Jerzy Giedroyc przy pracy w gabinecie. Maisons-Laffitte, 1994 / Sygn. FIL00010

Kultura magazine vis-à-vis the Ukrainian question and mutual relations, or the beginnings of Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation once again


The role of Kultura in initiating Polish-Ukrainian dialogue after the war has been written and spoken about many times. Asked in 2000 about the greatest success of his life, Giedroyc himself mentioned the normalisation of Polish-Ukrainian relations[1]. In the last thirty years, there have been many discussions about Giedroyc's legacy and Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation, with the subject generating great enthusiasm and deep-seated convictions in the 1990s. Later, after Giedroyc's death, people began to hint that it was all a ritual, devoid of deeper content. Someone said this in an effort to deepen reflection or to transfer the experience to other areas. Someone else, picking up on these critical remarks, came to the conclusion that the formula of Polish-Ukrainian understanding developed by Kultura should be shelved because "times have changed". And then the voices questioning the validity of this formula became mainstream. Some felt that the "Giedroyc doctrine" was downright harmful to the Polish raison d'état, and that it had allegedly done more harm than good in Polish-Ukrainian relations. And so, step by step, the foundations of Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation laid by Giedroyc and the Kultura community began to be dismantled. In February 2022, with the start of Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine, these voices faded away. Politicians, particularly those on the right, realised the immediate threat to Poland's security. The phrase "there is no free Poland without a free Ukraine" again became a certainty that united the Polish political scene.

On the example of Polish-Ukrainian relations in recent years, we have had the opportunity to observe how Poland's eastern policy is being transformed, how it is deviating from what the Ukrainian side has mistakenly taken for granted. We have watched with growing concern how much reputational damage these actions are doing to both Poland and Ukraine. Poland, by joining the European Union, acquired the status of a member state with the position of an expert on its eastern neighbours (the metaphor of Poland as an advocate for Ukraine was eagerly used, despite its ambiguity). Today, this status has been lost.

However, that is not what this discussion is devoted to, but to a reflection on the activities of Kultura in a seemingly hopeless situation – at the beginning of the Cold War and its atmosphere of fear of the outbreak of a third world war. Perhaps a re-reading of the lesson of Kultura could facilitate the development of a modus operandi for today.

Having said that, I would like to move on to an analysis of the efforts made by Jerzy Giedroyc and his circle to promote Polish-Ukrainian understanding in the years 1946–1952, i.e., in the very early days of Kultura and Instytut Literacki (Literary Institute). The starting point is the first publications and correspondence from this period, and various initiatives – those put into practice and those not realised. In parallel, I shall focus on the resonance these initiatives had among Ukrainian émigrés.

Let me stipulate from the outset that my aim is not to revise accepted views or to belittle anyone's role but to expand the context here to include the Ukrainian reception. This was made possible thanks to the archives available on kulturaparyska.com, the kindness of the team at the Literary Institute, and hitherto unused correspondence kept at the Pilsudski Institute and the Shevchenko Society Scientific Archive in New York, copies of which were kindly made available to me by Dr Oleksandr Avramchuk, for which I am extremely grateful.

The first thesis does not sound particularly novel: Jerzy Giedroyc's activities in Ukrainian affairs were neither strictly political nor had a purely cultural dimension. Given that Polish scholars tend to focus on the political dimension, while their Ukrainian counterparts tend to focus on the cultural aspect, it seems to me necessary to show how these two dimensions were closely interlinked. This is not because any mention of the Ukrainian question was political but because both in Giedroyc's circles and, to some extent, among Ukrainian émigrés, the political dimension of culture was recognised and its potential exploited.

The second thesis, on the other hand, is new and stems from an analysis of the available press and archives. Well, it turns out that the Ukrainians had been attentively observing the activities of Kultura from the very beginning, with increasing trust and goodwill. From the start of the 1950s, one can speak of a scale of cooperation which is difficult to compare with other émigré communities, or even with directions as important for Kultura as, for example, Germany. In the case of the Ukrainians, it was neither a single milieu (like that of the Russian "Continent") nor personalities of the significance of, say, Andre Malraux or George Orwell, who had exchanged a number of letters with the editor. This, however, does not diminish either the scale or the importance of cooperation with Ukrainian authors. The influence of Kultura on Ukrainian émigré circles was enormous, as can be seen, for example, in the three published volumes of correspondence with Ukrainians.[2] In other words, I propose to revise the hitherto accepted claim of a weak response from the Ukrainian side, which was partly due to the editor's complaints about the lack of a Ukrainian partner and partly due to the inaccessibility of hard-to-reach émigré writings and archives. These journals provided an opportunity for discussion, reported on the most important publications from the Ukrainian point of view and even published reprints. In the correspondence, on the other hand, discussed were projects for broader Polish-Ukrainian political cooperation, which, however, did not come to fruition for lack of a response from the government-in-exile in London.

Let us begin, however, with the chronological framework within which Kultura’s activities for Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation should be analysed. In my view, these need to be expanded, and more attention should be paid to the period immediately following the war (1946–1951) and the last two decades (1981–2000). The already published correspondence of Jerzy Giedroyc, the printed memoirs of Ukrainian émigrés, as well as hitherto insufficiently explored archival sources should be used. For example, a careful analysis of the surviving archival materials makes it possible to conclude that the relationship between the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and the Literary Institute was closer than earlier studies would suggest, and that the HURI played a role analogous to that of Kultura in the "reform of the Order of Ukrainianness".[3] In this text, I will limit myself to highlighting only the efforts made immediately after the war, leaving an analysis of the next half-century for another occasion.

The year 1952 is regarded as the beginning of the implementation of Kultura’s line on Ukraine, and the 1970s as its period of maturity, with the respective publication of two programme articles by Józef Łobodowski and Juliusz Mieroszewski (the second one even becoming known as the “Giedroyc doctrine”)[4]. The 1990s were practically ignored. Researchers and journalists focused mostly on these flagship pieces, as well as on the magazine’s declaration on the Ukrainian case.[5] There has been little interest in the response of Ukrainians to the various actions (an important exception being the volume of correspondence between Jerzy Giedroyc and Ukrainian émigrés and the volume of correspondence with Bohdan Osadchuk[6]). In my view, this underrates both Jerzy Giedroyc's earlier activities undertaken immediately after the war and those undertaken in the last two decades of Kultura. A careful analysis of the available materials makes it possible to go back at least five years to the moment when the editor began to develop a line that was later regarded – fairly or not – as the Giedroyc doctrine. It is this period that I shall focus on in this article.

