“Hetman's Three” in the Sky of America
In 1934, a yellow and blue biplane with a trident on its side and the inscription “Ukraine” would periodically take off to the skies over the United States. Soon it was accompanied by two more planes – “Lviv” and “Kyiv”. They took part in Ukrainian holidays and various aviation parades. The press called them the “Hetman’s Three”. These were the planes of the Union of Hetmanists-Statesmen (UHS). They were going to be used for information and propaganda purposes. But not just for those. Documents from the Intelligence’s archives tell the story of the appearance of planes and aviation schools in Ukrainian emigration circles.
Turning up of planes in Ukrainian emigrant organizations in the United States and Canada was preceded by extensive preparatory work. In 1922, educational and sports societies and clubs in Eastern Canada, led by Volodymyr Bosyi, a former member of Pavlo Skoropadskyi’s government, merged into the Sich Organization (Sich). Two years later, conservative state circles of emigration in the United States adopted the Hetmanite ideology and created the Ukrainian Sich Organization of America (Hetmanite Sich).
These were political monarchical organizations of Ukrainians who supported Pavlo Skoropadskyi and promoted the idea of the monarchical system of Ukraine (led by Hetman). This idea was substantiated and defended by Vyacheslav Lypynskyi. The Hetmanite movement in various forms became widespread in many countries around the world. Most of all - in Europe, where after the defeat of the Hetmanite were living P. Skoropadskyi, V. Lypynskyi and their closest associates. At the same time, a large number of supporters lived in the United States and Canada. In 1934, they renamed the Sich organizations the Union of Hetmanists- Statesmen of America and Canada. In total, in the 1930s, there were more than 60 centres of the Union on the North American continent.
At that time, the Chief Otaman of the Sich organizations of America was Oleksandr Shapoval, and later - Omelyan Tarnavskyi. Through their efforts, American and Canadian Sich organizations became one of the most influential Ukrainian émigré organizations of the time overseas. They included a number of sports sections, cultural and educational institutions; they published brochures, newspapers and books. The idea of creating schools to train Ukrainian pilots and, accordingly, to purchase aircrafts soon arose.
According to the plan, these airplanes were to become the basis for the training of Ukrainian aviation specialists. After all, during all the years of emigration, Hetmanists hoped for resumption of the armed struggle for Ukraine's independence and were preparing to take part in that struggle.
In the early 1930s, collection of voluntary donations to the Ukrainian Aviation Fund was organized to purchase aircrafts. The money was used to purchase the Travel Air 3000 biplane, which was inaugurated in Detroit in August 1934. They gave it the name “Ukraine”. Colonel Antin Tchaikivskyi became its pilot.
We learn about the approximate cost of the aircrafts from the Union of Hetmanists- Statesmen in Canada’s journal (Issue 1 for January 1935) from the archives of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine. This instructive letter, which was sent to all the Hetmanists’ grassroots organizations, stated: “Each Kish must run a company and send at least $ 20.00 to the District Team to cover the costs of building Ukrainian aircrafts. The construction of two aircrafts will cost about $ 450,000 ”(BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. - Case 7242. - Vol. 16. – P. 606–606 / 02).
The second purchased aircraft, called “Lviv”, was blessed in September 1934 in Chicago. The third, “Kyiv”, — also in Chicago in September 1937. This event was timed to coincide with the visit to the United States and Canada of Danylo Skoropadskyi, the son and heir of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi.
The consecration ceremony of “Kyiv” was accompanied by demonstration flights and inviting guests to board the plane. Besides, the Hetman’s son drove the plane from Chicago to Detroit, where he met with the local Ukrainian community. This action had a lot of publicity. The Order of the Union of Hetmanists- Statesmen of the United States of North America of November 24, 1937, stated: “The latest pilot-training action, which ended with the purchase and solemn blessing of the third aircraft “Kyiv”, with the participation of the greatly respected Hetman’s son Danylo, raised high confidence in our Organization in the eyes of broad Ukrainian community on American land. And His Majesty Hetman of all Ukraine’s son’s travelling America made a huge propaganda of the Hetmanite state idea of our organization, even among those Ukrainian people whose attitude to the Hetmanite Movement used to be indifferent (or sometimes hostile!” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. - Spr. № Case 7242, V.-5, P. - 34).
A great preparatory work preceded buying the aircrafts. Simultaneously with fundraising, the first Flying School was founded in Chicago in late October 1933. The paper received by the NKVD of the USSR, apparently through its foreign sources, describes in detail the training of future pilots.
“2 – hour lectures (in the evening) — twice a week”, the document says. “The curriculum was applied to private American flying schools (aviation and mechanics)” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. –Case - 7242. - Vol. 16. - P. 610). After a full theoretical course and flight practice, graduates were supposed to receive a standard certificate.
