Organization for the Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine. Support from Overseas


After the Second World War, some representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora in the USA came to the conclusion that the world’s attention to the Ukrainian issue was decreasing, and therefore the support for the liberation struggle for Ukraine’s independence was decreasing. In order to somehow change the situation, the Organization for the Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine (ODFFU) was created. Immediately, this information came to the attention of the mgb of the ussr and became the reason for a new operational cultivation. The greatest concern, as evidenced by declassified documents, was the program provisions of the Organization, which emphasized the threat posed by moscow's policy not only to the Ukrainian nation, but to the entire civilized world.

The first mentions of the new émigré organization are found in the mgb’s case against Yevhen Liakhovych, which is kept in the archives of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine. In a document from moscow, addressed to the chief of the first directorate (foreign intelligence) of the mgb of the Ukrainian ssr Mykola Pohribnyi, it was reported that in the United States there was a meeting of Ukrainian nationalists who announced the formation of the Organization for the Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine.

“The main task of the ODFFU”, reads the document, “is to provide material and moral assistance to Ukrainian nationalists in Europe for the creation of an independent Ukrainian state. This organization is headed by the former co-editor of the Ukrainian nationalist newspaper “Svoboda” in the United States Yevhen Liakhovych, known due to the materials from 1940 as a liaison between the Provid of the OUN in Europe and nationalist organizations in the United States. At the meeting of the ODFFU held in New York on June 15, 1946, the Provisional Central Board was elected, at the same time it was decided to convene a congress to approve the name of the organization, the charter and elect the permanent leadership. The meeting appealed to the Ukrainians of America to fight for the spread of the ideals of the Atlantic Charter in Ukraine and recognized this Charter as a temporary statute'” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. – Case 9860. - Vol. 1. - P. 164).

Another document addressed to the resident of the mgb of the ussr in New York comrade Stepan, entrusts him with the task: “Please, tell us what you know about this organization and its leaders”. The mgb wanted to know everything – from the unusual name to the pure interpretation of the concept of the “four freedoms”.

They already had some information about Yevhen Liakhovych himself. The case against him was opened at the end of 1933 by the foreign department of the ogpu of the ussr under the name “Polyak”. At the same time, he had the codename “Okey” among his supporters in the liberation struggle. At that time, the proceedings in the case did not stop. According to the documents available in the case, it was found out that E. Liakhovych served in the Ukrainian Galician Army from 1918 to 1921, then, in 1922-1923, he studied at the Institute of Technology in the city of Danzig. He was active in the Ukrainian student movement and in the underground Ukrainian Military Organization. For a long time he cooperated with one of the main ideologues of Ukrainian nationalism, Dmytro Dontsov. In 1923, he left for the USA and continued his studies at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in New York. In 1929, he became a US citizen. There, he was spreading among Ukrainians the ideas of the Ukrainian Military Organization, and then of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.

At that time, he met Yevhen Konovalets, when the latter was visiting the USA to meet with representatives of various organizations and private individuals interested in the development of the Ukrainian nationalist movement. Ye. Konovalets really impressed Ye. Liakhovych, and his stories about the state of affairs in his homeland led to Liakhovych’s quitting his job, measured life and leaving for his native land.

In 1933, Ye. Konovalets sent him to London as an official representative of the OUN. That mission consisted in establishing contacts with British government circles and clarifying the OUN’s positions regarding the situation around Ukraine and in Eastern Europe as a whole. He had considerable success in this field, he met repeatedly with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain. In the British press, he published articles about Ukraine and OUN, in particular, he wrote in English and distributed the work “The Ukrainian Issue”. In 1935, he returned to the USA, worked in a machine-building firm in New York and continued to take an active part in Ukrainian public activities.

As for the “Four Freedoms”, the mgb found out that the name and ideology of the Organization were based on US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Declaration, which was the basis of the Atlantic Charter. In an address to the US Congress on January 6, 1941, known as the “Four Freedoms Speech”, he determined four fundamental freedoms as the main principles of democracy that people all over the world should have. These are freedom of speech (the right of a person and the entire people to freely express their own opinion), freedom of conscience (impossible in the circumstances of any occupation, also implies freedom of religion), freedom from fear (the right to freely create such political, public, cultural and economic organizations, which a person considers to be the best for the nation), freedom from poverty (fair social order for the whole community).

In the materials of the case, a notice on the creation of the ODFFU is cited from Issue 1 of “Visnyk” of this Organization dated June 15, 1946. In particular, the following is noted: “A great struggle is taking place on Ukrainian lands... Hundreds of thousands of men and women are participating in this struggle. They are fighting for freedom, for the four freedoms that were proclaimed in the Atlantic Charter by the American President and the British Prime Minister. During this struggle against the totalitarian system, they created the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), and later the Ukrainian government, called the Ukrainian Main Liberation Council. We, American Ukrainians, must help them in whatever way we can. For this, a group of people in New York and Newark decided to create a new organization, the aim of which would be to help brothers and sisters in the old land to get: freedom, self-governance, own independent state.

