In late April, Ukraine ordered Poland's Institute for National Remembrance (IPN) to stop its search for Polish graves in Ukraine, such as those of the victims of the Volhynia massacre (see: NOTE).
The move came after authorities in Hruszowice (southeastern Poland) removed an illegally-erected monument to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a World War II nationalist military formation responsible for the Volhynia killings.
Last week, Polish deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Piotr Glinski, accompanied by IPN deputy head Krzysztof Szwagrzyk, visited Ukraine and suggested that decisions on permits for searches and exhumations should be made at the top, inter-ministerial level. However, as Szwagrzyk reported later, the proposal had not been viewed favourably.
At the weekend, Poland's Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski visited the Ukrainian city of Lviv, calling on the Ukrainian government to make "concrete steps" to improve relations, such as letting IPN resume its searches and exhumations on its soil.
Queried by journalists in the Sejm (lower house) about Waszczykowski's visit and more generally, about Polish-Ukrainian relations, the deputy head of the EP replied that he wanted these ties to be close, but not at the cost of forgetting Polish people who had been killed in Ukraine.
He added: "the fact that Polish-Ukrainian relations have been inflamed is Kiev's fault and it is a gift for (Russia President Vladimir) Putin, for the Kremlin".
Ryszard Czarnecki (Law and Justice) assessed that Waszczykowski's extended hand was met with an Ukrainian fist at the weekend, which "bodes ill" although "both sides would benefit from close relations".
Asked if Polish President Andrzej Duda should make the scheduled visit to Ukraine in December, the EP VP expressed hope that Kiev would show it cared about the memory of Polish people who had been killed in its land, thus "encouraging the president to visit the country". (PAP)
NOTE: In 1943-44 the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) (co-founded by Ukrainian national hero Stepan Bandera with his Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) faction) mass-slaughtered 35,000–60,000 Polish people in the then eastern-Polish region of Volhynia, and 25,000–40,000 in nearby Eastern Galicia in a purge aimed to cleanse the areas of their Polish population, known as the Volhynia Massacre. The full victim count of the massacre is still debated.
On 22 January, 2010, Ukraine's outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko awarded Bandera the posthumous title of Hero of Ukraine, which was condemned by the European Parliament as well as Polish, Russian and Jewish organizations. The following state head, Viktor Yanukovych, declared the title illegal and in January 2011 it was officially annulled. In April 2015, the Supreme Council of Ukraine (Ukrainian parliament - PAP) passed a bill lauding, among others, UPA soldiers as "fighters for the freedom and independence of Ukraine" and forbidding the use of the word "genocide" in the UPA-UON context. The draft of the act was introduced by Yuriy Shukhevych, a son of a UPA commander.
Later in 2016, Ukraine blocked the launch and commercial screenings of Polish historical film "Volhynia" ("Wolyn" - PAP) telling the story of the massacre of the Polish people at the hands of Ukrainians.
On July 11-12, 1943, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) altogether attacked 150 Polish villages in Poland's former eastern region of Volhynia. About 100,000 Polish nationals were killed in this wave of mass murders.
The killing of 173 Polish citizens in the village of Paroslaw is considered to be the first act of the genocidal violence in Volhynia.
The Volhynia Massacre was carried out by the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) – Stepan Bandera's faction, UPA and the Ukrainian people, who murdered their Polish neighbours.
The killings intensified when in March and April 1943, many Ukrainian policemen ceased cooperating with the Germans and joined the UPA. Many of them had earlier participated in the extermination of Jews.
The crimes intensified again in July 1943, when the UPA murdered about 10,000-11,000 Polish people in the districts of Volodymyr-Volynskiy, Kovel, Horokhiv and Lutsk. The crimes were exceptionally cruel; the people were burnt alive, dropped into wells, attacked with hatchets and pierced with pitchforks, and women were raped. The Polish people were murdered in 1,865 sites in total.
"The Volhynia Slaughter" not only refers to mass murders committed in the Volhynia area, but also in the Lviv, Tarnopol and Stanislavov provinces, as well as in the Lublin and Polesie provinces.
The UPA, led by Roman Shukhevych, began its "anti-Polish" operation in Western Galicia in April 1944. It was not supposed to be as drastic as in Volhynia - the Ukrainians only wanted the Polish people to leave their houses under the threat of death. In case of denial they were only to kill the men, but the reality turned out to be different.
The nationalists also killed mixed Polish-Ukrainian families, Ukrainians who refused to participate in the killings and those who helped save the Polish people. "The Book of the Righteous of the Eastern Borderlands", published by Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), states that Ukrainians saved 2,527 Polish people. (PAP)