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Heroes and Villains

David R. Marples

Chapter 6. The Ukrainian-Polish Conflict

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1Of all the volatile issues emanating from Ukraine’s participation in the Second World War, perhaps the most debated has been UPA’s conflict with the Poles, which has been described by Yale historian Timothy Snyder as one of the earliest examples of ethnic cleansing in the 20th century. A landmark of sorts was reached in 2003, the 60th anniversary of the attempted elimination of the Polish population in Volhynia region, when scholars, writers, and journalists on both sides of the border discussed the matter openly, albeit without reaching any firm conclusions. On the level of government politicians, the then opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko, made some conciliatory remarks to the Poles concerning responsibility for past events. The Ukrainian response at the grassroots level, from those generally sympathetic to the UPA at least, was that there were similar atrocities on both sides, as evidenced by the enforced deportations of populations from both sides of the border and the deliberate targeting of Ukrainian civilians in Operation Vistula. This chapter will offer some tentative conclusions both on the state of the debate and the authenticity of the views being expressed in various narratives, and assess the degree to which they have assisted our understanding of these very complex events. The discussion differs from the previous ones that have been analyzed in that it has taken on an international hue, with Ukrainians, for the most part, defending the actions of the insurgents against criticism from outsiders. However, while Soviet propaganda prevailed, the Polish question left the UPA vulnerable to attacks from the official media as well.

  • 1 Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (New (...)
  • 2 Timothy Snyder, “The Causes of Ukrainian-Polish Ethnic Cleansing,” Past and Present, Vol. 179, Num (...)

2Because of the controversial nature of these events it is logical to reflect first, and in more detail than in the earlier summary (see Chapter 1), on the existing English versions of the events that are based on careful archival research. Snyder has noted that in 1939, the Polish population constituted about 16 % of the overall population of Volhynia (Volyn and Rivne oblasts), and by 1943 it had decreased to about 8 %. He maintains that the UPA mounted a campaign to identify the Volhynian Poles and the Polish government with the occupation regimes of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. He believes that the fury of the actions against the Polish population was the reason for the Polish retaliation against Ukrainians—reflected, for example, in Operation Vistula. They then provided the UPA with an excuse for introducing what Snyder calls “ethnic cleansing” in the territories of Halychyna to the south. However, Poles there were more numerous and better able to defend themselves.1 In a related article, Snyder delves into the topic in more detail. In his view, the brutal operations of the Germans against Volhynian Jews provided training for many of the future UPA members for the 1943 actions against Poles. Ukrainians became familiar with violent death on a mass scale, and those who took part in German operations as auxiliary forces subsequently became the main recruits for the creation of the UPA in Volhynia by the OUN-B. The decision to take the latter action was taken following the German defeat at Stalingrad, when in April 1943 OUN SD leader Mykola Lebed’ proposed to eliminate the entire Polish population in the area of the UPA forces. Poles were also under intense pressure from Soviet Partisans. Snyder describes members of the OUN-B security forces as extremists and fanatics, with an implacable hatred of people they considered to be enemies of the nation. Thus the Ukrainian political scene in Volhynia came under the domination of “immature and angry men” led by the 33-year-old Lebed’ and practically the entire Ukrainian youth entered the ranks of the UPA (in part, the OUN-B achieved full membership by threatening to kill all those who remained in the service of the Germans). By removing the Poles, they could prevent any possibility of a return to Polish rule in this territory of northwestern Ukraine, and up to 60,000 Poles, mainly civilians, fell victim to this orgy of violence.2

The Soviet Perspective

  • 3 Cited in N. Karpova, “Vybor,” Pravda Ukrainy, 4 January 1990, p. 4.
  • 4 A. Veremeichuk, “My obvinyaem natsionalizm,” Pravda Ukrainy, 11 April 1990, p. 3.

3Though Soviet propaganda rarely focused specifically on OUN-UPA actions against the Polish minority, it was replete with attempts to discredit the insurgents and their cruelty toward the local populations. However, one of the main vehicles for such denigration, the newspaper Pravda Ukrainy, began a discussion in early 1990, following the publication of an article that tried to understand the motivation of UPA fighters. One interviewee had explained that the UPA fought for an independent Ukraine; that it fought against both the Russians and the Germans. True, it had massacred Poles, but this was a response to the shooting of “our people” across the Buh River.3 This article elicited numerous responses from readers, some of which described the attacks on Poles, albeit without much focus on the nature and meaning of the assault. Many readers scoffed at the notion of using the archives to discover what had occurred. One stated that any mentally sane Volhynian could testify that the UPA were murderers “condemned with the eternal stamp of Cain” and that they had seen what happened with their own eyes. A former member of the OUN, who later left the organization and “recanted,” commented that 1943 was a climatic year. In the spring, the OUN had put together a group and ordered people to carry axes. The writer was left behind, but next day he learned that the axes had been used to carry out a “bloody massacre” in neighboring villages that did not spare even children. Villages were burned down, wells stuffed with dead bodies, and horses, cattle, and other livestock were driven away. The news disillusioned the writer who then broke with the nationalists and went into hiding. Another eyewitness maintains that the “bandits” were cowardly because they refused to fight the Soviet Partisans. Rather they practiced their bravery and chivalry on the defenseless population.4

  • 5 V. I. Maslovs’kyi, “Shchto na ‘oltari svobody’? Dekil’ka utochen’ shchodo viiny ‘na dva front.’ Ya (...)

4Maslovs’kyi focuses on the Polish massacres in passing when examining the issue of “victims of OUN-UPA.” He writes that statistics on the number of victims either do not exist or are imprecise. Current writing (in 1991) placed the number of victims somewhere between 30,000 and 1.5 million. He cites the Association of Victims of Ukrainian Nationalists that was created in Wroclaw in the fall of 1990, which addressed an open letter to members of the Polish Sejm and senators. This letter declared that Ukrainian nationalists had killed some 500,000 Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews. The Association requested an unambiguous statement from the Polish parliament and the government that would clearly and precisely attribute the crimes committed by the Ukrainian nationalists as genocide, and denounce them as Fascist criminal organizations, particularly the OUN, the UPA, the battalions Nachtigal and Roland, the SS Division, and the Ukrainian police. The letter declared that all crimes could not be written off as in the past, and it referred to a law that demanded that such criminals be prosecuted. Maslovs’kyi expresses his disappointment with the way that these issues were being dealt with in Ukraine by certain officials and journalists. He refers to the newspaper Robitnycha hazeta, which announced on 3 December 1988 that Ukrainian nationalists had accounted for the deaths of some 30,000 Soviet citizens. In February 1990, the Ukrainian KGB also announced in the media that over 30,000 civilians, as well as some 25,000 soldiers, NKVD personnel, and border guards had died at the hands of the Banderites. How can this be, asks the author, when in L’viv region alone (excluding Drohobych district), between July 1944 and May 1946, the nationalists killed 5,088 Soviet citizens, including 44 teachers, 218 village soviet heads and their deputies, 406 members of destruction battalions, and 3,105 peasants? In his view, the figure of 30,000 does not reflect the scale of the massacres carried out by the Banderites. He cites his own figures that in 1944-52, OUN-UPA accounted for the deaths of over 80,000 citizens, and that the wartime toll is likely to be twice as high. Data are lacking and “even today” it is difficult to access special archives.5

  • 6 S. Dluskiy, “Tragediya sela Ganachevka,” L’vovs’kaya pravda, 2 July 1991, p. 3.

5In July 1991, an article by S. Dluskiy focused on the tragedy of the Polish village of Hanachevka, which had been founded by Franciscan monks and had a pre-Second World War population of about 3,000 people. The author notes that in the spring and fall of 1940 (following the Soviet annexation of Eastern Poland), about 260 inhabitants were deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia, but several potential deportees managed to hide among their Ukrainian neighbors in nearby villages. Hanachevka is depicted as a Polish island amid a Ukrainian Greek Catholic population. Peace prevailed and there were high rates of intermarriage. Hostilities began, however, during the German occupation. In July 1941, Dluskiy writes, the OUN members carried out the first ex-cesses, burning houses and stealing cattle. With these acts came OUN propaganda, with leaflets distributed demanding that the Polish peasants leave their homes and move to the territory of the General Government, otherwise they would be killed. By the fall of 1941 the attacks had become more frequent. Polish peasants sought protection from the Polish Committee in L’viv and managed to establish contact with the Polish Home Army. The latter could not provide weapons but sent members to organize self-defense units. Weapons were purchased from Hungarian soldiers, and training was conducted secretly in the forests. The German police discovered these units and arrested about a dozen residents. In early 1943, the OUN killed 12 and wounded 20 people, and 8 insurgents were killed in response. On 22 January 1944, Soviet Partisans arrived in the Polish village and reportedly helped the Poles establish defensive units. But several days later, on 2 February, the OUN conducted a massive attack, and the German police declined to intervene. One hundred people died and 80 houses were burned down. Atrocities were perpetrated on the victims. Polish peasants from neighboring villages arrived to evacuate the wounded and bury the dead. The village population was reduced to 1,500 inhabitants, but two subsequent attacks from “UPA” reduced the total to 400. Before long the village was completely eradicated.6

  • 7 Evgeniy Guzhva, “Kolodets smerti,” Pravda Ukrainy, 22 August 1991, p. 3; and 23 August 1991, p. 3.

6Articles such as the one cited above by Dluskiy clearly had the intention of countering efforts to revisit OUN-UPA in order to revise the impressions created by the long period of Soviet propaganda, when its members had been depicted as criminals and traitors. This is also the purpose of the article entitled “The Well of Death” that appeared in two issues of Pravda Ukrainy in the summer of 1991. The well in question was constructed by Wladislaw Labudinski, a resident of the village Dyadkovichi in Rivne oblast. The village was subjected to an attack by members of the UPA security service, headed by a V. Slobodyuk. The victims in this case were reportedly Poles, fleeing Soviet POWs, members of the Komsomol, militiamen, Jews, Czechs, and Soviet sympathizers. As the UPA was under instructions to save bullets, the victims were choked with ropes, writes the author. The second part of the article focuses on the motives behind the massacres. On 1 January 1945, a group of UPA soldiers was executed in Rivne, consisting of the following names: S. K. Trofimchuk, A. Zaichikov, V. S. Lohvynovych, A. S. Kyrylyuk, A. V. Hrytsyuk, V. Podolets’, N. T. Slobodyuk, and V. A. Slobodyuk. The author comments that in the early 1990s the Nationalist press presented these people as martyrs for the cause of attaining an independent Ukraine. The author challenges this viewpoint by illustrating the reported crimes of each soldier in detail. One of the UPA members, V. Slobodyuk, described during his interrogation the murders of Poles in Dyadkovichi perpetrated by Security Unit 4 of the UPA District 10. Many of the UPA members did not initially belong to the security service, but had been recruited by V. Slobodyuk, who had arrived from Germany in 1942. The article provides no details of what he might have been doing in Germany. Early in August 1943, all members of the security service were called to Dyadkovichi where they were instructed by district head “Makar” to kill all enemies of the UPA, burning their homes and expropriating their property. They were also to shoot all Soviet POWs that had fled from German camps, and to ensure that local peasants offered regular supplies of food to the UPA, with reprisals against saboteurs. Failure to comply with the above orders was punishable by death. Most of the victims ended up in Labudinski’s well, according to this article.7

  • 8 Wiktor Poliszczuk, Legal and Political Assessment of the OUN and UPA (Toronto, 1991), pp. 32-38.

