Monday, 12 July 2021

Danylo Skoropadsky on His Father’s Death


 I first learned of Danylo Skoropadsky on a visit to the old Basilian Fathers Museum in Mundare, Alberta; a building which had been erected in 1938 to house the Basilian Press. When the Press moved to a larger premises in Toronto, and Fathers Orest Kupranets Josaphat Jean moved the Basilian Museum in to it. On 28 July 1957, the new Basilian Fathers Museum (which at an earlier state had been christened, by Jean, as the Archbishop Ladyka Museum) was solemnly inaugurated in its new premises. For the occasion, a telegram, which I recently discovered in the Vatican Apostolic Archive, was solicited and received from the Apostolic See.

            On the second floor of the old museum, there was a photograph of Danylo Skoropadsky visiting the Mundare Monastery, in 1938. It was part of his tour across Canada and the United States to promote the Hetmanite movement. The conservative political movement was headed by his father, Pavlo Skoropadsky, who had ruled as Hetman of Ukraine for a few months, in 1918. Pavlo had taken the old Cossack title Hetman and, as the movement promoted an hereditary monarchy, Danylo was accorded the filial title of Hetmanych. For a time, the Sich-Hetmanite Movement gained a certain popularity among diaspora Ukrainians, notably among Greek-Catholics. 

            Hetman Pavlo remained in Berlin while Danylo was given a cosmopolitan education of university as well as learning a trade. Such preparation would help him, as future leader of the international Hetmanite movement, to identify with him supporters and they with him. As a result, Danylo became a very popular among Ukrainians of various political and religious views. With the Second World War about the break out, in August 1939, Danylo was dispatched to London to gain British support, where he teamed up with his father’s emissary, Vladimir de Korostovets.

            The Vatican Archive holds the Archive of the Apostolic Delegation in Great Britain. One of its fascicles is entitled “Ukrainians” and contains correspondence with various Ukrainian clerical and lay representatives, including Skoropadsky and especially Korostovets. Beginning in 1940, they established friendly contacts with the papal representative (apostolic delegate), Archbishop William Godfrey, to whom they gave a “crash-course” on Ukrainians. Although both Orthodox Christians, Skoropadsky and Korostovets admired Catholicism, given its support for their movement and the Church’s anti-communist stance. Having gained his sympathy, Godfrey interceded for them and other Ukrainians before British church and state authorities. 

             De Korostovets introduced Skoropadsky to Godfrey in May 1940, and made repeated visits subsequently. By the end of the war, the Hetmanych had established confidential relations with the papal envoy. On 7 July 1945, he went to see the Apostolic Delegate with Father Mykhailo Horoshko, a Greek-Catholic chaplain with the Canadian Forces, who was stationed in London at the time. Danylo had received tragic news from Germany and was seeking advice and assistance from the papal diplomat. Godfrey, responded with “sympathy and understanding” and advised Skoropadsky to write to head of the Papal Secretariat of State’s Diplomatic Section, Monsignor Domenico Tardini. Five days later, on 12 July, Danylo had composed 2 letters, transcriptions of which I reproduce here:


 Your Excellency,

            I hope you will forgive me for troubling you with this letter. Only the deepest anxiety about the fate of my family, or, to be more exact -of its remaining members- is my excuse. His Grace Archbishop W. Godfrey advised me to write to you and I am venturing to do so.

            Several days ago news reached me that my father, Paul Skoropadsky, former Hetman of the Ukraine in 1918, has died in Metten, Deggendorf (near Prattling), Bavaria as a result of wounds. I do not know how he was wounded, I have, however, reason to believe from other sources that it happened during a air-raid on Prattling on or about the 14th of April.

            With him was my second sister, Elisabeth, as well as our old nurse. The latter two, according to the above short message, were also wounded and are still in the hospital in Metten. My sister was apparently so weak that she could not write the letter herself which was therefore written by an unknown Ukrainian to me and forwarded through Belgium probably by a Belgian prisoner of war returning home.

            There is no possibility of getting an exact picture of what has actually happened and in what circumstances my sister Elisabeth is at this moment. I very much fear that she and our old nurse (both of them wounded) are absolutely alone, with no moral support, and probably without any means.

            I only know that my father with Elisabeth and the nurse were on the way from Berlin, through Weimar, to join the rest of my family in Oberstdorf, Bavaria. The latter, comprising my mother, the eldest sister Mary and my brother Peter, an invalid from birth, were staying with Russian friends, the Mordvinoff’s, at “Het-Haus”, 40 Loretto-Strasse, Oberstdorf-Allgäu, Ober-Bayern, Germany. However about them too I have no exact news and I fear that they also are facing great difficulties. I only know that until the end of June when I received indirect news that the members of my family in Oberstdorf were alive, my mother knew nothing of the whereabouts of my father, my sister Elisabeth and our old nurse.

