Pavel Sudoplatov Versus Eugene Lachowitch

5/20/2021
singleNews

A year before the KGB Senior Lieutenant Pavlo Sudoplatov assassinated the leader of the OUN Yevhen Konovalets in Rotterdam, he opened a case against Eugene Lachowitch, about whom one of the documents states: “He is considered one of the best diplomats and intelligence officers among nationalists”. Declassified documents from the Archives of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine make it possible to understand why in the 1930s the GPU was so interested in Eugene Lachowitch, how he managed to draw the British government’s attention to the Ukrainian question and why in 1959 the decision to cultivate him was made by the KGB board under the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

Eugene Lachowitch is one of the little-studied personalities among the representatives of the Ukrainian people’s liberation struggle for independence. If it were not for his article “Activities of the OUN in London in 1933-1935” in a book of memoirs about Ye. Konovalets (Yevhen Konovalets and His Time. - Munich, 1974), almost nothing would be known about him.

The online encyclopedia “Ukrainians in the United Kingdom” provides a short biography and a small photo of Eu. Lachowitch. It mentions that Eugene Lachowitch was an engineer, journalist, and public and political figure. He was born on June 4, 1900 in the village of Ushnya, Zolochiv povit (district-transl.), Austro-Hungarian Empire (now - Zolochiv district, Lviv region).

From 1918 to 1921 he served in the Ukrainian Galician Army. From 1922 to 1923 he studied at the Technical Institute in the Free City of Danzig. There he was active in the Ukrainian student movement and in the underground Ukrainian Military Organization (UVO). In 1923 he left for the United States and continued his studies at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in New York. In 1929 he became a US citizen. He spread among Ukrainians in the United States the ideas of the UVO, and then – of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). In 1930–1932 he was in Galicia. Having returned to the United States, he helped build the Organization for the Rebirth of Ukraine (ODVU), established by the OUN in 1931 in New York.

In 1933 he moved to London as the OUN's representative in Great Britain in order to gain the British government’s support for the Ukrainian liberation movement. He had many meetings with representatives of the British Foreign Office. He published articles about Ukraine and the OUN in the British press. In 1935 he returned to the United States. From 1936 through 1942 he was a co-editor of the Svoboda magazine, after which he worked for a machine-building firm in New York until 1948. He took an active part in Ukrainian public activities as a leading member of the ODVU. In 1946 in New York he was the main founder of the Organization for the Defense of Four Freedoms of Ukraine. Until 1948 he was its first chairman and editor of the Visnyk newspaper. He then worked for several engineering companies in Miami and Florida until his retirement in 1965. He died on October 16, 1976 in Boca Raton (Florida, USA).

When Eugene Lachowitch was first noticed by the State Political Directorate (GPU), almost nothing was known about him. One of the first papers reads: “Lachowitch Eugene, a member of the Provid (leadership- transl.) and a representative of the OUN in England, 36 years old, lives in London…, Ukrainian, has an American passport, is fluent in English. He is considered one of the best diplomats and intelligence officers among nationalists… In December 1933, he had to visit the USSR at the head of a group of 15 people with terrorist tasks regarding comrades Postyshev, Balytskyi and Zatonskyi. In 1934 he took part in negotiations with Ito, Adviser to the Japanese Embassy in Paris. One of the organizers of the ODVU in America, a branch of the OUN” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. - Case 6964. – P. 53).

Of course, this information immediately made Eugene Lachowitch a dangerous enemy of the Soviet government. Therefore, the best operational sources of the GPU were involved in gathering information about him. Soon they got some really interesting information. In particular, about Eugene Lachowitch’s becoming a member of the UVO in the first years of its creation, his co-working for many years with one of the main ideologues of Ukrainian nationalism Dmytro Dontsov. There is no information in the case about the circumstances of his going abroad. It is only noted that he got a good education, was a Doctor of Philosophy, had extensive contacts among Ukrainian emigrants, particularly in the United States. Distinguishing marks: above average height, light blond hair, grey - blue eyes, oval face, shaved. And soon they got a photo of Eugene Lachowitch (is being published for the first time).