7To the Soviet perspective can be added the writings of Wiktor Poliszczuk, whose work is an indictment of the OUN and UPA, and who stresses that, in the spring of 1943, Mykola Lebed’, the head of the OUN-B Provid, along with Shukhevych, carried out the proclamation of the First Congress of the OUN by massacring the Polish civilian population of Volhynia. Up to that time, the deaths of Poles at the hands of Ukrainians had been somewhat random and a result of personal animosities. He notes that in this period, the OUN-B demanded of the Ukrainian police still in the service of the Germans that they flee to the forests taking their weapons with them. Former members of the Schutzmannschaften Battalion 201 arrived in Volhynia from Belarus, having completed the brutal pacification of Belarusian villages on behalf of the Germans. These men, he adds, in a similar vein to Snyder’s account, had experience with the elimination of the Jewish population and were now to make up the foundation of the military forces of the OUN-B, along with the Security Service run by Lebed’. Most of the latter forces were made up of Ukrainians from Halychyna. Using the basis of the First OUN Congress and the Second OUN Conference, it was Lebed’ who provided the instruction to the troops to undertake the systematic extermination of the Polish population of Volhynia. The deaths ran into the tens of thousands, he writes. Members of the Mel’nyk wing of the OUN, where present, were coerced into the same activity. The picture portrayed is one of ruthless ethnic cleansing led by the nationalist security units that had received training at the German political school in Zakopane in 1939-40.8 Poliszczuk makes little attempt to explain the reasons behind the atrocities and his monograph, though detailed, takes the form of a polemic. Thus his book can be added to the Soviet perspective from which it differs little in terms of the one-sidedness of the outline. Nevertheless, all those dealing with the OUN-UPA as warriors for an independent Ukraine (particularly those who allege that the two organizations had taken on a more moderate and democratic complexion by 1943), have to come to terms with the events of Volhynia, which appear to contradict such an assessment.

Perspectives from Independent Ukraine

  • 9 Nina Romanyuk, and Yurii Mykolayenko, “Vsyaki uryad, yakui vidmovyvsya b vid Zakhidnoi Ukrainy, bu (...)

8Ukrainian narratives about the Polish conflict in independent Ukraine are understandably defensive in tone, often denying outright OUN-UPA responsibility for the Volhynia massacres. An early example is an article by Nina Romanyuk and Yurii Mykolayenko, which explores the history of the Ukrainian-Polish conflict during the Second World War. The authors point out that they have made use of materials from the SBU archives in the Volyn region, including the interrogation of Mykhailo Stepanyak, head of the international section of the OUN in 1942-44. Stepanyak took part in several talks with the Polish Government-in-Exile based in London. The first session took place in L’viv in 1942, before UPA units appeared in Volhynia, and was organized by a Greek Catholic priest, Kladochnii. The questions considered included the status of Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic States vis-à-vis postwar Poland, and the problem of the Ukrainian-Polish alliance. Reportedly, the Polish representatives agreed with many of the Ukrainian demands. However, the twosides were unable to reach an agreement on the future status of Western Ukraine, which the Poles insisted was a “mixed” territory, the future of which had to be resolved through a postwar settlement. They promised to recognize Ukraine and to provide financial assistance to the OUN, but insisted that the nationalists disassociate themselves from the Greek Catholic Church. These negotiations proved unfruitful and shortly afterward the Polish delegates were arrested by the Germans—some suspect that the priest Kladochnii betrayed them. The authors write that on 28 May 1943, Polish armed formations, supported by Polish Partisans, burned down the village Tel’chi in Manevtsi district, destroying 20 houses and killing 27 Ukrainians. They comment that this attack renders the Polish side the primary culprit that forced Ukrainian retaliation. However, it is unlikely that the arson was the first act of violence. Again the two sides entered negotiations, but could reach no consensus on the issues of Galicia. As for the massacres that followed, Stepanyak, who was present during the negotiations, denied that the violence was perpetrated by the OUN and the UPA.9

  • 10 Myroslav Paranchak, “Tyahar nespravedlyvosti zhyvuchyi,” Za vil’nu Ukrainu, 23 July 1998, p. 2.
  • 11 Yan Hasten, “Ne til’ky pro Volyn,” Za vil’nu Ukrainu, 24 September 1998, p. 2.

9Another author describes a conference organized by right-wing Polish radicals and dedicated to problems of the Ukrainian-Polish relationship. Evidently some participants at the conference had claimed that in Volhynia, Ukrainian nationalists killed 500,000 Poles. The author angrily rejects such figures. Any researcher, well-versed in the events of the period, he writes, will tell you that such figures do not correspond to reality. There were victims on both sides, and no winners and losers. Such a confrontation profited only those who wished to sow seeds of enmity between Ukrainians and Poles. He is also irate with the Polish classification of OUN-UPA as a Fascist organization comparable to the Croatian Ustashi or Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, while considering the Home Army soldiers as heroes. Revealingly, he also notes that “no serious Polish politicians” were in attendance.10 In like fashion, a Polish author criticizes the attack by Polish nationalists on OUN-UPA and accuses the chauvinistic press of ignoring the real causes of the Volhynian tragedy, which he presents as a civil war situation rather than an act of genocide (or ethnic cleansing) carried out by UPA North. Jan Hasten writes that the roots of the Ukrainian insurgency are to be sought in the repressive policies of Pilsudski and his successors, who attempted to colonize Polish Eastern Galicia. He makes reference to the Pacification, the destruction of churches, and the closure of Ukrainian schools. UPA, Hasten maintains, emerged from Ukrainian policemen who left the Germans’ service on the orders of the OUN-B. The UPA-Home Army clash is depicted as an act of self-defense by UPA, which was trying to protect Ukrainian villages from Polish raids. The Home Army, he alleges, killed 1,500 Ukrainians after it crossed the Buh on its retreat from Volhynia. The UPA then sought out the perpetrators and executed them and their sons.11 In other words, there was no independent initiative on the Ukrainian side to carry out ethnic cleansing of Polish villages. All the actions were a result of lack of trust on both sides. The article, however, fails to discuss why most of the victims were not under arms, but innocent civilians.

  • 12 Koval’, Ukraina v Druhii svitovii i Velykii Vitchyznyanii viinakh, p. 153.
  • 13 Stanislav Kul’chyts’kyi, “Ukrainski natsionalisty v chervono-korychnevii Yevropi (do 70-richchya s (...)

10The more sober analysis of M. V. Koval’ points out that one of the main UPA targets was the Armia Krajowa and its partisan formations, which were under the control of the Polish government in London. The OUN wanted a complete and enforced resettlement of Poles from Western Ukraine, starting in Volhynia, then Halychyna, and lastly all the territory west of the Curzon Line, which had become the new western border of Soviet Ukraine in 1939. The situation was also influenced by the anarchy that prevailed in this terri-tory. The OUN took advantage of this chaos in its struggle to “de-polonize” the borderlands and to eliminate any potential basis for Polish identity to be used in a future plebiscite on the status of the region. He writes that more than 40,000 Poles were killed as a result of these mutual acts of terrorism, including women, children, and elderly people, but a similar number of Ukrainians had also fallen victim to this conflict. He cites authors who provide combined figures of 60-80,000 people. The bloodshed benefited only the third party, namely the German Fascists. He quotes Reichskommisar Erich Koch as stating openly that “I would like the Pole to kill the Ukrainian and the Ukrainian the Pole as soon as they meet up. And if they also kill the Jews while they are at it, then that is exactly what we need.”12 Kul’chyts’kyi also observes that the OUN-B and the AK continued to regard each other as adversaries, and that their confrontation was instigated deliberately by the German occupiers; and that it had led to bloody massacres of the Ukrainian population in the Kholm region in 1942-45, and of the Poles in Volhynia in 1943-44. Polish scholars collected evidence of 34,647 killings, with 12,491 victims identified, but the actual casualties appear to have been much greater. The Germans used provocative tactics to incite clashes between the OUN and AK such as deploying punitive forces against the Ukrainian population that were dressed in Polish uniforms. Similar tactics, Kul’chyts’kyi writes, were later adopted by the AK, the Soviet security forces, and the OUN-B.13

  • 14 Yaroslav Isayevich, “Ukrains’ko-pol’s’ki vidnosyny periodu Druhoi svitovoi viiny: interpretatsii i (...)

11A defense of the Ukrainian position on the Volhynia massacres was offered by the prominent L’viv-based historian Yaroslav Isayevich. He starts from the premise that in July 2003 (he is writing in February 2003), Ukraine and Poland were to honor the memory of those who died in the Ukrainian-Polish conflict in Volhynia. Politicians and historians of the two states were making every effort that the relations between the two people remain friendly and harmonious, attempting to comprehend not only their own arguments, but also the motives of those who held opposing views. One should begin, he continues, by stating that Ukrainians and Poles belong to those peoples who suffered most from the Hitlerites and “Bolshevik” terror in the Second World War. Ukraine remained, as before, neither the subject nor object of history. Various powers were competing for control of its lands: Bolshevik Russia (masked under the guise of the pseudo-internationalist USSR), Nazi Germany and its allies (Hungary and Romania are cited), and Poland. During the war, armed formations arose that allotted themselves the task of fighting with the enemies of an independent Ukraine. Although at this time and during the next decade that concept lacked the support of the majority of Ukrainians, the notion of independence arose as a final result of the future evolution of Ukraine. Under these circumstances there were good reasons for Poles and Ukrainians to unite, writes Isayevich, but there was no authentic cooperation between the two sides, and a bloody conflict between them erupted on the territory of Western Ukraine, which included not only confrontations between Polish and Ukrainian armed formations, but also treacherous and extremist actions against peaceful civilians.14

  • 15 Ibid., pp. 39-40.

12Among the causes of the tension between Ukrainians and Poles were social and national friction based on land ownership and the prewar policies of the Polish state, as well as the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. The Poles were ruling areas in which they made up only a minority of the population. Ukrainians, writes Isayevich, were not opposed to Poles per se; only insofar as Polish policies were hostile to the idea of an independent Ukraine. The majority of Ukrainian leaders did not know that the future perspective of Bolshevik Russian hegemony (Isayevich appears wedded to the phrase “Bolshevik Russia”) denoted a necessity to treat Poland as a strategic partner. In Polish and Ukrainian publications there are diverse views as to where, when, and how the deaths began of the peaceful population living on the Polish-Ukrainian border. Ukrainian writings, Isayevich observes, disseminate the opinion that the conflict originated with the killing of Ukrainian underground troops and public activists that were considered to be German collaborators in Zamoishyn by the Polish underground forces. In Polish publications, on the contrary, one finds the view that the main events occurred later. The initial stages in any case were a time of sporadic deaths, and an important document revealing the escalation of the conflict is the report from a representative of the Polish émigré government in Volhynia. He declares that these isolated murders were directed against Poles who were employed in the German service as administrators of property, forests, and road services. This document, Isayevich main-tains, is important in view of the increasing belief in Polish society, that almost exclusively, the main collaborators with the occupiers were the Ukrainians, who often joined with the Germans in fighting the Poles. In reality there were unprincipled collaborators on both sides.15

  • 16 Ibid., p. 40.

