Yaroslav Halan

Yaroslav Olexandrovych Halan (in Ukrainian: Ярослав Олександрович Галан, party nickname Comrade Yaga; 27 July 1902 – 24 October 1949) was a Ukrainian Soviet anti-fascist writer, playwright, publicist, member of the Communist Party of Western Ukraine since 1924, killed by nationalist insurgents in 1949.

Yaroslav Halan
Yaroslav Olexandrovych Halan
Yaroslav Olexandrovych Halan
Native name
Ukrainian: Ярослав Олександрович Галан
Born(1902-07-27)27 July 1902
Dynów, Galicia, Austria-Hungary
(now Poland)
Died24 October 1949(1949-10-24) (aged 47)
Lviv, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
(now Ukraine)
Resting placeLychakiv Cemetery
Pen nameComrade Yaga, Volodymyr Rosovych, Ihor Semeniuk
Occupationwriter, playwright, publicist, politician, propagandist, radio host
CitizenshipPolish Republic
Alma materUniversity of Vienna,
Jagiellonian University
Genresplays, pamphlets, articles
Subjectsocial contradictions
Literary movementsocialist realism
Notable worksThe Mountains are Smoking (1938),
Under the Golden Eagle (1947),
Love at Dawn (1949)
Notable awardsStalin Prize,
Order of the Badge of Honour
Years active1927–1949
SpouseAnna Henyk (1928–1937) Maria Krotkova (1944–1949)



Early lifeEdit

Yaroslav Halan was born on July 27, 1902, in Dynów to the family of Olexandr Halan, a minor post-office official. As a child he lived and studied in Przemyśl. He enjoyed a large collection of books gathered by his father, and was greatly influenced by the creativity of the Ukrainian socialist writer Ivan Franko. At school, Yaroslav's critical thoughts brought him into conflict with priests who taught theology.

At the beginning of the First World War his father, along with other "unreliable" elements who sympathized with the Russians, was placed in the Thalerhof internment camp by the Austrian authorities.[1] Eventually Galitzia was taken by the Russians.

During the next Austrian offensive, in order to avoid repressions, his mother evacuated the family with the retreating Russian army to Rostov-on-Don, where Yaroslav studied at the gymnasium and performed in the local theatre. Living there, Halan witnessed the events of the October Revolution. He became familiar with Lenin’s agitation. Later these events formed the base of his story Unforgettable Days.

While in Rostov-on-Don, he discovered the works of Russian writers such as Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, Vissarion Belinsky, and Anton Chekhov. Halan often went to the theatre. Thus his obsession with this art was born, which in the future determined his decision to become a playwright.

Student yearsEdit

After the war Halan returned to Galitzia (annexed by Poland), where in 1922 he graduated from the Peremyshl Ukrainian Gymnasium. He then studied at the Triest Higher Trade School in Italy, and in 1922 enrolled in the University of Vienna. In 1926 he transferred to the Jagiellonian University of Kraków, from which he graduated in 1928 (according to some sources he didn't pass the final exams[2]). Halan then began working as a teacher of the Polish language and literature at a private gymnasium in Lutsk.[3] However, ten months later he was banned from teaching due to political concerns.[4]

In his student years Halan became active in left-wing politics. While at the University of Vienna he became a member of the workers' community Einheit (Unity), overseen by the Communist Party of Austria. From 1924 he proactively participated in the underground national liberation movement, which in the Ukrainian lands of the Second Polish Republic (except of Glitzia being under OUN influence) was headed by the Communist Party of Western Ukraine (CPWU).[5] He joined the CPWU when he was on vacation in Peremyshl. Later, while studying in Kraków, he was elected a deputy chairman of the legal student organization Życie (Life) ruled by the Communist Party of Poland.[6]

Creativity and political struggle in PolandEdit

Yaroslav Halan with his first wife Anna Henyk and her relatives in the village Bereziv, 1929

In the 1920s, Halan's creative activity also began. In 1927 he finished work on his first significant play, Don Quixote from Ettenheim. For the first time he revealed the venality of nationalistic and chauvinistic parties in his play 99% (1930). The theme of class struggle and condemning segregation were actualized in the plays Cargo (1930) and Cell (1932), calling for united actions and class solidarity of Ukrainian, Jewish and Polish proletarians.[7]

Halan's play 99% was staged by the semi-legal Lviv Workers’ Theatre. On the eve of the premiere, Polish authorities launched a campaign of mass arrest against Western Ukrainian communists, sending them to the Lutsk prison. As the theatre's director and one of the key actors were arrested, the premiere was on the verge of failure. Despite risks of being arrested, the workers continued rehearsing, so that the play was presented with a delay of only one day. About 600 workers attended the premiere; for them, it was a form of protest mobilization against repression and nationalism.[4]

