Mykhailo Bilynskyi. Godfather of the Ukrainian Marine Corps

Mykhailo Bilynskyi. Godfather of the Ukrainian Marine Corps

Units of the Ukrainian Marine Corps in the modern sense of the term were formed in 1918-1919. And directly Andriy Pokrovsky, a descendant of a Cossack colonel, and Mykhailo Bilynskyi (Michal Bilinski in the then Galician-Polish manner), a hereditary Ukrainian nobleman, were involved in this process.

Maritime Minister of the UPR M. I. Bilynskyi and S. O. Shramchenko in the uniform of the 1st Hutsul Marine Regiment, 1919

Actually, the one who did the most for the formation of the Ukrainian Marine Corps was M. Bilynskyi. Thanks to him, relying on the “Law on the fleet”, the Directory of the UPR by Order No. 57/28 of January 25, 1919 gave Ukrainian names to the ships that were built in Mykolaiv: Dreadnought — “Soborna Ukraine”, cruisers — “Hetman Bohdan Khmelnitsky”, “Hetman Petro Doroshenko”, “Taras Shevchenko”. The destroyers were named “Kyiv”, “Baturyn”, “Chyhyryn”, “Lviv”, “Ivan Vyhovsky”, “Ivan Sirko”, “Petro Mohyla”, “Ivan Kotlyarevsky”, “Kost Hordiyenko”, “Ivan Pidkova”, “Pylyp Orlyk”, and the submarine base was called “Dnipro”.

However, on February 1, 1919, the Entente troops captured Kherson, and the next day — Mykolaiv. Two days later, under the onslaught of the White Army, the government of Symon Petliura left Kyiv.

But despite these and other dramatic twists and turns in the history of the UPR, M. Bilynskyi begins to form Marine regiments of the young republic. In accordance with the order of the Chief Otaman No. 68/32, the law “On the organization of the Navy on the Black Sea coast”, of April 9, 1919, the territory between Mykolaiv, Ochakiv and Kherson was declared the Coastal front. Paradoxically, marine units began to be recruited in Galicia from former sailors of the Adriatic fleet of Austria-Hungary. However, they were clearly not enough to create a separate military unit. Therefore, Michal Bilinski began to encourage raftsmen from Hutsul region to serve, who regularly underwent good training in courage and ingenuity when “darabs sailed into legend”, that is, during wood rafting on the wayward Carpathian rivers. Actually, mainly from these guys, the first combat infantry unit of the UPR naval forces was completed, which was included in the Chronicle of the Ukrainian Navy under the name “The First Hutsul Regiment of the Ukrainian Marine Corps”, which entered service on July 29, 1919…

As part of the Marine Corps of the UPR troops, conscripts from among the Carpathian raftsmen also fought against the “Reds”

In the end, they formed a whole division of the Ukrainian Marine Corps, which was headed by M. Bilynskyi. It consisted of three regiments: the first — Hutsul, the second — Podilsk and the third — Galician, formed in Brody in the Lviv region. The division fought against the Russian Red Army, just as the modern Marines of Ukraine oppose the Russians on the current Eastern Front…

On November 17, 1921, during the Second winter campaign, the participants of the raid, along with the Marines, were defeated in a battle with the Reds near Mali Minky in the Zhytomyr region. It was then, in the struggle for Ukrainian statehood, that one of the creators and godfather of the UPR Marine Corps, Mykhailo Bilynskyi, tragically died. Not wanting to fall alive into the hands of the Bolsheviks, several Ukrainian officers committed suicide after desperate resistance. Among them was Bilynskyi, who turned 39 that day.

According to the participants of those tragic events in their memoirs, Mykhailo Bilynskyi and a group of soldiers covered a wagon train with the wounded, which was crossing the Zvizdal River. Unable to contain the offensive of a large enemy, the seriously wounded Mykhailo Ivanovych took a desperate step: “he shot two Muscovites with his Browning, and fired the last bullet in his forehead.”

Illustration of the Battle of Mali Minky
  1. Links to used sources:
  2. “Naval Minister of the Ukrainian People’s Republic Mykhailo Bilynskyi”. Yuriy Kaliberda