Poland asks Ukraine to confront dark past despite common front against Moscow
WARSAW — Poland’s president on Monday called for Ukraine to admit what he called the shameful truth about how Ukrainian nationalists had massacred over 100,000 Poles during World War Two, despite Kyiv and Warsaw’s common front against Russia now.
The remarks by Andrzej Duda were made on the 79th anniversary of the 1943 killings in Volhynia in Nazi-occupied Poland and were a pointed reminder of the complex historical ties between Warsaw and Kyiv at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought the two neighbors closer together.
Poland has opened its doors to Ukrainian refugees and Duda has allowed his country to be used as a logistics hub to keep Ukraine supplied as it fights an exhausting war of attrition against Russia.
But at a Warsaw ceremony on Monday, Duda said that the truth about the wartime massacres and others like it in Eastern Galicia from 1944-45 had to be “firmly and clearly stated” regardless and called on Kyiv to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing of Poles by Ukrainian nationalist militias.
“It was not about and is not about revenge, about any retaliation. There is no better proof of this than the time we have now,” Duda said, referring to the two countries’ current cooperation against Russia.
The issue was complex for Ukrainians, he said, since some regarded the same militias as heroes for the resistance they mounted against the Soviet Union and as symbols of Kyiv’s painful struggle for independence from Moscow.
“Those who we know were murderers were also heroes for Ukraine, at other times and with a different enemy, and often died at the hands of the Soviets, fighting with deep faith for an independent, free Ukraine,” said Duda.
There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to Duda’s comments, but his remarks are likely to be seen as ill-timed in some Ukrainian circles who view attempts to discuss such events now as part of a Russian-inspired attempt to falsely cast Ukraine as a country in need of de-Nazifying, one of the stated aims of what Russia calls its special military operation.
The Polish parliament has said that the murders, carried out between 1943 and 1945 by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists under the leadership of Stepan Bandera, bore elements of genocide.
Ukraine has not accepted that assertion and often refers to the Volhynia events as part of a conflict between Poland and Ukraine which affected both nations.
Polish historians say that up to 12,000 Ukrainians were also killed in Polish retaliatory operations.
Ukraine hit by widespread shelling, apartment toll rises to 18
Rocket collapses apartment block in Ukraine’s Donbas, killing six
Ukraine tells residents to leave occupied south due to counterattack plans
War in Ukraine: Latest developments
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.