13Isayevich then arrives at the heart of his main argument. The characteristic direction of Polish publications commemorating the Second World War, he says, is to exaggerate the number of deaths on the Polish side, and to release versions that are based entirely on fantasy about exceptionally sadistic acts on the part of Ukrainians. Even in 1940, a book called “Lwow” was issued by Jerzy Janicki, in which one could read that Metropolitan Sheptyts’kyi blessed the wooden saw that Ukrainians used to cut up living Poles. However, such accounts do not correspond with reality. Propaganda directed toward fueling Polish-Ukrainian hostility was opposed resolutely by Polish intellectuals grouped around the Paris monthly journal, Kultura. Polish and Ukrainian oppositionists often banded together, particularly the members of the Solidarnosc movement and members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union. After the restoration of an independent Ukraine, Isayevich notes, both neighboring states simultaneously tried to improve relations. If contemporary Poland is interested in an independent Ukraine, then it responds to Polish interests as well as to the approval in Ukraine of the traditional independence movement. But regrettably, in Isayevich’s view, there are well-organized and active groups that try by all means to destroy this movement. In Ukraine, happily, there are no Ukrainian organizations and press organs that specialize in anti-Polish propaganda. However, information about the positive aspects of Polish-Ukrainian relations is still insufficient. Ukrainians still know very little about those Polish political and cultural activists who work fruitfully to create a climate of trust and cooperation in both societies.16 Writing in this way Isayevich focuses on sentiment rather than historical facts, and the discussion of Volhynia takes second place to his analysis of benevolent or malevolent attitudes in contemporary Ukraine and Poland. As such it is a disappointing way to end an article that began in promising fashion, and ultimately he does not really address the main issues of the Volhynia tragedy.

  • 17 Wladyslaw and Ewa Symaszko, Ludobojstwo dokonan przez nacjonalistow ukrainskich na ludnosci polski (...)
  • 18 I. I. Il’yushyn, “Do pytannya pro Volyns’ku trahediyu v 1943-1944 rr.,” Ukrains’kyi istorichnyi zh (...)

14In 2000, the Polish scholars Wladyslaw and Ewa Siemaszko published a major study on the Volhynia massacres that purported to provide the most convincing proof to date of OUN-UPA responsibility.17 The book attracted a lot of attention in Ukraine, and in 2003 a leading Ukrainian historian, I. I. Il’yushyn, offered a critique. Il’yushyn set himself three tasks: first, to investigate the source base of this work and to establish if the facts cited therein really occurred; second, to question a conception of history based exclusively on Polish testimonies; and third, to introduce this book to a Ukrainian audience. He notes that the Siemaszkos wrote their monograph on the basis of some 1,500 personal testimonies and memoirs of witnesses dispersed throughout private collections and state archives in Poland. He questions how such testimonies could be impartial, adding that while Polish historians in general have praised the book, there is still a debate in that country whether it is appropriate to include, in an objective scholarly analysis of OUN-UPA, the testimonies of those Polish citizens who witnessed the events but could also find themselves among the victims of the Ukrainian insurgents. Similar reservations are advanced regarding memoirs written after the war. However, Il’yushyn does not reject personal testimonies completely. What is important, in his view, is how to check the information for accuracy, as well as to establish the circumstances in which a particular crime was committed. He considers that in order to carry out such an assignment, historians need to use supplementary sources and “be impartial.” The Siemaszkos, in his view, were guilty in this regard. W. Siemaszko was a member of the Polish Home Army in Volhynia at the height of the conflict and therefore not a credible witness. The study also deploys only three OUN-UPA documents and makes no use at all of Soviet and German materials. Il’yushyn tries to demonstrate how dangerous it is to synthesize historical narrative based only on one sort of testimony with an illustration of a typical case when there were two completely different versions of the same event. The case in question is the Siemaszkos’ example of the murder of nine Poles by Ukrainian nationalists on 15 September 1939 in Kovel’ district, cited in the AK archives. The same event is found in the Ukrainian NKVD archives, where it is described as being carried out by members of the Communist Party of Western Ukraine.18

  • 19 Ibid., pp. 116-122.

15Il’yushyn posits, without delving into details, that Polish historians probably inflate the number of Polish victims. He continues his review by focusing on the Siemaszko’s interpretation of Polish-Ukrainian relations prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, stating that the ethnic antagonism was a characteristic feature of the prewar years, and was not something that became accentuated immediately before the military conflict. He assigns responsibility to the Polish government’s policies of assimilation, which were directed toward Ukrainians. Il’yushyn does concur that the campaign of ethnic cleansing began on the initiative of OUN-UPA and—implicitly at least—he rejects the claim of some Ukrainian writers that the attacks began in response to AK terror. The Home Army formations, according to both the Siemaszkos and Il’yushyn, appeared in Volhynia only after the OUN campaign had already claimed two-thirds of its victims. So what drove the Ukrainian insurgents to carry out atrocities against the Poles? He argues that the reason was the infiltration of the local administration by the Poles and comes close to endorsing some of the murders as being based on political motives. Certainly it is difficult to discern how Il’yushyn defines guilt and innocence in such a situation. He goes on to write that the tragedy of the situation as it developed in Volhynia, lay in the fact that what was ostensibly a “well-motivated” operation from the perspective of Ukrainian national interests, quickly escalated and took on an extraordinarily gruesome character. As it was conducted in a very cruel manner by armed peasants, and encompassed “apparently innocent people,” including women, children, and the elderly, then the actions constitute a crime. Ultimately, the Poles of Volhynia were paying the price for the prewar policies of the Polish government as well as for their own attitudes to such policies. However, Il’yushyn then introduces a new argument: the UPA also decided to eliminate the Polish population because of the collaboration of Polish civilians with Soviet Partisans. He also disputes the Siemaszkos’ contention that the massacres took place in collusion with the German occupiers as the latter would hardly have approved of the deaths of Polish officials. The two Polish authors, in his view, downplay the fact that the Germans used the UPA campaigns to recruit more policemen for operations against the Ukrainian insurgents.19 Il’yushyn’s article can be construed as a valiant attempt to use a book review to come up with a synthesis of the main problems of analyzing the Volhynia massacres and to try to reach a reasonable conclusion. It falls short of this goal, ultimately, because of its failure to distinguish between actions against officials (which, to some extent, he condones) and actions against innocent civilians.

The Transfer of Populations between Poland and Ukraine

  • 20 Editorial, “Vernut’ narodu istoriyu,” L’vovs’kaya pravda, 18 February 1990, p. 1.

16The forced exchange of populations between Ukraine and Poland after the war, which followed a decree issued on 9 September 1944, has been the subject of numerous writings and narratives in Ukraine. The operation, carried out at the behest of the Soviet authorities, occurred with brutality, and Polish forces reportedly took the opportunity to inflict abuse on the Ukrainians that were uprooted from their homes. This event has been perceived as a Polish response to the Volhynia massacres, but in Ukrainian narratives it is more often treated in isolation, as an example of Polish persecution of Ukrainians that dates back to the period of interwar rule. As early as February 1990, when the CC CPU adopted a resolution about the need for a thorough study and objective evaluation of the history of the Ukrainian Communist Party, among the events singled out for a new evaluation was Operation Vistula (the final phase of the transfer of Ukrainians from Poland to Ukraine that began in 1944). Notably absent from the list of events to be perused were the Famine of 1932-33 and the history of OUN-UPA.20 Thus the population exchange has long rankled Ukrainians even at the highest levels of the Communist Party. The Operation rivals the Volhynia massacres as a key point of contention between the Ukrainian and Polish governments, and represents another of the critical issues of the past that has the potential to sow bad feeling among scholars, writers, teachers, and others in the neighboring countries. On the other hand, it returns us to the theme of Ukrainians as victims in a major event of the 20th century as opposed to being perpetrators or alleged collaborators with a stronger force, as is the case with the German occupation regime. In turn, Poles being removed from Ukraine may also be perceived as victims, although sources suggest that their treatment was less severe. In examining the current narratives on this question, it is logical to begin with more detailed academic accounts, and then survey some of the popular narratives that are being disseminated more widely.

  • 21 S. A. Makarchuk, “Z istorii druhoi svitovoi viiny. Pereselennya polyakiv iz zakhidnykh oblastei Uk (...)

17One of the most detailed of the academic articles to appear in Ukraine to date about the population transfers appeared in the main historical journal under the authorship of S. A. Makarchuk, though his focus is limited to the resettlement of Poles from Western Ukraine. Nevertheless, as an introductory article, it does illuminate some basic details of the mutual evacuations— particularly the relationship of this massive undertaking to wartime operations, and describes the expectations of the Poles for the restoration of the pre-September 1939 borders between their country and the Soviet Union/Ukraine. He states that at first glance the theme has been thoroughly researched and certain facts are well-known. The decision on mutual resettlement took place in fulfillment of the agreement between the government of the Soviet Union and the Polish Committee of National Liberation, signed in Lublin on 9 September 1944. The agreement was signed by N. S. Khrushchev on behalf of the USSR and Edward Osubka-Morawski for the Poles. It stipulated that the mutual resettlement had to be carried out in a very brief period of time, namely from 15 October 1944 to 1 February 1945. The resettlement officially was stipulated as “voluntary.” The Agreement specified that settlers who were moved into their countries of birth should receive the sum of R5,000 or the equivalent in Polish zloty. Each evacuee would be permitted to take food, agricultural equipment, up to two tons of property and up to R1,000, and peasants could also take along their livestock. In theory they were also to be offered compensation for the loss of their residential and farm buildings. In the Polish-inhabited regions of Ukraine a register was made of the Polish population that had to be evacuated, as well as a list of those who had “volunteered” to move. It included, by 1 September 1944: 41,800 Poles in Volyn oblast; about 50,000 in Rivne oblast; and 162,229 in L’viv region, of which 84,680 (24,180 families) were residents of the city of L’viv. Registration continued in 1945 and added Ternopil’ oblast, where over 76,000 families were listed and received documents for evacuation—a total of 226,952 people.21

  • 22 Ibid., pp. 104-105.

