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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Unconquered in battle

Rivne enthusiasts reenacted the battle of Hurby that had been fought in the region 70 years ago, pitting the Ukrainian Insurgent Army’s fighters against Soviet security forces
29 April, 2014 - 11:37

The battle lasted three days and was worthy of the Spartans themselves, historians maintain. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA) sent up to 5,000 fighters to it. They saved the last bullet for themselves rather than risk being captured. Meanwhile, the Soviet security forces numbered between 20,000 and 35,000 elite soldiers, supported by aircraft and armored trains. Their previous task had been evicting the Chechens from their homes, historian Oleh Tyshchenko commented. This time, their objective was to oust the Ukrainian insurgents from the woods and break them with one blow. Still, they failed. The UIA force managed to break through the encirclement with about 3,000 fighters left. However, the insurgents had been unable to take with them civilian population of the area and the hospital with severely wounded fighters and nurses. The Soviets brutally murdered them all in Provorottia locality. However, security forces recognized that they never met such a resistance before or since.

“The battle of Hurby was the largest in the UIA’s history. The state security troops and the insurgents followed different tactics. The latter generally avoided engagements on such a scale, but circumstances had forced their hand. At that time, the UIA units were concentrated in one area of the forest. Having assessed the situation, they decided to break the encirclement and leave the forest, and went on to succeed. Tragically, the insurgents could not take with them the wounded and local peasants,” head of the Rivne Local History Museum’s Institute of Volynian Studies Ihor Marchuk commented. “Soviet documents mention heavy losses on the part of the insurgents and many prisoners taken. It is difficult to verify now, but there are no mass graves on the battle’s site. Also, when I worked in archives, I did not see any large number of files dealing with people who were captured or arrested at the time. For the security forces, the operation was a temporary tactical success, as they did occupy the forest. However, the insurgents had not been eliminated, and returned to the forest some time after the state security units left it.”

2014 marks the 70th anniversary of the time when Hurby ravines and wooded hills saw people killing each other. To honor those who fell there, enthusiasts held a military-historical reenactment. The event was also dedicated to the Heavenly Sotnia.

“We have been reenacting the battle of Hurby for the third consecutive year. This year, over 50 reenactors from Rivne, Khmelnytsky, and Lutsk took part in the event. In general, the reenactment’s quality has improved by the year,” the event’s chief producer Mykhailo Balanovych explained. “I took part in excavations in Hurby once. We came across one burial with an insurgent’s body lying face down. A grenade was under his breast. The security forces did so deliberately, so that those who would come to identify the fallen would die too. An old man from the village of Zeleny Dub told us that villagers had erected a cross at the largest burial place. However, it was taken down, and the grave mined.”

In general, participants carefully prepared for the reenactment. They brought with them even military equipment of the era, and their clothes were authentic too, buttons included. By the way, Hurby has another attraction. A few years ago, reenactors reconstructed an insurgent hideout there. The thing is, when security forces succeeded in finding one, they studied it in detail and measured it. These drawings were stored in the archives before being published in independent Ukraine. Such drawings allowed reenactors to reconstruct a staff hideout. It could not be seen from outside. However, three rooms are underground, and one of them can accommodate up to 20 people. The hideout houses authentic exhibits donated by elderly UIA veterans. Thus, travelers who want to experience the spirit of the time are welcome to it.

By Tetiana ILNYTSKA, Rivne