During the war and in the post-war period, Polish-Ukrainian relations were strained to the extreme (it is impossible to discuss the reasons here in greater detail), and trust in the opposing side dwindled to zero. The pre-war political elites of both Poland and Ukraine found themselves enormously dispersed, their influence on the émigré community diminished and their influence on the country reduced to almost nothing. The scope for Polish-Ukrainian dialogue was practically non-existent, as the London government throughout and after the war advocated for the restoration of the 1939 borders while the Ukrainian demand in bilateral talks was invariably, as in 1918, the creation of an independent state, including Eastern Galicia and Volhynia.[7] In spite of these circumstances, Jerzy Giedroyc, with his characteristic stubbornness, or what some called a penchant for hopeless matters, accepted the challenge with a goal that had been formulated even at the beginning of his public activity in the pages of the Bunt Młodych:

The point is that future generations, having received this fatal, explosive inheritance, do not blame us for having squandered a priceless and unique opportunity.[8]

In other words, pro domo sua.[9]


I shall begin my analysis by arguing the first thesis, i.e., the link between culture and politics, which I treat in close connection with the proposed shift in the chronology of activities to the period just after the end of the Second World War. Let us take a closer look at the lesser-known activities of Jerzy Giedroyc and the Kultura community, both those conducted in public and those prepared in secret, and at how various circles of the Ukrainian émigré community reacted to them, using three examples: Stempowski's trip in 1946, the declaration on the Ukrainian question planned for 1949, and the meeting during the Congress for Cultural Freedom in the summer of 1950. In discussing these, I also draw attention to Ukrainian reactions, which will help to indicate the rationale for the second thesis. A good argumentation for the thesis of a widespread response among Ukrainians to Kultura's publications would require a much deeper search than can be carried out in the present conditions of very limited access to archives and libraries. I must, therefore, resort to sources already in print or available online.

A review prepared for Kultura by Bohdan Osadchuk offers an insight into post-war Ukrainian publications devoted to the problem of Ukrainian-Polish relations.[10] The Ukrainian Radical-Democratic Party’s newspaper, Ukrainski visti, published in Neu-Ulm, Germany, regularly printed reviews of publications on Ukrainian or East European themes from 1950 until its closure. Also devoting considerable attention to Kultura was the OUN-linked and Munich-based Ukrainska trybuna, edited by Zenon Pelensky and Mykola Hlobenko, but the newspaper ceased publication in 1949. In the US-based Svoboda, Ivan Kedrin-Rudnytsky wrote more than once about ideas presented in Kultura. A true tribute to Kultura, however, was published in the literary monthly Novi dni [New Days] (published in Toronto), praising the breadth of the authors' horizons and the quality of their writing, and heralding the magazine as a model for all Eastern Europeans in exile:


If all the journalism of the émigré nations occupied by the Soviet invaders had posed common and contentious problems as Kultura does with Polish-Ukrainian relations, we would long ago have had one common front against the Bolsheviks instead of individual ones convenient for the occupier, and we would have done much to liberate ourselves from Bolshevik captivity. The contribution of Kultura to the creation of such a united front is substantial and by all means deserves to be respected and emulated.[11]


These words came in the summer of 1952, testifying to the great appreciation for Kultura. The author of this article, writer Anatol Kurdydyk, emphasised that many Ukrainian émigrés followed the Polish magazine’s output closely:

If it were possible to carry out a survey of how many Ukrainians read this important Polish magazine, we would probably obtain a figure that would surprise even Ukrainians themselves. It is a fact that every issue of Kultura was discussed vigorously in Ukrainian intellectual circles and that the Ukrainian press sometimes published excerpts of or discussions on its various articles.[12]


            This is just one of many publications that testifies to Ukrainian readers’ interest in the Paris-based Kultura and the formula the magazine offered. There is also little doubt that the author had in mind a timeframe far beyond 1952.

            The recently published anthology Zamiłowanie do spraw beznadziejnych. Ukraina w Kulturze 1947–2000 [A Fondness of Hopeless Cases. Ukraine in Kultura 1947–2000] provides an overview of the texts dealing with Ukrainian affairs. There is, therefore, no need to discuss them in greater detail. However, it does not include texts on topics that are beyond Ukraine but at the same time – in my opinion – of great importance to Polish-Ukrainian dialogue and the later achievements of Kultura. I would like to devote some attention to them.


The first effort to establish contacts with Ukrainians was Jerzy Stempowski's trip from Switzerland to Germany at the beginning of 1946, an account of which was published by Kultura.[13] The mission yielded tangible results: within a year, a lengthy publication appeared on Ukrainian neoclassical poets known as the Parnassians. Jerzy Giedroyc described it as "quite a sensational study", and it gained even more significance thanks to Łobodowski's excellent translation.[14] Stempowski also contributed a number of other texts, including those on Ukrainians in Bereza Kartuska.[15]

Stempowski's journey has been described in some detail by Andrzej Stanisław Kowalczyk.[16] As far as the expansion of Ukrainian authorship in Kultura is concerned, this has been elaborated on by Bogumiła Berdychowska.[17] In contrast, the Ukrainian reactions to the meetings with Stempowski have not been studied in depth, although the publication by Berdychowska provides a major basis for doing so. No attention has been paid, either, to themes important for Polish-Ukrainian understanding appearing in Stempowski’s travel diary... Here, I shall focus only on the latter issue.