According to the Statute, the activities of the Organization were not limited exclusively to the political sphere, but included cultural, educational and many others. It was about lobbying Ukrainian interests in the American government and defending human rights and freedoms in Ukraine, organizing and holding various historical and educational events to preserve national memory, identity, etc. More details about these and other aspects of the activities of the ODFFU were learned by the mgb after the Organization held its first Congress in New York on August 31, 1947. The residentura obtained a report on the Congress, the texts of greetings to the participants from the leader of the OUN Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian Main Liberation Council, from the Branch of the OUN Foreign Units and the Resolution of the Congress.

In his greetings, S. Bandera emphasized that the ideas of state independence and unity of Ukraine, the free development of the Ukrainian people are consistent with the ideas of freedom that the free countries of America have recognized and affirmed throughout their history. Therefore, throughout the text, the opinion was held that the support to the Ukrainian people in their struggle should be logical and unchanging, while indifference would have consequences for the “free world” itself.

“Ukraine carries the world flag of continuous and uncompromising struggle against the totalitarian imperialisms of Hitler and bolsheviks”, the greeting said. – “Ukraine has shown the whole world that there is no significant difference between these two enemies of humanity and freedom, that peoples who want to live freely have one way to fight against two totalitarianisms. This one and only path is covered by the victims of the Ukrainian people in an unequal struggle against two totalitarianisms... At the same time, our path is the only right one and other peoples who will not want to allow totalitarian tyranny and slavery to take over the world will turn to it. The indifferent attitude of the strongest nations to the heroic struggle of Ukraine and its allies against bolshevism will become the darkest page of our era. The future will show that for this indifference, for collaborationism and the conclusion of pacts with the greatest enemy of humanity – bolshevism – the respective peoples will pay with their own heavy sacrifices. With its uncompromising struggle against Hitler's and bolshevik totalitarian imperialism, Ukraine gained the strongest moral and political positions and became the leader of the people's struggle for the defense of freedom. Its voice to the world is the voice of conscience, warning, alarm, the voice of a herald in the struggle for defense and against destruction. Ukraine fulfills a great mission for all mankind” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. – Case 8049. – P. 17-18).

Greetings from Ukrainian Main Liberation Council was in tune with S. Bandera’s. It emphasized that the Armed Forces of the Ukrainian people – the Ukrainian Insurgent Army – do not stop bloody battles with the moscow-bolshevik occupier on their native land, which needs all kinds of support, including from all people of good will who live far across the ocean.

Support for this struggle was mentioned in the Resolution of the Congress. It is no coincidence that its full text is kept in the case file. On the basis of these provisions and, in fact, the program goals of the ODFFU, the mgb of the ussr prepared a circular for all regional offices of the mgb in order to have an idea of ​​this new Organization and plan appropriate operational measures.

The Resolution expressed admiration for the heroism of the UPA and called for the collection of donations and medicines for its soldiers. There was a call to the entire civilized world to support the Ukrainian underground and its armed forces, because they 'are the first front line in the fight against communism, against this great danger, which threatens not only the Ukrainian people with general destruction, but also the entire civilized world with similar destruction”.

“The Congress asserts”, the first point of the resolution read, “that the civilized world is currently threatened by a materialistic ideology that draws its strength from communist russia. If this materialistic ideology took over the world, it would crush all the noble values ​​of people, introduce cruel despotism, destroy people’s freedom, respect for man, our current high standard of living would disappear, and in its place would appear material hardship and general spiritual numbness'.

And in the last point, the Congress instructed to send a telegram to US President Truman and Secretary of State Marshall, which “would reflect the struggle of the UPA against bolshevik aggression, as well as the fact that this aggression can be fundamentally broken only by separating Ukraine from russia and creating an independent Ukrainian State” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. – Case 8049. – P. 12-15).

Among the archival materials, there is also information about the next Congresses of the ODFFU (Congresses were held every year). Thus, it is mentioned that 250 delegates took part in the work of the third Congress – representatives of branches of this Organization, various institutions and guests, among whom were 10 commanders and fighters of the UPA. It is pointed out that Hnat Bilynskyi, who came to the USA back in 1946 and delivered a speech at the first Congress as a direct participant of the Ukrainian underground, became the head of the Organization instead of Yevhen Liakhovych. The words from his speech are quoted about the need to strengthen the campaign in the USA to inform about the liberation struggle of the Ukrainian people and to intensify the work on collecting funds for the “Fund for Aid to Fighting Ukraine and the Heroic UPA”.

At the same time, apart from general information about the ODFFU, the mgb of the Ukrainian ssr failed to obtain anything else about the Organization’s activities. Therefore, due to non existence of operational sources within the Organization and in the close circle of active members, the case was soon closed. Despite this, even the information available in the archives shows that already 80 years ago, prominent figures of the Ukrainian diaspora in the USA did see saw the threats posed by the kremlin’s aggressive policy not only to the Ukrainian nation, but to the entire civilized world and loudly declared about this, urged to counter it in time and not to remain indifferent.

It was important that the ODFFU itself believed in the fundamental principles of democracy – the right of a person and the entire people to free expression of their own opinion, freedom of conscience, freedom from fear, a fair social system for the entire community.