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Saturday, 13 May 2006

Polish – Ukrainian gesture of reconciliation

On 13th May 2006 the President of the Republic of Poland and Mrs Kaczyńska as well as the President of Ukraine and Mrs Yushchenko took part in a ceremony commemorating the Polish and Ukrainian inhabitants – victims of the tragedy in Pavlokoma in the Rzeszów region.

The President of the Republic of Poland said:

Your Eminence Cardinal, Mr President, your Eminencies Bishops, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, both those who represent the Ukrainian as well as the Polish nation.
It is the third time in my life that I am reading my address. The first time was on the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, the second time was when I was being sworn-in as President of the Republic of Poland and the third time is today. If I am reading it is because I attach the utmost importance to this speech.
We meet today in Pavlokoma to jointly pay tribute to the Ukrainian and Polish victims of many years ago. We stand in pain and sorrow, in common prayer and pondering, to bow our heads over the graves of the victims of this tragedy. In the 20th century the fate of our nations was particularly painful. Especially dramatic for our mutual relations was the period of the Second World War and the years immediately following it. The ground was soaked with Polish and Ukrainian blood shed in fratricidal fighting, shed unfortunately also in cruel murders. In 1945 Pavlokoma became the sight of tragic events. A group of Poles was kidnapped from the village, killed and buried in a place unknown to-date. A few weeks later Polish armed formations murdered most of the Ukrainian dwellers in Pavlokoma. This crime was covered by silence for decades. The victims were not permitted to have crosses erected and their families pray for them.
Pavlokoma became a symbol for the Ukrainians of the tragedy of their nation. Today we think about this with the deepest sorrow. The blood shed in those years blemishes the conscience of our nations. It cannot be weighed for the common good and for the sake of friendly development of relations between our nations. The time has come to bring the truth to light and to speak about wrongs not put right. Today’s ceremony with participation of the Presidents of Poland and the Ukraine, our pondering over the graves of victims of past hate, uniting in common prayer uttered by our clergymen are in witness of our recognition of the same values. Of being united in the conviction that under no circumstances may any crime be justified. Remembering the bad and good experiences, today we must carry the burden of Polish-Ukrainian history. However we should remember especially the good experiences, for these were many.
There are still many tragic places, many graves, often nameless, lying on both sides of the border. It is fair and just for families of the victims – deprived for dozens of years of the possibility of paying their homage to them – to put crosses and pray on each of the nameless and as yet unrecognised graves. We must speak about the painful and difficult past openly, proceeding step by step to arrive at a single and fair assessment of the tragedies of the war – the Polish and the Ukrainian ones. All the dramatic events in Pavlokoma, in the Chełm region, in Wołyń, in Eastern Galicia, accompanying the “Wisła” campaign, should be duly explained in dialogue between politicians, historians and ordinary people. A strong and lasting reconciliation can in fact be built only on the basis of truth. We cannot change the past but we can make sure it does not determine the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Our presence here – of the President of the Republic of Poland and the President of Ukraine – standing in front of the monuments in Pavlokoma – is proof that there is readiness on both sides, the readiness to continue with the great process, the great deed, where another significant step is being made on the road of reconciliation between our nations. The great value of today’s meeting is the participation of the inhabitants of Pavlokoma in this act of assent and prayer. The process begun by Jerzy Giedroyć – a great supporter of Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation – is marked by acts of remembrance of victims of the murder in Wołyń, the opening of the Eaglets Cemetery in Lviv, the words of forgiveness and peace, mutually uttered by Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Bishops. However what the Poles and Ukrainians have achieved has probably best become visible on the Independence Square when in the orange crowds, among flying Ukrainian colours the Polish flags were also to be seen. And our voice of solidarity on the Maidan met with the cry: Long live Poland. We thank you for this cry. I repeat once again: thank you and I want to say that no one will erase this from our history. Our nations show to the entire world that there is no evil in history that cannot be overcome. Here, before the crosses of Pavlokoma, as before the crosses of Wołyń, Podole and so many tragic places from our past, we unite memory and hope. This is a duty we perform together, which we convey to the younger generations. Let us – Poles and Ukrainians – carry this legacy into the future, always finding the best within. Let us be able, with mercy and courage, to pray to God with the words: “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. This is what I ask.

After the ceremony the Presidential Couples travelled to Łańcut, where they took part in a lunch offered to the President of Ukraine and Mrs Yushchenko.

Following the lunch a press conference was given by the President of the Republic of Poland Lech Kaczyński and the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko.

Addressing the assembled persons the President of the Republic of Poland said:

Distinguished Mr President, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen!
First of all I wish to say that I agree with what President Yushchenko said today about our meeting in Pavlokoma. It was a very big step in the right direction, the only reasonable and moral direction – considering that no one can change the past. I am glad than I was in Pavlokoma. And I am very happy that the relations between the Polish and Ukrainian nations are proceeding in the right direction. I took part in Greek Catholic, Orthodox and Roman Catholic prayer and this –considering the history of our Polish nation – is an obvious matter. I would like such obvious matters to be more plentiful. A very fruitful visit is approaching its end. I think that there will be even more such visits during the tenure of Mr President and of myself. I think we shall not waste this opportunity, it is very much there. It leads towards the West, towards NATO and the European Union. But it also leads East, towards stability, development and democracy. Without it there will be no happiness of these nations, as there will be no peace here, in Europe, which does not end on the Bug river, only much, much further. Thank you Mr President.
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