At the end of 1933, the Foreign Department of the OGPU of the USSR opened an operative case against Eugene Lachowitch under the name “Pole» based on the totality of the materials received. At the same time, among like-minded people in the liberation movement, he had the pseudonym “Okay”. Apparently, because he often used this English expression in communication.

He met Yevhen Konovalets in 1929, when the latter came to the United States, where he visited major Ukrainian centres, held meetings with representatives of organizations and individuals interested in the development of the Ukrainian nationalist movement. At that time, with the assistance of the Head of the Provid of Ukrainian Nationalists, a foundation was laid for the future Organization for the Rebirth of Ukraine. Yevhen Konovalets made a great impression on Eugene Lachowitch, and his stories about the state of affairs in his homeland resulted in the newly made US citizen’s leaving his job, slow-paced life and going to his native land.

From 1930 to 1932 he was in Galicia and some European countries, where he tried to be useful for the Ukrainian cause. There is no information about that period of his activity in the case. Eugene Lachowitch wrote about his next steps in his memoirs: “Later, in 1932, on my way back to the United States after two years in Galicia, I met the Colonel again in Geneva (Switzerland). During the meeting, the Colonel asked me in detail about most different things and events in our native lands… At the end of those conversations, Colonel Konovalets suggested that I should return to the United States, become more active in the ODVU, make efforts for its growth and next year be ready to go to London and become the Representative of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in Great Britain”.

After a short stay in the United States, Eugene Lachowitch returned to Europe. Later he performed personal tasks of Yevhen Konovalets. The nature of those tasks somewhat reveals the secretive side of his activity and makes it possible to understand why the GPU documents mention him as “one of the best diplomats and intelligence officers among nationalists”.

Thus, in a letter dated September 24, 1933, to an acquaintance in business affairs in the United States, who held a certain position at an aircraft manufacturing enterprise, Eugene Lachowitch expresses two requests. First, he addresses the national feelings of his comrade, pointing out: “Busy with your responsible work, you may gradually forget about your homeland, but it does not forget about you”. He goes on to describe his visit to Galicia and writes that, according to his observations, the issue of Ukrainian statehood is moving forward: “We all believe that this will become a fait accompli over the next few years, so along with a number of other things, we are trying to take into account our special forces in advance”.

Only then does he go to the heart of the matter and asks, “Could you be so kind as to write “scientific research” about the production of airplanes in our lands after the overthrow of the occupiers, emphasizing our real potential as well as our shortcomings”. He does not stop there but expresses another 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 am asking you on behalf of the OUN (I apologize for daring) 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. – PP. 22–24).

The OUN's intentions to buy a plane, even at the expense of Ukrainian emigrants, and to create a pilot school are mentioned in other documents of the case. But the end of this story cannot be traced. Nevertheless, this episode is a clear evidence of one of the intelligence directions of the OUN leadership and Eugene Lachowitch’s participation in it.

Another interesting episode is his meeting with a leading Japanese diplomat, Baron Ubumi Ito. At that time, Yevhen Konovalets was actively establishing contacts with representatives of diplomatic and intelligence circles of Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, France, Japan and other countries. In particular, the Japanese proposed to the Ukrainian Nationalist Leadership to establish an OUN mission in Tokyo and organize a joint Anti-Bolshevik Front in the Far East. According to them, this should have been facilitated by the large Ukrainian diaspora in Manchuria and the significant percentage of Ukrainians in Siberia and in the Red Army garrisons there.

In 1933, Eugene Lachowitch had a meeting with Ubumi Ito, then Ambassador to Geneva. In the following years, when the Japanese diplomat was an Adviser to the Japanese Embassy in Paris and Ambassador to Warsaw, Eugene Lachowitch met with him twice to resolve organizational matters. During those talks, he pointed out that it was not beneficial for Japan to agree to the Soviet Union’s remaining in the Far East and constantly threatening its interests. Therefore, he was inclined to create, as a counterweight, a Ukrainian state within the then so-called Zelenyi Klyn (literally: Green Wedge/Gore- transl.).