Halan was one of the founders of the Ukrainian proletarian writers’ group Horno. From 1927 to 1932, along with other communist writers and members of the CPWU, he worked for the Lviv-based Ukrainian magazine Vikna, being a member of its editorial board, until it was closed by government censors.[8]

Living in the Polish-controlled city of Lviv, Halan frequently had to earn money by translating novels from German into Polish.[4] In 1932 he moved to Nyzhniy Bereviz, the native village of his wife, located in the Carpathian mountains, close to Kolomyia, and kept working on his own plays, stories and articles there. In the village he spread communist agitation among peasants, creating cells of the International Red Aid and the Committee for Famine Relief. Without opportunities to find work, he lived in the countryside until June 1935, when he was summoned by the CPWU to return to Lviv.[6]

Halan was denied Soviet citizenship in 1935.[9]

In 1935, Halan traveled extensively around Prykarpattia, giving speeches to peasants. He became an experienced propagandist and agitator. Addressing the city workers, Halan explained to them the main points of Marxist theory. In particular, he held lectures on Friedrich Engels's Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, and Karl Marx's Wage Labour and Capital. Together with the young communist writer Olexa Havryliuk, Halan organized safe houses, wrote leaflets and proclamations, and transferred illegal literature to Lviv.[4]

Throughout his political career the writer was repeatedly persecuted, and twice imprisoned (for the first time in 1934). He was one of the organizers of the Lviv Anti-Fascist Congress of Cultural Workers in May 1936.[10] Halan also took part in a major political demonstration on April 16, 1936, in Lviv, in which the crowd was fired on by Polish police (in total, thirty workers were killed and two hundred injured).[11] Halan devoted his story Golden Arch to the memory of fallen comrades.[7]

Participation in the Anti-Fascist Congress forced him to escape from Lviv to Warsaw, where he eventually found work at the left-wing newspaper Dziennik Popularny, edited by Wanda Wasilewska. In 1937, the newspaper was closed by the authorities, and on April 8 Halan was accused of illegal communist activism and sent to prison in Warsaw (later transferred to Lviv). Released in December 1937, Halan lived in Lviv under strict supervision by the police,[4] and remained unemployed until 1939.[6]

In 1937, his elder brother, a member of the CPWU, died in Lviv. After the Communist Party of Poland and the Communist Party of Western Ukraine, as its autonomous organization, were dissolved by the Comintern on trumped-up accusations of spying for Poland in 1938, Halan's first wife Anna Henyk (also a member of the CPWU), who was studying at the Kharkiv Medical Institute, USSR, was arrested by the NKVD and executed in the Great Purge.[1][4][5][9][12]

In the Soviet LvivEdit

After the USSR annexed Western Ukraine and Western Belarus in September 1939, Yaroslav Halan worked for the newspaper Vilna Ukraina,[13] directed the Maria Zankovetska Theatre, and wrote more than 100 pamphlets and articles on changes taking place in the reunified lands of Western Ukraine.

«A group of writers such as Yaroslav Halan, Petro Kozlaniuk, Stepan Tudor and Olexa Havryliuk [...] treated the liberation of Western Ukraine [by the Red Army] as a logical conclusion of the policy of the Communist Party, which fought for the reunification of the Ukrainian people. In this, they actively helped the party in word and deed. In return, they have already had experience with Polish prisons and oppression from their fellow countrymen. Now [after it happened] they could breathe a sigh of relief. That is why their smiles were so sincere and celebratory.»

Petro Panch, Lviv, Kopernyka str., 42, Vitchyzna, 1960, issue No 2, 172[14]

In November 1939 Halan went to Kharkiv to try to locate his vanished wife Anna Henyk. Together with the writer Yuri Smolych he came to the dormitory of the Medical Institute, and asked the porter for any information about her fate. The porter only gave him back a suitcase with Anna's belongings and said that she had been arrested by the NKVD, in response to which Halan burst into tears.[15]

In June 1941, being a journalist of the newspaper Vilna Ukraina, he took his first professional vacation, in Crimea, but didn't manage to rest for long, as on June 22 Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.[16]

War periodEdit

When the war on the Eastern Front began, Halan arrived in Kharkiv and went to the military commissariat having a big desire to become a volunteer of the Red Army and to go to the frontline but was denied.[15]

