
|5||The Jew Koba||Mihawchik|
|12||Rusyn, Iwan||Ryzun (cut throat)|
|13||Berezansky, Iwan & Stanko||Mandrichkiw|
|26||Rusyn, Mykhailo||Witiw (W\jt-head of group of villages)|
|32||Swystak, Mykhailo & Stashko||Berezhenechchen|
|33||Warcholak, Mykola||Shcherbatogo (missing teeth)|
|34||Warcholak, Hric||Krakusiw (from Krakow)|
|38||Warcholak, Fedor||Antoniw (of Anthony?)|
|39||Warcholak, Ivan||Wrubliw (sparrow)|
|40||Rusyn, Tekla||Na Kamience (of the stone)|
|41||Cegan, Wasyl & Ivan||Hreniw|
|42||Rusyn, Mykola||Wijtiw Mlen ("mayor’s mill")|
|44||Rusyn, Fedor||Berezchen (Birch tree)|
|45||Kaniuk, Iwan||Kurnekiw (chicken coop)|
|52||Leszczy½ski, Wasyl & Iwan||Jasjakiw|
|56||Rohanak, Kasia||Kopaltsowa (miner)|
|58||Woloskoho, Jew||Kasarnia (military barracks)|
On the left side of the map (south) is the label Carpathia, Beskid Mountains. On the right side (north) it says the Main Road. On top of main road it says (to?)Przyslup on the bottom of the main road it says (to?) Kalnica. On bottom of map from the right to the left is the "deep hill." Bottom of the mountain. Behind the brook. River Bistrek. (In center of village is river Potik). Near bridge at bottom right is Mirki field (means small measure). Above it is Pidilneki. Far left is Listnicwo – the Forest Keeper’s house. On the road to forest keeper’s house is Wosada. Pidlazi, south of house #34. Upper left corner Rijadi means rows, like big garden rows. Pole rostoki grunt which means field river tillable land. Upper right lis means forest.
This letter is part of the correspondence used by Michael in constructing his map. I do not know the circumstances that lead to this map, but it was probably a result of the interest generated by the research for the publication of the book Bieszczady, Gmina Cisna, to which Michael contributed on the chapter about Strubowiska.
November 10, 1996.
Good day respectful Mrs. Danna (Bohdanna) and Mr. Michael. I am writing along each line because I have a lot to write. Everything here is the same old thing. The map of the village, which was sent exactly on time, I took from the gypsy Wasyly, but for the time being I will not send it. Maybe you will receive it that was already mailed, but if you do not get it then maybe we can pass it to somebody else. We are informing you with additional data. The priest in Strubowiska before Danyliv was Ustjanovsky who died approximately in 1935. Under the Germans a little assistance came from Paschniak [a priest]. The inhabitants of the village had approximately 110 hectares and were occupied with farming and domestic work. On the map are indicated with numbers the houses, and I am giving you a list of inhabitants and the number of persons for each.
|No.||Description||People||Sent to Siberia (Ukraine)|
|2||Hereska the Jew||8||-|
|3||Ha»uska, Iwan (Ferensewitch, Gypsies)||6||2|
|6||Koba, the Jew||5||-|
|9||Semanie, Marja Moskal||6||2|
|12||Berezansky, Iwan (Mondurkiw)||14||-|
|No.||Description||People||Sent to Siberia (Ukraine)|
|39||Warcholak, Mykhailo (Wrobel)||5||5|
|No.||Description||People||Sent to Siberia (Ukraine)|
|58||Leszczynski, Wasyl & Iwan||8|
Inhabitants of the Village of Strubowiska
Who Died During the Encirclement in 1945.
Inhabitants From Strubowiska Taken to Germany for Forced Labor
|2||Kardasz, Stanko||Servant of Ruzika||America|
|4||Cyhan, Jurko||Winwiw||Returned home|
|5||Cyhan, Dmitro||Dzinziw||Did not return|
List of people taken to Siberia from the village of Strubowiska
It is said that approximately 19 underground fighters were slaughtered. Some say maybe only 15. All this was written down by Alexandra Rusyn from the inhabitants of the village: Sehania, Wasilya Michalowa born 1926, and Rusyn, Mihala Iwanowa born 1930. If you sir [Michael Berezansky] would take a look at the map you might recall something additional that we may have overlooked. On the map is a list of the farmer’s houses, which are noted by surnames and by nickname so that it will be easier to understand. Forgive us, maybe something is not clearly written and then let us know. Then, I can be more specific when replying. Until we see you again, we wish you all good health and hope that this is useful to you.
Notes: In Eugeniusz Misilo’s book Powstanki Mohyly a number of the UPA who died at Strubowiska are identified. As I recall, about 10 individuals.
These two individuals, Wasilya Michalowa Sehania and Mihala Iwanowa Rusyn, are shown in the black and white photograph Boys from Strubowiska.
The Boys from Strubowiska 1956.
