Stefan Golash / Степан Ґоляш
Death of a gentle partisan
by Myron B. Kuropas
Stefan Golash died last month. A gentle soul whose entire life was devoted to his beloved Ukraine, he was a member of Ukraine's "Greatest Generation."
Like so many other members of his amazing epoch, he was willing to fight and die for Ukrainian independence against insurmountable odds. Stefan Golash was a member of UPA, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought the Nazis and the Soviets during World War II. With all of their technology and superior force, the Nazis never were able to subdue the UPA, while the Soviets couldn't crush the UPA until 1953.
Given the odds, the entire UPA operation was a miracle of personal devotion. By 1943 UPA leaders had created a resistance apparatus that consisted of military training camps, field hospitals, schools and a membership of some 100,000 men and women. The Germans admitted to only 40,000 UPA members, but regardless of the true number, UPA was on par with any resistance movement then operating in Nazi-controlled Europe. According to one source, the much publicized but largely ineffective French underground had no more than 45,000 "true resistance fighters" prior to the Allied invasion of France in 1944.
By 1943 UPA controlled much of rural Volyn and Polissia and had engaged the forces of SS Gen. Erich vondem Bach-Zalewskyi throughout the summer. The Gestapo lost some 3,000 men during these encounters. The UPA could also take credit for the assassination of Soviet Gen. Nikolai Vatutin in 1944.
Stefan Golash was born on December 26, 1919, to Ivan and Tatiana (nee Fedechkiw) in the village of Byshky in the Ternopil Oblast. Brought up in a well-known, fiercely nationalistic family, he completed secondary school in Berezhany and enrolled in a teachers' college in Kremenets. It was there that he came in contact with the student affiliate of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).
Joining the OUN underground in 1940, he served as a liaison officer with secondary school students in Berezhany and was also a member of the OUN secretariat in the area. He had the privilege of announcing the June 30, 1941, declaration of Ukrainian independence on local radio.
Always eager to further his education, Mr. Golash enrolled at the Lviv Polytechnical Institute in 1943, majoring in agriculture, and continued his involvement with OUN as the OUN youth affiliate leader in the area. In 1944 he was asked to organize and to prepare cadres of secondary school graduates in Lviv. In the fall the group was joined by other OUN volunteers and participated in an UPA engagement against the Nazis. Forced to retreat by superior German forces, young Mr. Golash never gave up. He continued to recruit UPA volunteers wherever he could, usually after liturgy by the church or in schools, and to prepare them for service in UPA. By 1945 he was commanding an UPA company. On Christmas Day (January 7) his company engaged the Soviet army near the town of Potik. In February they crossed the Polish border and spent the remainder of the winter in the town of Bukovych.
In the spring Mr. Golash was appointed political coordinator and a member of the OUN command structure in Lemkivschyna, where he spent the next three years.
Ordered to evacuate the area and to move his contingent to the west, Mr. Golash took his UPA group through Czecho-Slovakia where he was wounded in the back by Communist Czech soldiers. The bullet was too precariously located to be removed and remained with him until he died. Arriving in Germany, he married Nadia ("Marijka") Partykevich, a fellow member of UPA he had met earlier in the forests of Carpatho-Ukraine. Their son, Roman, was born in 1950. The family moved to the United States the following year where, in 1955, a daughter, Olha was born.
Working and attending night school, Mr. Golash studied microbiology at Loyola University in Chicago and landed a position with the Illinois Department of Public Health where, coincidentally, his son works today as a microbiologist.
Always drawn to work with youth, Mr. Golash helped organize the Chicago and Palatine chapters of the Ukrainian American Youth Association (SUM) and was involved with Ukrainian studies classes for 11 years. He also led SUM summer camps for many years and served on the executive board of the veterans of UPA, where he wrote for and promoted Litopys UPA (UPA Chronicle).
Upon the initiation of Green Beret Sgt. Maj. Dan Zahody in 1994, Mr. Golash was invited to lecture on the Ukrainian Insurgent Army at the U.S. Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, Calif. It was one of the proudest days of his life.
Mr. Golash also found time to work for the Ukrainian National Association, an organization he served faithfully for years as secretary of Branch 131, a recruiter and a delegate to many conventions.
Although a Catholic - he was one of the founders of Ss. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago - Mr. Golash was buried in a hallowed section of St. Andrew's Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery, alongside many of his UPA brothers, in Bloomingdale, Ill.
My personal experience with Mr. Golash and his family was always positive. Although he was a loyal member of the Bandera faction of the OUN, his ideology never blinded him to the ideas and accomplishments of those who were not of his political circle. In this, as well as in so many other ways, Stefan Golash was an extraordinary human being - a Ukrainian patriot who loved America. Along with so many others, I will miss him.
Vichna Yomu Pamiat!
Published in the Chicago Tribune on 5/30/2003.
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Last modified: September 18, 2004
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