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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Presidential Palace hosts Volhynia massacre conference

  |   Presidential Palace hosts Volhynia massacre conference Presidential Palace hosts Volhynia massacre conference Presidential Palace hosts Volhynia massacre conference Presidential Palace hosts Volhynia massacre conference Presidential Palace hosts Volhynia massacre conference Presidential Palace hosts Volhynia massacre conference Presidential Palace hosts Volhynia massacre conference Presidential Palace hosts Volhynia massacre conference Presidential Palace hosts Volhynia massacre conference Presidential Palace hosts Volhynia massacre conference

Poles and Ukrainians are divided in their memory of the Volhynia massacre but there is only one truth about the killings, concluded the participants in a Thursday conference on the 1943-44 mass killings of Poles by Ukrainian nationalists.

 

The massacres, carried out on the large Polish population in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, were part of an ethnic purge by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in Nazi-occupied Poland between March 1943 and the end of 1944. The peak of the killings took place in July and August 1943. In all 40,000-60,000 Poles, mainly women and children, were killed in Volhynia and from 25,000 to 30,000-40,000 in Eastern Galicia.

 

The killings were masterminded by the Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and its military arm Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), who aimed to purge all non-Ukrainians from the future Ukrainian state.

 

The conference, the first of a cycle of two meetings devoted to the Volhynia events, was held in Warsaw's Presidential Palace under the honorary patronage of President Bronislaw Komorowski.

 

Among the speakers was former Foreign Minister Adam Daniel Rotfeld, who recounted that although he was only 5 when the killings took place, he remembered the period as "a time of contempt, a time when human lives were very low in value, a time of evil which spread onto many places, especially Volhynia and Eastern Galicia".

 

Rotfeld remarked that historical remembrance was important for the coexistence of nations but noted that the memories of different nations differed, which made for problems in the comprehension of past events.

"The memories of nations differ. We can agree about facts and explain them, but each individual, each family has the right to preserve its own memory", Rotfeld said. He also suggested the compilation of a catalogue of facts about the Volhynia killings in light of differences in interpreting them by Poles and Ukrainians, but warned that, although the facts in the matter were unquestionable, "we have no right to expect the descendants of the perpetrators and the victims to harbour the same memories about these events".

 

Rotfeld also remarked that reconciliation over the Volhynia events will need "joint Polish-Ukrainian reflection".

 

President Komorowski's aide and historian Tomasz Nalecz reminded that Poland and Ukrainians interpreted the Volhynia events differently.

 

"We Poles must try to understand what conditions Ukrainian memories", Nalecz insisted, reminding about the Ukrainians' dramatic history and the fact that - unlike Poles - they had no independent country in the first half of the 20th century.

 

Andrij Portnov from Humboldt University in Berlin, speaking in place of an invited Ukrainian government official, stressed that Ukrainians had too little knowledge about the Volhynia massacres, mainly because post-war Ukraine was ruled by the Soviets and communist propaganda.

 

Bishop Benedict from the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Lviv, reminded that both Poles and Ukrainians were Christians and could find reconcilement over the Volhynia issue in common prayer.

 

"When we look at the Volhynia tragedy, then it is doubtless a tragedy consisting in the fact that our Ukrainian brothers began to slaughter our Polish brothers, and then our Polish brothers began to murder our Ukrainian brother. Someone might say that the bigger blame lies with the Ukrainians, someone also again will say that the brunt of the blame lies with the Poles. These events should be remembered but what is most important is to understand that life goes on", Benedict admonished.

 

Polish archbishop Jozef Michalik said Poles and Ukrainians had a duty to conduct dialogue on the Volhyn events, which he called "a burning coal of history".

 

"This must not be swept under the carpet as then the hatred and antipathy will continue to smoulder", Michalik warned.

 

On Friday Polish Sejm (lower house) Speaker Ewa Kopacz will meet with Mayor Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Sviatoslav Shevchuk who arrives in Poland for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the massacre. The two are to discuss Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation and the dialogue between states, churches and societies in the context of difficult events from the past. (PAP)

 

 

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