This black and white photograph of some of the survivors from Strubowiska was taken in Roznyativ, Ukraine, in 1956. It was taken during the first of two visits to Ukraine by Michael Berezansky. I was told that he saw this photograph hanging on someone’s wall during his 1993 visit and obtained it from the owner at that time.
Names of the men in the photograph, left to right: (1) Michael Berezansky, (2) Wasyl (or Basil) Lazoryszyn , (3) Wasyl Cyhan, (4) Stanko Podolak, (5) Stanko Popowicz, (6) Mykhailo Kaniuk, (7) Mykhailo Rusyn, (8) Stanko Rusyn, (9) Wasyl Podolak, (10) Ivan Rusyn , (11) Jurko Rusyn, and (12) Fedor Lucyszka .
The Boys From Strubowiska, 1993
This color photograph of some of the survivors from Strubowiska was taken in Roznyativ, Ukraine, in 1993, the second of two visits by Michael Berezansky to Ukraine.
The nine men identified in the photograph are from left to right: (1) Iwan Rusyn (2) Mykhailo Rusyn (brother to Iwan?), (3) Bogdan Andrejko, (4) Wasyl Andrejko (brother to Bogdan), (5) Iwan Rusyn [?, #1 is also Iwan Rusyn], (6) Mykhailo Berezansky, (7) Mykhailo Kaniuk, (8) Stanko Rusyn (He is son to one of above Rusins?), (9) Stanko Popowicz.
Farewell in Roznyativ, Ukraine, 1993.
Michael and Danna in photo with other villagers before their departure. The lady in front row, fourth from the right, is Katarina Rusyn. She was a schoolteacher and visited the Rusin family in Madera, PA in about 1973. Her daughter (not shown in the picture) is an English teacher.
Transcription of Audio Tapes from Visit on October 5, 1997.
Walter Maksimovich and I arrived at the Berezansky residence at about 9:45 a.m., fifteen minutes earlier than our 10:00 am planned arrival time. Walt knocked on the door and we received a very welcome reception by Mrs. Bohdanna (Danna) Berezansky.
Shortly after we arrived I began taping our conversation. The beginning of the first tape has Ukrainian conversation between Walter & Danna. Danna mentioned Plishka and I said yes, that is Larry Krupnak’s family.
Pliszka, Andre, he went to Australia. Warcholak, Andrew he went to England. Every person in the village had a nickname. The list of people from the village was based on the inhabitants living there in 1946, and shows how many people lived in Strubowiska and how many were sent to Ukraine.
(Ukrainian conversation Walter & Danna several minutes)
Mykhail Rusyn, of Roznyativ, Ukraine, prepared the list (in 1996) identifying people from Strubowiska. Mykhail Rusyn was not Katarina’s father. There are many Rusyns in Roznyativ, Ukraine. Katarina is a very good, smart person, she was a teacher and her daughter is an English teacher. I told her that I had written to Katarina Rusyn about five times and never got an answer.
Michael Berezansky arrived from church and we greet each other. He greeted me as "Strubowisk!". He asked when my grandfather came to America. I told he came to America in 1910 and that my father was born in the U.S. I also told him my grandfather’s brother, Iwan came to America in 1908, and his brother Wasyl came in 1912. Michael just came from church. Walter interpreted and said Seman Madzelan (who Walt will meet later) goes to the Orthodox Church. Michael asked how I was related to the Warcholaks who died in Strubowiska. I said I don’t know. Michael again said that every family had a nickname. The Berezansky’s were called "Mandrichky". He mentioned the Warcholak -Wr\bliu family. Michael went out to get his map that his friend in Ukraine prepared. He explains the names -- Hersh was a Jewish farmer. Another Jew lived nearby. Ferensevitch. A little stream. Points out the four Warcholak farms. Michael pointed out where he thought my grandfather’s house was located. Forestkeeper’s house, land for grazing, the stream Bystry. Church, Chapel, etc. Michael pointed out the chapel and I said I have a picture of it - he said he has a picture too. And names of the plots of land, "grunt" for grazing. Everybody had a plot of land. I showed Michael the pictures I took in Poland in 1987. There is a new house built at the location of farm #12 on the map. The forest keeper built a new house there. When Michael was there in 1980 he saw a wooden cross on the cemetery and there were names inscribed in the cross but he couldn’t make out the names, and couldn’t trace the names with paper. He said that the cross looked fairly new, and it was made from hard wood. Michael had a picture of this cross. I told him that the people who live near the former village of Strubowiska said that in the Springtime former residents of the village often return to visit. When he visited Strubowiska in 1980 he found his father’s zorna (hand grindstone-flour mill) at the location of their farm. He said his father lived on the farm numbered 13— Berezansky, Iwan & Stanko. Two families lived on the farm, Iwan was his father and Stanko was his father’s first cousin.
