Ukrainian villages that vanished due to Soviet deportations

Mass deportations and ethnic cleansing under Soviet rule led to the vanishing of numerous Ukrainian villages and towns. This loss was not just a byproduct of the human toll, but also a calculated move to dismantle entire communities. Hundreds of villages vanished because they resisted Soviet control, leaving only symbolic crosses on Ukrainian maps to mark where they once stood, vibrant with life. The erasure of these villages has had lasting economic, cultural, social, and psychological impacts that Ukrainians still grapple with today. This article explores why these villages were destroyed and how acknowledging this dark past can help restore justice and mend national identity and cultural heritage.

In the Soviet era, the main trigger for wiping out a village or town was its residents’ resistance to the regime. In Ukraine, this resistance took the form of national liberation movements like the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). These groups gained momentum in the western regions that the USSR occupied in 1939 and continued to grow after World War II ended. 

The UPA’s underground activities were pivotal in fostering a sense of national identity and resistance against Soviet authority. They posed a real challenge to Stalin’s regime, which sought to crush any pockets of independence or self-rule. As a result, communities that harbored these underground groups or supported the insurgents faced severe crackdowns.

Another key reason for the loss of Ukrainian communities was the local resistance to Soviet collectivization. The policy of merging private farmlands into collective farms disrupted cherished traditions and seized people’s tools and labor. Essentially, the USSR revived serfdom, only now it was repackaged to align with state goals. Understandably, many were unwilling to give up their land and livestock to these collective farms. Working alongside rebels, they tried to prevent authorities from using force.

In Voloshynovo, a village in the Starosambir district of the Drohobych region, local officials used threats, blackmail, and violence to force residents into collective farms. In response, UPA members killed two of the farm’s organizers [6, p.174–175].

In Koblo, another village, insurgents took the lives of a district police officer, the deputy head of the Starosambir district police department, Chornyi, and the head of the collective farm, who had attempted to impose collectivization through repressive methods [6, p.177]. Led by cornet Okhrim, rebels in the area between the villages of Strelbychi and Bilychi neutralized four and injured three Soviet activists who had routinely used violence to establish collective farms [6, p.75].

In 1946 alone, there were 2,598 recorded incidents in the western regions of Ukraine, primarily against collective farming, and from January to October 1947, there were another 1,320 incidents [9, p. 345].


This widespread resistance shook the foundations of Soviet ideology. To regain control, authorities resorted to extreme measures like forced deportations and the complete erasure villages where opposition to Soviet agricultural policies was strongest.

Soviet authorities pursued a discriminatory policy that targeted not just the physical existence but also the cultural identity of Ukrainians. Rural communities were often the keepers of national culture, traditions, and a spirit of resistance. The calculated destruction of these villages aimed to create a “new Soviet person,” disconnected from their national roots.

Where once vibrant villages and towns stood, now only wastelands remain.  These areas on longer serve as hubs of resistance against collectivization or national liberation movements. Below are some examples of the consequences of this Soviet policy.


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The village of Hryva in the Kamian-Kashyrskyi district of the Volyn region


Before World War II, Hryva was a bustling village and served as the administrative center of its community. Until 1939, it was part of Poland. However, after the war and the subsequent Soviet occupation, Hryva and other parts of the west of Ukraine fell under harsh Soviet rule. Given the active resistance movements in nearby forests and villages, the locals strongly opposed collectivization efforts. In response, Soviet authorities took extreme measures to crush any form of identity and dissent in Hryva.

In the summer of 1950, the village’s name was changed to Konyshchukivka, honoring Konyshchuk, a Soviet partisan commander. This renaming was part of a broader Soviet effort to erase Ukrainian culture, memory, and identity.

Because of its resistance to collectivization and support for rebel groups, the village was forcibly emptied. Roman Terentiyovych, a former resident, described the ordeal: “In those days, numerous cars arrived in the village to load possessions and transport them to the station. People took along whatever they could, disassembling their houses and packing up all their belongings, from pots and jugs to livestock… We spent three days at the Manevychi station. During a heavy downpour, tents were set up for us children, while the adults endured the rain, guarding our belongings… We were transported in freight cars, where everything was jumbled together: people, cows, and belongings. The journey lasted several days… It was autumn at the time. Overall, the village was relocated to eastern Ukraine on six different occasions.”

Some villagers found new homes in the nearby village of Novi Chervyshcha, while others were deported to the Magdalynivskyi district in the Dnipropetrovsk region. Eventually, a cattle yard and slaughterhouse replaced the former village, and even the church was torn down over time.

The terror that struck Hryva had a chilling effect on neighboring villages, dampening resistance to collectivization and support for the UPA. Over time, Soviet propaganda and intimidating tactics took their toll on the people.

Even after the Soviet Union fell, no one returned to what was once Hryva. Today, only a memorial stone and an old cemetery mark where the village once stood.


