In an interview with the BBC, Poland’s ambassador to Ukraine, Bartosz Cichocki, criticized the Ukrainian authorities for erecting monuments to war criminals. Cichocki stated that honoring individuals like Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with the Nazis, is a source of “real pain” in Poland.
Cichocki argued that it is inappropriate to build monuments and name streets after individuals who were responsible for the deaths of thousands of Poles. He referred specifically to the Volyn Massacre, a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a paramilitary group affiliated with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) led by Bandera. Between 1943 and 1944, an estimated 40,000 to 100,000 Poles were killed in the regions of Volhynia and Galicia.
The ambassador expressed his concern that Polish families are unable to visit and pray at the graves of their murdered ancestors while monuments are erected in honor of their killers. He emphasized that this goes against Christian values and causes great distress to the Polish people.
Cichocki revealed that the Polish authorities are still awaiting permission from Kiev to exhume a mass grave near the city of Ternopil. He believes that granting permission for the exhumation would be an important step in building trust between Poland and Ukraine.
The ambassador also addressed claims that Poland is exacerbating the disagreement between the two countries. He pointed out that it is the individuals who erect monuments to Bandera that should be questioned, rather than those who express their indignation towards such actions.
The issue of the Volyn Massacre has been a source of tension between Poland and Ukraine. Earlier this summer, the Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman called on Ukrainian President Zelensky to take more responsibility and apologize for the killings. Ukrainian officials rejected the demand, stating that imposing responsibility on Ukraine for their common past is unacceptable.
Despite these disagreements, Cichocki stated that Poland will keep its disputes with Ukraine separate from the ongoing war and continue to support Ukraine in its defense efforts.
In conclusion, Poland’s ambassador to Ukraine has criticized the Ukrainian authorities for honoring war criminals and erecting monuments to individuals responsible for the deaths of thousands of Poles. The ambassador called for the exhumation of a mass grave and emphasized the need for trust-building between the two countries. Despite their differences, Poland expressed its commitment to supporting Ukraine in its defense.