Stempowski found several Ukrainian writers he knew from before the war in camps for displaced persons (DP's) in Germany. Those who came from Soviet Ukraine hid their identity because of the danger of deportation to the USSR, which made it difficult for friends to find them, too. Describing the post-war reality, Stempowski spared neither the winners nor the losers; he noted layers of xenophobia among Austrians and Germans, the depravity among former prisoners, and the indifference to their fate on the part of the Allies. Stempowski described the hunt for Eastern European émigrés and their handover to the Soviet NKVD, sparing no details that were embarrassing to the Allies ( incidentally, this is one of the research topics that has not been addressed to date). With his typical insight, the essayist stated:


Their [the emigrants'] presence is obvious proof that there is no peace, an embarrassing fact, a constant reminder that peace, and perhaps war, has been lost by the Western Allies.[18]


Stempowski gave a broader framework to the mutual relations of the Polish Republic, drawing on the experience of the 19th-century’s Great Emigration. However, he did not idealise, nor did he avoid difficult questions:


How many such encounters, rapprochements and distances must have taken place in underground Poland and the German Tower of Babel? What do the thousands of Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians whose common fate led them to Germany think of this? What does M., the Ukrainian poet with whom I am to meet tomorrow, think of this?[19]


The man referred to as “M.” in the travel diary fragment quoted above is Yevhen Malanyuk, the most eminent Ukrainian poet in exile and a close collaborator of the Polish-Ukrainian Bulletin before the war. Stempowski found him in extremely difficult conditions, in a cramped room, exhausted and prepared for the worst at any moment. However, this did not prevent him from talking to him or his comrades in misery:


We talk to M. and his bunkmates like old acquaintances. We are not separated by any memory of 27 years of disputes and the Polish-Ukrainian war, at this moment completely lost for both the Polish and Ukrainian sides [my highlighting – O.H.].


The commonality of exile and the sense of losing the war in Stempowski's interpretation is uniting factor, the memory of past and new injustices ceasing to divide. This would seem to be a basis for not only interpersonal, but also political consensus. However, this was not the case – no political accord at the level of the émigré delegations took place. Though there was no shortage of opportunity for meetings and reflections in the years 1945–1946 – both in Italy and in Great Britain, where both Anders's soldiers and Halychin's Division found themselves, which I will return to in the next part of the article.  

At the site of his meeting with Malanyuk, Stempowski spotted the 1942–1943 publishing catalogue of the Ukrainian Publishing House:


In those years and under those conditions, when a significant part of the Ukrainian intelligentsia had already moved to illegality and took part in the partisan movement, no continental people had made a similar literary and publishing effort.[20]


These are significant words. Instead of passing judgement on the apparent collaboration (the Ukrainian Publishing House operated legally in the territory of the Galicia District), Stempowski writes with appreciation about the publishing achievements of Ukrainians. At the same time, it is an opportunity for him to reflect on the fate of Ukrainian intellectuals, on poetry, and on Ukrainian Parnassianism. That conversation gave birth to Malanyuk's essay “Nation on the Move” (in the original – “Natsiya v pohodi”), which is indirectly confirmed by the words of Stempowski:


Two generations of Ukrainian intelligentsia have already been raised in these conditions on the march [my highlighting – O.H.]. It seems that at the moment Ukraine has the most independent intelligentsia in Europe. It was raised in independence by Soviet deportations, Hungarian and Romanian detention centres, German concentration camps. Whoever has gone through this school cares little anymore about a heated flat, a steady salary, a library and other benefits brought by compromises and collaboration.[21] 


Particularly noteworthy is the extensive description of the partisan movement, which emerged in response to German terror against the local population in the forested area from the Baltic to the Carpathian Mountains.[22] Stempowski compares the unequivocally positive opinion of the resistance movement in the West, "showered with flowers and orders", with the assessment of the Eastern European partisans:


In this part of Europe, he found no recognition, not even silent recognition. It is puzzling, for example, that the Anglo-American press is unanimous in using terms like "bandits", "fascists" and "Vlasovists" for the partisans who, during the war, did such a service to the Allies by paralysing the German army from within.[23]


I am not convinced by Stempowski's conclusions, namely that it was Western European contempt for Eastern Europeans that caused such and not other assessments of the partisan movement, the mistreatment of refugees, the total indifference to the fate of those who found themselves in the Soviet sphere of influence and, more broadly, the Cold War. On the other hand, I think it is worth studying these words, which are evidence not only of empathy, but also of an ability to look for nuances rather than to pass judgement:


Like any self-organised popular mobilisation, armed resistance has its glories and shadows. In its shrouded ranks, there are often idealists, heroes, bandits and provocateurs, side by side. Its strength [...] does not lie solely in the nature of its deeds but in the general situation from which the movement originated.[24]


It seems to me that these words are worthy of attention. They may inspire researchers who are looking for an answer to the question of the nature of the partisan movement in Ukrainian or Lithuanian lands, and who are not content with ready-made answers.


Coming back, however, to how Stempowski's meeting with Malanyuk influenced the beginnings of Polish-Ukrainian dialogue, one should note that the Ukrainian poet's texts in Kultura had not only a literary dimension but also a political one. The first to appear was the above-mentioned programme essay Nation on the Move. This was followed in 1949 by a series of Warsaw poems, with the poignant Anno Domini MCMXLIV, dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising.[25] Printed a year later was Notes from a Notebook, where the Ukrainian writer depicted the first weeks of the tragedy of Warsaw under German occupation:


An episode in Theatre Square: a car with a group of German soldiers pointing their fingers at the walls of the Grand Theatre and – fear gripped you as you listened – laughing in the graveyard silence of the square. They laughed, cackling violently, with barbaric sincerity, without a shadow of theatrical emphasis.[26]


If one were to look at Malanyuk's publications in the context of the belief, still widespread among Poles today, about the role of Ukrainians in suppressing the Warsaw Uprising and their allegedly special cruelty (this had nothing to do with reality, as was reported by Kultura, in particular [27]) and the well-established view of the Ukrainians' disloyalty during the 1939 September campaign, it becomes clear that both sides attached great importance to these publications. Both Giedroyc and Malanyuk realised that literary fiction could lay the groundwork for dialogue.

Getting the leading émigré Ukrainian writer to join Kultura was an undoubted success. It could be said that, even before the war, Malanyuk had been in the circle of bilateral dialogue as the author of the Polish-Ukrainian Bulletin, though the experience of the war could have completely changed his views. This did not happen, however, and the meeting with Stempowski became an impulse to renew old contacts.

