The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukraiinska povstanska armia – UPA) was a partisan force that fought against both the Soviet and German occupations. UPA fought for an independent Ukraine, and the Army was to be the foundation for the army of the Ukrainian state. It was hoped that as the Germans and Soviets fought themselves to exhaustion, an independent Ukraine would be established. UPA was formed in late 1942; it was made up of units of various partisan forces operating in Ukraine, most importantly those led by Taras Borovets. The political leadership of the UPA was the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists- Bandera faction (OUN-B). In the fall of 1943, General Roman Shukhevych took command of UPA.

UPA was designed to be a large-scale partisan force; owing to the extensive experience and underground networks of OUN-B that existed in Ukraine, the UPA soon grew into a well-organized and effective fighting force. It took control of large areas of Volyn, Polissia, and Galicia. Unlike Soviet partisans that fought behind German lines, UPA could not rely on support or supply by any foreign power – it was supported by the local Ukrainian population and was thus a true “peoples’ army.” It is estimated that at its height UPA counted some 80 000 members. In 1944 UPA had about 40 000 fighting troops, organized into four groups – UPA North, South, East and West. Its area of action encompassed one quarter of the territory of Ukraine.

The Germans committed many units to the battle against UPA; the largest battle between UPA and German forces took place in July-September 1943. Despite the commitment by the Germans of a massive force, UPA managed to take twice as many German casualties as UPA itself lost. As the German army retreated from Ukrainian territory in 1944, UPA staged frequent raids for weapons and materiel.

As Soviet forces re-occupied Ukraine, UPA began an open struggle against the Red Army and the NKVD. Some large-scale battles were fought, in which UPA was, as a rule, outnumbered and outgunned. However, using the landscape and environment to their advantage, UPA managed to fight effectively against Soviet forces. The German capitulation did not mean the end of the war in Ukraine, as UPA continued to fight against the Soviet occupation. In January-April 1946 Soviet forces opened an offensive against UPA in the Carpathian Mountains named the “Great Blockade.” More than

500 000 troops, and massive amounts of artillery, aircraft and tanks were committed to this battle. More than 1500 engagements were fought, and UPA lost about half of its fighting force.

Many units of UPA were demobilized and the rest were ordered to continue the struggle underground. UPA remained an active force and a serious thorn in the side until 1952, two years after the death in a firefight with MVD troops of its commander, Roman Shukhevych.

The legacy of UPA continues to be a complex issue in contemporary Ukraine. Owing to effective Soviet propaganda of presenting UPA as Nazi collaborators (which has no basis fact – UPA fought against the Germans as fiercely as they later fought the Soviets), many Ukrainians still equate UPA with collaboration. The contemporary Leftist forces in Ukrainian politics – most notably the Communist Party and the Progressive Socialist Party, have continued the lies of Soviet propaganda. As a result, to date UPA veterans have not been granted official recognition as veterans by the Ukrainian government, a bitter irony for those who fought precisely for an independent Ukrainian state.