This extract is taken from a book "Habit i Nagan" by Romuald Wiernik, who courteously permitted it's reproduction  

The story that you're about to read is of one frightful night in one Polish household in Wolyn. Similar deeds were perpetrated by the "Banderowcy" in numerous Polish villages in Wolyn and Podole. There are a number of eyewitnesses that managed to survive and publish their memoirs.


"My recommendation is that before you read this you have a glass of a good single malt whisky by the computer"


            Night came to Ostrogi, dark, cold and without stars. The whole town was covered with a strange silence and it looked like there was no one alive. Whom ever thought that would be wrong. In hundreds of houses people were hiding, holding their breaths. They were waiting and listening if the fallen snow would give warnings that some one was coming, if by chance the clink of metal would signal the coming of armed men. They were listening for the sounds of guns, who yesterday they heard firing a distance away. But all was quiet. War, which somewhere in the East was being bloodily fought, which painted the white snow with the blood of dying men, and their dying breath was strangely quiet. Two days the last unit of "AK*" departed for the forests leaving them defenceless. The unarmed people of the towns demoralised by two occupying powers were in the mercy of local bands of murderers, who killed and burned the local towns.

            In the large house of the Mirski family, which was in the vicinity of Tatarska Brama, were a number of families, friends from local villages and neighbours, who were afraid to spend the nights alone, and those who escaped from the local villages to get away from the Ukrainian killings. On the matteraces on the floor slept a dozen children. They didn't know of the dangerous situation. The adults were all in the kitchen, they were afraid to get undressed and go to bed. Banderowcy mainly attacked at night. Some of them were asleep on the floor leaning against the walls of the kitchen, the remainder were sitting around the kitchen table. It was very cramped in the kitchen. They all started to say their prayers, when Mr Mirski said ' snow is squeaking, they are coming'. Marysia his daughter looked out of the window and couldn't see anything,' you're dreaming dad go back to sleep'.

        No sooner than she said that, then the front doors were thrown of their hinges and fell to the floor.

        'Smert Lacham*' 'Smert, Smert', shouted a number of men as they all rushed into the house

            Those in the kitchen didn't even have time to get to their feet. Only Mirski had time to grab hold of the pitchfork that he brought to the house, to late, he was pounced upon by a number of them, before he even had the time to use it he was hit by a number of axes. The second person to die was his wife. On her grey head fell an axe wielded by Myron who used to help her with chopping wood for the winter. She fell face down on the table, she didn't even have time to scream.

            Soon the only thing that could be heard was the deep breathing of the attackers and swearing by the doors that were locked and couldn't be forced to the remainder of the house. In time even they gave in. In a few corners of the house could be heard the dull thud of an axe as it finished of the remaining adults. All of a sudden all was quiet, it looked as no one was left alive, then a frightened scream from Marysia was heard

        "Don't kill the children, God will never forgive you for this"

            The attackers were rooted to the spot, they were shocked by what they saw. By the door to the dining room holding a pitchfork in her hands which she took from the dead hands of her father, stood covered in blood a girl. Her eyes showed hate, as to the extent that some of the attackers felt goose bumps on their backs. First to compose himself was Mykola, commander of "Kuszowego Widdilu".

            Take the lachy bi***, he barked his order, but as some of the men rushed towards her. Marysia managed to escape to the dining room and close the doors behind her. She closed the door and placed a chair to support the doors.

    The children woken up were crying, Marysia broke the windows.

        "Run - she started to scream at them - Run"

            The men on the other side of the door heard the breaking glass and some of them rushed outside, those in the kitchen started hurriedly to hit the door with their axes. Marysia didn't have an inkling to surrender. She struck the first one that came in through the window. He didn't expect that and fell back out onto the snow screaming with pain.

            Marysia didn't wait, she broke the remaining windows, and pushed through them the two oldest children. Others couldn't get out, she then jumped outside and leaning through the window tried to get the smallest ones out. In the mean time the doors to the kitchen were destroyed by the axe men. Few men run into the kitchen. They started to cut with axes and thrust with their pitchforks. The screams of the dying children took the heart from Marysia. She panicked and started to run, as far as possible from that terrible place. Chasing her were the last screams of Zosia, grand daughter of Gorski family. The Ukrainians saw her as she sat with her knees drawn under her chin in the darkest corner of the room. That didn't save her, she died from stab wounds of the asailants pitchforks.

            One of the men took a candle and started to look around the room, they couldn't find the body of Marysia so they went searching outside. In the fruit garden behind the pear tree they fund Janek, grandson of the Mirski family. He was shivering from cold and from fright. His pleading eyes looked with pity towards them and begged for mercy. He didn't understand what was happening, why did Marysia tell him to run from the warm house into the freezing garden. He looked with eyes wide open at the men that were gathering around him in a circle, and saw how they were raising their pitchforks. He was surprised that they wanted to hurt him. He had never seen any of them before and whenever he came home through the fields he never did any harm to the Ukrainian wheat fields. Why did they want to hurt him? The men didn't have the time to ask. Stepan with one quick hit of an axe split the boy's skull in two, two of his accomplices thrust him with their pitchforks, just for good measure. They were going after Marysia. They wanted to "play" with her, she was pretty, and then they'd cut her throat, slowly so that she could feel the knife until she died. Moments later they came upon Zosia Makowska. She didn't even have the time to scream, when Taras thrust his pitchfork into her.

            The sky started to get lighter, and soon the first rays of the morning sun came through. On a gothic Cerkiew the crosses were seen to shine in the morning sunshine. Ukrainians knew that the time of killing was over, it was time to go home to their wives and children. They were mad as they couldn't catch the girl. Stepan swore, he was mad, whole night he "fought" for the independent Ukraine and chasing that girl proved fruitless. In the meantime those who stayed in the houses took all the possessions of the slain. To late, he must go home with empty hands.

        When the men of the neighbouring village came to the house there were puddles of blood that had frozen on the ground and the bodies of the children were laid out in a circle around the table like a wreath.

 For the terminology of items marked with an * see the explanation page

Copyright; Paul Havers

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