8. Withdrawal across the Zbruch near Husiatyn
The battalion at Victoria was actually surrounded by the enemy, and only one road remained open: the Victoria-Lisovody-Husiatyn railroad, which was continually patrolled by a platoon, on flatcars, and armed with machine-guns. The day after Lieut. Musiyenko's disappearance our guard platoons were exchanging fire with the enemy from early morning and were forced to withdraw. We had to break out of the encirclement, and withdrawal was made more difficult because I had only one locomotive. The engineer was a Pole, but we had had an opportunity to find out that he could be trusted, moreover, one day he had asked me directly to let him join his own people if we crossed the Zbruch, and I promised to do so. That afternoon I dispatched the first supply train to Husiatyn, which is west of the Zbruch, and when the locomotive came back, after two hours, everything was ready for immediate departure under the direct cover of my flatcars. I ordered Capt. Moroz and Lieut. Madij to leave Horodok immediately and to march through Lisovody to East Husiatyn where the battery was to prepare the position, with an observation point on a bluff on the east of the river. There were trenches on the bluff from World War I, and although they were facing west, they could be used in the opposite direction. I called Capt. Moroz' particular attention to a wooded defile west of Horodok which could conceal an ambush. Things happened just as I had feared. First of all, Capt. Moroz started late. The whole battalion was at the Lisovody station when we heard rifle shots, then three mortar shots in the woods, and then all was quiet. Within a few minutes Capt. Moroz and his squadron ran out of the woods in disorder and stopped in front of me; I was with a rear-guard platoon on the road. The battery was missing! But it came in sight after a few minutes, in disorder! As I had expected, the battery had been attacked in the woods by the Bolsheviks, and also probably by neighboring peasants, because it was reported that the enemy was in great force, and our cavalry squadron not only did not defend the battery, but not even itself! Lieut. Madij and several non-coms from the battery were captured, some were killed and some wounded. This was a terrible and unnecessary loss. It was getting dark, and the patrols reported that the enemy was still encircling us, so I gave orders to leave for Husiatyn right away. I removed Capt. Moroz from the command of the cavalry company.
During the night I put patrols around the Husiatyn bridgehead, pushing sentries to the eastern end of the village of Velyky Olkhovets, in order to guard Husiatyn from enemy artillery fire. While doing this I encountered Lieut. Z. Stefaniv of the Ukrainian Galician Army, whose company was guarding the west bank of the Zbruch. The following morning the Bolsheviks approached the line of my patrols and began firing at Husiatyn from two batteries and from an armored train. This was actually the first battle of my battalion. The patrols did not stop the enemy, although we had the support of the UHA artillery firing from positions west of Husiatyn, and we began crossing the Zbruch. I kept only one company, with two machine-guns, in the trenches on the bluff to halt the enemy advance. I stayed with the company to get a clear picture of the situation, but I also observed that my presence was necessary because the morale of my soldiers was shaky, probably due to the loss of the battery and the apparently overwhelming numbers of the enemy.
Lacking any orders from my high command, I left the company of Capt. Blahovishchensky, in order to put sentries for the night on the west bank of the Zbruch together with Lieut. Stefaniv, and withdrew my battalion to the nearby village of Vasylkivtsi. The whole Zbruch sector, the so-called Third Sector, was held by two Galician battalions with two batteries under Major Martynovych who had his staff headquarters of the Third Sector of Front with the Staff-Quarters in the village of Krohulets. That same evening. Major Martynovych accompanied by his aide, Capt. Penchak came to see me and requested that my battalion man this Sector. He said he would transfer a battery to my command, the 6th, under Captain V. Zarytsky. Soon Major Orobko came to me with identical orders from the Army Staff. He was the commandant of the Chortkiv Military District, and he also brought me an appointment to command the Third Sector with responsibility for the defense of the Zburch line from Skala to Pidvolochyska. South of my command the Zbruch line was held by a group under Col. M. Shapoval, and north of me the front was held by Otaman Bozhko.