Malanyuk's publications were noticed by the Ukrainian press in exile.[28] The same was true of earlier texts devoted to Ukrainian issues – an essay on the Parnassians and the poems of Ukrainian neoclassicists or Wiesław Żyliński's article The Tragedy of the Greek-Catholic Church in Poland.[29] Ukrainian discussions were most often authored anonymously; nevertheless, in some cases it is clear who the author was, as, for instance, in the case of Ukrainska Trybuna, whose editor was Mykola Hlobenko (in 1950 he published a memoir on his time in Kharkov in the pages of Kultura[30]).

At the end of the 1940s, Jerzy Giedroyc had far-reaching plans for Malanyuk – he wanted the poet to become the editor of the Ukrainian Chronicle section. However, full-scale cooperation did not materialise as Malanyuk had emigrated to the United States. His beginnings there were difficult – long hours as a poorly paid manual labourer left little opportunity for literary work, let alone keeping up with the news. The poet did, however, remain in lively contact with Jerzy Giedroyc, as evidenced by a number of his texts in Kultura and his recently published correspondence.[31] Bohdan Osadchuk became the main author of the Ukrainian Chronicle after 1950. In this column, Malanyuk published his recollections of Stanisław Stempowski and Isaak Mazepa as members of the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic.[32] Young and daring, with political nerve, Osadchuk's role in Kultura was incomparably greater than that which could have been played by the no longer young Malanyuk. As has already been said, he was first and foremost a poet, and only then a homo politicus. However, this does not change the fact that, at the outset of Kultura, getting Malanyuk on board was of great significance for the dialogue that followed.


Example two, namely the planned declaration on the Ukrainian case, due to appear in 1949.

Already in the period prior to the establishment of the Literary Institute, when Józef Czapski headed the Independent Department of Culture and Press of the Second Corps in France, he made the first attempts, probably in close consultation with Giedroyc, to persuade the command and government to enter into talks with the Ukrainians.[33] Following the establishment of the Literary Institute, Jerzy Giedroyc carried out activities of a strictly political nature in parallel with his cultural activities; a case in point was a declaration drafted in the late 1940s which would have paved the way for dialogue, and ultimately for a Polish-Ukrainian accord. Giedroyc took this initiative after the failure of the first political talks held shortly after the end of the war, and of the post-war Polish-Ukrainian debate that took place in the émigré press in 1947–1948.[34] No conclusion was reached at the time as the parties fundamentally differed on the border issue. However, this did not deter Giedroyc from taking up the matter again, albeit from the position of a magazine independent from politicians. 

I have devoted much attention to the draft declaration of the Kultura community in an article on Piotr Dunin-Borkowski published a dozen or so years ago in Zeszyty Historyczne.[35] Here, therefore, I shall only briefly recall that, in 1949, Giedroyc was planning to publish a declaration to be signed by persons enjoying authority as experts on Ukrainian issues. In the spring of that year, Giedroyc wrote to Stempowski:


It seems to me that a short and fundamental declaration clarifying this attitude essentially [Giedroyc's underlining] in isolation from the tactics of the day needs to be drafted and promulgated by those few people who have dealt with this problem and who have the moral right to speak on it. Unfortunately, there are not many such people. Apart from you and Vincenz, maybe Józewski if he were there, Borkowski if he could, and maybe Pełczyński? Anyway, the number is not important. There is no doubt that such a declaration will be received most malevolently by both sides. But this declaration will undoubtedly one day become a starting point [for] the solution or settlement of these relations, and if everything collapses, it will at least be proof that there were a few people thinking sensibly. I discussed the matter thoroughly with Vincenz, who was very keen on this project. We, therefore, propose that you should prepare such a project as soon as possible and, taking advantage of the fact that (I hope, at least) you will soon come to Laffitte, convene here with Vincenz and Borkowski (whose tactical advice can be of great value) in order to finalise the text.[36]

As is well known, Jerzy Stempowski, unlike Jerzy Giedroyc, did not belong to the species of homo politicus, and was perhaps also disappointed by the failure of wartime and post-war efforts to persuade the Polish government-in-exile in London to enter into dialogue with the Ukrainians. Suffice it to say, the main burden of drafting the declaration was to fall on the former Lviv voivode. The sudden death of Dunin-Borkowski in May 1949 interrupted work on the document.

Giedroyc did not abandon the idea; he decided to take advantage of other opportunities to tackle the most sensitive problems, in particular the border issue, though the most spectacular ones never materialised. This is not to say that the problem was not addressed in the pages of Kultura. Particularly noteworthy here would be Juliusz Mieroszewski's articles from the late 1940s and early 1950s and a concept he outlined for a future federation of Eastern European nations. Ukrainian reactions to it were rather sceptical; the nationalist press emphasised that federation was only possible if the federation members were equal partners. The principle of primus inter pares was rejected, with a proposal for genuine equal partnership relations expected.[37] Nevertheless, there were also attempts on the Ukrainian side to revive the pre-war Promethean movement, i.e., a de facto recognition of the principle of primus inter pares.[38]

In parallel with Czapski, Giedroyc and Stempowski, efforts to reach an agreement were made by prominent activists of the Second Republic, in particular Stanislaw Paprocki and Waclaw Jędrzejewicz, but failed for fundamental reasons – an unwillingness to recognize the border on the Bug River.[39]

Example three, or a meeting during the Congress for Cultural Freedom  

While the political activities and publications in the pages of Kultura discussed above were limited in scope, the participation of Jozef Czapski and Jerzy Giedroyc in the Congress for Cultural Freedom held in Berlin in 1950 acquired an international dimension. Both the Congress itself and the speeches by Czapski and Giedroyc were noted in the Ukrainian émigré press, drawing attention to the fact that the Polish delegates insisted on the participation of representatives of the Baltic countries and Ukraine (representatives of the nations of the USSR, with the exception of Russia, were not invited to the congress).