18Makarchuk states that the most serious problem encountered in removing the Poles was the time factor. By the end of 1944 it was already clear that the completion of the resettlement by 1 February 1945 was impossible. By the start of the New Year, the removals were just beginning. Therefore the deadline was extended to 1 May 1945. When this deadline was also deemed unrealistic, Khrushchev turned to Osubka-Morawski, the designated Prime Minister of the Provisional Government of Poland, with a proposal to change the date to 15 January 1946, and the agreement was officially fulfilled only in July 1946. Makarchuk cites figures from several sources—Jerzy Kochanowski on the Polish side; Serhii Tkachov and Volodymyr Serhiichuk on the Ukrainian—to provide a total of between 787,524 and 789,982 Poles evacuated from Western Ukraine to Poland in 1944-46, with the largest numbers moved from Ternopil’ (233,617) and L’viv (218,711). Though the vast majority of these residents were ethnic Poles, researchers also concur that their numbers included more than 30,000 Jews. For the purposes of this study, the key issues are the political expectations of the Polish authorities for the future of the territory of Western Ukraine, and the attitudes of the Soviet government and Ukrainian activists. Makarchuk remarks that the Poles of this region were heavily influenced by broadcasts from the London government, which led them to believe that after the defeat of the Axis powers, the Polish state would be restored according to its pre-September 1939 borders. In response, the Polish underground movement in L’viv planned to establish its authority once the Germans retreated and before the arrival of the Red Army. Therefore one week before Soviet troops entered L’viv on 27 July 1944, the AK occupied major buildings and schools, and raised the Polish flag on them. On the building of L’viv Polytechnic, there was even a Union Jack flag hanging. However, the Soviet military leaders sent AK members to the Polish People’s Army and arrested its leading activists. Many AK units remained in L’viv in the Polish underground, which remained in place more than a year after the reestablishment of Soviet power.22

  • 23 Ibid., pp. 105-108, 110-111.

19The situation did not become clearer for some time, Makarchuk explains. Representatives of the London government continued to feed the rumors that Poland would regain Western Ukraine so that Polish officials had a negative attitude toward the enforced evacuation of Polish citizens. Many residents had lived in the region for generations and considered it their native land so there was also a powerful psychological tie. Poles daubed slogans such as “Long live Poland!” and “Death to the Bolsheviks!” on buildings, and in January 1945 hundreds were arrested. With each day Poles became more pessimistic about their situation. Archives contain information and memoirs of those arrested during the evacuation, with accounts that in the summer of 1945 they were not permitted to collect the harvest grown in their fields and were forced to travel to Poland without adequate food supplies for the journey. Overall, however, the conditions for the population moving to Poland were better than for Ukrainians coming in the opposite direction. The latter were subjected to bandit attacks, theft and murder.23 Whereas the Poles of Western Ukraine were hoping for the return of Polish rule, and tried to mount a preemptive fait accompli, the situation in the regions across the Polish border was even more complex. The issue was exacerbated by the presence of the forces of the UPA, and the Soviet and Polish governments were in agreement that the insurgents needed to be eliminated during the operation to remove the Ukrainian inhabitants. As a result, what culminated in the April-July 1947 Operation Vistula (Akcja Wisla) continues to elicit anger and bitterness in Ukrainian narratives, especially because of the lack of discrimination between the militant insurgents and peaceful villagers who were attacked and assaulted without reason, and faced an arduous journey to their assigned homes on the Ukrainian side of the border. Until 1947, the Polish-Ukrainian conflict continued in the border regions and in that year, the police forces of Poland, the USSR, and Czechoslovakia combined to subdue UPA insurgents and force them into the underground. Ukrainian accounts focus heavily on Polish misdeeds and atrocities against the Ukrainian population. Essentially, these accounts are linked, implicitly or explicitly, to the Volhynia massacres, either in the form of Polish retribution against OUN-UPA, or in the guise of re-dating the conflict so that the actions taken against the Ukrainian population preceded the OUNUPA attacks on Poles. We will cite a few typical examples here.

  • 24 Ivan Vorobel’, “Staly zhertvamy kliky Beria-Stalina,” Za vil’nu Ukrainu, 30 August 1994, p. 2.
  • 25 Petro Kostyk, ““Polumya, shcho nurtuye donyni slida my trahedii sela Sahrybn na Kholmshchyni,” Za (...)

20An account in the militantly nationalist newspaper Za vil’nu Ukrainu from 1994 interviews Omelya Lyshchyshyna, a former resident of the village Tysovo near Przemysl. The UPA bases were located nearby. In August 1945 a Polish army unit entered the village, armed with machine guns and some field guns. They carried out registration of the villagers for deportation to “Stalin’s paradise.” The UPA discovered these plans and attacked the Polish garrison on 1 September. Over 250 houses were burned during a battle that lasted throughout the night. In the morning UPA troops and the villagers began retreating to the forest. The Poles loaded up five trucks with the dead and wounded, while the UPA retreated to its bases. Lyshchyshyna’s family hid in the forest but was discovered by three Polish soldiers at 10am. The family was beaten, after which the Poles decided to shoot them and take their goods. They were saved by a Polish major who supplied them with travel documents to the town where the assembly point was located.24 Another article examines the tragedy of the Ukrainians in the region of the San River. The author de-scribes the events as a deliberate act of genocide against them. In one village, called Sahryn, the Ukrainians created a self-defense group made up of fifty men to protect themselves from random Polish assaults. On 10 March 1944, Polish bands attacked the group and began to massacre the villagers. A chilling account follows of Polish vigilantes killing old people, women, and children. One girl was reportedly pierced with a hay fork, and some 600 Ukrainians were killed altogether. The author concludes by emphasizing the significance of informing the international public about the tragedy of Ukrainians in Poland in the postwar years. He emphasizes that they died not at the hands of the Fascists, but at the behest of Polish citizens who decided to build a national state in the most bloodthirsty way feasible: by eliminating those who were not ethnic Poles.25

  • 26 Oleksandra Potichna, “I bratove-lyatky po khrystyyans’ki vyrizaly Ivanovi na hrudyakh khresta,” Za (...)

21In 1999, the same newspaper featured a lengthy article by Oleksandra Potichna about the Polish destruction of the Ukrainian village Pavlokoma in the spring of 1945. The village is located on the San River and there were a number of Polish settlements nearby. The author states that the antagonism between Ukrainians and Poles in this area went back to the end of the First World War, when a local Polish aristocrat was forced to distribute his estates among peasants of neighboring villages. Most of this land went to Polish farmers. During the war, writes Potichna, organized Polish military units assassinated leaders of the Ukrainian community in Pavlokoma. On 14 October, Poles killed the director of the Ukrainian school, Mykola Levyts’kyi. In 1943- 44, they accounted for the deaths of several other prominent community members. Potichna, like the previous writers, again brings up the concept of genocide to explain such actions. After the retreat of the Germans, Polish bands, supported by the organs of authority, could carry out the genocide of entire communities, and such was the fate of Pavlokoma in March 1945. Once the Germans had retreated, Poles took command of community life in the village. They began encroaching on the rights of Ukrainians, who were, for example, forbidden to bury their dead at a newly constructed cemetery. Polish vigilantes began to harass Ukrainians for any manifestations of nationalist sentiment, which might include keeping portraits of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky or the national bard Taras Shevchenko. These attacks spread from the neighboring Polish villages into the isolated Ukrainian settlement. As long as the Soviet garrison was stationed at Pavlokoma, the Polish bands refrained from making an all-out attack. At one point in early 1945, Potichna writes, a military unit composed of sixty men in Soviet uniforms, who had evidently arrived to replace the previous garrison, arrested a number of Polish residents. The Poles disseminated a rumor that these military troops were in reality disguised members of the UPA, who had executed the arrested Poles in the nearby forests. The mothers of the victims arrived in Pavlokoma a few days later, demanding that the Ukrainian priest hand over the bodies of the dead Poles. The Ukrainians had no knowledge of the location of the corpses.26

  • 27 Ibid.

22Following this incident, Potichna continues, the Poles formed bands from the villages of Syliongowa, Bartkowka, Silnykja, Bacjoz, and others, and attacked Pavlokoma. Some Ukrainians managed to hide, but others were murdered. The narrative makes it evident that the victims were well-known to the attackers. One woman managed to remain alive, along with her grandson, by bribing the band members. A month later, in March 1945, the bands returned and drove the Ukrainians into the church while beating them in the process. Once inside the church, they divided the victims: pregnant women and children under four were left inside, while others were taken to the cemetery, shot, and dumped in a pit. The priest was included among the victims. Potichna, the author, managed to hide in the stable under the hay. Her four sons who were hiding at their grandmother’s house were caught and killed at the cemetery. The Poles threatened to burn the stable and so they were forced to reveal their hiding place. The Poles buried the dead and then cleaned blood from the church. She cites several individual Poles as notorious for their cruelty and concludes by stating that the survivors of this massacre were deported to Western Poland, and from there Potichna immigrated to Canada in 1950.27 The story is significant in that it contains the basic ingredients of all narratives in this conflict: historical roots for the hatred usually dating back to the interwar period when Ukrainians fell under Polish rule; wanton and senseless killing of innocent people with an unusual degree of cruelty; and accusations of genocide—the more rational explanation of “ethnic cleansing” only appears in later narratives. There is very little difference incidentally between Polish descriptions of the Volhynia massacres, and Ukrainian accounts of maltreatment at the hands of the Poles as the war came to an end. The third element in the prewar equation—the Jewish population that made up a large portion, if not a majority, in many of the towns and cities in interwar Poland—was no longer present in large numbers having fallen victim to the wartime occupation regime.

  • 28 V. Danylenko and V. Baran, “Ostanni period Stalinshchyny (suspil’no-politychni rozvytok),” Istoriy (...)

23The situation that developed by 1947 has been analyzed by two Ukrainian historians, who manage to provide a broader context for these events. V. Danylenko and V. Baran point out that in this year the CC CPU made the decision to introduce destruction battalions of up to 35,000 people to deal with the nationalist insurgents. At the beginning of 1947, this conflict came under the exclusive competence of the security organs, and almost 2,000 bat-talions were placed under the command of the Ukrainian MGB. This restructuring occurred while the UPA operated in the border regions—Lemkivshchyna, Nadysannya, and Kholmshchyna. The governments of the Soviet Union and Poland carried out the policy of resettlement by force and it resulted in numerous deaths. On the territory of Poland, almost 126,000 Ukrainian families were included on the register, and 122,500 (482,109 people) were actually removed or 96.8 % of the designated population. They were deported to different parts of Ukraine, with a majority—322,868—dispatched to the western regions. At the time of this resettlement, in several areas of Polish territory, including Liskiv, Peremyszl, Yaroslav, Lyubachiv, Tomashiv, and Hrubeshiv districts, formations of the Polish Home Army operated actively against the UPA. As a result of its attacks, over 4,600 Ukrainians were killed, over 2,200 families suffered, and several hundred villages were burned, write the authors, adding that the suffering also encompassed the Polish population. The period April-July 1947 marked the concluding stage of the mutual deportations, which was given the name “Vistula.” During these three months there occurred the removal of Ukrainians and members of mixed Ukrainian-Polish families from the lands of south-eastern Poland. They were resettled in the western and northern regions of Poland because the motivation behind this operation was to destroy the UPA groups. The authors cite I. Bilas that the chief goal of the Polish side was the “liquidation” of the Ukrainian minority and the assimilation of the migrants into Polish society. About 140,600 people were resettled in this action. Simultaneously, the Poles were moved out of the western regions of Ukraine, including the vast majority of the 797,907 people (256,428 families) who were listed on the official register on 1 October 1945.28

  • 29 Ibid.
  • 30 Natalya Klyashtorna, “Vyselennya,” Ukraina moloda, 19 February 2002, p. 11.