As a result, the students had to work hard to master the difficult course of study. Not surprisingly, 12 people (out of the first 30 boys and girls of Ukrainian origin) were expelled two months later due to unfitness for the profession and eight more - after the first year of study. The rest - nine boys and one girl, according to the document, after completing the theoretical course, “begin the practical driving the airplane of the Union of Hetmanists-Statesmen “Lviv”. And only six of them give hope that “they can become good aviators”.
Among the teachers at the Chicago School are mentioned instructor pilots Ukrainian Volodymyr Kharkiv and American George Franklin Chard.
The second Flying School was founded in late December 1934 in Detroit. 40 students enrolled in it. But a year later, “17 students, including 2 girls, successfully completed studies and stayed until the beginning of 1935”. At the same time, it is noted that during his inspection of the School, the Acting Otaman of the Union of Hetmanists-Statesmen, aviator instructor Antin Tchaikivsky pointed out that “about 10 of its current students give full hope to become good aviators”.
Along with the instructor, the document mentions the main patron of the Flying School merchant Mykola Kyptyk. He is described as the “head of the board” and one of the richest Ukrainian businessmen in Detroit. And the members of the board were mostly representatives of the Union of Hetmanists-Statesmen.
The third Flying School was opened in March 1935 in Syracuse, New York. The patron of the school was the Greek Catholic pastor Mykhailo Kuziv. He provided the church premises for classes. Ivan Sheremeta, a member of the UHS, became the head of the board. And the instructor was a professional aviator-mechanic Ivan Moskal.
Among the archival documents there are invitations and the program of the Flying holiday, organized on July 1, 1935 by Ukrainians in the Canadian province of Manitoba on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of King George V of Great Britain’s accession to the throne.
The main event of the holiday was the arrival of the biplane “Ukraine” accompanied by a Canadian plane. They planned to carry out demonstration flights with maneuvers and “skydiving”. The program of the holiday stated that the Ukrainian plane would be piloted by Antin Tchaikivsky, and with him will come the Commanding Otaman of the UHS, Colonel Oleksandr Shapoval – the UHS referent of the Pilots and editor of “Our Flag”, ex- Commandant of the Bogdaniv Regiment and Minister of the Ukrainian State”.
Such aviation holidays were held with great success in the United States and Canada. They were accompanied by prayers for Ukraine, speeches by dignitaries, dancing to orchestra music, singing and feasting on various dishes. The money from ticket sales went to the establishment and maintenance of Flying Schools.
The UHS's activities in the aviation attracted so many other Ukrainian émigré organizations in the United States and Canada that they also began to purchase aircrafts and organize aviation schools. Thus, the Organization for the State Revival of Ukraine, established in 1931 in New York, actively joined this. In September 1933, one of its leading members, Yevhen Lyakhovych, wrote a letter from London to his acquaintance - a Ukrainian businessman in the United States who held a position at an aircraft manufacturing plant.
“Could you be so kind”, Lyakhovych wrote, “as to write a “scientific study” on the manufacturing of airplanes in our region after the overthrow of the occupiers, emphasizing our real potential as well as our shortcomings”. He did not stop there but made the following request: “We need at least one airplane for our work. If we had it, we could create a pilot school in one of our friendly countries. We need this in the interests of the common cause… I ask you on behalf of the OUN (forgive my boldness) to make us one plane “as a gift”. If it is not completely new - it does not matter” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. – Case 9860. - Vol. 1. – P. 23). But the end of this story cannot be traced.
At the same time, the declassified documents show that this issue was of great concern to the Soviet leadership. For example, in a letter dated March 28, 1934 to the head of the Foreign Department of the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR Volodymyr Karelin, Deputy Head of the Foreign Department of the OGPU of the USSR Abram Slutskyi pointed out that not only Yevhen Lyakhovych's intentions to buy a plane for the OUN were known. “Apart from this, we received a message from A / 212 about the establishment of two Ukrainian Sich pilot schools in America, one in New York and the other for sea pilots in Chicago. The known to you Colonel Shapoval from Chicago reported this to Hetman Skoropadskyi. The stations in America were told to check and carefully study the information about the organization of schools and to pay special attention to the organization of the school of pilots in Europe at the expense of American resources” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. – Case 9860. - Vol. 1. – P. 100).
All in all, according to researchers, various Ukrainian organizations in the United States and Canada in the interwar years had founded 12 aviation schools. This work greatly raised the patriotic spirit of Ukrainians abroad and instilled confidence that if the opportunity arose, they would be ready to lend a hand in the struggle for the restoration of Ukraine's independence.
The idea of using airplanes and Ukrainian pilots trained abroad in advance in case of a new Western world war with the USSR was hotly debated in emigration circles. But it did not come to its practical application.