            I would be immeasurably grateful, Your Excellency, if you find it possible that something  should be done for them all through the channels of the Catholic Church to help them in their present position, in the first case my wounded sister and our nurse. I am certain that Elisabeth is anxious to join the rest of the family in Oberstdorf. For both of the  realisation that someone is trying to help them would be of great oral support. The same applies to my mother (she is 66 years old), who has now to face, after having lost my father, all the present hardships alone and without my being able, from this country, to be helpful to her. The moment there is any possibility of establishing direct contact from here by mail and also the possibility of sending money, I will do so, however, for the time being, this is impossible.

            I enclose herewith: A) A letter to my mother and I would be very grateful if it could be conveyed to her. She is without any direct news from me since the beginning of the war. B) A letter to M-me A. de Korostovetz, who is presumably staying also in Oberstdorf, if not, her whereabouts should be known by my mother. […]

            I am very much worried about the present discussion on the status of people like my family who are stateless. Their future seems very doubtful. Any transfer to the East would mean for them death or deportation. I would be immeasurably grateful for anything Your Excellency would find it possible to do to allay their anxieties.


Dated the same day, 12 July 1945, Danylo enclosed the following letter, written in English, to his mother Alexandra:


            Darling Mother,

            I am writing you these lines still under the impression of the first shock on receiving the news about father a couple of days ago. How terrible all this is, especially as it was only a few days before the cessation of hostilities! I don’t know whether you have managed to establish contact with Lily and Anna, who both were, according to the message from Dmytro Hryschtchynskyj, on the 12.6.45 in hospital in Metten, near Deggendorf, Bavaria. I hope that our Catholic friends who are forwarding this letter to you will be able to help her and Anna and all of you and to bring you all together in Oberstdorf.

            Personally I have no doubts that the message from Hryschtchynskyj (it was forwarded to me through Belgium) is true. However, I must admit I have never heard his name before. On the other hand his news (that Father died on the 26thof April in Metten as results of wounds) is corroborated by similar rumours, which reached Ara [Aleksandra de Korostovets] from Switzerland and then Vladimir here. News about Father appeared first in the “Swoboda” 38 Jersey City, N.J., USA. However, there was only a short note saying that Father has died on the 26 of March which was hardly possible. In the meantime I received, as I said, the message from Hryschtchynskyj, which was written on the instruction of Lily. He did not give any further details except that Lily and Anna were still in the hospital in Metten (on June 12th), furthermore he gave me your address in Obserstdorf, which I knew.

            I have at once initiated steps through Capt. Mattlaw with the British and American Authorities to have, if possible, an official confirmation and also to help Lily and Anna to join you all in Oberstdorf. But this, as always, takes long time.

            To you all I want to say this: we must face it and take it, as so many other people have done in this war. I should have been at my Father’s side to hear his last words and to tell him that I will always continue his work. However God has decided otherwise ad we are helpless to change it.

            Now we must look ahead and make, if possible, plans for the future. I don’t know at all in what circumstances you are. Have you managed to save something or are you without any means? What is the position of Aunt Olga and her family in general? At the first opportunity I could forward you a little money and I know that our people in Canada and U.S.A., with whom I am in contact will not let us down.

            I think the right thing is first that Elisabeth and Anna should join you in Oberstdorf, then to establish contact with me and let me exactly know what is your position as far as money and other means are concerned, and then to decide, whether you should stay for the time being in Oberstdorf (where life is probably cheaper) or should try to go to Iritirzor[?] (I have made all the necessary applications for obtaining of visas along time ago. There were difficulties, but I hope it will be possible to overcome them. In any case P. Kovaliv in Geneva, wrote me You could stay for several months with him, until things in general settle down.

            I hope it will be possible for you to send me a message using the sae channels as I have sending you this letter.

            I have also notified Pavlo Rodzienko about your position. He is with the Forces in Italy. In particular I wrote him about the urgence [sic] of help for Lily. It is not possible to write about everything in this letter as space is short and it must be forwarded in the morning. Only a couple of words about Vladimir and myself. We both are alright and are working hard to help you all. Also we don’t forget our friends, fellow countrymen elsewhere.

            I am working in my factory and am preparing quite well. Michael Hethman is as helpful as always. Everybody in the New World is very anxious about all of you.