Bohdan Osadchuk, who, as a journalist, was present at the congress, devoted particularly much space to the event. In his report, he described Czapski's speech as brilliant; he also accurately read his message as an invitation to dialogue. He followed the congress closely and commented that Czapski's text actually served as the basis for the congress's proclamation to the peoples of Eastern Europe.[40] Osadchuk also reported on the continued efforts of the congress delegates, who opted for the inclusion of a Ukrainian representative. He proposed Ivan Bahriany, chairman of the Ukrainian Radical-Democratic Party, with which Osadchuk was also affiliated, as a candidate. He also described a project to create a European university where Eastern European expatriates could study.[41]

Osadchuk's interview with Jerzy Giedroyc and Jozef Czapski was the first to appear in the émigré Ukrainian press. The essence of it was a statement that could be regarded as a policy programme:

The best way to normalise Polish-Ukrainian relations is through loyal and frank discussion, exchange of ideas and information in the pages of our press, as well as coordination of our political and propaganda efforts, particularly in the United States [my highlighting – O.H.].[42]

This meeting during the Congress resulted in Osadchuk's fifty-year collaboration with Kultura.

From that moment on, that is from their meeting in June 1950, we can speak of the beginning of Osadchuk's acquaintance with the Kultura milieu, which soon turned into friendship, but also a widening circle of Ukrainian authors at Kultura. Thanks to Osadchuk, this respectable group of pre-war Petlyurian émigrés was joined by the younger generation of post-war Ukrainian emigrants – a circle of the Ukrainian journalist's close friends, as well as émigré politicians. They included Ivan Bahriany, a writer and gulag prisoner in the 1930s, who after the war found himself in exile, and, as already mentioned, the leader of the left-wing Ukrainian Radical-Democratic Party and founder of the magazine Ukrainski visti, deputy chairman of the exile parliament – the Ukrainian National Council – and author of the famous pamphlet "Why don't I want to return to the USSR?" (1946). They also included Boris Levitsky, who became the most important Sovietologist in the Kultura milieu, and Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytsky. The latter, son of the pre-war Sejm deputy Milena Rudnytska, a figure extremely disliked by Polish politicians, became one of the proponents of Polish-Ukrainian conciliation after the war, becoming involved in various activities after he emigrated to the United States. Before he emigrated, however, a meeting took place between him and Jerzy Giedroyc in Paris in the summer of 1950. This was just after the Berlin Congress, and Lysiak-Rudnytsky was certainly already aware of Czapski's and Giedroyc's statements, as he regularly read the Ukrainian press, and was in close contact with Osadchuk. Lysiak-Rudnytsky gives the following account in his diary:

Giedroyc is probably the first Pole I have ever met with whom I easily found a common language in political terms. His stance on the Russian question is exactly the same as our Ukrainian one (postulating the dismemberment of the Russian Empire), while on the question of the Western Territories [i.e., Eastern Galicia and Volhynia – O.H.] he is ready to make far-reaching concessions. He believes that Poland should relinquish the borders [defined under] the Riga Treaty. He also believes that today it would be premature to talk about a Ukrainian-Polish federation or to put forward the concept of the Intermarium; one should strive for the improvement of Ukrainian-Polish relations by agreeing on concrete problems and settling existing disputes. A federation would be easier to achieve in a pan-European concert [my highlighting – O.H.], where it would be possible to sooner overcome the lack of trust and the stagnant conflicts that prevail between Poles and Ukrainians.[43]   

On the basis of this record, it may be inferred that Giedroyc's stance on the border issue – abandoning the postulate to restore the eastern border established by the Riga Treaty, tantamount to a renunciation of claims to Eastern Galicia and even Lviv – had already been shaped in the late 1940s, when he made his first attempt to prepare a declaration together with Dunin-Borkowski, Vincenz and Stempowski, and not during the first discussion in the pages of Kultura in 1952, and even less so when Juliusz Mieroszewski's manifesto articles appeared in the 1970s.

Secondly, the tactic of small steps and concrete actions with which to begin a Polish-Ukrainian agreement was Giedroyc's natural course of action – and not only on this issue. In his view, the most important thing was the restoration of mutual trust, not ideas like federation, condominium, Intermarium, etc. In other words – Realpolitik. This was a line that Giedroyc consistently pursued over the course of half a century.

Thirdly, there is the now traditional complaint of the Editor, and of researchers following him, about the lack of a partner for discussion on the Ukrainian side. Objectively speaking, it was impossible to find such a partner after the war in France – the head of the URL government-in-exile from 1926–1939 and 1940–1942, Vyacheslav Prokopovych, died in 1942; besides, this government no longer played the same role after the war as before it. Above all, however, despite the apparent similarity of the situation – the two governments were in exile – their status differed greatly: while the former enjoyed at least a semblance of international recognition, the latter had not even this. Moreover, the Polish side in the changed post-war situation was not willing to recognise the representative role of the URL government-in-exile. Nevertheless, in the meantime, in June 1948, Ukrainian politicians in exile attempted to consolidate all the pro-independence activists and established the Ukrainian National Council – a sort of parliament-in-exile. The framework document adopted in 1951 recognised as potential allies all "nations enslaved by Russia, both satellite countries and forced members of the Soviet Union"[44]. At the same time, as far as the western border was concerned, it was in favour of maintaining the Polish-Soviet state border established by the agreement of 16 August 1945 between the Republic of Poland and the USSR. Thus, political consolidation on the Ukrainian side did not lead to closer cooperation; on the contrary, talks were frozen. The Polish government-in-exile consistently, up to and including 1990, refused to recognise the border on the Bug River.[45]

Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee analysed the post-war situation and tried to work out a line, including in Ukrainian-Polish relations. At one meeting of the committee, Lysiak-Rudnytsky reported, among other things, on his meeting with Giedroyc[46]. Soon afterwards, Osadchuk probed Giedroyc:

I have a mandate; do you consider it possible and expedient to have talks between our government and your London government? On our side there is a readiness to initiate steps.[47]

Even if one takes into account that it may have been an initiative on the part of Lysiak-Rudnytsky and Osadchuk, two young politicians, representatives of a not very influential political force (the Ukrainian Radical-Democratic Party), their proposals stood at the highest possible level. The ideas for an agreement put forward by Giedroyc were treated with great gravity and discussed at an official level, and not just in the pages of the émigré press. It is difficult to say without a deeper knowledge of the documents of the Polish government-in-exile whether and in what group these ideas were analysed by Polish émigré politicians. Suffice it to say, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, representatives of the government-in-exile in the USA tried to get congress to abandon its recognition of the border on the Bug River, while the foreign minister of the Ukrainian government-in-exile countered these attempts.[48]

The editors of Kultura took up the Ukrainian question as a fundamental problem to be resolved in full in 1952 (incidentally, every issue of Kultura that year featured an important text on Ukrainian affairs). However, before this happened, the Kultura milieu had taken many steps to initiate Polish-Ukrainian dialogue and to ensure that the hand extended in a gesture of friendship was not left hanging. As early as 1946, efforts were made to initiate a political dialogue, as evidenced by Jozef Czapski's notes and Jerzy Stempowski's reports. As I have tried to show, the Ukrainians responded with interest, sometimes tinged with reserve and at other times not very friendly, but they also often took the initiative themselves. Yet, a different motif dominated their statements: that an agreement and liquidation of the "Polish-Ukrainian front" is in mutual interest.


