Ukraine to Honour Soldiers who Slaughtered Poles at Volhynia
Ukraine has introduced a new law that honours soldiers who fought in nationalist groups against Nazi Germany – but who are accused of acts of genocide against Poles in the Polish-Ukrainian borderlands.
The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) slaughtered at least 60,000 Poles, and up to 100,000, in Volhynia and Galicia from 1943 to 1944. Early in the ethnic cleansing campaign, in July 1943, UPA soldiers attacked around 150 Polish villages in two days, murdering inhabitants in often brutal fashion. The deaths of every male aged 16 or over had been ordered, but women and young children suffered equally.
The actions of the UPA were met with counter-attacks by the Polish underground army (AK), leading to the deaths of around 20,000 Ukrainians in Volhynia and Galicia.
Rzeż wołynska (The Volhynia Massacre):
Ukraine has never been able to be fully open about the Volhynia massacre, and Poland, wary of causing diplomatic tensions, has fallen short of making an outright demand for ‘apology for genocide’.
But now, the Ukrainian government wants to give surviving UPA members state pensions and other benefits.
The move was criticised by, among others, Robert Choma, mayor of Przemyśl, on the Polish side of the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Mr Choma wrote to Poland’s president, Bronisław Komorowski, expressing ‘concern, even raising protest’ on behalf of Przemyśl residents about the new law in Ukraine.
His letter said: “In Przemyśl, there live too many people who, even if they do not remember the atrocities carried out by members of the UPA, can cite people from families who were killed by these ‘freedom fighters'”.
Mr Choma noted that Mr Komorowski had been on a state visit to Ukraine when the law was passed. He said the combination of events ‘did not serve Polish-Ukrainian relations well’. However, he was more positive about Mr Komorowski’s speech at the Ukrainian parliament, in which the president mentioned the two nations’ ‘common history’ and praised Ukraine’s ‘European aspirations’.
The law, introduced on April 9, was one of three designed to bolster national feeling among Ukrainian society – and also makes it a crime to ‘insult the members of the UPA’. Another law passed on the same day banned the use of the hammer and sickle – symbol of the Soviet Union – outlawing it in the same way that the swastika is outlawed in some countries for its connection with Nazi Germany.
The third law establishes May 8 as a day of Day of ‘remembrance and reconciliation in honour of all the victims’ of the Second World War.
Picture: Slaughter at Volhynia. Additional reporting by Kresy.pl.