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Ukraine blocking search for Polish victims of wartime crimes: expert

PR dla Zagranicy
Grzegorz Siwicki 26.10.2017 12:12
Authorities in Ukraine are blocking work by a team of Poles searching for the remains of Polish victims of wartime crimes in that country, according to an expert.
Prof. Krzysztof SzwagrzykProf. Krzysztof SzwagrzykFoto: polskieradio.pl

This includes problems that Polish researchers are encountering as they search for the burial sites of Polish victims of the so-called Volhynia Massacre in Ukraine, Prof. Krzysztof Szwagrzyk, deputy head of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), said.

A Polish delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Piotr Gliński recently visited Ukraine. During the visit, Gliński, Szwagrzyk and Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki held talks with Ukrainian officials including Culture Minister Yevhen Nyshchuk and Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko.

Speaking on Polish public broadcaster TVP Info, Szwagrzyk said: “We are talking about a search for sites where Polish citizens were murdered during World War II. We are not talking about any commemorations that could raise controversy because of either their form or content. We are talking the possibility of conducting search and exhumation work."

'Bad situation' that could 'harm' Ukraine

Szwagrzyk told TVP Info: “Just hours after our departure from Kiev, a post appeared on the website of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, saying straightforwardly that there was no need to give our effort any different status than before."

He added: “No one in Poland is able to understand how it is possible that a country with which we maintain very good relations, on behalf of which we speak on the European arena, a country for which we show support in many different areas on an everyday basis, suddenly blocks activities that we are conducting even though they should raise no controversy.”

According to Szwagrzyk, this kind of approach could cost the Ukrainians a lot. “This message should be interpreted as an expression of a negative attitude toward our Polish expectations," he said. "This is a very bad situation for Polish-Ukrainian relations, one that harms everyone, but above all it harms the Ukrainian state."

Experts from the IPN’s search and identification division, including Leon Popek, head of the institute's Borderlands Department, wanted to carry out exhumations in Ukraine of the remains of Polish victims of the Volhynia massacre and of Polish Border Protection Corps soldiers who died while fighting Soviet troops after the Soviet invasion of Poland of September 17, 1939.

The Polish experts also wanted to exhume the remains of Polish Army soldiers who died in the defence of the city of Lviv, which was once Polish and is now in Ukraine, according to Szwagrzyk.

Black page in Polish-Ukrainian relations

On July 11, Poland marked its first National Day of Remembrance of Victims of Genocide by Ukrainian nationalists against Poles during World War II, referring to the Volhynia Massacre, a black page in Polish-Ukrainian relations.

After the Polish parliament last year adopted a resolution declaring a National Day of Remembrance of Victims of Genocide, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko voiced regret at the move.

Some 100,000 ethnic Poles in total were slaughtered in the 1940s by Ukrainian forces, according to some estimates.

On July 11, 1943, the day of the worst bloodshed, Ukrainian nationalists attacked 100 villages largely inhabited by Poles in what was then Nazi-occupied eastern Poland and is now western Ukraine.

The massacres were part of an operation carried out by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), whose plan was to have a sovereign and nationally homogenous Ukraine after the war.

Controversial monument

Earlier this year authorities in Ukraine’s Lviv region appealed to the Polish government and local authorities to rebuild a controversial monument to the former Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the southeast of Poland.

The appeal concerned a monument in the Polish village of Hruszowice that honours members of the UPA who fought Poles during and in the aftermath of World War II and who were killed during clashes with Polish soldiers in 1946.

The monument, erected in 1994 without the consent of Polish authorities at the time, was dismantled at the end of April this year by members of Polish right-wing organisations with the consent of the local authorities.

Councillors in the Lviv region termed the dismantling of the monument an anti-Ukrainian provocation.

After the Hruszowice monument was dismantled, the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance declared it would halt the legalisation of Polish memorial sites in Ukraine.


Source: TVP Info, IAR, PAP, niezalezna.pl

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