By way of a conclusion – one more research postulate. The year 1991, when Poland was the first to recognise Ukraine's independence, was generally regarded as the "fulfilment of Giedroyc's mission", and a transition to its full-scale implementation, meaning, in the country. The following decade was usually parenthetical when it came to Kultura’s line. Yet, this period is more than worth analysing, and perhaps even compiling a catalogue of ideas. A glance at Giedroyc's correspondence with Osadchuk in the 1990s[49] would suffice to see the whole panorama of possibilities for practical cooperation. A careful reading reveals a simple observation: both correspondents were in favour of Realpolitik. It is a pity that so few of these ideas – indeed, challenges – were taken up. It is even more regrettable that those announced with great fanfare, notably the Polish-Ukrainian university, were never realised. What has done irreparable damage, however, is to attribute to this thinking an excessive idealism or lack of familiarity with reality, and to treat it as just the whims of some elderly gentlemen.


[1] ”Marzenia więcej niż skromne”. Rozmowy z Jerzym Giedroyciem 11–15 sierpnia 2000 r.”, [in:] H.M. Giza, ”Ostatnie lato w Maisons-Laffitte”, Wrocław 2007, p. 57.


[2] Jerzy Giedroyc and Ukrainian Emigration. Letters 1950-1982, ed. Bogumiła Berdychowska. Letters of Ukrainian authors transl. O. Hnatiuk. Warsaw Czytelnik 2004; Jerzy Giedroyc. Yevhen Malanyuk. Letters 1948-1963, ed. Halyna Dubyk, Institute for Documentation and Studies in Polish Literature, Adam Mickiewicz Literature Museum Branch, Więzi Library, Warsaw 2014; Jerzy Giedroyc – Bohdan Osadczuk. Correspondence 1950-2000, ed. Bogumiła Berdychowska and Marek Żebrowski, Wojnowice KEW 2019.

[3] In the spring of 2021, Oleksandr Avramchuk's doctoral thesis, Writing the history of a 'non-historical' nation. The emergence of Ukrainian studies and Polish-Ukrainian historical dialogue in the USA (1939–1991), was defended at the University of Warsaw. Pages 131-132 mention the Literary Institute being an inspiration behind the organisation of a conference at McMaster University (Hamilton), although the idea was more than a decade earlier, about which Jerzy Giedroyc and Ivan Lysiak Rudnytsky had corresponded.

[4] I refer to Józef Łobodowski's “Przeciw upiorom przeszłości” (Kultura 1952 no. 2-3, pp. 14-66) and “ULB”, Juliusz Mieroszewski, “Rosyjski 'kompleks polski’ i obszar”  (Kultura 1974 no. 9, pp. 3-14). Cf. Paweł Kowal, Testament Prometeusza. Źródła polityki wschodniej III Rzeczypospolitej, KEW - ISP PAN, Warsaw-Wojnowice, 2018.

[5] “Deklaracja w sprawie ukraińskiej”, Kultura 1977 no. 5.

[6] An anthology of texts dedicated to Ukraine was published by Bogumiła Berdychowska (Zamiłowanie do spraw beznadziejnych. Ukraina w Kulturze 1947-2000). Compiled and with afterword by Bogumiła Berdychowska, Paris - Krakow, Instytut Literacki Kultura - Instytut Książki, 2016; Ukrainian edition - Простір свободи. Україна на шпальтатахх "Культури", упор. Б. Бердиховська, Київ "Критика" 2005).

[7] While the Polish position has been fairly well analysed by historians, the Ukrainian position, and in particular the internal discussions concerning this issue and the possibility of a plebiscite on the issue of Eastern Galicia that took place within the milieu of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), or later the Ukrainian Central Liberation Council (UHWR), has not been discussed more extensively, despite the fact that a number of documents have been published in which references to this issue can be found (e.g., in the publication series 'Litopys UPA').

[8] “Za pięć minut dwunasta”, Bunt Młodych 1933, no. 49

[9] More broadly on the subject: O. Hnatiuk, “Pro domo sua. Польсько-українські взаємини у політичній публіцистиці 1930-их років”, [in:] Між літературою і політикою. Есеї та інтермедії, Київ «Дух і Літера» 2012, pp. 213-253.

[10] B. Osadchuk, “Kronika polsko-ukraińska”, Kultura 1952 no. 5 (55), pp. 125-132.

[11] А. Курдидик, Прояснення в польсько-українських взаєминах?, «Нові дні» 1952 нр 31 (серпень), pp. 26-27.

[12] Ibid., p. 26.

[13] Paweł Hostowiec [J. Stempowski], Dziennik podróży do Austrii i Niemiec, Instytut Literacki Rome 1946, p. 18-20. CF.  Jerzy Giedroyc. Jerzy Stempowski. Listy 1946–1969, ed. Andrzej Stanisław Kowalczyk. Part 1, Warsaw Czytelnik 1998, p. 30.

[14] Letter from Jerzy Giedroyc to Józef Łobodowski dated 11 December 1947 ("in this issue I would have a quite sensational study on the situation of Ukrainian writers in exile"). Cf. also an earlier letter dated 1 December, in which the editor announces a special issue devoted to Ukraine. An issue of Kultura with poems by Ukrainian neoclassicists Mykhailo Draj-Chmara, Yuriy Klen, Pavel Fylypovych and an essay by one of the survivors, Leonid Mosendz (under the pseudonym Leonid Korzon), titled “Ukraińscy neoklasycy – parnasiści”, was published in Łobodowski's translation in the summer of 1948 (Kultura 1948 no. 7-8, pp. 39-100).