One of the documents states: “Adviser to the Japanese Embassy U. Ito is negotiating with Lachowitch. Lachowitch is working on creating secret addresses in Ukraine and in Siberia (Green Wedge). In Paris, recruitment is carried out to the corps, which is being formed in Manchuria against the USSR”(BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. - F. 1. – Case 9860. - Vol. 1. - P. 44).

Eugene Lachowitch’s stay in Great Britain is given less attention in the case materials. Even though those two years can be considered perhaps the most important in his political career. After all, despite the British establishment’s cool attitude to Ukrainian affairs, he did manage to change the situation for better step by step.

Eugene Lachowitch went to London as an official representative of the OUN. His mission was to establish contacts with British government circles and explain the OUN's position on the situation around Ukraine and in Eastern Europe in general.

At first, the official British authorities were reluctant to make contact. Soon, however, a series of meetings took place with the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom. It was agreed that Eugene Lachowitch would have the opportunity to regularly submit to the British Foreign Office memoranda on the OUN’s position on topical political issues regarding Ukraine. In addition, he began active information activities – publishing articles in the British press and distributing materials about Ukraine among British journalists.

One of his good acquaintances was a famous British international journalist, serviceman, historian, economist, scientist who studied Ukrainian culture and lifestyle, public figure Lancelot Lawton. He sincerely showed interest in Ukraine, its history, culture, Ukrainians’ living conditions in the USSR. But he did not have enough information about it. Apparently, the acquaintance and close communication with Eugene Lachowitch also contributed in some way to L. Lawton’s significant influence on the formation of pro-Ukrainian public opinion in the British society. His selfless work as a journalist and one of the founders of the Anglo-Ukrainian Committee established in Great Britain in the mid-1930s, aimed at supporting the Ukrainian people in their striving for independence, became an important milestone in the history of Anglo-Ukrainian relations.

Eugene Lachowitch himself saw that there was practically no political literature about Ukraine in English in Great Britain. To fill this gap, he wrote a pamphlet in English entitled “ The Ukrainian Question” on about fifty typewritten pages. “Friends on the continent, - he wrote in his memoirs, - “without knowing English, letter by letter, copied it on matrices and printed it on a cycle style in a hundred of copies”. During one of the meetings, Lawton told Lachowitch that his pamphlet, modest in form, had a great influence on all Britons and convinced them that they were dealing with a representative of “a revolutionary group rich in ideology but poor in material means”.

Probably under the influence of “The Ukrainian Question” by Yevhen Lyakhovych, Lancelot Lawton soon prepared and published his brochures entitled “The Ukrainian Question” and “Ukraine: Europe's Biggest Problem” in separate editions. Those were the texts of his speeches before representatives of the British Parliament and the public. In particular, at the public hearing on May 29, 1935 in the House of Commons of Great Britain, on the situation in Ukraine.

Lawton then made a report entitled “The Ukrainian Question and Its Importance for Great Britain» and stated: “It would be hypocritical to deny that Ukraine's independence is as important for our state as it is for peace in the world. The problem has been ignored for too long - simply because it is very troublesome to consider it, let alone to try to resolve it. But this problem, which has deep and confusing historical roots, has become unprecedentedly sharp today… So what's the point of portraying peace when there is no peace? It will not be there until the Ukrainian problem finds a proper solution”.

It is unknown whether the USSR had any detailed information about all these events. At the same time, the papers in the case show that one of the 100 copies of Eugene Lachowitch’s “Ukrainian Question» landed on the table of the OGPU leadership in Lubyanka. It was immediately translated from English into Russian. On the first page of this document there are notes made by Pavel Sudoplatov, who in 1933 was transferred from Kharkiv to Moscow, and who in 1934 was already working in the Foreign Department of the OGPU of the USSR. The lettering shows that “The Ukrainian Question» was printed in two copies, one was sent to the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR, the other was attached to the “Pole” case.