            Personally I am not married yet, but am in love with the same woman of whom I wrote to you and Father a long time ago. She has helped me to go through many difficult times during the last years. The question of marriage is still open, and will depend, dear Mother, on your word an advice and also on what were the ideas of Father on this matter. I will write you about all this at some later date, as now the question of having you all together, in safety and warmth, is more urgent.

            God bless you all! Kisses to all of you! My love to Aunt Olga and all her family and do not get downhearted, as we all think of you and are working for you.

            Yours Danylo

            P.S. Vladimir is sending his love to Ara and to all of you. D.

            P.S. I have received a letter yesterday from Olenka’s father in law and we are going to try to find him in Würzburg or elsewhere. Also her husband until last night I did not know his name. D.

 The handwritten letters to Tardini and his mother remain in the Archive of the Apostolic Delegation. Further research is required to determine the reason they were never forwarded to Rome. Likely, Godfrey sent a summary to his superior, who perhaps indicated that the communications could not be forwarded. Godfrey was extremely zealous in another matter: the rescue of Gertrud of Habsburg-Lothringen and her children Maximillian and Claudia. They arrived safely in Paris, Dublin, and London, accompanied by Vladimir de Korostovets’s wife Aleksandra (Ara).


Ara de Korostovetz
            Danylo Skoropadsky continued to have close relations with Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Britain until his untimely death, eleven years later. Below are a list of some events which I have come upon in my research:

            On 15 January 1946, Skoropadsky introduced Father Vasyl Kushnir to the Apostolic Delegation. As President of the Canadian Ukrainian Committee, he had “come to Europe to study the position of the Ukrainian Displaced Persons on the Continent.” Kushnir was instrumental in repatriating Ukrainian refugees from DP camps in Germany to Canada and USA.

            On 27 April 1947, together with Ara and Vladimir de Korostovetz, he attended a Divine Liturgy at the 218 Sussex Gardens celebrated by Canadian Greek-Catholic missionary, Father Josaphat Jean. After the Liturgy, Jean held the inaugural meeting of Saint Theodore of Canterbury Greek-Catholic Parish. These Orthodox notables took part and pledged their support to help acquire a building for the fledgling congregation.  

On 17 January 1948, Father Jean sent Skoropadsky and de Korostovets to lobby the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Griffin, for a church building in London. Following that meeting, Griffin became more energetic in helping to look for a suitable structure. The Orthodox leaders continued to actively liaise until a church was found.

            Skoropadsky became one of the founders of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) in January 1946.  After a rift occurred in the organization, in 1949, he accepted the titular headship of AUGB and sought to bridge all divisions in the Ukrainian community. Rather than acting as a partisan politician, Skoropadsky was content to be a figure of unity among various parties, in imitation of the role of the British Monarchy.

            Vladimir and Ara Korostovets participated in a pilgrimage to Rome for the papal Holy Year of 1950. Ara was an iconographer and donated an icon of the Madonna of Hoshiv (a western Ukrainian shrine) to Pope Pius XII, for which she received a telegram from the papal Secretariat of State. In 1953, Ara completed the iconostasis of the Belarusian Catholic Mission begun by another iconographer.

In August 1953, Hetmanych Danylo thanked Archbishop Ivan Buchko for his work on behalf of all Ukrainians, during an AUGB reception for the Archbishop, at 49 Linden Gardens. In February 1954, Skoropadsky made sure to have the head of the Greek-Catholic Church in Britain, Monsignor Aleksander Malynovsky, next to him at the head table, during a banquet held for Danylo’s fiftieth birthday.

In 1956, Skoropadsky organized an 11,000 strong Polish-Ukrainian protest to Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Britain. Some have speculated that, in revenge, Khrushchev ordered his assassination the following year; the first of a series of poisonings of Ukrainian émigré leaders which, in 1961, were shown to have been ordered by the dictator. Monsignor Malynovsky had the unenviable task of representing the UGCC at Skoropadsky funeral, at the end of February 1957.

Only three months later, in May 1957, Archbishop Godfrey accepted the nomination as the first Apostolic Exarch for Greek-Catholics in Britain. He had been offered the post because he had succeeded Cardinal Griffin, who had already accepted the appointment in 1955, but died before the exarchate could be established. The succession was fortuitous for Ukrainians, since Griffin had been rather lukewarm to their cause whereas, thanks in large measure to his friendship with Skoropadsky and Korostovets, Godfrey was extremely well prepared to assume spiritual leadership over Ukrainian Catholics, whose national and religious causes he sympathized with. 

As yet in a pre-ecumenical period, Skoropadsky and the de Korostovets’s forged solidarity among Ukrainians of different denominations and factions, working to breakdown down prejudices and establish close cooperation, for the prosperity of the local hromada and the benefit of the Ukrainian nation spread across five continents.