He was evacuated to Ufa. In September 1941, Alexander Fadeyev summoned him to Moscow for working at the Polish-language magazine Nowe Horyzonty. In the days of the Battle for Moscow, on October 17, he was evacuated to Kazan.[6]

Later the writer arrived in Saratov, where he served as a radio host at the Taras Shevchenko Radio Station. Then he was a special front-line correspondent of the newspaper Sovietskaya Ukraina, and then Radianska Ukraina.[5]

«The majority of his radio-comments have been born spontaneously. He listens to the enemy's radio shows, thinks for a while, then goes to the studio with an open microphone and without any preparations responds, expressing everything what he feels. That was a true radio-battle with all Hitler's propagandists starting from Goebbels, Dietrich, and others. The opportunity to fight like this – immediately, without paper [and censorship] – demonstrates a high confidence given to him by the Government and the Central Committee of the CPSU(b)

Volodymyr Beliayev, Literaturna Ukraina, 1962[4]

In 1943, in Moscow, he met his future second wife Maria Krotkova, who was an artist.[4]

In October 1943, the publishing house Moscovskiy Bolshevik released the collection of 15 Halan's war stories Front on Air. At the end of the year, Halan moved to the recently liberated Kharkov and worked there on the frontline radio station Dnipro.

During and after the war he was sharply condemning the Ukrainian nationalistsbanderivtsi, melnykivtsi, bulbivtsi – as accomplices of the Nazi occupiers.

Post-war timesEdit

In 1946 Yaroslav Halan as a correspondent of the Radianska Ukraina newspaper represented the USSR at the Nuremberg trial of Nazi military criminals.[16][17]

Yaroslav Halan wrote much about Ukrainian nationalists. In his story What Has No Name he described the OUN crimes:

«Fourteen-years-old girl can’t calmly look at meat. She trembles if someone is going to cook cutlets in her presence. A few months ago, on Easter Night, armed people came to a peasant house in a village close to the town of Sarny, and stabbed its inhabitants with knives. The girl having the eyes widened of fear was looking at the agony of her parents. The girl with horror in her eyes was looking at the agony of her parents. One of the gangsters put a knife blade to the child’s neck, but at the last moment a new “idea” came to his mind: “Live in glory to Stepan Bandera! And to avoid you being starved to death we will leave you some food. Guys, slice pork for her!" The "guys" liked such a proposal. In a few minutes a mountain of meat made from the bleeding father and mother grew up in front of the horror-struck girl...»[18]

In Halan's tragedy Under the Golden Eagle (1947) the writer harshly criticizes the American occupation administration in Western Germany for its rude attempts to prevent Soviet soldiers interned in special camps to return to their homeland. In his play Love at Dawn (1949, published in 1951) he described the triumph of Socialism in the rural areas of Western Ukraine.

Often he was focused on counteracting the nationalistic propaganda. Nevertheless, Halan complained that these "Augean stables" were not his vocation but it had to be done by someone:

«I understand: the asenisation work is a necessary and useful work, but why only me? Why should I be the only cesspool cleaner? The reader of our periodicals will involuntarily have the thought that there is only "maniac" Halan, who has clung to Ukrainian fascism like a drunk clings to the raft, [while] the vast majority of the writers ignore this issue. It isn't needed to be explained what further conclusions the reader will make from this.»

From Halan's letter to his friend Yuri Smolych, on January 2, 1948.[19]

In his last satirical pamphlets Yaroslav Halan criticized the nationalistic and clerical reaction (particularly, the Greek Catholic Church and the anti-Communist doctrine of the Holy See): Their Face (1948), In the service of Satan (1948), In the Face of Facts (1949), Father of Darkness and His Henchmen (1949), The Vatican Idols Thirst for Blood (1949, in Polish), Twilight of the Alien Gods (1948), What Should Not Be Forgotten (1947), The Vatican Without Mask (1949) etc.[20]

When the Vatican had discovered that Halan is going to publish his new anti-clerical pamphlet Father of Darkness and His Henchmen, in July 1949 the Pope Pius XII excommunicated him.[10][21] In response to this, Halan wrote a pamphlet I Spit on the Pope, that caused a significant resonance within the Church and among believers. In the pamphlet he ironized on the Decree against Communism released by the Vatican on July 1, in which the Holy See had threatened to excommunicate all members of the Communist parties and active supporters of the Communists:

«My only consolation is that I am not alone: together with me, the Pope excommunicated at least three hundred million people, and with them I once again in full voice declare: I spit on the Pope!»[22]


Halan's body after the murder on October 24, 1949.