[15] E. Wreciona, “Bereza Kartuzka od innej strony”, transl. Józef Łobodowski, Kultura 1950, no. 4(30). The same author also published an article presenting a Ukrainian perspective on the "Storm" action in Lviv (E. Wreciona.

[16] A. St. Kowalczyk, “Podróż do Europy. Dzienniki Jerzego Stempowskiego”, Znak 1986 no. 11/12; A. St. Kowalczyk, Niespieszny przechodzień i paradoksy. Rzecz o Jerzym Stempowskim, Wrocław, Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Polonistyki, 1997.

[17] B. Berdychowska, “Giedroyc i Ukraińcy”, [in:] Jerzy Giedroyc. Emigracja ukraińska 1950–1982, selection and compiled by B. Berdychowska, translation of Ukrainian authors – O. Hnatiuk, Warsaw, Czytelnik 2004, pp. 9-12. In particular, the author drew attention to Yuri Shevelov's memoirs, published in the early 2000s, which included a reference to a meeting with Jerzy Stempowski (Ю. Шевельов, Я - мене - мені (і довкруги). Спогади, Харків-Нью Йорк, 2001, с. 242-243). The first publication (“Młodzież czwartego Charkowa”, Kultura 1951 No. 1) was through Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytsky, who proposed the text, which was published in a magazine edited by him (Ю. Шерех, Четвертий Харків, 'Студентський Вісник|', 1948, No. 2). I took this information from the diaries of Lysiak Rudnytsky (І. Лисяк-Рудницький, Щоденники, ред. Я. Грицак, Ф. Сисин, Київ «Дух і Літера» 2019, p. 482).

[18] P. Hostowiec [J. Stempowski], “Dziennik podróży…”, p. 7.

[19] Ibid., p. 19.

[20] Ibid., p. 20.

[21] Ibid., p. 21.

[22] Ibid., pp. 51-55.

[23] Ibid., p. 54.

[24] Ibid., p. 54.

[25] J. Malanyuk, “Z wierszy warszawskich”, transl. into Polish J. Łobodowski, Kultura 1949, no. 2-3 (16-17), pp. 198-199.

[26] J. Malanyuk, “Kartki z notatnika”, transl. into Polish J. Łobodowski, Kultura 1950 no. 6 (32), p. 63.

[27] The same issue that contained Jozef Majewski's letter also featured an extensive study by an author connected with the UHWR milieu, which began with the words: “In the account of Polish claims and accusations against the Ukrainians, there is a certain issue which should be crossed out of the register once and for all, so that in future it does not pollute the atmosphere of mutual relations, which leave so much to be desired. It concerns the Polish accusation that the 1st Ukrainian Division took an active part in suppressing the Warsaw Uprising, committing inhuman atrocities against the Polish civilian population.” (L. Ortynskyj, “Prawda o Ukraińskiej Dywizji”, Kultura 1952 No. 11, p. 109). An article by Boris Levitsky had been printed a few months earlier (Borys Lewyckyj, “Ukraińcy a likwidacja Powstania Warszawskiego”, Kultura 1952 no. 6).

[28] A discussion of Malanyuk's essay “Naród w wędrówce” [A Nation on the Move], still published under a pseudonym, appeared in one of the most widely read journals of the Ukrainian émigré community (Польський голос про українську еміграцію, „Українська трибуна” 27.03.1949).

[29] W. Żyliński, “Tragedia Kościoła grecko-katolickiego w Polsce”, Kultura 1948 nr 8, pp. 18-47. Ukrainian reactions: Поляки в українській справі. Стаття про українсько-католицьку церкву „Українська трибуна”, № 55, 02.09.1948. Cf. also an article by the same author on the liquidation of the Greek Catholic Church in Slovakia carried out at the "Council" in Prešov on 28 IV 1950. (W. Żyliński, “Likwidacja Unii Kościelnej”, Kultura 1951 no. 6, 105-108).

[30] M. Słobożanin, “W żelaznym pierścieniu”, Kultura 1950, no. 5.

[31] “J. Giedroyc, J. Małaniuk, Listy 1948–1963”, ed. H. Dubyk, Warszawa Więź 2014.

[32] J. Malanyuk, “Izaak Mazepa i St. Stempowski”, transl. into Polish J. Łobodowski, Kultura 1952 no. 11, pp. 101-104.

[33] The course of this initiative and the talks deserve a separate study. The archives available today prove the initial reluctance of the government side to enter into talks initiated by the Ukrainians. The talks then conducted for the Polish side were purely probing. It is not surprising, therefore, that it was not possible to go beyond the goodwill gestures and declarations of the necessity to cease Polish-Ukrainian hostilities made during the meetings at the beginning of 1946 in Switzerland and, in the spring of the same year in Italy (note by Józef Czapski, Head of the Independent Department of Culture and Press of the II Corps in France to the Chief of Staff of the II Corps in Italy of 14 January 1946; a copy of the Note of Conversations with Ukrainians prepared by Jerzy Stempowski in January 1946 and a copy of the secret report on the Polish-Ukrainian conference at Bellagio on 26 May 1946 by Jerzy Stempowski, Kultura Archives). There was a parallel exchange of courtesy letters between the heads of the émigré governments between 1945 and 1949 (cf: Archives of the NTSH, collection of Pavel Shandrukh, folder 5, letter of 19 October 1949, k. 181-181v.; letter of the Head of the Civil Chancellery of the President of the Republic August Zaleski to the President of the URL in exile Andriy Livytsky of 24 August 1945, k. 4-4v.; letter of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Adam Tarnowski to the President of the URL in exile Andriy Livytsky of 18 September 1945, p. 5-6).

[34] Polish historians have so far paid little attention to these first mutual post-war efforts with the exception of one popular article and one review article on the position of the Polish side, blaming the failure of the attempted agreement on the alleged disinterest of the Ukrainian side (G. Motyka, R. Wnuk, “‘Pany’ i rezuny’ na emigracji. Próby porozumienia polsko-ukraińskiego na Zachodzie 1945-1950”, Więź 2000 no. 9, pp. 198-199; K. Tarka, “Trudny dialog. Rząd RP na uchodźstwie i Ukraińcy (1945–1990)”, Zeszyty Historyczne no. 139, 2002). The only article by a Ukrainian historian, Vasyl Yablonsky ( Проблеми врегулювання польсько-українських відносин у політиці Державного центру УНР в екзилі у 1948 – 1990 роках) is still in print. I thank the author for making the text available.