Michael went to get a book he had just received the day before, about the Cisna area of the Bieszczady. This book has a separate history about each of the villages in the area. The book reported that historically, the first time Strubowiska is mentioned is in 1565 as Zrubovishcha (which means "clearing the forest"). This was a nickname of the village, which started sometime after 1543. The book included a story of the battle at Strubowiska. The book has a list of the historical owners of the land (before it was parceled out to individuals). I asked if the people owned the land of the farms in the village and he said, yes.
We explained how I came to find Michael. Walter Maksimovich knew I was interested in Strubowiska from my posting about my grandfather’s village on Greg Gressa’s Carpatho-Rusyn web page on the internet. Walter came across a story about the Battle of Strubowiska while browsing through Eugeniusz Misilo’s book about the UPA. The story was based on an account of an eyewitness Seman Pliszka. Walt sent (e-mail) me a copy of the story and I saw the surname Pliszka, which I recalled was a surname that Larry Krupnak was researching (his mother’s maiden name). I told Walter and Larry about this possible link. Michael said he knew Seman Pliszka and he too witnessed the battle. Participated as a fighter, and saw everything. With the assistance of a person at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, Larry wrote to Misilo, in Polish, in reference to whether Mr. Pliszka is still alive and where he may be contacted. He first received a response from Maria (Pliszka) Kaczur living in Pustk\w, Poland. Larry also got a response from Maria Pliszka’s sister in Ukraine who wrote that Seman Pliszka, living in Ukraine, is very ill and can’t talk. Maria wrote back and said that there is a man in the U.S., who was born in Strubowiska, and she sent Larry his address in the letter. I asked Larry if he had translated the letter so that I could get a copy. He said he had not translated the letter but sent me the address of the person born in Strubowiska. Larry said he didn’t know who this person was, but I recognized the Berezansky name as that of my father’s "cousins" in Madera, so I immediately wrote to Michael. Michael said he has a lot of Berezansky cousins in Madera, PA. Michael’s father’s brother lived in Madera. His father’s sister lived in Madera. His father’s brother had 10 sons and 2 daughters they are scattered all over the U.S. Walt then mentioned that I sent a letter to Michael and had no response and that I wrote a second letter and got a response. Walt also said that somebody at InfoUkes, in Toronto, received a telephone call. Michael said that they had mistakenly called InfoUkes, using the phone number on the InfoUkes web page article about Strubowiska. He looked again on the materials and realized it was the wrong number and called my home and spoke to my daughter, Jennifer, who told them I would get back home very late. I called them the same evening when I got home from a trip for a wedding in Pennsylvania.
Michael and Walter discussed how they each got to the U.S. Michael Berezansky was 38 when he came to America. Walt and Michael came to America on the same ship, Stefan Batory. Michael on Dec 6, 1965, the last trip of the season due to the bad weather; Walt arrived on Nov 11, 1964. I said that Walt is a Lemko, I asked if Michael if he is Lemko or Bojko, he said Ja Lemko! He said there are three classes of Lemkos. He said Lemkos come to church now in Watervliet but if there is a celebration of some Ukrainian National holiday it doesn’t attract them.
(More Ukrainian conversation about the trip from Poland to U.S. on the ship.)
A very rough ride, suitcases sliding back and forth across the floor. Ice on the ship. Walt later said that Danna told him their son, Bogdan, wore out four pair of pants sliding back and forth across the deck.
I told Michael that my father’s mother’s family Heresco (Hreszko) came from a village called ºuha, which I thought was ºuh. Michael knew the location of the village and I asked if he knew any people from the village and he said, no.
In 1945, Michael was 19 years old (born in 1926). When the Soviets came into the area of occupied Poland they didn’t draft the 19 year-olds; only the older men 24, 25 years old were taken.
(More Ukrainian conversation, several minutes.)
Talk about the book on the Bieszczady? I loaned Michael three of my books on ºemkos: Cerkwie W Bieszczadach, by Stanislaw Kryci½ski, 1995; Na Pograniczuºemkowsko-Bojkowskiem, by J. Falkowsk and B. Pasznycki, reprint of a 1935 book; and ºemkowie Grupa Etniczna czy Narod?, by Ewa Michna, 1995).
Michael got the copy of the genealogy information he received from George Berzansky’s daughter, Lynda (Berzansky) Whitney. He also got a copy of her address for me. I asked to see the pictures of all the men from Strubowiska and I was going to take a picture of it with my camera. Walt said I should take it with me and scan it but I wasn’t sure Michael would let me borrow it. Walt asked, and they eagerly agreed to let me take it. They suggested I take both of the picture albums! They gave me the three pictures I was especially interested in; the pictures from 1956, 1973, of the boys from Strubowiska and the one with Katarina Rusyn. They were trying to determine what year the black and white photo was taken. Luba mentioned she came over to the U.S. in 1958. They then decided the picture was from their visit in 1956.
