In August 1914, a legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen (USR) was created in Lviv. This volunteer military formation became the basis for the Ukrainian national army and revived the original Ukrainian military tradition. The years of imperial enslavement did not extinguish the desire for freedom, therefore, 28,000 Ukrainians responded to the call to defend their native land during the First World War, of which the Austrian government allowed only 2,500 riflemen to serve.
The USR fought on the Carpathian front against the Russian army. The riflemen received one of the most famous victories over the enemy in May 1915 in the battle on Mount Makovka, where they suffered heavy losses. . The core of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen consisted of people who had undergone military training long before the war in Ukrainian youth organizations: “Sich”, “Sokol” and “Plast”.
Also in the ranks there were many people who created the Ukrainian military tradition of the twentieth century and continued the struggle at the end of the First World War. It is said, in particular, about Dmytro Vitovsky, the centurion of the USR, the state secretary of military affairs of the West Ukrainian People’s Republic.
The legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen is truly legendary, because, muffled by years of oppression, it expressed the desire for freedom and the massive manifestation of national consciousness that guided Ukrainian fighters for more than a dozen years. The archers swore an oath not only to Austria-Hungary, but also to Ukraine.
The USR were fundamental to the restoration of Ukrainian statehood and the creation of a nation-centered worldview. The example of Sich Riflemen was inspired by the underground fighters — participants in the first liberation competitions, OUN figures, UPA fighters, and now — modern defenders of Ukraine.