2013-07-21volun_zn_uaIn July 1943 thousands of Polish civilians, including women and children, had been murdered by the Ukrainian Rebellion Army (the Ukrainian nationalists) on the territory of Volhyn – the north-eastern part of present-day Ukraine. Some two weeks ago the Polish Parliament qualified the killings as “ethnic cleansing with elements of genocide.”

Shall the mass killings be condemned? Yes. Shall the formula of condemnation suggested by the Sejm (Parliament ) be accepted? No. To speak about July 12, 1943 without the broader context would be very much the same as to speak about how bad the Germans were when they attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, and to “forget” August 23, 1939 — the date when the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed and which actually made it possible for the Germans to invade the Soviet Union in 1941. Stalin himself facilitated the invasion.

In 1918 Western Ukraine, with some 75% of the Ukrainian population became a part of Poland. The Polish government, having received this “gift” from the Entente Powers, pledged they would care for the interests of the local population. The opposite happened. The Polish government started the cultural genocide of the Ukrainians: the word “Ukrainian” was banned from use, the Ukrainian territory was officially named “Eastern Little Poland”, Ukrainian schools and churches were being closed down, Poles were encouraged to re-settle to the “eastern outskirts”, fertile land was given to Polish settlers while the Ukrainians remained landless, civil servants (ethnic Ukrainians) were dismissed from their jobs.  The Polish policy of “pacification” in the early 1930s meant that any Ukrainian village that was of “rebellious spirit” could be surrounded at night by 150-200 Polish soldiers and “pacified” by threats and tortures and by a contribution: it could be 400 hundredweights of oats, dozens of carts with straw and hay, a goose or a hen for each soldier, drinks, etc.

Later, in the 1940s the Polish guerilla army (“Armiya Krayova”) moved its activities from Poland to Volhyn for the purpose to declare the re-establishing of the Polish state the moment the Nazi armies left the area. They were cooperating with the Soviet guerillas while fighting the Germans and the Ukrainian nationalists.…

The long and short of it is that the coil spring of the Ukrainian patience had been pressed too long not to hit even the innocent when it was released.

Incidentally, the word “genocide” is the term which is usually applied to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of victims, and we usually imply that the perpetrators suffer few or no casualties. The Ukrainian nationalists were not such.

The Polish Sejm supposedly made its judgment being guided by the principle of human rights. However, Alexander Motyl, a blogger writing for the World Affairs Journal, made an observation with which I also agree:

Human rights entail a huge responsibility: for your condemnation of violence by Ukrainians and Poles to be credible, you must be no less condemnatory of violence perpetrated by Americans, Russians, Germans, French, Chinese, Jews, Palestinians, Turks, Brazilians, Paraguayans, and everybody else. If only Ukrainian or Polish violence bothers you, than you are in fact being indifferent to human rights and pursuing a political agenda.” (



When I was about five years old I asked my father how big was the number 7. Dad looked at me for a moment and said with a smile: “Well, it’s bigger than six and smaller than eight.” That was my first lesson that while considering any fact I should place it in its context. If Polish politicians had learnt such a lesson, they might have agreed to the mutual formula suggested by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church: “We forgive and ask to be forgiven.”


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2 Responses to “HOW BIG… HOW BAD?”

  1. observer Says:

    The problem is that the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was as very much ethnic cleansing-oriented as Serbian forces in the former Yugoslavia. It is possible to forgive, but not necessarily forget the Volhynia genocide or ethnic cleansing of Poles who have lived there for generations, as those settlers who arrived there between 1930 and 1939 were all arrested and sent to Siberia by the Soviets in 1940 and 1941.
    Celebrating Bandera and his criminal movement is a bit too far-reaching. The only real genocide of Ukrainians was committed by the Stalinist Soviet Union in 1932-1933 during the Holodomor. The Ukraine and those who support the UPA’s ethnic cleansing of Poles in the Volhynia deserve to be left alone by the Polish government to fall prey of the Putin Russia. Enough is enough!

  2. vitaliyb Says:

    Ref: “…his criminal movement.” In my opinion, ANY war is criminal. The artificial division of human killings into “just” and “unjust” depends on a reference point. The Ukrainians, remembering the Polish and Russian repressions, don’t consider the UPA movement “criminal.” The same concerns the haidamaki movement (the 18th –century rebels against the Polish rule), who were also labeled as “thugs and robbers” and who, later, were so vehemently cleared from the accusations by Taras Shevchenko. The indisputably “unjust” murder was probably Cain’s murder of his brother Abel.

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