I asked Michael to give me the names of people on the black and white photo of The Boys from Strubowiska (1956):
From left to right:
Danna brought a newspaper clipping, in Cyrillic, with an obituary for Edward Warcholak (Born 1946)--from Pittsburgh, from a Ukrainian language newspaper. She asked if I knew him. She read it in Ukrainian. (words I understood --Carnegie, Pa, Pittsburgh. Beverly, Christina, Jennifer, mother Sophie, brother Ronald, Woodbridge Memorial Park, Pa, Lexington County, PA, ). I said that I didn’t know the family but there were quite a few Warcholak’s who settled around Pittsburgh from other parts of Poland - Gorlice, W“glowka, etc.
Michael then read the names from the color photograph taken on their trip in 1993. Former Inhabitants of Strubowiska:
Iwan Rusyn, Mykhailo Rusyn (brother to Iwan?), Bogdan Andrejko, Wasyl Andrejko (brother to Bogdan), Iwan Rusyn [? #1 is also Iwan Rusin], Mykhailo Berezansky,Mykhailo Kaniuk, Stanko Rusyn (He is son to one of above Rusins?), and Stanko Popowicz
I told them that I recently visited Sam and Mary Kaniuk from near Johnstown, Pa. Sam’s family also originally came from Strubowiska. Danna found the picture with Katarina Rusyn and asked if I wanted to take it too. I asked if all the people in the picture originally came from Strubowiska - they said no. I also learned that Katarina’s daughter, the English teacher, was not in the picture. Michael pointed out his grandson, Joshua, who accompanied them on the trip. He said Joshua didn’t speak Ukrainian. But they went to Roznyativ and they spoke to him in Ukrainian; asked him if he wanted to eat, and he understood.
We got the map, pictures and genealogy and I said I would send them back by mail.
Michael mentioned that he had hoped to write a book on the story of Strubowiska,
At this point Walt left to meet with Mr. Madzalen.
I gave Michael a copy of the letter I wrote to my father’s cousin Mary (Warholic) Slipko that had a list of marriage applications from Clearfield County, PA. I read through the list of surnames to see if they recognized any of the families:
Ho»obinka – Michael said maybe from Przys»up, Smerek, or Wetlina
Wowk - from Smerek
ºazoryszyn - no response
Kopylczak -from Smerek
Nedwid - from Smerek
Zazwirskyj - from Wetlina
Kaniuk - no response
Sa»amaszczak - from Strubowiska
Tytanycz - from Smerek
Luba noted that there were so many Warcholaks in Strubowiska. Michael and Luba discuss the Warcholaks’s in Ukrainian. Michael said that there is one Warcholak, Andrzej, living in England, who they thought was one of the boys from my family of Warcholaks. During the war he was sent to Germany and after the war he went to England. He was in Ukraine in 1993, when Michael visited. Michael doesn’t have his address. Michael said that he thought my family was closest related to Ivan Warcholak (Wr\bliu). Luba said maybe to post a note in a Ukrainian newspaper in England to find him. I asked Michael if he knew the names of the father’s of the Warcholak farms on the map. Michael said my family was probably the Ivan Warcholak-Wrobliu.
As best Michael knew, my ancestors were from farm #39, Warcholak, Ivan. There was also a Warcholak, Fedor –Antoniu. (Some Ukrainian conversation –need to translate). At this point Bohdanna’s sister greatly assisted in translating for me. The conversation focused on the destruction of Strubowiska and the events of Akjca Wis»a.
I asked what happened to the priest when the village was moved. Did he go to Ukraine? Luba said the Strubowiska church belonged to Smerek, along with Kalnica. Michael said his wife’s father, Volodymr Danyliv, was the priest in Smerek. I showed them the information I had on the priests and Luba said the information was wrong. She said he was the priest from 1934 until October 1945, when he went into hiding. My reference said until 1939, and Luba said she saw another source that said he was the priest until 1941, also wrong. At this point I learned, to my surprise, that Danna and Luba were sisters! Luba came in while we were talking and I missed the introduction.
Luba, Danna, and their mother stayed in Smerek when their father, the priest, and their youngest brother went into hiding to his sister’s place in (Dokolno?) in Lublin (western Poland) because the Poles were going to arrest him. The militia (sheriff) told their father that it would be better if he ran away because that he was going to have to arrest him soon. I asked if they knew if any church records might be available. She said maybe there are some records are in Lesko, she didn’t know for sure. She said that the birth, death, and marriage records that her father had were confiscated by the Ukrainian underground army to keep them from the Polish. He didn’t want to give the records away, but they took them at gunpoint. She has no idea what happened to the records. (Some Ukrainian conversation about how long he was priest). I asked how the people were moved. Luba said the first announcement came in March 1944, from the Soviet Army. I asked Luba if she was there when the village was moved. Luba said yes, she was 16 years old when they were moved. First, there was Soviet propaganda that said "they could go to the Soviet Union were it was like heaven, and everyone was rich." Some people from other villages sympathized with the Soviets and believed their propaganda and went freely to the Soviet Union. But none of the people from Strubowiska or Smerek went freely. Luba said that Mr. Romanition’s (a jeweler who was present at our meeting) mother’s family went freely and after one year they returned to Poland. The Soviet Army came in September 1944. Not so many people went voluntarily in the period January - March 1945. Only the Soviet sympathizers freely left during this period. In September, 1945, everybody was required to go.
