Time goes by so fast that with each rounded anniversary, it’s becoming easier to remember the tragedies that once took place, than the acts of commemoration that have occurred since. This is how it is today; the public opinion and politicians are uncovering the crime that occurred in Volyn. It is an ongoing debate – was there genocide or not, who was the attacker, who was the defender, etc.
Ten years ago there was a celebration which I refer to below. A year before it, along with the Head of the Office of Kuchma, who at that time was Viktor Medvedchuk, we started preparations for this celebration. Together with Andrzej Przewoźnik, we designated places to commemorate. A large team of experts, that was created together with the Ukrainian side, operated and co-worked with archivists, journalists, representatives of non-governmental organizations and borderland organizations. The team was hosted in Kiev several times.
In Ukraine, several hundred publications appeared about the crime in Volyn. We wanted to reach the Ukrainian public opinion with our Polish sensitivity. Along the way, we passed the Ukrainians point of view onto the Poles.
The success was that for the first time the Presidents of both countries listened to the relation of the witness who miraculously escaped from the burning church. Together they laid down wreaths.
As we celebrate another anniversary, it is worth recalling the words that were said before.
This text comes from the website POLONIA PORTAL – www.expatpol.com
Polish and Ukrainian Presidents, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Leonid Kuchma, will meet on 13 July 2003 in Pavlivka (former Poryck) in Volyn, to pay tribute to the victims of the Volyn massacre of 1943 and take the next step towards Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation.
In 1943 in Volyn during the beginning of ethnic cleansing, which was carried out by the troops of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and local men, between 30 and 60 thousand Poles died (the Ukrainian side believes that 60,000 is an exaggerated number). The Ukrainian side says between 10 and 12 thousand Ukrainians were victims of the Polish retaliation, however Poland mentions 2 and 2.5 thousand. The Ukrainians’ goal was to remove all Poles from Volyn. In Poryck from 11 to 13 July 1942, Ukrainians murdered about 200 Poles. Minister Siwiec admitted that the problem in Volyn is very politicized, both in Poland and Ukraine. “This is the sixteenth anniversary of the massacres in Volyn and in this moment the politics begin, because some are talking about the tragic events, others are talking about murders, while the rest about ethnic cleansing. There is no doubt, however, that 60 years ago, there was a culmination of crimes, crimes carried out by Ukrainians onto the Polish population living in those areas.” “This crime was committed with particular cruelty. This is something that you need to clearly say. Fighting for territory is one thing, driving people out is one thing, and making people suffer is another. Then, we organized defence and retaliation. There were also victims, that’s true, and it’s true that the number of victims in this case was smaller…the thing is that we also want to talk about this” said Siwiec. Head of the National Security Bureau declined to answer the question whether Ukrainians, most of whom knew nothing of the murders carried out by the UPA until recently, are ready to accept the truth about the events in Volyn. “I do not want to judge whether my neighbouring nation is ready or not” – said Siwiec, noting that in the last few months, many publications about the Volyn tragedy have been published and appeared in Ukraine. When asked what the Polish side expects from the ceremony in Pavlivka, Siwiec said they were not specifying what is to come. “We are not creating expectations. For us, it’s important to commemorate the event openly, loudly, and honestly. There at the cemetery, both Presidents will tell us what they think of the event. And this is the value that is worth appreciating.” “We do not know what President Kuchma will say” – Siwiec said. “But, what will be expressed by the President will reflect his attitude and the degree of his awareness of the history.”Author : Marek Siwiec MEP