Sir H. Rumbold to Earl Curzon.
Berne, February 5, 1919.
I HAVE the honour to transmit to your Lordship herewith a copy of a letter addressed by Madame X ——, a Polish lady, from Cracow, to a compatriot at Paris.
Madame X —— ‘s letter gives a certain amount of apparently first-hand infor-mation relative to conditions in the Ukraine, where, according to the writer, the Poles have frequently been the victims of appalling outrages.
I have, &c.
Enclosure in No.34
Letter from Madame X——.
Cracow, January 17, 1919.
I OFTEN wonder if you and our fellow-countrymen in Switzerland know anything about the events which are occurring in the unfortunate parts of our country from which we were forced to flee. I imagine very little is known, and yet these regions, although far from the centre, are nevertheless in Europe, and are still inhabited by civilised people, who are at present in the most terrible state. Their property is confiscated and pillaged, their lives are often in danger, and they cannot even flee, as their retreat is cut off.
From October 1917 to February 1918 bands of soldiers and armed peasants pillaged and laid waste the whole of Russia and the Ukraine ; all household property without exception―farms, gentlemen's places, and buildings of every description―were burnt or pulled down, forests cut down, without anyone in authority putting an end to this craze for destruction, this is the way the Russian and Ukrainian peasants entered into possession of the lands granted them freely by the Bolshevik Government and the Ukrainian Government. It is needless to add that nothing escaped being pillaged, not even churches and graves being spared. The unfortunate landed proprietors, as well the farmers, farm labourers, and workmen in factories took refuge in the towns in an attempt to save what they could of their belongings. There pillaging still continued, on the plea of carrying out a search. The arrival of the Austro-German armies in February 1918 put an end to this craze for robbery and rapine.
Owners regained possession of their property, of the ruins of their houses and farms, and what remained of their forests. There was even mention of a commission which would make a valuation of losses suffered and make those responsible pay for them. However, in the winter of 1918 the Austro-German armies retreated, and a band of bravoes resumed the reins of Government in the Ukraine, and the land became again The prey of peasants' committees, who cannot pillage anything, as the country is laid waste and covered with ruins.
What is happening now is of quite a different nature. and is manifestly anti-Polish. Last year it was landed proprietors that were attacked, now they want to destroy everything Polish regardless of class distinctions.
As I am far away and have little news, my information is certainly somewhat meagre, and yet the events that I am going to relate to you are true.
In the Proskorow district the peasants burnt M. Stanislas Skibiewski alive after torturing him for two days. Two brothers Kostkiewicz, as well as Mme. Malinowska, were murdered by peasants. Mme. Marie Mankowska and her son have been imprisoned for several weeks, and nobody knows what will happen to them. All the prisons are crammed with Poles who are undergoing the most terrible treatment. Jerome Sobanski and his son are among the prisoners.
Fourteen members of Michel Sobanski's Government were frightfully tortured before being killed, and the same fate has befallen the members of Bialo Cerkiew's Government. At Brycow seven members of the Grocholscy Government were mutilated before being murdered. In Berdiozew district Malaszewski, manager of a factory, and Wroczynski, sub-manager, were murdered. In Volhynia the two brothers Plater of Dambrovica were burnt alive. At Kamieneo, Alexandre Sadowski has been in prison for a long time, and great anxiety is felt for his life. At Czere Paszynce the gamekeeper was killed after being frightfully tortured. Catholic priests are exposed to every indignity, and their lives are always in danger. At Bazalia during Mass seventy people were arrested in church. In the towns Polish and Russian landowners are arrested and imprisoned. The peasants in the country come to find them, and the prisoners are handed over to them with permission to do what they like with them. It is only by means of very heavy ransoms that they manage occasionally to save their lives.
With regard to your own property, the house and the farmhouses were still standing last November. Malejowce is destroyed, and the forests are in a terrible state. At Strychowce nothing is left standing ; our properties are completely laid waste.
Petlura's band has seized the banks as well as the sugar factories, and it is impossible to draw any money or shares belonging to companies without first obtaining the signature of the peasants' committee.
It is also said that half the money in the banks belonging to private accounts has been confiscated. At any rate, it is quite certain that part of the capital belonging to private individuals has been seized at the Union Bank at Kamisnec.
If public opinion, as voiced by the European press, has denounced and condemned the excesses and crimes committed in Belgium, Serbia, and the Duchy of Posen, why should the crimes committed by the Bolsheviks and the Ukrainians remain unknown. It is the wish of the unfortunate people who ask for the assistance and implore the protection of the Allied armies, that France, England, and America should be informed of what is going on.
As Warsaw turns a deaf ear, being too much taken up with its political questions, and the Polish armies have enough to do with the Ruthenians in Galicia, and cannot give any help to people further away, we should like our committees in Switzerland to be kept fully informed, and to be able to represent to the French and English press how matters stand. It is with this object in view that I write to you and place myself at your disposal if more information can be sent which could be published in the press.