I asked what happened on March 21, 1945 in Strubowiska. In December 1944, through January 1945 the Ukrainian Underground Army (UPA) headquarters were located in the village of Smerek. Then later, they moved to Strubowiska. Then the Polish militia, Polish Army, and the Soviet Army from the front pulled out and made the...(couldn’t explain, used word ob»awa). and they came to the village specifically for the UPA. The force was commanded by the Soviets, but included both Polish and Soviet troops. They came and the UPA started fighting. They burned the whole village of Strubowiska and so many people died in that fight. All the men (even Michael) knew what was about to happen and they left the village and ran into the forest and mountains. Only the women and children were in the village in the houses. Luba said she knew one woman who was killed with a bayonet [who?]. I asked, "But why did they kill the civilians?" Luba said, "That’s a good question." The civilians were blamed for keeping the underground army. She said the UPA were not in the houses, they were behind the village in the forest and shooting from there. They were mad, like mad dogs. Luba said that was Moscow’s plan-- to destroy it. The whole village was destroyed. I asked if the people were moved the next day. After the village was destroyed the people were just there crying and tried to live in cellars and make some shelter. All the men 15, 16 years and older were in the forest. They were not put on a train and moved at that time. The Soviet Army left and the Soviet headquarters were established in the Danyliv home in Smerek. Bohdanna, Luba, and their brothers were hiding in Wetlina. In Wetlina there was a very bad epidemic of Typhus Fever. They went up there and hid among the people there who were sick. The Soviet soldiers were afraid to go there because of the sickness. She went to one place where 1:00 p.m. that day a lady had just died. In the evening Luba went to that place and stayed overnight; at the same place the woman died. She said Typhus Fever is transmitted by lice. The lice bite you, then you get sick and bloat. She was not afraid -- better to get sick than have the Soviets take her to Siberia. The lady’s body was laid there by the table and a candle was burning. This was in the first house near to the road [Who lived there?] Soldiers came to the house and asked if they had horses and they saw the body and quickly closed the door and left and didn’t come back. The husband of the lady who died was also sick, her son about 15 was sick, one son just got over the sickness and was hiding in the forest, and two children about six and eight years old and Luba. That was Saturday night. The next day, in the morning she went to Danna who was hiding in another house further up in Wetlina. Luba had her hair braided and Danna opened her braids and they were full of lice; and they shook all the lice on the ground. But she never did get sick. The Soviet headquarters stayed in the village of Smerek and every day the soldiers searched the villages for UPA partisans. They searched and arrested people who had some type of connection or someone pointed a finger at them. Right away, they were arrested and sent to Siberia. Her father and mother were arrested. Somebody came to them and told them their parents were arrested. Danna dressed up like a villager and put some hay in a sheet put it on her back and went back to their house. She went to the neighbor’s house and the neighbor said one cow was already killed and they had the second one ready to kill. Danna cried and said that she had a small brother and if they killed the cow he would have no milk. They said they were going to arrest her but before they arrested her she had to cook for them. She cooked the meal and the soldiers made her taste everything because they were afraid she would try to poison them. Then they arrested her and beat her terribly. Three weeks later the soldiers left and Luba came home to find Danna. Luba said Danna’s entire back and even the soles of her feet were black and blue with bruises from the soldiers beating her. They made her lie on the floor with feet on chair and they beat her with a rope that had a wire in it. She couldn’t even put on her shoes. After that "ob»awa" finished in March, they stayed there in the Summer. Then they came again in September 1945, and said everybody had to go to the Soviet Union. The Polish Army came but their captain was Soviet. The Polish Army just came from the front after the war in Germany. The Polish soldiers heard none of what the Soviet Union army was doing there. The Polish soldiers told them to go hide and that they would put a note on their door saying that the family was already moved. They did that and went up into the mountains and sat there for two weeks. They came home but the army came back again in October to move them; everybody was supposed to be moved. The soldiers would look for people and those captured were sent to the station in Lesko. They stayed in the mountains for three weeks. The army had soldiers posted at the higher locations, like near Przys»up and Smerek, and when people came back to the villages the soldiers would come after them and they would run back to the mountains. Luba was even shot at by soldiers with machine guns when she was running away. They were very, very high up in the Bieszczady Mountains where they hid for three weeks. It had already started snowing. In the springtime, after Easter Saturday on the Old Calendar, they had to run again to the mountains. Her mother was with them but her father was now living with his sister. That time it was a very hard. At that time the soldiers had a small cannon in Wetlina and were shooting into the mountains. In Wetlina they burned some houses and they burned a house in Smerek. They stayed up in the mountains until the week before Pentecost Sunday. By now, the villages of Strubowiska and Przys»up were moved and they knew that the next day they were coming into Smerek. The people were sneaking back into the village to pick up things to take back to the mountains. The people didn’t know what to do, it was a real mess. The army came in and started catching the people. The army came in and everybody from the lower part of the village, up to the church, was moved. In the middle of the village was a sign saying that twelve families from here (between Kalnica and Smerek) were already moved, but they had really run away into the mountains. In Doliverra?, they told them on Sunday that somebody came and told them that 75 houses in Smerek were already moved, but 74 still remained in the higher part of the village, beyond the church. He came on Monday and he said everything was burned. The people from the higher village were like one family. But it was a divided family, some were already caught by the army when they came back to the village for food and animals. The army right away started burning the 70 houses. The roofs were made from straw. Everything was burning. The same day the rest of the people from Smerek came over to the church and said we can stay because it was a divided family. People didn’t know what to do with their grain and food. If they hid it in the ground maybe they could find it. If they left it in the house it would be stolen or destroyed. In one house (Wit’s house) was a barrel of kapusta (sauerkraut) left from the Winter. The soldiers had defecated in the barrel of kapusta to make sure people had nothing to eat. They broke windows, destroyed everything. People came from mountains, if they had potatoes in their cellar they cooked potatoes.
