On January 29, 1918, in a battle near the train station at Kruty, some 80 miles northeast of Kyiv, a small contingent of Ukrainian forces – composed mainly of a student battalion of the Sich Riflemen and a company from the Khmelnytsky Cadet School – faced a superior Russian Bolshevik force of 4,000 men. The Ukrainian contingent succeeded in blocking the Bolshevik advance on Kyiv for several days. The young Ukrainians’ resistance also enabled the Ukrainian National Republic to conclude the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, a major accomplishment as a result of which the UNR was recognized by the Central Powers despite the Bolsheviks’ attempts to represent Ukraine.
But the losses at Kruty were great. After several days of intense fighting, the Ukrainian contingent was forced to retreat, and 300 young men died defending their country. They were surrounded and slaughtered, noted the late Dr. Orest Subtelny in his book “Ukraine: A History,” and their deaths “earned for them a place of honor in the Ukrainian national pantheon.” As the Encyclopedia of Ukraine underscores, the battle of Kruty “is commemorated as a symbol of patriotic self-sacrifice and is immortalized in numerous literary and publicistic works.”