The Bolsheviks did not attempt to force the Zbruch, and I ordered the bridge at Husiatyn to be left intact, just to hold it under heavy fire. One night we made a sortie to the east bank of the Zbruch and took several prisoners. We learned from them that we were faced by the 12th and 13th Volochysk regiments. The front was fairly quiet and I managed to organize a battery with two cannon. Soon thereafter, in connection with a planned offensive to the east, I was given additional troops: the Rybnyk regiment with about 200 men under the command of Colonel Matsak. Pursuant to orders of the Army Staff, from then my battalion, the Rybnyk regiment, and the 6th SS Battery, formed the so-called Colonel Shandruk Group.
We did not get fresh orders until May 21. New events, however, occurred in the meantime. In the course of reorganizing the Army, Col. V. Salsky was appointed Commander of the Zaporozhian Corps, and Col. P. Bolbochan was transferred to the reserve, to the command of the Chief of Staff of the Ukrainian Galician Army. Col. Bolbochan believed that he was being treated unjustly and tried to get back to his command of the Corps. Probably due to the fact that the Zaporozhian battalion was originally part of the Corps, although it had since been detached, Col. Bolbochan came to see me on May 16th and requested to talk to me alone. Col. Bolbochan told me his personal sad story about being removed from his command without cause, and added that the division commanders of the Corps and all of the ranks were clamoring for his return because without him the Corps could lose its historical battle valor. He said that he was being urged to do this regardless of the consent of the Commander in Chief, Simon Petlura. Col. Bolbochan asked me whether he could count on my support. I answered: "I don't think it right to make such a 'coup d'etat' under difficult conditions of war; in my opinion the division commanders of the Corps' units could present the case of the Corps to the Commander-in-Chief through the channel of the Army Staff, suggesting that you should be restored to your command. Regardless of whether the battalion is engaged in battle or not, I shall never take part in an adventure, but I shall be happy if the case is resolved in your favor in a legitimate manner." We learned later, however, that Col. Bolbochan proceeded on his own, taking over the command of the Corps by force and arresting Col. Salsky. The result was an order for the arrest of Col. Bolbochan issued by C.I.C.S., Petlura and a subsequent court-martial ending in a sentence of death by firing squad. The sentence was duly carried out. He was executed ten days after sentencing.
It should be noted that the institution of State Inspection was introduced into the Army at that time. Its task was the investigation of the political beliefs of the commanders, educational and cultural work among the troops, plus the duty of controlling the quartermaster corps. This innovation was probably patterned after "the most democratic" Bolshevik system, since the institution of political commissars existed only there. In our Army, however, this caused a wave of disapproval among the officer corps, as an alleged sign of distrust in its patriotism. I do not recall who was the author of this political move, but it was clear that it was the work of the political parties then in power, headed by Prime Minister I. Mazepa. In spite of its dissatisfaction and occasional ignoring of the State Inspection agents, the officer corps put up with this unwarranted and unexpected suspicion of disloyalty. It should, however, be stated for the sake of historical truth, that although State Inspection did not perform anything worthwhile, no real harm was done, outside of a few instances of misunderstanding between commanders and Inspection agents who pretended to be political commissars. The Inspection was not needed to watch over matters of loyalty to the state, and it had no time to attend to matters of education of the troops, as they were always on the march or in battle. State Inspection was headed by Col. V. Kedrovsky, a gentleman and patriot who was able to give proper direction to the work of his subordinates, demanding their full support of the commanding officers. My circumstances took a fortunate turn, as the regimental inspector did not interefere at all, while the inspector of the General Staff was my former classmate of the Historical-Philological Institute, Capt. M. Hladky, and the inspector of the Ministry of War was my personal friend, A. Pevny. All this turned out to be important to me when I was subsequently appointed commander of the 1st Recruit Regiment in Kamyanets. Anyway, the institution of State Inspection withered away, and was not reestablished in 1920.