As far as the press discussion was concerned, observers at the time claimed that there were people of goodwill on both sides understanding the urgent need for an agreement in the face of danger, but despite this, no agreement was reached (cf., e.g.,: K. Hrabyk, “Bilans dyskusji polsko-ukraińskiej”, Kronika 1947, no. 41, p. 1; П. Котович, Польський максималізм, "Українські вісті" 6 серпня 1950, нр 63 (424)). However, Osadchuk, who was a generation younger, was much harsher in his assessment of these actions, deeming them meaningless: "I had various not very pleasant conversations with Ponikiewski, who is over-sensitive about the value of the Polish-Ukrainian discussion of 1947/48. When I asked him what concrete traces remained of that discussion, he could not give me a single fact". Giedroyc, in turn, replied: "As for Ponikiewski, there is no use worrying about it. Let him feel that he has written a 'golden page' with Hrabyk (Letter from B. Osadchuk dated 26 August 1952, letter from J. Giedroyc dated 18 October 1952, “Jerzy Giedroyc i Bohdan Osadczuk...”, pp. 96 and 98). It is worth adding that Klaudiusz Hrabyk's interlocutor was in particular General Pavel Shandrukh, with whom the Polish side had high hopes as regards a future agreement.

[35] O. Hnatiuk, “Piotr Dunin-Borkowski”, Zeszyty Historyczne no. 155, 2005, pp. 188-215.

[36] J. Giedroyc, J. Stempowski, op. cit. , part  I, pp. 98-99,  letter dated April 1949.

[37] Федералiстичнi iмперiалiсти, „Українець – час”, № 48 (261)1952

[38] An insight into this unknown post-war page of Prometheism is provided by the correspondence of Professor Roman Smal-Stocki, pre-war president of the Prometheus Society, with General Pavel Shandrukh (Archives of the Shevchenko Scientific Society in New York, Pavel Shandrukh collection, file 5). Also preserved in this collection is a letter from Stanisław Paprocki dated 26 September 1949 (k. 168-168v.), in which he lamented the departure of General Pavel Shandrukh from Germany to the United States, claiming that it was an irreparable loss for the attempts at a Polish-Ukrainian agreement and the rebuilding of the Promethean movement in Europe, and a letter from Marian Kamil Dziewanowski (then a doctoral student at Harvard University), who advised against the concept of the Intermarium and oversaw the Promethean movement from the Polish side in the United States (letter dated 18 October 1949, pp. 180-180v.). Cf. also: Sławomir Łukasiewicz, Trzecia Europa. Polish Federalist Thought in the United States 1940-1971, Warsaw-Lublin 2010, pp. 349-368. 

[39] Letter from Wacław Jędrzejewicz to Stanisław Paprocki, 9 July 1947, Archive of the Józef Piłsudski Institute (Józef Piłsudski Institute of America for Research in the Modern History of Poland. Personal Archives, Stanisław Paprocki, band 154 ref. 747, without pagination).

[40] Ю. Чорноморський (Богдан Осдачук), Берлінський Конґрес свободи культури і справа визволення народів Східної Европи, «Українські вісті» 1950 ??, с. 3–12. Osadchuk also posted a summary article in Ukrainski visti (Після міжнародного Конґресу за свободу культури, «Українські вісті» 20 липня 1950, нр 59 (420)).

[41] Питання участи українців у Конґресі свободи культури, «Українські вісті»  21 січня 1951, нр 7 (472).

[42] Юрій Чорноморський (Богдан Осадчук), Найкраща дорога до нормалізації польсько-українських взаємин – лояльна і щира дискусія, «Українські вісті» 3 серпня 1950, нр 62 (423).

[43] Record 26.7. ‑2.8.1950, І. Лисяк-Рудницький, Щоденник, pp. 443-444. Here and henceforth translated into Polish by me – O.H.

[44] Ukrainska problema na tli miżnarodnoji sytuaciji, 1951 (Central State Archive of the Supreme Authorities of Ukraine // Центральний державний архів вищих органів влади і управління України (ЦДАВО України). F.5235. Op. 1. Spr. 147, k. 47). Op. cit : W. Jabłonski, “Problemy wreguluwannia polsko-ukrainskych widnosyn” [in printing] p. 4

[45] In a letter to Wacław Jędrzejewicz dated 24 July 1947, Stanisław Paprocki wrote: "For the Government stands on the position of the border of September 1st 1939. In its talks with the Byelorussians (and Ukrainians), it does not merely demand that they recognise this border. This is because we understand that there is no Byelorussian (or Ukrainian) grouping which could come to terms with the Riga border dividing their national (ethnic) territory between two state organisms. Therefore, if we want to come to an agreement with them, we cannot demand from them to agree to something that would put them outside of their national opinion. Instead, we demand of them that – by agreeing to cooperate with us in the struggle against the Soviets for the independence of our peoples, and for the creation of a close union with Poland after its restoration – they should decide that all disputes (and thus border issues, among others) should in future be settled exclusively by peaceful means. To them, we prioritise the issue of independence and mutual understanding for today and for the future in the common concern to secure first and foremost the most favourable (our and their) external borders, i.e., first and foremost vis-à-vis Germany and Russia". Archive of the Józef Piłsudski Institute (Józef Piłsudski Institute of America for Research in the Modern History of Poland. Personal Archives, Stanisław Paprocki, group 154, ref. 747, without pagination).

[46] Record from 3.02.1951, І. Лисяк-Рудницький, Щоденник, p. 459.

[47] Letter from B. Osadchuk dated 10 March 1951 (“J. Giedroyc. B. Osadczuk…”, p. 53).

[48] Cf. W. Jabłonski, Problemy wreguluwannia polsko-ukrainskych widnosyn, p. 6.

[49] “Jerzy Giedroyc i Bohdan Osadczuk. Korespondencja 1950–2000”. Edited by Bogumiła Berdychowska i Marek Żebrowski. Wojnowice KEW, 2019


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