Boleslaw Skarbek-Szacki

Following Kharkiv traces of Boleslaw Skarbek-Szacki


Nowadays the biography writing has turned into the some trend of the historical science. One way or another, on the shelves of the bookshops we can find lots of scientific works devoted to the historic figures/political leaders, that often become the worldwide bestsellers. These sorts of books give us an understanding of how important the role of the outstanding personality in history is. And this is useful for all of us because we need to understand our individuality and unique nature.

However, there are some people who are, consciously or not, set aside by writers and research scientists. Right here the mystery hides, especially when we come up to the Soviet legacy.

The person who was consciously hushed up1 till 1958 was a Polish communistic figure in USSR Boleslaw Vladislavovich Skarbek-Szacki (1888-03.06.1934).


«…In the process of further investigation on the case of “Polish Military Organization” (PMO) the role of the head of Chernigiv regional committee of CP(b)U. Skarbek as one of the main and oldest leaders of this organization in Ukraine becomes more evident…»

From the report of the head of GPU of USSR V. Balitsky to J. Stalin and to the deputy of the head of OGPU G. Yagoda, 7th of August 1933.


«Being arrested by GPU, I have analyzed my life in the past. I declare that my arrest is absolutely correct. I joined the party without getting rid of petty-bourgeois and nationalistic ideology completely…».

From the statement of B. Skarbek to the head of GPU of USSR V.Balitskyi, 19th of August, 1933


The above mentioned documents witness that one of the most loyal to the Soviet regime Polish communists was accused, and confessed to be a member of the «PMO». The fate was cruel to him – death penalty (after the «triad» of Gegel’s chekists). But there was a whole life beforehand, full of many interesting periods. One of them turned out to be connected with Kharkiv.

As the ancestors of B. Szacki participated in the rebellion of Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1794), they were deported from Poland. That is why the hero of our essay was born in town of Kuznetsk, Saratov province, in the family of a forester. He was attending the Nemirov’s Classical Gymnasium. The Szackis were not rich, they had only the memories of the former nobility. Along with the elder Boleslaw, there were also younger children – brother Alexander and sister Eleonora (when B. Skarbek was arrested in August 1933, his brother A. Szacki lived in Leningrad and worked as a surgeon at the Military Medical Academy; sister Eleonora, married name Bromirska, was a citizen of Poland). After her husband’s death Boleslaw’s mother had to rent out apartment to students in order to maintain her family.

The family’s tough situation was really stimulating Boleslaw to think about material values and their redistribution what in turn made him accept with enthusiasm socialistic ideas which were popular at that time among young people and join the Polish Socialist Party (Polish: Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, PPS). Anton Khlopitsky, one of the active members of Kyiv’s PPS group, was that very person who had recruited the young man of Polish descent.

Later Boleslaw became a student of Kiev Polytechnic Institute, which he did not graduate.

Right here we are coming back to our «odious» story that connects B. Szacki with Kharkiv. For the active participation in revolutionary activities and desire with the weapon in hands to revive the Polish sovereignty, struggling against tsarist Russia, he was arrested and imprisoned (1914-1916).

In the office of Kharkiv governor we can find the testimony of a chief of police of Vitebsk province which declares that on the 18th of August 1914 «nobleman» Szacki was set to serve his sentence in Kharkov due to the fact that in a number of other provinces (Kyiv, Podilsk, Volyn etc.) in 1914-1916 the martial law was imposed (First World War). All documents including the governor’s respond to the police captain, had features of the action-detective genre, bein marked «CONFIDENTIAL».

The further course of his case was interesting and substantial. It contains a number of documents which certify that the gendarmerie of Kharkov supervised the person’s moving they were so interested in. At the beginning he lived at Myronosytska Street 9 (it was mentioned in the «message» of Kharkiv police chief to the city’s governor) and peacefully served his sentence. However, the place of location changed after a year and our severe suspected protagonist moved to a new address – Shchedrinsky Quarter 46. The same «shadowing» group informed the department of the chief of police of Kharkiv about this meticulously in the form of «denunciation» on «nobleman» Szacki on the 25th of August 1915. Further, we can see the way the local authorities wanted to get rid of the persona non grata, using different methods and means. What was only worth the «petition» of Kharkiv police chief to the governor of Vitebsk with a request to clarify serious crimes and «criminal activity of the citizen» Szacki, with following sending to a military service.

It would be really interesting to get to know whether Mr. Boleslaw was aware of that commotion, caused by his stay in Kharkiv. Probably, he was. A year after his arrival, he requested his transfer to Kyiv, giving reasons that he had been a student of Kiev Polytechnic Institute. The Vitebsk governor’s answer was in the spirit of «top secret» – no way. Finally, Szacki could have lots of reasons to apply for his transfer – such as his graduating from the university and/or, taking into account the revolutionary character of Kyiv of those days along with the important role of Poles2 in that process, continuing the activity which actually caused the imprisonment.

In any case, whatever it was, everything was already predestined. The fate undertook amendments and Kharkiv period became a crucial turn that defined Szacki’s further life. After all mentioned events, he became one of the organizers of Polish Socialist Association in Kharkiv (1917). The same year he joined the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (bolshevistic). In 1917-1918 he was a member of Kharkiv Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, a head of cultural-educative department of a province commissariat of Polish affairs in Kharkiv (from January 1918 – regional commissariat of Polish affairs). And further… There were years of work in Kyiv, Moscow, Chernigiv. Work at the editor’s position of the newspaper «Kyiv proletarian», a head of the local committee of CP(b)U, a director of the institute of Polish proletarian culture by VUAN (All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences). However, finally, as well as thousands of others, he found himself gripped by the repressive machine that was actively working within the confines of Josef Stalin’s totalitarian system. Accordingly, on the 1st of June 1934 the order signed by the deputy of the head of OGPU G.Yagoda, was sent to the head of OGPU V. Balitsky with the note «Personally»:

«OGPU forwards the extract from the protocol of OGPU board session dated 9/III-34 on case №11567 – Skarbek-Szacki Boleslaw Vladislavovich – to execution. Inform about the execution».

On the 3rd of June 1934, Boleslaw Skarbek-Szacki was executed in Kharkiv.



1 After the 20th Congress of the CPSU during the so-called “Liberalization”, his wife and son insisted on rehabilitation of his name as illegally convicted with regard to the case of PMO (Polish Military Organization) in Ukraine.

2 It is about the activities of such student organizations as Pilsudski “Corporation” or Proendec “Polonia”.


Source of information:

1. ДАХО. – Ф. 3. – Оп. 287. – Спр. 5309.


Prepared by Valentin Yeryomin