24During these tumultuous upheavals, Danylenko and Baran point out, the Stalin regime also carried out a mass deportation of Ukrainians from Western Ukraine. Tens of thousands of “OUNites” were included in a special resettlement, and 75 % of those removed were women and children. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Ukrainian SSR established its operational headquarters in L’viv, and the largest number of people were deported from L’viv, Drohobych, and Ternopil’ oblasts, with their property transferred to the state organs. Altogether, the authors report, 26,300 families with 77,791 people were moved out of the western regions. The militia also blockaded an extended region in which the armed underground operated. Both the NKVD and MVD of Ukraine created several joint-operation groups for the elimination of the OUN Central Provid and regional leaders. Four divisions of the MVD were directed against the insurgents in 1948-49 under the leadership of Ukrainian Minister for State Security, M. Koval’chuk. During these operations, which reportedly ended with the death of UPA leader Shukhevych in the spring of 1950, some 171,500 members of the OUN were deported in special operations, with repressive measures taken against their family members. Those resettled ended up in various regions of Siberia and autonomous republics of Russia, as well as Kazakhstan.29 The two authors offer a more polished and academic account of the events surrounding the mass exchange of populations, and they do not lean particularly to the view that crimes were carried out by one side over the other. Rather they suggest that the most severe measures were conducted by the Soviet authorities, with Ukrainians and Poles essentially in the role of victims. Another more recent account adopts this same viewpoint, namely that the repercussions of the fratricidal war between Poles and Ukrainians was of benefit only to the Russians and the Germans. This account suggests that some Ukrainians actually solicited Soviet help for relocation from Poland because of a constant fear of Polish attacks, and that Ukrainian life in this corner of Poland, despite a long 500-year history, had already entered a stage of marked decline, with destroyed churches and dilapidated cemeteries. It cites one source that there were up to 12,000 Ukrainian victims in Eastern Poland during this period, and up to 90,000 Polish victims in the Ukrainian-Polish conflict overall.30

The Debates on the 60th Anniversary of the Volhynia Massacres

25On the 60th anniversary of the events in Volhynia, there was an extended exchange of opinions between various sectors in Poland and Ukraine, at both the official and unofficial levels. Our priority is with those letters and articles that appeared in Ukraine and would have been familiar to a large proportion of the Ukrainian public. Both sides sought some form of redress, though those making the most demands were naturally Poles—the victims in this instance—while Ukrainians offered defensive explanations or alternative versions of events. What is clear is that from the Ukrainian perspective, and particularly those who supported the notion of recognition of the UPA, the anniversary had the potential to do a lot of damage. Above any other event in the history of the UPA (and of the OUN-B, which provided the instruction to carry out the ethnic cleansing), Volhynia in 1943-44 is the most damaging in its impact on the reputation of the insurgents. From the Ukrainian perspective, to generalize somewhat, the accusations have been narrow and one-sided. Furthermore they tend to neglect the early problems in the Polish-Ukrainian relationship when the Poles were clearly in the ascendancy and failed to fulfill their mandate to give autonomy to the region of Eastern Galicia, treating it instead as a virtual colony and conducting a brutal Pacification policy and transplanting Polish farmers to occupy lands in ethnically Ukrainian regions. The Poles, in their turn, fail to comprehend the unwillingness of the Ukrainian side to acknowledge guilt in wholesale massacres for which there is no lack of evidence and which undoubtedly had the overall goal of cleansing an entire region of Poles. Such an admission, in the Polish view, would help to ameliorate relations with a friendly neighbor, and it is often pointed out that Polish democrats, writers, scholars, and others overtly supported the independence of Ukraine and have maintained close and regular ties with their Ukrainian counterparts. In short, Volhynia is something of a stumbling block to what would otherwise be a complete friendship. This is largely because of the obdurate and illogical stance of those who support a different perspective of OUN-UPA as freedom fighters, quasi-democrats, and heroes who sought only the long-term goal of an independent Ukraine.

  • 31 Kataryna Wolczuk, “The Difficulties of Polish-Ukrainian Historical Reconciliation,” paper publishe (...)

26These dilemmas were outlined succinctly in an article by UK-based scholar Katarina Wolczuk in 2002, on the eve of the anniversary. She writes that at the level of society, the Volhynia issue still has the potential to cause friction between the two neighbors and that the preparations for the commemoration had the potential to exacerbate matters. In her outline, she comments that the military wing of the OUN—the UPA—carried out acts of ethnic cleansing that led to the deaths of 60-100,000 Poles in the period from March 1943 until early 1944. The goal was to ensure a Ukrainian “takeover” of both Volhynia and Eastern Galicia by bringing about the complete removal of the Polish population. She maintains that the shocking impact of the massacres was worsened by the fact that the UPA had the overt assistance of peasants from nearby Ukrainian villages. The Poles subsequently conducted retaliatory actions that caused the deaths of between 15,000 and 30,000 Ukrainians. The Polish head of National Security, Marek Siwiec, wrote a letter to Viktor Medvedchuk, then head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, concerning the anniversary. Among the suggested actions that Ukraine might take, Siwiec included: erecting monuments, cleaning up and designating the graves of the Poles that were killed, as well as a symbolic action like the one made by German Chancellor Willy Brandt in 1970, when he kneeled before the Monument of Heroes to commemorate the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto destroyed by the Germans in 1944. Wolczuk perceived several serious difficulties that the Ukrainians faced in responding to this request.31

  • 32 Georgiy Gongadze, a journalist for the on-line newspaper Ukrains’ka Pravda, was kidnapped and late (...)
  • 33 Wolczuk, “The Difficulties of Polish-Ukrainian Historical Reconciliation.”

27In the first place, Ukrainian society failed to reach a consensus on the OUN and UPA. The organizations received very diverse responses, from veneration to outright hostility. The main supporters of these organizations were right and center parties that had support in Western Ukraine, as well as the West Ukrainian public and the Ukrainian Diaspora. Other areas still adhered to the former Soviet perspective that OUN-UPA members were “bourgeois nationalists” and Nazi collaborators. The current debates in Ukraine negate the efforts to condemn or to praise OUN-UPA and render it difficult to respond in any meaningful way to the 60th anniversary of the Volhynia massacres. The year 2003 also preceded a year of presidential elections in Ukraine. Wolczuk maintains that President Leonid Kuchma, who had been in office since 1994, had lost moral credibility as head of state after he was implicated in the killing of an opposition journalist,32 whereas the opposition contender for president, Viktor Yushchenko, was highly popular in Western Ukraine, where the UPA was venerated. The issue could therefore be used as a political tool to undermine Yushchenko, who might be accused of being a nationalist sympathizer. The second issue was the expectation of the Poles that an apology would be forthcoming, and as a result, they seemed to some to be prepared to demand that their own version of events be accepted wholesale by the Ukrainian side. Seeking an apology in this way would only complicate inter-state relations and have an adverse effect on relations at the societal level, Wolczuk writes.33

  • 34 Ibid.

28Pressure on the Polish government comes from right-wing political forces that seek redress for events that have become emblazoned in the historical memory of many Poles, with feelings of anger and resentment that have been simmering for years. In the eyes of many Poles, the events constitute a clear act of genocide at the hands of Ukrainians. In Wolczuk’s opinion, the increased tension over the issue forced the Polish government to take the lead and demand an apology in order to offset the demands of the right-wing forces. In this way, however, Poland may have missed an opportunity for reconciliation by focusing exclusively on deaths and the victimization of Poles rather than on the two sets of victims, and the atrocities on both sides. Historians are also not in agreement over the nature of the massacres and have deployed a variety of phrases to describe them, including genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, and the more inoffensive “anti-Polish actions.” Wolczuk adheres to the view that the killings had deep historical roots and the violence occurred after a lengthy period of mutual grievances. The Polish case tends to ignore the behavior of the interwar Polish government toward its large Ukrainian minority. Wolczuk feels therefore that an opportunity to put an end to “prejudice and negative stereotypes” may be missed during the 60th anniversary commemoration.34 Her article offers a perceptive illustration of the main problems and why the issue has persisted in Ukrainian and Polish narratives without any real prospects of resolution.

  • 35 Evhen Dudar, “Pravda—odna. Vidkrytyi lyst prem’er-ministrovi Pol’shchi p. Lesheku Milleru,” Litera (...)

29An angry depiction of the Ukrainian side of these events was authored by Evhen Dudar in an open letter to Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller in November 2002. The letter was written in response to a statement that there are no Poles today who feel any sympathy toward the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Dudar maintains that such a statement plays into the hands of Moscow. He wonders whether there is anyone in Poland who recognizes that the UPA had no prospects of conquering Moscow or Warsaw but was solely concerned with defending its own lands from foreign conquerors. An honest Pole whose country had been oppressed by Moscow and Berlin should be more receptive, in his view, to a Ukrainian who was repressed for an even longer period by others, including “Polish chauvinists.” Poland, he continues, conducted a policy of colonization with regard to its eastern borderlands and its transplanted colonists constituted the dregs of the Polish nation who would try to steal from others. Two years later these colonists were sent to Siberia, along with Ukrainians, by the new Soviet authorities that had set Ukrainians free from the Polish yoke, but only to impose their own rule. Moscow also “sold” Poland to Hitler, who removed the Bolsheviks from Ukraine then conquered the land himself. Ukrainians had no choice but to take up arms, says Dudar. In fact all the nations that suffered occupation could begin legitimate resistance. However, unlike Ukrainians, they had established state structures, created their own armies, and received international recognition. By contrast, Ukrainians had nothing but “a burning desire for freedom” and implacable hatred toward the occupiers.35

  • 36 Ibid.

30Dudar writes that “some of our historians who still worship the Kremlin mother” follow their Moscow masters and mutter about alleged collaborationism of the UPA. This is patently absurd, he says, because the very definition of a collaborator is someone who works or fights on the side of the enemy against one’s own government. Yet Ukraine had no government of its own to betray. Moreover, it was those puppet regimes propped up by the imperialists that were collaborationist in nature. The historians who put forward such accusations are collaborators themselves for they serve another state. This is a rather curious mode of argument to make in the period of independence in that it appears to insinuate that those who criticize OUN-UPA are indirectly or directly enemies of Ukraine. Dudar acknowledges that there was some brutality on the Ukrainian side, but UPA soldiers were most ruthless toward themselves with the rule about using the last bullet to kill oneself rather than surrender to the enemy. He tells Miller that “your own AK and Armia Ludowa” troops were also brutal toward Ukrainians, a situation exploited by Stalin. He writes that he knows a Ukrainian from the Lemkiv region who as a child witnessed the arrival of Poles in his native village to carry out Operation Vistula. Everyone was herded into the local church, which was then set ablaze. The Ukrainian was the only one to survive but suffered multiple burns and remained severely disabled for the rest of his life. The perpetrators of this hideous crime might well be alive, he reflects, perhaps they receive a state pension and are considered war heroes. To him it is great paradox that in independent Ukraine those who fought for her independence are neglected, hungry, and often scorned, while its foes are respected heroes who can ridicule opponents with impunity. Dudar asks whether Mr. Miller and his officials have to humor a “red electorate” or whether he is in perennial debt to Moscow.36

  • 37 Maksym Strikha, “Asymetrychnist’ Volyni,” Krytyka-Komentar, 5 May 2003; [http://www. krytyka.kiev. (...)