Yaroslav Halan was assassinated on October 24, 1949, in his home office, which was situated at Hvadiyska street in Lviv. He received eleven blows to the head with an axe.[16] His blood spilled on the manuscript of his new article, Greatness of the Liberated Human, which celebrated the tenth anniversary of the annexation of Western Ukraine with the Ukrainian SSR.

The killers – two students of the Lviv Forestry Technical Institute, Ilariy Lukashevych and Mykhailo Stakhur – committed the assassination after receiving the appropriate order from the OUN leadership.[23] On the eve of the murder Lukashevych gained the writer's confidence, so the students were let into the house. They came to the apartment under the pretext of being discriminated against at the university and seeking his help.[1] When Lukashevych gave a signal, Stakhur attacked the writer with the axe.[24] After Stakhur was convinced that Halan was dead, they tied up the housekeeper and escaped.

The Ministry of the State Security (MGB) accused the Ukrainian nationalists of his murder, while the OUN claimed that it was a Soviet provocation in order to start a new wave of repressions against locals.

Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Ukrainian SSR at that time, took personal control of the investigation.[25] In 1951, the MGB agent Bohdan Stashynsky infiltrated into the OUN underground network and managed to find Stakhur, who himself bragged about the assassination of Halan.[26] He was arrested on July 10, and afterwards fully admitted his responsibility for the crime during the trial. According to Stakhur, he did that because of the writer's critical statements on the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Vatican.[24]

On October 16, 1951, the military tribunal of the Carpathian Military District sentenced Mikhail Stakhur to death by hanging: the court hall applauded the announcement of the verdict. The verdict was enforced on the same day.

Some contemporary Ukrainian historians and journalists put forward the hypothesis that Halan was killed by the Soviets.[2] However, nowadays the fact of the OUN guilt proved with the numerous pieces of evidence is widely recognized by the vast majority of historians.[5][19][27]

The assassination of Halan caused tightening of measures against the nationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which continued insurgent activities against the Soviet power in Western Ukraine. All the leadership of the MGB arrived in Lviv, Pavel Sudoplatov himself worked there for several months. One of the consequences of the murder of Halan was the elimination of the UPA leader Roman Shukhevych four months later.[28]

Evaluations by contemporariesEdit

The writer at his home office where he usually worked. 1947.

«Yaroslav Halan is a talented publicist, was a progressive writer in the past. Nowadays he still is the most advanced one among [local] non-party writers. But he's infected with the Western European bourgeois "spirit". Has little respect for Soviet people. Considers them not civilized enough. But just inwardly. In general terms, he understands the policy of the party, but in his opinion, the party makes great mistakes with regards to peasants in Western Ukraine. Halan places responsibility for these mistakes on the regional committee of the CPSU(b), local institutions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the local Soviet authorities. Believes in Moscow. Doesn't want to join the party (he was advised to) due to being an individualist, and also in order to keep his hands, mind, and words free. He thinks if he joins the party, he will lose this [freedom].»

Extract from the report of the literary critic G. Parkhomenko to the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine December 15, 1947.[29]

In 1962, in Toronto, Olexandr Matla, aka Petro Tereschuk, a pro-nationalist historian from the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada, published the brochure History of a Traitor (Yaroslav Halan), in which he accused Halan of being an informer of both Polish and Soviet intelligence services, and of helping them to oppress nationalists and even some pro-Soviet writers from Western Ukraine such as Anton Krushelnytsky, who moved from Lviv to Kharkiv in the 1930s and was killed during the Great Terror.

«[Halan] has used his undeniable publicistic talent to serve the enemy, thereby placing himself outside the Ukrainian people. He has directed his energy and creative mind against his own people and their interests. An outrageous egoist, egocentrist, money lover, slanderer, cynic, provocator, agent of two intelligence services, misanthrope, falsificator, speculator, and an informer are all the characteristics of Yaroslav Halan.»

Petro Tereschuk, History of a Traitor (Yaroslav Halan), Canadian League for Ukraine's Liberation, Toronto, 1962.[2]

«Yaroslav is an erudite, artist, polemicist, politician and undoubtedly an international-level journalist. I was amazed at his knowledge of the languages: German, French, Italian, Polish, Jewish, Russian. Picking up any newspaper or document he leafs through, reads it and writes something down. I was also surprised by his efficiency in work, interest in everything, an exceptional ability to "seek" and "raise" topics, problems, his persistent work on processing the material.»

