As you may know, a few days ago the Polish Senate recognized the massacres committed by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (OUN-UIA) in Volhynia in 1943 as a Polish genocide and urged the Sejm to support its resolution. The press service of the Senate reports that as many as 60 Senators voted for the resolution. 23 senators were contra, 1 senator abstained. One of the key supporters was the ruling Law and Justice Party. Polish historians consider the OUN-UIA to be fully responsible for the massacres.
In its turn, the opposition Polish People’s Party has submitted to the Sejm a resolution proclaiming June 11 as the day of remembrance for the victims of the genocide committed by the OUN-UIA in the eastern provinces of Rzeczpospolita. The fact that the resolution was approved exactly when NATO was holding a summit in Warsaw has proved that it was just one more element in the new Rzeczpospolita’s global policy on Ukraine.
Experts confirm that the Volhynia tragedy was a genocide but the question is why the Poles have remembered it now and why they actively supported Ukraine’s revolution of dignity even though they perfectly knew that its ideology was nationalism and its heroes were Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, the two persons responsible for the Polish massacres.
The resolution says that the OUN-UIA killed women, children and old people just because they were not Ukrainians. It notes that the massacres involved not only Poles but also Jews, Armenians, Czechs and other non-Ukrainian ethnic groups as well as Ukrainians who tried to save Poles.
The apogee of the massacres was July 11, 1943, when the Ukrainian nationalists attacked almost 100 Polish, 3 Czech, 6 Armenian, 19 Ukrainian villages. They killed people throughout that summer. Ukrainian experts object that it was not systematic annihilation but was just the result of a war between the Polish and Ukrainian armies. They say that no more than 35,000 civilians were killed, while their Polish colleagues insist on 100,000 killed people (and this figure is confirmed by German and Austrian archives).
“Our friends from Ukraine must admit that it was a genocide and must stop denying this fact,” a source from the Polish foreign ministry told Gazeta Wyborcza.
On that very day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was in Warsaw and laid flowers and bent the knee in memory of those killed in the Volhynia tragedy, but, at one and the same time, Kiev’s Moskovsky Avenue was renamed into Stepan Bandera Avenue and Spokesperson of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Mariana Betsa appeared with a statement saying that this issue must not be politicized and must be discussed by historians.
“Under current circumstances we need to help Ukraine to preserve its independence,” Betsa said. She did not specify who those “we” were. She is afraid that the Sejm will support the Senate’s resolution as the Polish right-wing parties have been actively campaigning for it in the press.
“We will not be able to find out the truth if the Ukrainian independent state falls,” Betsa said.
The Ukrainian society does not deny the massacres. Even more, a number of Ukrainian parties, NGOs and clergymen have sent the Poles a letter where they apologize for the tragedy. “...This is a special pain for both the Ukrainians and the Poles to remember the Volhynia tragedy and the Polish-Ukrainian war, which claimed the lives of thousands of innocent brothers and sisters... We apologize for our crimes and excuse for the crimes committed against us. This spiritual formula must be a motive for each Ukrainian and Pole, who wants peace and understanding. As long as we are alive, our historical wounds will be aching. But we will be alive only if we learn to respect each other despite our past,” the letter says.
The authors of the letter could not but mention Russia. They blamed the Russians for their current war against the Ukrainians and said that it has made the Ukrainians and the Poles even closer. “By warring against Ukraine, Russia is warring against Poland and the whole free world,” says the letter signed by former presidents of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk and Viktor Yuschenko, Patriarch of the non-canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church Filaret, politicians, writers and artists, like Vyacheslav Brukhovetsky, Ivan Vasyunyk, Ivan Dziuba, Danilo Lubkivsky, Dimitro Pavlychko, Volodymyr Panchenko, Myroslav Popovych, Vadim Skuratovsky, Ihor Yukhnovskyi.
But those people must have forgotten that in May 2015 Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko granted the Ukrainian Insurgent Army the status of fighters for independence and by doing that legalized it as some ideological platform for new Ukrainian self-identity. And they also forgot that the author of the Polish massacres Stepan Bandera has been made the symbol of the post-Maidan Ukraine.
The response was quick: 200 Polish MPs reminded the authors of the letter that the hero of the Ukrainian people Stepan Bandera is one of the perpetrators of the Volhynia genocide. They said that they understand and accept the Ukrainians’ wish to be independent but they can’t accept the Ukrainian authorities’ decision to make a hero of the man who killed thousands of Poles.
In any case, the Polish resolution is just part of Poland’s policy on post-Soviet Ukraine. The key goal of this policy is to use the trans-Atlantic vector in order to regain control over Lviv and Western Ukraine.
The Poles realize that today, when Ukraine is under external control, when its government institutions are not working and when its authorities care for their own prosperity and some mythical European ideas more than for their own people, is the best time for them to put into practice their centuries-old idea to get back the territories they regard as their own.
Ian Matuszewski (Warsaw), specially for EADaily