31A more sophisticated analysis is offered by Maksym Strikha, who attended a joint Ukrainian-Polish forum of journalists and experts at Ostrih on the 60th anniversary of the Volhynia events. For Strikha two moments remained in his mind: an OUN veteran who had been in the camps at Kolyma was baffled by the fact that in the Gulag they had sung the same songs and stayed together with AK soldiers. The veteran wondered who was benefiting from their quarrel. The other was a conversation with a Polish intellectual who pondered in a private conversation why Ukraine had not admitted responsibility for the Volhynia tragedy. The Poles had condemned Operation Vistula, Poland was Ukraine’s only advocate in discussions with the West (presumably about possible EU membership and others) and yet Ukraine did not even wish to take a step forward and acknowledge the horrors that had occurred six decades ago. Strikha comments that there are no simple answers to such seemingly obvious questions. The Vistula Operation was ordered and carried out by the new government of Communist Poland. This fact made it easier for the Polish Senate, staffed mainly with members of the anti-Communist Solidarnosc movement, to adopt a resolution condemning the operation. However, a similar resolution failed to find its way through the Sejm despite the best efforts of Ukrainian ambassadors and liberal groups. President Kwasniewski later came forward with a statement condemning the Vistula campaign. By contrast, the Ukrainian government could not take responsibility for the murders in Volhynia because no such government existed. The OUN-M expressed its repulsion toward these events as did the head of the initial UPA, Taras Bul’ba-Borovets’. The highest spiritual authority, Metropolitan Andrii Sheptyts’kyi, also condemned the murders.37

  • 38 Prus has been a prolific and hostile analyst of the OUN and UPA and has also authored a biography (...)
  • 39 Ibid.

32Strikha states that although the murders were carried out under the auspices of the Bandera faction, the situation was complex. Lebed’, the provisional leader, in the absence of the imprisoned Bandera, refused to support the ethnic cleansing—the statement incidentally runs counter to most other analyses, which maintain that the decision was Lebed’s. However, the regional division in Volhynia headed by Klym Savur (Dmytro Klyachkivs’kyi) took the lead in giving the go-ahead for what was a peasant vendetta against the Poles caused by immediate and much older grievances. Strikha therefore asks: who is supposed to apologize for the mass murder of Polish civilians, which clearly did take place? Should it be the state, which to date has not recognized the UPA, the Volhynia inhabitants, or the heirs of the combatants? Even if the current Ukrainian government should take moral responsibility, this step would not receive a positive response from Ukrainians, for the image of Kuchma and his associates had been badly tarnished by the scandal over the murdered journalist. Intellectuals in Ukraine lacked influence and were split into warring camps, and inhabitants of Volhynia and the combatants remain too burdened by the painful memories of the gruesome deaths suffered by Ukrainian women and children at the hands of the Poles. Nevertheless, Strikha feels that an apology would still be the best step in order not to worsen Polish- Ukrainian relations and already prevalent anti-Ukrainian feeling. The Ukrainian elites must take responsibility. The author laments that historians on both sides have yet to free themselves from the mire of past thinking. On the Polish side he cites the “anti-Ukrainian creed” of Eduard Prus in his work “The moons in Beszczady.”38 On the other side is the Communist xenophobic dis-course that the Soviets inherited from the Russian Empire, and exemplified in current times by the poet-academician Borys Oliinyk. For these people, writes Strikha, Poles are not Slavic brothers, like Russians and Belarusians, but Catholics, masters, and aggressors.39

  • 40 Ibid.

33Strikha reaches the heart of the problem when he writes that some people are afraid of admitting the truth about Ukrainian crimes against civilian Poles, since this admission might impede the process of rehabilitation of the UPA. He believes that rehabilitation would be instrumental in bringing about a change of attitude toward the Volhynia tragedy. Once the UPA is recognized as an official Second World War combatant, then it would be easier for people to admit obvious facts; like any other army of that time, the UPA had its share of murderers and criminals. On the other hand, he concludes, the Polish elite should remember one thing: if the mood of revenge becomes predominant in Poland, it would eventually transform the Eastern Polish border into a border with a new Eurasian commonwealth, whether this latter is some sort of Slavic Union or an organization of regional integration. He feels that this development would not be in the national interests of Poland.40 In assessing this interesting article, which avoids tarring one side or another, it seems that Strikha is more concerned about national interests than in writing an in-depth study that might benefit historians. His overall goal is to destroy the existing versions of historical narratives, by which one side might traditionally be described as the enemy of the other, as well as the Soviet version—he perceives it as a version that derives from much earlier times in the Tsarist period—by which conflict is the foundation stone for all historical interpretations. In essence, this describes the problem of a new Ukrainian narrative of national history, namely that it has proved difficult for Ukrainian historians to break free completely from the way history was written in the past. The Volhynia tragedy is particularly problematic in that it occurred within a much larger and epic conflict between two totalitarian powers. The destroyed state, Poland, was returned to Europe only following the First World War after more than 120 years of absence from the continent of Europe, while the would-be Ukrainian state experienced only a few weeks of independence in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution.

  • 41 Bohdan Oleksyuk, “Chy musyt’ ukrains’kyi natsionalist nenavydity polyakiv? Krytyka, 23 May 2003; [(...)

34A response of sorts to Strikha appeared two weeks later in the same journal by Bohdan Oleksyuk, a Volyn resident, and member of the Institute of Open Politics in Kyiv. Oleksyuk reveals that when talking to his fellow Volhynians, he would often hear that prior to 1943-44 Ukrainians and Poles had coexisted happily. Many of them could not comprehend what occurred on 11 July, when Polish settlements were set on fire. There is some speculation that it began on the other side of the Buh River, when Poles burned Orthodox churches and Ukrainian villages. In the summer of 1942, it is known that the German authorities, with the assistance of Ukrainian auxiliary police, began to expel some 200,000 Poles from four districts of the Lublin region. Ukrainians from neighboring territories were settled on the evacuated lands. The Polish underground responded with retaliatory actions in the course of which many Ukrainians died, while others became refugees and settled in Volhynia with a marked antipathy toward Poles. But why then, Oleksyuk asks, would the massacre have occurred in Volhynia when it originated on the other side of the Buh? It was clear—and here he repeats the familiar line—that the conflict between Poles and Ukrainians could only be to the benefit of the Germans or the Soviet regime. Oleksyuk maintains that a lack of courage prompts some people to seek culprits elsewhere rather than among their own. He recalls the account from a schoolteacher that in one village students at the local school were asked to gather memoirs from witnesses of and participants in the tragic events of 1943-44. But many were unwilling to talk, perhaps because of their strong feelings of guilt. He feels that there must have been a few Ukrainians who rescued their Polish neighbors and provided them with shelter. Such actions could exonerate Ukrainians in the eyes of many Poles. At a Polish cemetery Oleksyuk came across a monument that stated in Ukrainian “Countrymen, rest in peace.” He concluded that some Ukrainians considered Poles to be their neighbors and compatriots. However, upon reading the Polish part of the plaque, he realized his mistake. The monument had been erected and written by Poles, not Ukrainians. The new Ukrainian elite, Oleksyuk writes, must be honest and principled when dealing with the issue of Volhynia. Unfortunately, and here he cites the archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Lyubomyr Huzar, who stated that there were many thoughtless politicians for whom hatred of the Poles is the essence of being Ukrainian, and their national consciousness cannot transcend such sentiments. Huzar stated that both sides must forgive the other for the evil committed.41

  • 42 Wiktor Poliszczuk, Bitter Truth: the Criminality of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OU (...)
  • 43 Volodymyr Serhiichuk, Nasha krov-na svoii zemli (Kyiv: Ukrains’ka vydavanycha spilka, 2000), pp. 1 (...)

35Not all agree with such a moderate approach. One of the most prolific historians in Ukraine, Volodymyr Serhiichuk, has devoted two recent books to the Volhynia issue. The first, published in 2000, is a direct response to Wiktor Poliszczuk’s 1999 volume on the OUN-UPA.42 Serhiichuk maintains that land is tied to ethnic groups historically, and the OUN took up arms and fought heroically to preserve the right to inhabit the lands of its members’ ancestors. In his introduction, he asserts Ukrainian claims to the lands of Volhynia and Galicia, going all the way back to the period of Kyivan Rus’. During the period of the Second World War, he says, citing Mykola Lebed, the Polish nation was not the enemy; rather the struggle was aimed against the Polish government. The same mode of thinking also applied in the case of Russia. As a historian, Serhiichuk had access to formerly secret archives not seen by the Canadian-based Poliszczuk. He uses these sources to advance his main thesis, which is that wholesale and unjustified massacres of Poles in Volhynia on the orders of the OUN did not occur, and that the entire portrayal of events is based on fabrications by Soviet and Polish authors. These events are encapsulated in the phrase “Polish-Ukrainian armed conflict during the Second World War.” He asserts repeatedly that the lands in question were historically Ukrainian, and had been conquered by Poles only in 1349 during a period of weakness of the Galician-Volhynian principality. He comments that even old Polish maps indicate that these territories belonged to “the Ukrainian people.” In making these statements, he makes reference to statistics on the ethnic makeup of these regions, but restricts his data to rural areas—most likely because in the urban areas Ukrainians constituted only a small minority.43

  • 44 Ibid., pp. 64, 67-68.
  • 45 Ibid., pp. 78, 85-86.

36Serhiichuk raises the question: why did the Poles use force in 1918-19 to prevent the creation of a Ukrainian state in an area in which Ukrainians were the majority population? In his section on the Second World War, he provides information on the close links between the Poles and the German occupation regime in the border regions. Resistance to the occupiers, he writes, came from the Ukrainians who “urged the Poles to join them and direct their weapons against the common enemy,” Hitler. But in fact the Poles in general turned their arms against Ukrainians. Poles also feature in his book as close allies of the Bolsheviks, and he cites the formation of a Polish Partisan unit named after Feliks Dzerzhinsky. This friendship led to the escalation of violence in Volhynia, in his view. Ukrainian retaliation was directed against those Polish villages that had become the bases for the “anti-Ukrainian war.” He quotes OUN documents which declare that the organization was targeting Polish colonists, most of whom had arrived in the area in the interwar years. Those Ukrainians who did commit atrocities were dealt with summarily by the OUN Security Service (SB), and perpetrators were punished.44 There are now almost daily reports in the Polish press about Ukrainian atrocities against Poles during the war, writes Serhiichuk, but UPA’s policies were directed primarily against the Communist Party and its terrorist armed formations. Concerning the civilian population, the UPA subscribed to the strictest tolerance and humanity. Sometimes the Polish villages provided shelter for the insurgents. The number of Polish victims is not known and could only be established in Serhiichuk’s view by a joint Ukrainian-Polish commission. Nevertheless, the removal of Poles from these lands for the most part was not a consequence of UPA’s campaigns. Rather the Polish Communist leaders demanded that the Soviet Union accelerate the transfer of the Polish population to former German lands in the west in East Prussia and Pomerania during the bitter winter of 1946.45

  • 46 Grzegorz Motyka, Pany i rezuny : wspołpraca AK-WiN i UPA, 1945-1947 (Warsaw: Volumen, 1997).
  • 47 Volodymyr Serhiichuk, Trahediya Volyni: Prychynyi perebih pol’s’ko-ukrains’koho konfliktu v roky D (...)

