Derman tragedy. From a terrible find to a just punishment

The well, during the clearing of which the remains of 16 people were found

Having freed their lands from the Nazis, the Red Army and the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs in some regions were forced to fight also against nationalist formations – former allies and assistants of the occupiers. In the course of this struggle, new information about the activities of the gangs was found out and unknown crimes were revealed. So, only at the end of the fifties all the details of the Derman tragedy became known.

During and after the war

The place of tragic events was the village of Derman (now it is divided into Derman First and Derman Second, Zdolbunovsky district of Rivne region, Ukraine). It was a fairly large village with a population of several thousand people. In the first weeks of the Great Patriotic War, the village fell into the hands of the Nazis.

The invaders demanded that the villagers hand over grain and livestock, part of the population was driven to work in Germany. The new order was maintained by the forces of the Nazis themselves, as well as with the help of the Polish and Ukrainian shutsmans. Moreover, over time, nationalists from the OUN and UPA settled in Dermani (organizations are banned in the Russian Federation). There were workshops, a school for foremen, etc. in the village.

The invaders and their accomplices fought fiercely against any attempts at resistance and dissent. People were shot for the smallest “faults” before the occupiers; many villagers were tortured to death.

A piece of telephone cable is one of the murder weapons

After the liberation of the village from the Nazis, the Red Army and the NKVD had to fight the Bandera underground. The “rebels” regularly raided local villages, robbed and killed people. For a number of reasons, the fight against gangs turned out to be extremely difficult, and it was mainly possible to complete it only by the mid-fifties.

In 1955, they managed to find a “cache” with several metal cans, which contained a kind of archive of the gang. It turned out that s. Derman was of particular interest to her, and it was with this that the increased activity was associated. Analysis of documents from the “archive” helped to identify unknown crimes and expose their perpetrators.

Unknown tragedy

In March 1957, collective farmers from the village. Ustenskoe II (former Derman) cleared one of the abandoned wells. The bodies of fellow villagers were found under the stones. As it soon became clear, the well became a mass grave for 16 people. All of them were killed in 1944-48. – after the liberation of the village from the Nazis.

The remains of men, women and children of different ages were found in the well. There were traces of bullying on the bones. In killing villagers, the nationalists were terribly ingenious. Ropes, stakes, agricultural implements, etc. were used.

Funeral procession, March 1957

A mourning ceremony took place soon after. The victims of the bandits were buried in the village cemetery. A modest monument was erected at the burial site.

It should be noted that during the restoration of the village and examination of its surroundings, many similar mass graves were found. From 1944 to 1948 the so-called The OUN security service tortured and killed 450 villagers. Of these, only 28 were related to the army – all the rest were civilians.

Crime and Punishment

A criminal case was opened upon the discovery of the remains. The investigation lasted several months and ended with the successful exposure of the perpetrators. During the investigation, documents from the “archive” found in 1955 were of great importance. On the basis of these papers and the testimony of witnesses, it was possible to identify the perpetrators.

According to the documents, in the summer of 1944, after the Nazis left, the OUN SB left in the area with. Derman several battle groups. The head of this “operation” was Vasyl Androshchuk, nicknamed Voroniy, an assistant of the Security Council. Later, these gangs were found and destroyed. Androshchuk and some of his accomplices were taken alive.

During interrogations, the Bandera people talked about their deeds, but they preferred to remain silent about some episodes. Nevertheless, the investigation concluded that it was Voroniy who was the organizer of the murders in Dermani / Ustensky. Under pressure from evidence, he admitted that he personally killed 73 people, and also pointed out the atrocities of his accomplices.

The main reason for the post-war atrocities against the civilian population was the elementary fear for their own skin. After the departure of the Nazi masters, local nationalists went underground or tried to legalize themselves. However, people from local villages remembered their tormentors very well and could betray them. In this regard, Bandera organized surveillance and tried to calculate the “agents of the NKVD.” Those suspected of collaborating with the authorities were killed, including to intimidate the rest of the population.

Similar events continued for several years and affected not only the village. Ustenskoe. The tortured victims of the nationalists were regularly found in the nearest settlements. But in 1955-57. managed to open the entire scheme and find the culprit. The discovery of 16 victims in the Derman well led to the disclosure of a number of crimes.

An open trial over V. Androshchuk took place in 1959 in Dubno. The trial ended as expected and fairly – capital punishment.

Many years later …

In the recent past, the events in Dermani were told and reminded to the whole world. At the end of the 2000s, researchers published several documents about the Derman tragedy, found in the Central State Archive of Public Associations of Ukraine. A little later, texts and photographs appeared on the pages of the Journal of Russian and East European Historical Research (No. 1, 2010)

The published package of documents includes reports from the local administration on the discovery of the remains of the dead, on mourning events, etc. The materials of interviews and testimony of witnesses are also cited. The article ends with a set of photographs showing the location of the event, exhibits and follow-up.

It is worth noting that the documents provoked a very interesting reaction from the nationalist Ukrainian public. Attempts were made to declare the entire Derman tragedy a fiction or to transfer the blame to the “disguised NKVD officers.” However, such positions are usually based on biased sources and deliberate forgeries, as well as generously flavored with open extremism.

Instead of an afterword

Events in the village. Derman and the surrounding areas show what was happening in the regions liberated from the occupiers, but not completely cleared of local nationalist bandits. Accordingly, it becomes obvious the importance of the work of the state security bodies, who fought against banditry.

In addition, the whole history of the Derman tragedy says: crimes against humanity will not go unpunished. A just verdict was passed and executed – even though many years after the crimes were committed.

Publication in the “Journal of Russian and East European Historical Research”:

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