A resolution passed by the lower house of parliament in Warsaw has emphasized the need for accountability regarding the mass killings of Poles by Ukrainian nationalists during World War II. The resolution, adopted by lawmakers in the Sejm on Tuesday, comes as Poland commemorates the 80th anniversary of wartime atrocities in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. The main perpetrators of these crimes were members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the militant wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which Poland considers an act of genocide.
The resolution highlights the brutal nature of the attacks by the OUN and UPA units, supported by part of the local Ukrainian community, which resulted in the murders of over 100,000 Poles. In addition, several hundred thousand people were forced to flee, fearing for their lives. The OUN, aiming to establish a Ukrainian nation state, allied with Nazi German invaders and targeted groups that they perceived as obstructing their cause. The victims of these attacks also included Jews, Czechs, Russians, and ethnic Ukrainians who opposed the purges. Alongside the mass killings, there was also the destruction of property, including cultural and religious artifacts of significant importance.
The resolution stressed the importance of Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation, which has been built over the years by representatives of both nations. It asserts that this reconciliation must include the recognition of guilt and the commemoration of the victims. Polish officials have expressed their expectation for gestures of accountability from Kiev during the 80th anniversary of the tragedy. However, the Ukrainian government considers the UPA and its leaders as national heroes due to their fight for Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union.
Last week, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda participated in a joint commemoration in Western Ukraine. However, Zelensky did not offer a formal apology for the mass killings. In the past, Kiev’s ambassador to Warsaw, Vasily Zvarych, cautioned against attempts by Poland to pressure Ukraine into taking unacceptable steps regarding their shared past.
The resolution passed by the Polish parliament reflects the ongoing tension between Poland and Ukraine concerning their historical narratives. While Poland seeks acknowledgment and accountability for the atrocities committed against its citizens, Ukraine celebrates the nationalist fighters as heroes who fought for independence. Reconciliation between the two nations requires a delicate balance between acknowledging the past and understanding the differing interpretations of historical events.
The historical wounds between Poland and Ukraine run deep, with the atrocities committed during World War II still evoking strong emotions. However, addressing the past with honesty, transparency, and empathy is essential for creating a better future. Reconciliation efforts should focus on promoting dialogue, understanding, and remembrance to ensure that such tragic events are never repeated.