37Serhiichuk returns to the theme in his 2003 book on the “Volhynia tragedy.” Once again it is based on information culled from the Ukrainian Central Archives, and the argumentation and tone of the book are aggressively anti-Polish, and express strong sympathy if not outright support for the OUN and UPA. He compares the “ethnic cleansing” on both sides of the border and from his viewpoint, the Polish cleansing of Ukrainians was incomparably worse than the Ukrainian cleansing of Poles. Until the present, he points out, neither Communist nor Democratic Poland has admitted responsibility for the cruelties carried out by Poles against Ukrainians during Operation Vistula. Supposedly the deported Ukrainians lived comfortably in the houses vacated by Germans, but this is a misleading image in the author’s view. As for the massacres of Poles, there are today many Ukrainian cultural figures who think that Ukraine must take responsibility for that tragedy. Serhiichuk is not among them. He thinks it would be more logical to ask Poland for an apology for the crimes carried out against Ukrainians. The book he is writing is partly in response to the monograph by Polish historian Grzegorz Motyka, which he views as very one-sided in its approach.46 Serhiichuk believes that Polish losses have been grossly exaggerated, and sometimes are cited as being as high as 500,000. Whereas Motyka maintains that the anti-Polish actions of OUNUPA began in April 1943, Serhiichuk retorts that they occurred on lands populated from earliest times by Ukrainians and on which Ukrainians made up an absolute majority. The OUN liquidated only elements that actively opposed a Ukrainian state, whereas Poles of all political hues were dedicated to the destruction of Ukrainians, including the AK and the Polish underground. Ukrainians, on the other hand, demonstrated in their propaganda of 1943 that they did not want a war with Poles, even though organs such as the Ukrainian Central Committee in Krakow were concerned by Polish massacres of Ukrainians in the districts of Krakow and Lublin, which claimed “hundreds of lives.” The Poles were so firmly opposed to Ukrainians, however, that even the Germans co-opted their services.47 However, the possible connection between ethnic cleansing of Poles and their willingness to work with the Germans is not explored.

  • 48 Ibid., pp. 26, 29, 32, 41-43, 52-53, 58-59.
  • 49 Ibid., pp. 74-75, 97.

38Serhiichuk continues by listing a number of villages in which there were Polish police collaborators. UPA leader Klym Savur then allegedly warned them to stop helping the Germans. Whereas the Poles in the book appear to support either the Germans or the Soviet Partisans, the Ukrainians are invariably described as 100 % behind Stepan Bandera. The situation deteriorated when a large band of Soviet Partisans arrived in Volhynia. Their Polish supporters were singling out Ukrainians and this was why Ukrainians in Volhynia turned on the Poles. According to the OUN perspective, the Poles had committed the double sin of collaborating with both enemies of Ukrainian interests. Serhiichuk portrays the Polish Partisan leaders as debauched and vindictive and the leader of the Home Army in L’viv as an avowed Communist. In some regions the Germans encouraged the Poles to turn on the followers of Bul’ba-Borovets’. In the summer of 1943 there were many victims on both sides. While Poles suffered the highest casualties in July; the number of Ukrainian victims was higher in October. Was the latter a backlash to the first attack? Serhiichuk does not say. What he does do is try to use statistics to bring down the number of Polish victims by showing that deportations and executions in earlier times had already depleted the Polish community of Volhynia.48 Finally, when there seems no option but to deal with the fact that the OUN-B ordered the wholesale massacre of the Poles, Serhiichuk reverts again to a 600-year history of conflict marked by Polish duplicity. He therefore maintains that it is time that Poles apologized to Ukrainians for “genocide.” But they have not, “and we should not be surprised by that fact.”49 The book uses primary sources selectively to present a partisan version of history that in every instance favors the Ukrainian version of events and denigrates the Poles at every opportunity. It is thus a diatribe rather than an academic work and serves mainly to fan the flames of ethnic conflict.

  • 50 Serhii Hrabovs’kyi, “Yaka Ukraina potribna Polshchi?” Ukrains’ke slovo, 24-30 July 2003, p. 5.

39In similar fashion, a survey of Ukrainian-Polish relations by Serhii Hrabovs’kyi begins by recognizing that both the Polish elites and the population at large are interested in the partnership with Ukraine. They would like to see a democratic Ukraine with a market economy. Therefore in the political cli-mate of Ukraine in 2003, Polish sympathies were on the side of the Ukrainian opposition. However, he feels, the Polish intellectual elite and artists are interested in developing relations only with those Ukrainian counterparts who express pro-Polish sentiment, or adhere to the principles of post-modernism, with its characteristic distancing from questions of nationhood. The attitude of Poles to average Ukrainians is considerably more negative, as these people are usually guest workers, gangsters, and prostitutes. The main historical problems separating the two peoples, in Hrabovs’kyi’s opinion are Volhynia, OUNUPA, the Division Halychyna, and Ukrainian nationalism. The majority of Poles are convinced that the UPA are murderers, arsonists, rapists, and Nazi collaborators, and Ukrainian nationalists belong in the “garbage bin of history.” In their view, he writes, the responsibility for the Volhynia events rests 99 % with Ukrainians. Poland requires a nonnationalist Ukraine, serene and always ready to acknowledge the influence of Poland on its own history. In this respect he perceives little difference between intellectual Poles and the rest of their compatriots. They are under the delusion, in this author’s view, that a non-Ukrainian Ukrainian state can be a reliable partner. However, the only reliable partner would be a Ukraine in which UPA combatants are recognized as heroes, and in which soldiers of the Division Halychyna will receive historical recognition.50

  • 51 Ibid. His reference is to the founder of the Soviet Cheka, the Pole Felix Dzerzhinsky, and to the (...)
  • 52 “Volyns’ka trahediya,” Moya bat’kivshchyna, No. 7 (July 2003).
  • 53 Viktor Radionov, “Vidhomin,” Ukrains’ke slovo, 4-10 September 2003, p. 4.

40Hrabovs’kyi counters traditional Polish attacks on the UPA and Ukrainian nationalism (this concept is left undefined) by pointing out the inconsistency of Polish “nationalists” who make use of the vocabulary and documents of the NKVD and KGB regarding OUN-UPA, but refuse to use these same sources with reference to the Home Army, the non-Communist Polish underground, and the Polish political emigration. He concludes his account with a question: Does Poland aspire to friendship with a Ukrainian state in which the streets are named after Feliks Dzerzhinsky and ruled by the methods of Iron Feliks, or would a better partner for Poland be a Ukraine that descended from the UNR, the country in which monuments to the Petlyura-Pilsudski alliance will be erected?51 Presumably his statement implies that either Ukraine would be a country that remained under Soviet influence or one based on independent traditions. His article followed closely a joint declaration by the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine and the Polish Sejm on the 60th anniversary of the Volhynia tragedy.52 Hrabovs’kyi was not the only Ukrainian observer to take exception to this joint statement. Viktor Radionov comments that approving such a declaration was tantamount to demonstrating one’s own inferiority vis-à-vis Poland. If such a gesture was needed in order for Ukraine to acquire admission into Euro-Atlantic structures, then the price, in his opinion, was too high. Ukraine could only enter Europe proudly, as a free nation. Radionov speaks of the “unheard of impudence” of the Poles. The groundless demands that Ukraine should apologize and the sluggishness and apathy of Ukrainian politicians led to a negative reaction in Volhynia and Galicia. The people were in his view incensed at the kowtowing to Warsaw and to the new efforts to accuse Ukrainians of all sorts of crimes and to shift the blame “onto our people.”53

  • 54 Ibid. Compare here the attitude of a Canadian of Ukrainian ancestry, Orysia Tkacz, who commented o (...)
  • 55 Bohdan Oleksyuk, “Natsionalizm ne teroryzm,” Ukrains’ke slovo, 4-10 September 2003, p. 4.
  • 56 Viktor Zamyatin, “Adam Michnik: One must think ahead,” The Day Digest, 15 April 2003; [http://www. (...)

41Radionov continues with heightened invective. He asserts that one reason why a joint-declaration could be adopted was because of a so-called “fifth column” in Ukraine. While his organization, the OUN, was picketing the Polish Embassy with slogans such as “Volhynia is Ukrainian land!” and “OUN and UPA are our heroes!”, Maksym Strikha, to Radionov’s dismay, wrote in an earlier issue of Ukrains’ke slovo that for centuries, Galicia and Volhynia belonged to both Ukrainians and Poles, and that these lands had become ethnically Ukrainian only as a consequence of the postwar deportations carried out by Stalin and Beria. Radionov is emphatic: Volhynia and Galicia have always been Ukrainian lands, and this fact has been proved conclusively by historians like Hrushevs’kyi and others. No knowledgeable historian would write such nonsense about a common land.54 His diatribe here and in an earlier article in the same venue provoked a response from Bohdan Oleksyuk, who comments that Radionov did not understand what sort of guilt Ukrainians had to repent for during the struggle for independence. What do we wish to justify, Oleksyuk wonders? Is it the cleansing from Ukrainian lands of the Polish population by means of slaughter of civilians, including women, children, and the elderly? Radionov represents in his view a tendency to talk only “about our own victims.” In fact, the joint declaration indicated a growing awareness of Ukrainian victims on the Polish side of the border.55 These points are echoed by Viktor Zamyatin writing in Den’ who cites the editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, Adam Michnik, that it would be disastrous, with regard to the Volhynia issue, if chauvinistic anti-Ukrainian forces in Poland and their anti-Polish counterparts in Ukraine took the initiative. Both nations to some extent suffer from the “innocent victim syndrome.”56


42This chapter has surveyed some of the recent debates about controversial events in Ukrainian-Polish relations, many of which remain in the memory of people and have the potential to foster differences between the two countries. The focus has been exclusively on those narratives that have appeared in Ukraine. Those in Poland, as well as a number of new books on issues such as Volhynia, are of interest but are peripheral to this study, even though they have contributed to the debate and responses from the Ukrainian side. Two key issues have arisen with regard to the construction of Ukrainian national history: the first is context. As some Ukrainian writers have noted with justification, it is impossible to treat the Volhynia massacres in isolation; they need to be examined within the context of—at least—recent history. On the other hand, they cannot be ignored, and it seems simplistic to argue, as Radionov does, that they can be justified simply by the fact that Volhynia belonged historically to Ukraine. The opposite line of reasoning incidentally is used by other nationalist writers to avoid responsibility, namely that Ukraine cannot be responsible for these events because no Ukrainian state existed at that time. One surely cannot have it both ways. The second issue, and it surfaces repeatedly in articles, is that what occurred in Volhynia tarnishes irrevocably the image of the OUN and UPA as heroes and liberators of the Ukrainian lands. Snyder has explained such actions by the fact that the UPA consisted, in part, of former Nazi auxiliaries, extremists and fanatics who had already witnessed some of the worst horrors of the war and were now prepared to apply them to the local Polish population.