At this point Danna brought a picture of Jesus from their home in Smerek. The soldiers had stabbed it with a bayonet.
People came and baked potatoes and had some bread. The next day, early in the morning when the sun came up, all the people were arrested and moved. The only people left were Luba, Danna, and their mother who went to the intersection of the road. There they told the army they were going to the Soviet Union but they wanted to go to the Soviet Union with their father, who was in another part of Poland. The army checked this out with the militia, who said it was true. They wanted to go to Cisna and catch a train to go to their father and the army agreed. They needed a horse but they only had a cow. Their cow had never pulled a cart or wagon. They sat there for some time and Luba heard a wagon or something coming. There was a man, named Dryhynicz, coming, whose wife died of typhus fever when they were in the mountains. He had four boys the oldest 13 and youngest 2 years old. The army didn’t take him because he was so sick, but now he was feeling a little better. He had climbed on the truck with those being sent away but the soldiers threw him off. He had a cart being pulled by a cow but it was already full. They were sitting along the road by the intersection and the trucks deporting people from Wetlina were passing by and they asked if they would take them to Cisna. They were willing to take them but they wouldn’t let them take their belongings with them. While they were here they saw that Strubowiska was burned again. They heard an explosion and Luba went up on a hill and saw the smoke. After March 1945, some of the people rebuilt their homes and now the army burned them again. They stayed there until the next morning. The next day they found a wagon. They put all their stuff and Dryhynicz’s stuff on the wagon and traveled for about 3 or 4 hours to Kalnica. In Kalnica they saw clothes, geese, and cows in the field. They couldn’t figure out what was happening. And then they saw some dead horses. Then she saw far off the road some clothes and she went up there and she saw and recognized the clothing as belonging to a family she knew, from the embroidery on the linen skirts and blouses. There was a whole box full of things there and someone had broken the sewing machine. She couldn’t understand what happened. She went back and they continued toward Strubowiska. They got to Strubowiska and stopped at (In Ukrainian). The son-in-law was a Moskal but the father-in-law was a Warcholak too. At this first house they stopped there because it was raining. That was also the only house that was still standing in Strubowiska, the rest were all burned. They stayed there until it quit raining. After it stopped, Luba went out and looked at the other houses. Some were still smoking from the fire. They continued to travel toward Przys» up and between Strubowiska and Przys»up, on the middle of the hill, they met the army. The soldiers were coming single file down the middle of the road. They stopped and asked where they were going and what had happened. They told them they were trying to get to their father but the trucks wouldn’t pick them up. Luba then looked around her. Off on one place was a horse missing one leg, tied to a tree. In another place was a cow without a leg. She couldn’t figure out what was happening. The army officer then told the 13 year-old boy to go get the cow, which was about 20 meters off the road. The boy went first and the officer followed (afraid of the mines) and they got the cow, which the officer shot. He also shot the horse. He came back and told them to be careful and walk in the middle of the road because there were mines on both sides of the road. The soldiers left and went to either Kalnica or Jaworce, she wasn’t sure. That was almost at nightfall. They started traveling again and the cow got "how they say ‘bad eye’" [Evil eye, spooked?]. She would not move one step on the middle of the road. She just jumped from one side of the road to the other and finally she jumped and the cart and all their belongings fell into a ditch on the side of the road. This happened just a short distance from a big crater, where a mine had exploded. They were in a panic and they took everything from the cart. Their mother was not so well and the man they were traveling with was not so well. The wagon from Kalnica was deeper to put their belongings in. They put their mother, the man, and the baby in the cart. Before this Luba was carrying the baby. They had to move everything and Luba and Danka pulled the wagon from the ditch onto the road. They didn’t know what to do. They thought that maybe they could go to Doló yca, since that village was not yet moved. Maybe they could find a horse there to help get them to Cisna, or somewhere. They told their mother, the man, and the children that if they met anyone on the road to say nothing. You never knew who you might meet --a soldier, a partisan, you didn’t know. They told them to just say they were going for help. But that man had a goose and small kelt? and a cow was tied to the wagon. They then started looking for food. They went on and on and on and were running like two little dogs. They finally reached Krzywe. They saw somebody there, who was walking along the stream and he came onto the road. Luba recognized him because he was somebody who she saw in the church choir. Luba asked if he could help them and told him their whole story. He said he couldn’t help them, but told them to go to Przys» up where there were two Sywanycz’s who each had a horse. In Przys» up there were 5 and one-half families that were not moved. This was on June 12, 1946. This man told them that they were supposed to stop moving the Ukrainian people on June 15, 1946. He told them to go to Doló yca and ask the priest. They did that and the priest told them the same thing. The priest told them to stay there until June 15. He said that he couldn’t give them his horse because the army just came and took his horse to move people from other villages. He said he was afraid they would be back any minute to take the horse again. They then returned to Przys» up. They got to the bridge and couldn’t understand what was happening. It was already dark and they got to the first house they saw all the people standing outside by the bench. She asked what happened. They said that the "ghost" (sentry?) up on the hill was watching the village and saw the wagon come in and everybody came down to see what was happening. The village was empty except for the 5 and one-half families. Nobody put on lights or made a fire so the army would think that nobody was living there.