A memorial stone marks the site of the village of Hryva in the Kamin-Kashyrskyi district of the Volyn region

A memorial stone marks the site of the village of Hryva in the Kamin-Kashyrskyi district of the Volyn region


The village of Posich in the Tysmenytsia district of the Ivano-Frankivsk region


In the mid-20th century, Posich in the Tysmenytsia district of Ivano-Frankivsk region was a significant hub of resistance against Soviet rule, serving as one of the UPA’s key strongholds. Following World War II, this Carpathian village suffered severe damage from the NKVD for its defiance.

Between 1944 and 1945, Vasyl Andrusiak, better known as Colonel “Rizun-Grehit,” formed his first unit in Posich. This group became a cornerstone of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (the UPA), transforming the village into a bastion for the national liberation movement.

One of the most successful operations took place on April 7, 1945, when the local UPA  battalion “Crazy Subcarpathians” took down a Soviet NKVD special unit. They killed 60 NKVD officers and seized a large cache of weapons. This battle stands as one of the UPA’s most effective actions against Soviet forces [2]. But the cost of resistance was steep. Between 1946 and 1947, Posich faced severe Soviet crackdowns: some residents were deported to Siberia, while others were sent to the Odesa region. By 1950, the village was officially dissolved due to its continued defiance against Soviet authority.

Yaroslava Lomei, a former resident, reminisced about those harrowing times: “Our entire family – my father, mother, me, and five brothers and sisters – were first imprisoned in Kolomyia.  After nine weeks in captivity, we were informed that we wouldn’t be transported to Siberia due to a lack of space in the wagons. We were ordered to get out. When we returned home, we saw a terrible picture – a wasteland instead of a village. Only a chimney stood where our home had been, like a scene after a bombing” [1].

In the 1980s, ex-inhabitants of Posich and their descendants started a petition to allow them to return to their ancestral land. Their campaign succeeded. In May 1990, the Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Council voted to restore the village. Since then, Posich has been gradually rebuilt.


The cornerstone of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Sign, built in 2006 in Posich, Tysmenytsia district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

The cornerstone of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Sign, built in 2006 in Posich, Tysmenytsia district, Ivano-Frankivsk region


The village of Selyshche in the Halych district of the Ivano-Frankivsk region


The headquarters of the UPA battalion were located in a local home in Selyshche, leading Soviet officials to often refer to the village as “Banderivske” (implying that it is the residence of Stepan Bandera followers). Residents actively backed the insurgents, supplying food, shelter, and vital information on Soviet NKVD movements. By 1949, UPA activities in Selyshche, Medyn, and Bodnariv were the most active in the Galician region.

In 1950, Selyshche had 125 houses and 389 residents, along with an old church, a cultural center, and various gardens. Official Soviet records didn’t cite the village’s resistance activities as the reason for its destruction. Instead, they falsely claimed a lack of arable land. On June 28, 1950, a resettlement committee decided to relocate 108 families to collective farms in the Velykolepetivka district of the Kherson region. The relocation was set for July 13, 1950 [3].

Residents of Selyshche were forced to move under the huise of “voluntary” resettlement, as stated in official documents. After the people were deported, the NKVD demolished the village, burning buildings and even destroying the gardens.


The village of Sobiatyn in the Manevychi district of the Volyn region

The population of Sobiatyn village suffered a similar fate. After World War II, the villagers resisted Soviet collectivization efforts, refusing to surrender their property to meet the state’s economic goals.

In March 1952, the residents were forcibly relocated to the village of Vyshetarasivka in the Tomakivskyi district of the Dnipro region. The main reason for this dramatic measure was the villagers’ resistance to collectivization and their support for the Ukrainian liberation movement, the UPA. Personal belongings and livestock were transported to the nearest railway station by trucks. Pylyp Kalenykovych, one of those deported, recounted, “We were taken to Manevychi like refugees; we waited on the ramp for two weeks for the wagons to arrive; they gave us a truck and drove us away like cattle” [3, p. 199].

People risked their lives to return to their homes, crossing the Dnipro River under the cover of darkness. However, internal troops were stationed on the other side to turn them away. Those who made it back to Volyn found Sobiatyn gone — houses either destroyed or taken apart. The timber from the Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary was even used to build official structures in other areas. Attempts to resettle in the ruins were met with expulsion. Founded in 1798, Sobiatyn was never rebuilt.

The destruction of Ukranian villages due to Soviet deportations is another grim chapter in a history marked by forced deportation removals aimed at erasing national identity. These actions not just destroyed farms and homes, but also wiped out unique cultural and historical legacies. Tens of thousands were forced to leave their homeland with no avenue for return. Today, a similar story is unfolding as Russia continues to destroy Ukrainian villages and deport its people, aiming to strip Ukraine of its national identity and absorb it into the Russian Federation.

A cross stands at the site where nine of the 13 insurgents who died in a 1945 battle with the NKVD are buried in the village of Selyshche, Halych district, Ivano-Frankivsk region. Photo: Suspilne Ivano-Frankivsk

A cross stands at the site where nine of the 13 insurgents who died in a 1945 battle with the NKVD are buried in the village of Selyshche, Halych district, Ivano-Frankivsk region. Photo: Suspilne Ivano-Frankivsk




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