Ivan Kozak, a Ukrainian WW1 commander, born in Hoczew

Ivan Kozak (Source: Wikipedia)

Ivan Kozak (Іван Козак) was born on August 8, 1891, in Hoczew, Austro-Hungarian empire. He was the son of a Greek Catholic priest, Teodor Kozak (Теодор Козак), and Helena Gajowska (Гелена Ґайовска). Hoczew was a village that had a majority Ukrainian / Rusyn Greek Catholic population, however, it also had a strong Polish Roman Catholic presence, and also a very minor Jewish population. The village was home both to a Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic church, a rarity in this region, since most villages around the area only contained Greek Catholic churches, and Roman Catholic ones were mostly found in larger urban centres. 

Kozak’s father time in Hoczew was brief, and he stopped serving the village in 1896. After some time, the family ended up in Lemberg (Present day Lviv, Ukraine), where the young Ivan Kozak was schooled, and by 1910, he had finished his studies at the Ukrainian academy there. He went on to study law in in Lemberg and obtained his law degree in Prague.

Service in the Austro-Hungarian Army during WW1

During the first World War Kozak served in the Austrian army, where he participated in battles on the Russian front, and was seriously wounded. He was awarded several Austro-Hungarian combat medals. Because of the major rehabilitation needed as a result of the wounds received, he served out the rest of the war doing field work. After the collapse of Austria-Hungary, the West Ukrainian People’s Republic, with Lviv as its capital proclaimed independence over eastern Galicia, and Kozak joined the fight for an independent Ukrainian state.

The fight for a Ukrainian Republic

In November of 1918, Kozak started his service in the Ukrainian Galician Army, which was the military wing of the newly proclaimed West Ukrainian People’s Republic. In 1920, the Ukrainian People’s Republic (which aimed to create an independent state with Kyiv as its capital) and Poland signed a treaty officially recognizing Polish control over the disputed territory of Eastern Galicia, which formally ended any hope of a Ukrainian state in Galicia.

He was then transferred to the Ukrainian People’s Republic Fifth Kherson division to fight the Soviets. After several months, he left the division along with its commander Antin Kravs and crossed into Czechoslovakia, where he became the last commander of a sprase Ukrainian Galician Army unit in the country.

The interwar period

After the Soviets conquered most of Ukraine and the attempt at any Ukrainian state failed, Kozak went back to Poland where he setup a law practice in Uhnów, Poland (present day Uhniv, Ukraine). He was arrested in the 1930’s by Polish authorities and spent time in the Bereza Kartuska prison for participating in Ukrainian nationalist organizations.

Emigration and later life

After the end of the Second World War, the lands that Kozak fought to become a part of a Ukrainian state, came under Soviet and Polish control. He emigrated to the USA in 1949, and settled in New York. He died in December of 1978 at the age of 87.

Ivan Kozak’s Birth Record

Taken from the Hoczew Greek Catholic Births: 1863-1907 Collection: (60/673/0)