Yuri Yanovsky, a Ukrainian Soviet writer, who worked with Halan at the Nuremberg Trial in 1946.[30]

«In 1949 I witnessed an unusual event. On October 2 Yaroslav Halan spoke in Lviv University. It turned out to be his last speech. We condemned him but his presentation surprised me. He spoke as an intelligent person defending Ukrainian culture. It had nothing to do with the series of his pamphlets “I spit on Pope!” Halan turned out to be a totally different man. Several days later he was killed.»

Mykhailo Horyn, a Ukrainian anti-Communist dissident.[31]





  • Don Quixote from Ettenheim (1927)
  • 99% (1930)
  • Cargo (1930)
  • Veronika (1930)
  • Cell (1932)
  • They Decide (1934)
  • Vienna Speaks (1935, lost)
  • Shumi Maritsa (1942, in Russian)
  • Under the Golden Eagle (1947)
  • Love at Dawn (1949, published in 1951)
  • Bozhena Shramek (unfinished)

Stories and articles (selected)Edit

  • Unforgettable Days (1930)
  • Punishment (1932)
  • Three Deaths (1932)
  • Virgin Lands (1932)
  • Unknown Petro (1932)
  • Savko Is Flooded With Blood (1935)
  • Dead Are Fighting (1935)
  • The Mountains are Smoking (1938, in Polish)
  • On the Bridge (1940)
  • Yoasia (1940)
  • Forget-Me-Not (1940)
  • Grandfather Martyn (1940)
  • Jenny (1941)
  • Miss Mccarty is Losing Faith (1946)
  • School (1946)

Pamphlets (selected)Edit

  • With Cross or With Knife (1945)
  • Their Face (1947)
  • What Should Not Be Forgotten, (1947)
  • In the service of Satan (1948)
  • Twilight of the Alien Gods (1948, in Russian)
  • In the Face of Facts (1949)
  • Father of Darkness And His Henchmen (1949)
  • The Vatican Idols Thirst for Blood (1949, in Polish)
  • The Vatican Without Mask (1949)
  • I Spit on the Pope (1949)

Single booksEdit

  • Front on Air (1943, radio speeches)


  • The War Widow, by Leonhard Frank (1932, from German into Ukrainian)
  • Three Domobrans, by Miroslav Krleža (1932, excerpt, from Croatian into Ukrainian)
  • The Gadfly, by Ethel Voynich (1947, from English into Ukrainian)
  • The Sisters, by Doriana Slepian (1948, from Russian into Ukrainian)

Adapted ScreenplaysEdit

Collected worksEdit


  • We must not forget. Moscow: Novosti Press Agency Publishing House, 1975
  • Reports from Nuremberg. Kyiv: Dnipro Publishers, 1976
  • People Without a Homeland: Pamphlets. Kyiv: Dnipro Publishers, 1974
  • Lest People Forget: Pamphlets, Articles and Reports. Kyiv: Dnipro Publishers, 1986


  • Reportajes de Nuremberg. Kyiv: Dnipro Publishers. 1976


  • "Nürnberg 1945 : Pamphlete". Kiew: Dnipro, 1975.


  • Favorites. Translation from Ukrainian. Moscow: publishing house Sovetskiy Pisatel, 1951.
  • Favorites. Translation from Ukrainian. Moscow: publishing house Sovetskiy Pisatel, 1952.
  • The Vatican Without a Mask. Translation from Ukrainian. Moscow, publishing house Literaturnaya Gazeta, 1952.
  • Plays. Moscow: Iskusstvo. 1956.
  • With Cross or With Knife: Pamphlets. Moscow: 1962
  • Light from the East. Translation from Ukrainian. Moscow, publishing house Molodaya Guàrdia, 1954.
  • Favorites. Translation from Ukrainian. Moscow, Goslitizdat, 1958.


  • Favorites. Kyiv: publishing house Radianskyi Pysmennyk, 1951.
  • Works. In 2 volumes. Kyiv: Derzhlitvidav, 1953.
  • Works. In 3 volumes. Kyiv: Derzhlitvidav, 1960.
  • Unfinished Song. Kyiv: Dnipro Publishers. 1972.
  • Favorites. Lviv: Shkilna Biblioteka. 1976
  • Works: Pamphlets and Fayletons. Kyiv:Naukova Dumka. 1980.
  • Works. Kyiv: Naukova Dumka. 1980.
  • Dramas. Lviv: Kameniar. 1981
  • Favorites. Lviv: Kameniar. 1987.


  • Ukrainian Stories. Azərnəşr. 1954

External linksEdit

(English translation) Halan, Yaroslav. Reports from Nuremberg. Kyiv: Dnipro Publishers, 1976

(English translation) Halan. Yaroslav. I Spit on the Pope!


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