Luba read part of my letter from George Matykiewicz on the Story of Strubowiska. She asked if I could read it because she was having a problem seeing the words. I read aloud a portion of my letter up to the section about the incidents at Baligrod and Komancza in 1944. Luba said the men were killed at Baligrod as revenge for what happened at Zavatka (or Zalatka?), where a whole village was earlier murdered by the Soviets and Poles.
I asked if they knew Wese»yj, leader of the UPA. They saw him and knew him very well. They didn’t know his real name and no one wanted to know his name because "you may have a long tongue and might let it slip". Michael and Luba said that Wese» yj was really not forcing the young men to serve in his unit but rather he was organizing self-defense units in the villages. Some of the men went voluntarily, some not so voluntarily. They didn’t even have any guns, but there were some guns and ammunition left in the area by the Soviets. Wese»yj had a meeting of all the men and said men of certain age groups were wanted. They had drills. They were preparing for self defense of the village. I continued reading aloud the account of what happened at the village. They did not know the Soviet commander, Colonel Stiepashkin. I asked if the UPA soldiers were in the houses and Michael said, no. Luba and Michael also said that it was not true that the UPA dressed as women to escape from the houses.
(Michael explains to Luba in Ukrainian what happened several minutes-- need to translate).
The night before they called him to report to Wese»yj, they gave him a secret letter to take to Smerek. The letter was folded small so that they could eat it if the Polish Army came after them. He said a lot of the men ate the letters. He and his cousin [who?] went to Smerek for the self defense meeting. They earlier gave him a "klichka" (password) but when he got to Smerek they said it was the wrong password and they made him lie on the ground and took everything from him and took him to a UPA Headquarters in a house at night. He returned home that evening. Early in the next morning his mother woke him up and told him "Mike, wake because something happened in town... everybody, all the partisans ran away." He got up, quickly dressed and ran to his station to take positions where they were supposed to fight, early in the morning.
Bohdanna said the village was poor people, who lived there, the land was not very rich. I asked if there were 84 UPA soldiers killed in Strubowiska. Luba said she didn’t think that many were killed. In 1944, Strubowiska village was held by the Germans. The Germans were in a circle around the village, around the circle of Germans were the Soviet partisans, then the front lines and then another circle of the UPA. That village was the center of the circle and those people in Strubowiska had to take everything bad from everybody. The Soviet partisans were robbers. In 1944, in the summer (about August) in Wetlina there were some people from UPA in the village and Soviet partisans came in and they started shooting and burned part to the village, in middle of Wetlina. In September 22, 1944 the Soviet army was already there...
I asked how many UPA soldiers were killed. Michael said some people say 20, in the book Bieszczady, Gmina Cisna, they say 50. Nobody knows exactly. Luba said Wese» yj was killed in Wetlina. She was hiding in Wetlina and the sotnia was located in Jawornik in the mountains. And they were up there and killed him. The Polish militia and Soviets killed him. Hutcula was a medic with Wese»yj’s sotnia. Wese» yj was buried by the church in Wetlina on the cemetery. Now you can see nothing there on the cemetery. Luba was there this past summer (1997), in July. She was also there in 1980. She was told that in 1972, they destroyed the big brick Greek Catholic Church in Wetlina. She found that out from a man there in Wetlina, who returned and now lives there after returning from the West. In 1980, she was there and she has a picture. There were still some bricks and things there. There were also some of the trees and grass, there, by the site of the church. Now there is nothing left. Now there is a regular house built there, on the location were the cemetery and the church were located. Kids come up there in the summer and stay in that house during vacation. The man told her when they were building this house they had a bulldozer level the place and it even dug up the bones from the graves in the cemetery. She said that was terrible and can’t understand how the Poles could do that. "They are Roman Catholic and supposedly our Christian brothers, but they act like enemies from Hell when they do things like that." The whole cemetery is destroyed. Luba was also in Gdansk, Poland, where her brother lives. The same thing happened there; the Poles destroyed all the German cemeteries. She said Germans come there to visit the cemeteries where their families were buried and find nothing. It’s shameful. The same happened in Wetlina. She remembered where Wese» yj was buried, near the road at the edge of cemetery. But back in 1980 already, there was a stand (kiosk) for soda and books at that place. But now everything is gone.
