All remains of WWII-era victims of Ukrainian nationalists must be found and laid to rest, the prime minister said
The remains of thousands of Poles killed by Ukrainian nationalists during World War II must be found and properly buried, before the two nations can be fully reconciled, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said.
Morawiecki took part in a ceremony in Warsaw on Tuesday to mark the 80th anniversary of the massacres in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. An estimated 100,000 ethnic Poles were murdered by members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the militia of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).
The slaughter took place between 1943 and 1945 amid the chaos of the Nazi occupation. The nationalists allied themselves with the invaders, hoping to create a mono-ethnic Ukrainian state with their help. The mass killings, which Warsaw considers an act of genocide, were meant to shift the demographics in favor of the same goal.
July 11, 1943, is considered the peak of the atrocities, as the UPA on that day launched a coordinated attack on some 100 predominantly Polish villages and towns.
“This crime wasn’t carried out by a heartless apparatus of the state, but by people, who had turned in their hatred on those with whom they had shared an existence for years, for decades, for centuries,” Morawiecki said.
The Polish prime minister stressed that “there won’t be full Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation” until all the remains of the victims are buried in accordance with the Christian tradition.
Morawiecki went on to suggest that Ukraine, being a nation at war, and constantly losing its civilians to violence, must realize the feelings of the Polish people, while calling the Ukrainians “neighbors and allies”.
The current Ukrainian government views the OUN, the UPA and their leaders as national heroes, as they fought for Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union. Prominent nationalists have streets named after them, while the birthday of Stepan Bandera, the OUN leader, is marked with annual torch marches.
Some Ukrainian officials, such as former ambassador to Germany Andrey Melnik, have denied the crimes of the nationalists targeting Poles, Jews, communists and other groups.
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