At that time, P. Sudoplatov was being prepared for being sent abroad to work in Ye. Konovalets' environment. Therefore, this fundamental work by Eugene Lachowitch was for him not only an evidence of the anti-Soviet activities of the person involved in the operational case, but also a source of knowledge on the history of Ukraine. After all, “The Ukrainian Question” is really an interesting study. It consists of three sections:

1) History of Ukraine, from the 9th century to 1917, (the territory and population, the origin of the word “Ukraine», the reasons for the decline of Ukraine in the Middle Ages, Ukraine’s cultural influence on Russia);

2) The next period (1917-1920) (revival; the reasons for the defeat of Ukraine during the Russian Revolution);

3) The latest period (Ukraine's products in agriculture and industry; recent events in Poland; Ukrainian nationalism; the hopes of Ukrainians).

In the preface, the author immediately makes it clear that he analyzes the Ukrainian question only in inseparable unity with creation of an independent Ukrainian state in Eastern Europe. He points out that the task of his work is to thoroughly understand this and answer the following questions: do Ukrainians have any specific features, both spiritual and physical, so that they can be considered as a separate nation, do they consider themselves a separate nation, do they really strive to create an independent state and how, in their opinion, it should be implemented?

The  work ends with the statement that “Ukraine will play an important role in the progress of the European civilization” and that “without resolving the Ukrainian question, the whole world will be on a rather weak foundation”.

Having analyzed this work, the GPU became even more convinced that they had a reasonable, ideological, consistent and uncompromising enemy in their operational cultivation. His study was intensified. And soon after P. Sudoplatov had returned from abroad, where under the guise of a Ukrainian nationalist he had had close contacts with E. Konovalets and other leading figures of the OUN, he personally made a decision to open a new case against Eugene Lachowitch, attaching to it all the papers collected earlier.

In this case, materials had been accumulated both about Eugene Lachowitch’s stay in Great Britain in 1933–1935 and during his residence in the United States, where he was actively involved in political and social activities of Ukrainian emigrants. There, he positioned himself as a liaison between the OUN leadership in Europe and the Organization of the State Revival of Ukraine, repeatedly signing different documents as a “messenger of the OUN”.

His correspondence with Lancelot Lawton continued. The case recounts one of the letters, probably written on the eve of World War II, in which the British journalist stresses that “the Ukrainian question is a very important issue, much more important than all sorts of the Sudetenlands, and we can only regret that Ukrainians do not voice it publicly as it should be”.

Until 1959, the case was handled by the First Main Directorate of the KGB under the Council of Ministers of the USSR (foreign intelligence). Then the decision was made: “The case materials are of operational value and require further development. In accordance with the decision of the Board of the State Security Committee under the Council of Ministers of the USSR dated July 31, 1959, the case-form 9981 in two volumes “Pole» to be sent for further development to the 1st Directorate of the State Security Committee under the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR”. (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine.- F. 1. - Case 9860. - V. 3. - P. 24).

It is no coincidence that Moscow was afraid of Eugene Lachowitch with his sharp and critical remarks, which cut to the quick. As he said in the “Near and Middle East Association” report on June 24, 1935, in London: “Dissatisfaction in Russia is greater than ever before, and to quell it, the Russian rulers must use their expansive foreign policy. To hope that someday it will be possible to reach some kind of understanding with Russia, to hope for its good will and consent, for the division of spheres of influence, is a fundamental mistake. Under the pressure of certain international demands, it may promise to stop subversive propaganda, but at the first opportunity it will break its promise, because it must have something with which it can divert its population’s attention from domestic problems and soothe its dissatisfaction; otherwise it will get broken from within… The only way out of this tense situation is to restore the Ukrainian state…”.

Over the years, in the absence of intelligence opportunities to study Eugene Lachowitch, his case was transferred to the archive. Therefore, only fragmentary information about the last years of his life and activity has been preserved. Nevertheless, even this information is enough to consider him an extraordinary and bright personality in the struggle “for the Ukrainian question” in the international arena.