I asked how the civilians in the village of Strubowiska were killed. Luba said they were killed during the ob»awa. The Mi»awczak’s were two brothers who were married to two sisters from Przys»up. The soldiers killed everybody from the family. One brother was shot and fell in the creek. This was up near the Hory? household. He fell there and hid under the ice and almost bled to death because he was there almost all day during the fight. But he survived. Mi»awczak’s daughter, or his brother’s daughter, also survived (her name was Magdalena). The rest of the family (five people) were killed by ax; the soldiers beheaded them.
Michael goes through his list of the people who died on March 21, 1945 in Strubowiska and determined that there were 32 people killed that day. According to his recollection and information, these people were killed:
Stanko Moskal - 3 persons killed
Seman Warcholak - 4 persons killed
Jurko Mi»awczak - 5 persons killed; killed by ax
Myhailo Rusyn -3 persons killed
Andro Kowal - 2 persons killed
Anastastia Warcholak - 3 persons killed
Mykola Warcholak - 4 persons killed
By Michael Berezansky’s account, 32 people were killed, including 13 members of Warcholak families. All in one day--March 21, 1945. This compares to a total of 17 on the list of Seman Pliszka.
Michael continued with a list of the people from Strubowiska who were sent to Siberia.
Michael’s information shows that ten people from Strubowiska were sent to Siberia, compared to six identified from Seman Pliszka’s list. I noted the differences in the number of people killed and sent to Siberia. Luba said that Michael’s numbers may be different from what Seman Pliszka reported because Seman was from Przys» up. Maybe that’s why he didn’t know everything.
They said 19 UPA were killed maybe 25, maybe 15, no one knows exactly. That girl, Alexandra Rusyn (13 years old) wrote all that they remembered in Roznyativ.
Michael read the names from the letter from Ukraine about where some of the people were now living.
Rusyn, Jurko Rozen – to America
Luba said she had a stroke and now she can’t see very well. She said it is too bad that they started too late to record all the information about what happened. I said I am really surprised how much I have been finding, I never thought I would find anything about the village. Michael said it is a long time – 50 years ago!
Kardasz, Stanko in America.
I said that my friend Larry Krupnak asked me to ask about the Jojkan family from Przys» up. Luba said she was there in Przys»up for about 10 or 11 months, between 1946 and 1947. Most of the people were already moved to the Soviet Union, but she knew Pliszka, Hrishta, Sywanycz (2 families), and Wasylk\ w. There were only 5 and one-half families left after deportation to Soviet Union. She heard about Jojkan in Przys» up and there was also a Jojkan family in Doló yca.
Michael said this is a problem and it is his fault and everybody else’s fault for not writing this down. "We keep saying maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow." He remembers everything; he was 19 years old at the time. He can still see the village in his mind. But who cares? It’s too late now, .... it’s too late now. He was from Strubowiska and by himself over here. Now a lot of the people have died.
I told him a lot of people care. He said a lot of people have died like Salamaschak, Wasyl, nobody knows.
I asked if their families corresponded with relatives in America before the war. He said he has no letters from before 1945. He has letters from America from his father’s brother and his father’s sister in America. Lot of letters and packages too. From 1948, 1949. In 1949 his brothers and sisters also got letters. I told him that in my family there was no correspondence and nobody even knew where our family came from. I told Michael how I found the letters from my grandfather’s brother’s family in Ukrainian and the baptismal certificate of my grandfather’s brother, which almost got thrown away a few days before I visited.
Michael said some people are still interested in this stuff, like his cousin George Berzansky’s daughter, who did a family tree. Luba said she also blames herself. She came here and she wanted to get together with her father and write things down. She planned to do that but never did. She said Mike could go to Roznyativ and talk to the people and be reminded of things that happened, but she has no one to talk to. Luba said the problem also was that the people didn’t know how to read or write. I showed them the address I had for Katarina Rusyn. Danna said she had two addresses for Katarina.
Even after my cassette tapes ran out we continued talking and talking and talking. Walt was visiting with Mr. Madzelan and returned to the Berezansky home at about 6:00 p.m. We talked some more and finally left for home at about 6:30 p.m. We arrived in Rockville, MD about 2:00 a.m. What a day!!!!!
After transcribing the tapes and reviewing all the material I had a number of questions to ask Michael. I sent him a letter with all the questions and he replies as follows: