On June 22, 1941 Germany and its allied powers invaded the Soviet Union from three strategic directions. Having had no experienced military leaders, the Red Army suffered great losses and the soldiers often found themselves surrounded. By the end of September, the Red Army left Kyiv and Odessa, and in the middle of October the battles were expanded near Kharkiv and Donbas. Thus, the whole territory of Ukraine was involved into combat operations.
In December 1941, the Wehrmacht suffered its first defeat near Moscow. In the course of counterattack, the Red Army drew the Germans back for 400 km.
Nonetheless, 1942 was still unsuccessful. The catastrophe near Kharkiv, where three armies were surrounded and crushed was one of the greatest tragedies. Sevastopol fell in July, and on the 22nd, the receding Soviet troops left the last settlements in the territory of Donbas. The enemy penetrated the Caucasus and the banks of the Volga in the region of Stalinhrad.
A.Hitler gave a considerable portion of Ukrainian land to his ally, the Prime Minister of Romania I. Antonesku. They created a new Romanian province named “Transnistria”, with a center in Odessa. West-Ukrainian lands were subject to governor-generalship which embraced the greatest part of Poland. The Right Bank and the greater part of the Left Bank, and areas adjacent to the Crimea, created “Reichscommisariat of Ukraine”.
While Hitler`s Nazis occupied the Ukrainian land in 1941, they completely exterminated Jewish and Roma populations, as well as all other people suspected of not being loyal to the Reich. Thousands of people starved to death. During the occupation of 1941-1944 Ukraine was covered with a network of 280 concentration camps and 180 camps for war prisoners. The Ostarbeiters, about 2 million Ukrainians were taken to forced labor in the labor camps in Germany. Nearly 320 villages with their inhabitants were burned to the ground. In the annals of Nazi terror in the occupied territories are included as symbols of the mass extermination of civilians Belarus Khatyn with 149 residents killed by chastisers, Czech Lidice with 320 massacred, the French village, Oradour-sur-Glane, where 642 of its inhabitants were killed by a German Waffen-SS company. But the biggest one-stage Nazi punitive action against the civilian population was held on 1-2 March 1943 in the village Koryukovka in Chernihiv, Ukraine. Nearly seven thousand people were shot or burned alive in this Polissyan village!
Invaluable contribution to the victory was made by the underground fighters and partisans who killed at the territory of Ukraine 465,000 enemy soldiers and officers, destroyed 411 enemy garrisons and policemen stations, 56 military headquarters, derailed 5019 military trainloads, undermined the 1566 tanks and armored vehicles, 13,500 vehicles, disabled 820 guns and mortars, shot down or destroyed on the ground 211 aircraft, sank 105 ships, barges and boats, blew up 607 rail and 1589 highway bridges, about 2600 industrial objects.
While at the beginning of the war resistance of the population was „spontaneous” the increase in occupants’ punitive actions caused the growth of rows of underground fighters. According to various estimates, nearly 2.2 million residents of Ukraine actively fight back, among which 620,000 partisans and underground fighters, who were organized in 46 large partisan formations, 2000 partisan groups and 3800 underground patriotic organizations and groups, and waged armed struggle until the liberation of the country. The most efficient partisan raids were carried out by the formations led by the well-known partisan commanders S.Kovpak, O.Saburovov, S.Grishin and O.Fedorov.
On December 19, 1942, the enemies were dislodged from the first Ukrainian villages. After the victory on the Kursk Bulge in July 1943, Soviet troops counterattacked and quickly liberated Left BankUkraine and Donbas. Kyiv was liberated on November 6, 1943.
In October 1944, the entire Ukrainian territory was free from enemy forces. Transcarpathian Ukraine was liberated on October 26-28. In November, the congress of people’s committee in Mukacheve made a resolution about the Transcarpathian withdrawal from Czechoslovakia and its reunification with Ukraine. The new region expanded Ukraine’s territory to 577 thousand square miles.
After landing American and English forces in Normandy in June of 1944, the defeat of Germany became inevitable. The Berlin operation, in which the troops of the 1st and 2nd Belorusian and 1st Ukrainian fronts took part (total of 2.5 million people), became the last page in the war. On May 9, 1945, the statement of unconditional capitulation was signed in the presence of Soviet, American, English and French representatives.
The results of the war and the postwar world order were determined by mutual actions of the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition (first of which were the Teheran and Crimean conferences). The conference in San Francisco in June 1945, founded the United Nations Organization. Ukraine and Belarus, which had made a recognizable contribution to the defeat of Nazism, were among the founding nations of the UN Organization.
Ukrainian nation was among other nations that not only had sustained many losses during World War II but also made every effort to destroy Nazism. About 6 million Ukrainians served in the armed forces of the countries of Anti-Hitlerite Coalition. More than two thousand of nationals were decorated with Soviet Union Hero honours. Twenty nine of them were honoured two times. Of them, about 3 million died, and every other person became an invalid. Between 8 - 10 million people, born in Ukraine perished during the World War II.
We are resolved to prevent the recurrence of such catastrophes. We shall draw wisdom from those lessons of the past to guide us in the future.