43A distinction may be made between academic and popular writings on Polish-Ukrainian relations. Popular writings have made significant steps in coming to terms with issues like Volhynia and Operation Vistula—as for that matter have the respective governments in recent times. However, the issue is far from resolved, and not least because of the existence of the two neighboring states. The perceived architects of the dilemma—Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union—have long exited the stage. In the case of the latter, the successor nation, the Russian Federation, has never acknowledged any direct inheritance from the Soviet state, which might be considered illogical given its material gains, such as embassies, former party buildings, and the Kremlin itself. For Ukraine, the problem has always been that if one is to construct a national history that includes the struggle for independence in the wartime years—and it is hard to imagine how that history can be constructed without this pivotal period—then all aspects of the history of the OUN and UPA have to be included, both the heroic and the terrible, no matter how difficult this may be for Ukrainian historians to accept. The position is exacerbated by the “complex” of Ukrainians as victims and the fact that the acclaimed representatives of the nation were armed men who wished to cleanse their perceived territories as thoroughly as possible. It is complicated by the decades of monotonous Soviet narratives of OUN-UPA treachery and collaboration, which without doubt has had a lasting influence in many areas of Ukraine. On the other hand, the massacres were largely absent from Soviet narratives until the last years of the USSR—these writings did not wish to single out persecution of Poles just as Soviet accounts of the war years rarely focused on the Jewish Holocaust. In conclusion, one can say that Volhynia has entered the public consciousness of contemporary Ukraine but it sits uneasily with many people. Many would rather choose to forget such events.


1 Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 169.

2 Timothy Snyder, “The Causes of Ukrainian-Polish Ethnic Cleansing,” Past and Present, Vol. 179, Number 1 (2003): 197-234.

3 Cited in N. Karpova, “Vybor,” Pravda Ukrainy, 4 January 1990, p. 4.

4 A. Veremeichuk, “My obvinyaem natsionalizm,” Pravda Ukrainy, 11 April 1990, p. 3.

5 V. I. Maslovs’kyi, “Shchto na ‘oltari svobody’? Dekil’ka utochen’ shchodo viiny ‘na dva front.’ Yaku vela UPA ta skil’koma nevynnymy zhertvamy oplachuvas’ tsey propahandyts’kyi myf,” Komunist Ukrainy, No. 7 (July 1991): 72-73.

6 S. Dluskiy, “Tragediya sela Ganachevka,” L’vovs’kaya pravda, 2 July 1991, p. 3.

7 Evgeniy Guzhva, “Kolodets smerti,” Pravda Ukrainy, 22 August 1991, p. 3; and 23 August 1991, p. 3.

8 Wiktor Poliszczuk, Legal and Political Assessment of the OUN and UPA (Toronto, 1991), pp. 32-38.

9 Nina Romanyuk, and Yurii Mykolayenko, “Vsyaki uryad, yakui vidmovyvsya b vid Zakhidnoi Ukrainy, buv by rozbytyi,” Ukraina moloda, 11 January 1995, p. 3.

10 Myroslav Paranchak, “Tyahar nespravedlyvosti zhyvuchyi,” Za vil’nu Ukrainu, 23 July 1998, p. 2.

11 Yan Hasten, “Ne til’ky pro Volyn,” Za vil’nu Ukrainu, 24 September 1998, p. 2.

12 Koval’, Ukraina v Druhii svitovii i Velykii Vitchyznyanii viinakh, p. 153.

13 Stanislav Kul’chyts’kyi, “Ukrainski natsionalisty v chervono-korychnevii Yevropi (do 70-richchya stvorennya OUN),” Istoriya Ukrainy, No. 5 (February 1999): 6-7.

14 Yaroslav Isayevich, “Ukrains’ko-pol’s’ki vidnosyny periodu Druhoi svitovoi viiny: interpretatsii istorykiv i politykiv,” Istoriya v shkolakh Ukrainy, No. 2 (2003): 39.

15 Ibid., pp. 39-40.

16 Ibid., p. 40.

17 Wladyslaw and Ewa Symaszko, Ludobojstwo dokonan przez nacjonalistow ukrainskich na ludnosci polskiej Wolynia, 1939-1945 (Warsaw: Wyd. Von borowiecky, 2000).

18 I. I. Il’yushyn, “Do pytannya pro Volyns’ku trahediyu v 1943-1944 rr.,” Ukrains’kyi istorichnyi zhurnal, No. 3 (2003): 116-117. Presumably the perpetrators were former members of the Communist Party of Western Ukraine since that party was dissolved by the Comintern on Stalin’s orders in 1938.

19 Ibid., pp. 116-122.

20 Editorial, “Vernut’ narodu istoriyu,” L’vovs’kaya pravda, 18 February 1990, p. 1.

21 S. A. Makarchuk, “Z istorii druhoi svitovoi viiny. Pereselennya polyakiv iz zakhidnykh oblastei Ukrainy v Pol’shchu u 1944-1946 rr.,” Ukrains’kyi istorychnyi zhurnal, No. 3 (2003): 103-104.

22 Ibid., pp. 104-105.

23 Ibid., pp. 105-108, 110-111.

24 Ivan Vorobel’, “Staly zhertvamy kliky Beria-Stalina,” Za vil’nu Ukrainu, 30 August 1994, p. 2.

25 Petro Kostyk, ““Polumya, shcho nurtuye donyni slida my trahedii sela Sahrybn na Kholmshchyni,” Za vil’nu Ukrainu, 10 September 1999, p. 6.

26 Oleksandra Potichna, “I bratove-lyatky po khrystyyans’ki vyrizaly Ivanovi na hrudyakh khresta,” Za vil’nu Ukrainu, 30 July 1999, pp. 8-9. See also Peter J. Potichnyj, Pavlokoma, 1441-1945: istoriya sela (L’viv and Toronto: Fund for Pavlokoma, 2001).

27 Ibid.

28 V. Danylenko and V. Baran, “Ostanni period Stalinshchyny (suspil’no-politychni rozvytok),” Istoriya Ukrainy, No. 12 (March 2000): 1-3.

29 Ibid.

30 Natalya Klyashtorna, “Vyselennya,” Ukraina moloda, 19 February 2002, p. 11.

31 Kataryna Wolczuk, “The Difficulties of Polish-Ukrainian Historical Reconciliation,” paper published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, 2002.

32 Georgiy Gongadze, a journalist for the on-line newspaper Ukrains’ka Pravda, was kidnapped and later murdered in 2000. He had written a number of critical articles about the Kuchma regime, which was implicated in the murder by tapes smuggled out of the country by a former bodyguard of the president. See J. V. Koshiw, Beheaded: The Killing of a Journalist (London: Artemia Press, 2003).

33 Wolczuk, “The Difficulties of Polish-Ukrainian Historical Reconciliation.”

34 Ibid.

35 Evhen Dudar, “Pravda—odna. Vidkrytyi lyst prem’er-ministrovi Pol’shchi p. Lesheku Milleru,” Literaturna Ukraina, 7 November 2002, p. 1.

36 Ibid.

37 Maksym Strikha, “Asymetrychnist’ Volyni,” Krytyka-Komentar, 5 May 2003; [http://www.].

38 Prus has been a prolific and hostile analyst of the OUN and UPA and has also authored a biography of Stepan Bandera. I am not acquainted with the cited source. His recent works include Rycerze zelaznej ostrogi: oddzialy wojskowe ukrainskich nacjionalistow w okresie II wojny swiatowej (Wroclaw: Atla 2, 2000); and SS-Galizien: patrioci czy zbrodniarze? (Wroclaw: Nortom, 2001).

39 Ibid.

40 Ibid.

41 Bohdan Oleksyuk, “Chy musyt’ ukrains’kyi natsionalist nenavydity polyakiv? Krytyka, 23 May 2003; [].

42 Wiktor Poliszczuk, Bitter Truth: the Criminality of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA): the Testimony of a Ukrainian (Toronto, 1999).

43 Volodymyr Serhiichuk, Nasha krov-na svoii zemli (Kyiv: Ukrains’ka vydavanycha spilka, 2000), pp. 1, 3, 7, 18, and 48-49.

44 Ibid., pp. 64, 67-68.

45 Ibid., pp. 78, 85-86.

46 Grzegorz Motyka, Pany i rezuny : wspołpraca AK-WiN i UPA, 1945-1947 (Warsaw: Volumen, 1997).

47 Volodymyr Serhiichuk, Trahediya Volyni: Prychynyi perebih pol’s’ko-ukrains’koho konfliktu v roky Druhoi svitovoi viiny (Kyiv: vydavnycha spilka, 2003), pp. 1-15, 20-21.

48 Ibid., pp. 26, 29, 32, 41-43, 52-53, 58-59.

49 Ibid., pp. 74-75, 97.

50 Serhii Hrabovs’kyi, “Yaka Ukraina potribna Polshchi?” Ukrains’ke slovo, 24-30 July 2003, p. 5.

51 Ibid. His reference is to the founder of the Soviet Cheka, the Pole Felix Dzerzhinsky, and to the Ukrainian National Republic of 1918.

52 “Volyns’ka trahediya,” Moya bat’kivshchyna, No. 7 (July 2003).

53 Viktor Radionov, “Vidhomin,” Ukrains’ke slovo, 4-10 September 2003, p. 4.

54 Ibid. Compare here the attitude of a Canadian of Ukrainian ancestry, Orysia Tkacz, who commented on the Info-ukes internet list that “What was lost in all the discussion re Volyn was—and yes, retribution is ugly, but—this was Ukrainian land. Ukrainians had been ruled and persecuted by the Poles for centuries on this land, serfdom, the pany/lords, the “Pacification,” Brigidky, Bereza-Kartuz’ka, Akcija Wiszla later and on and on and on, and finally, as they say in Ukrainian, terpets’ virvavsia [it was the last straw]. In this specific case it was the Poles who were killed. They, particularly, would not/may not have been guilty of anything but this was what happened, in reaction to all that happened before.” Info-ukes, History list, 8 November 2003. One could hardly find a better example of a victimization complex being used to justify a wholesale massacre.

55 Bohdan Oleksyuk, “Natsionalizm ne teroryzm,” Ukrains’ke slovo, 4-10 September 2003, p. 4.

56 Viktor Zamyatin, “Adam Michnik: One must think ahead,” The Day Digest, 15 April 2003; [].

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