Sunday, January 6, 2013

"Liquidate All Polish Traces": 1943 Volhynia Massacre Anniversary

Polish children at play in Volhynia Source: Electronic Museum

"Liquidate all Polish traces. Destroy all walls in the Catholic Church and other Polish prayer houses. Destroy orchards and trees in the courtyards so that there will be no trace that someone lived there... Pay attention to the fact that when something remains that is Polish, then the Poles will have pretensions to our land." (OUN decree quoted in Mark Mazower, Hitler's Empire.)

Just received an email from a very well educated Polish friend who has been made more aware, via recent news articles, of the Ukrainian massacres of Poles during WW II. He calls these massacres shocking and "a clear case of genocide." He points out that under Communism, these massacres were not mentioned. Some of those involved in the massacres are now regarded as heroes. He closes with a recommendation to read the Wikipedia page on the massacres.

Email from Polish friend in Poland:

I just the last couple of days I read extensively on the massacres of Poles in Volhynia, mainly in 1943. This year will be the seventieth anniversary and in the Polish press there have been some comments that prompted me into these readings. These events were invisible in public media during the whole period of Communist rule in Poland, until 1989. Only in the 90s there were some publications and only in 2000 there was a major documentary publication on the events issued. Now I have happened to read some personal stories of survivors which are absolutely shocking, in part due to the brutality and savagery of assaults. I wonder if there are any personal stories available in English.

On the basis of my cursory reading in the last couples of days I think it was a clear case of genocide; it was a planned action to eliminate, that is murder, all members of Polish nation, women and children explicitly included, on this area of the former, pre-war Volhynia voivodship.

Of course, you've heard and probably read a lot of these events (I must admit I had never gone very deep into the details previously - I was aware of Polish-Ukrainian animosities and an escalation of conflict in the years 1943-1946, with a substantial part called 'rzeź na Wołyniu' which was very brutal). Anyway this is such a story that needs to be remembered and reminded all the time, just as Holocaust. And this year it will be definitely a topic coming back. Especially that Poles want to have a very good relations with the Ukraine and Ukrainians, but in the Ukraine the facts of massacres are widely neglected and some perpetrators are glorified as national heroes."

Wikipedia in English here

Wikipedia in Polish is here

Another page in Polish is here

Polish victims of Ukrainian massacre, Lipniki. Source: Wikipedia


  1. Especially that Poles want to have a very good relations with the Ukraine and Ukrainians, but in the Ukraine the facts of massacres are widely neglected and some perpetrators are glorified as national heroes."

    It is difficult,indeed. The massacre was not talked about at all during the communist occupation.In Poland, even Nazi German crimes were neglected- on memorials,it is still written: W tym miejscu hitlerowcy zabili xy Polakow (in this place, lets say, "nazis"-it would rather translate as "Hitlers men"- killed xy Poles). Why? Because these countries, Ukraine and Eastern Germany, were our true "allies" (so say Moskow). On the last week I have read in a Polish newspaper (GPC)-there was an article which asked for help in identifying the victims of the gestapo in Tarnow.Yes, this appeal was made at the end of last year!!! The communist stystem kept everyone from remembering, from persecuting the criminals of back than, of talking about what had happened.

    I blame them for the problems we are having today.

    About the Ukraine-she had the bad luck of lacking national elites.There were some, but most of them where murdered during the Holodomor-a fact not widely aknowledged even today. Afterwards,the only "elites" were communist pseudo-elites who were even actively combating Ukrainian national identity.

    Choosing Stepan Bandera as a "hero" is kind of understandable. The nationalist side needs a symbol like there is no tomorrow in a country which could break up in two parts, the eastern going to Russia.

    Ironically, in the east of the Ukraine, Bandera monuments are destoyed on a regular basis.

    Im sad that they choose the hater Bandera-than again, what else was there to choose from?
    I dont know-had Bandera not actively appealed for the murder of Poles,Russians,Jews-he might have been more of a hero.

    He was also murdered later on and he did not kill anyone himself-is that why he is seen as a martyr?

    About Wolyn- its complicated.As far as I have understood the whole thing one factor of the hatred against Poles was that the latter were in general wealthier. Also, many rich Poles often had Jewish Poles manage their estates on which Ukrainians had to toil for little money.

    I believe it to be very important to have an open dialogue with the Ukrainian side and to listen to them and their understanding, not to lecture them outright what they should do.
    This could bring them to choose s.o else, perhaps a promotor of the Ukrainian language, or an anti-communist, to become a national hero and have Bandera fall into oblivion in the long run....

    Its strange, but I do think that Poles are not as angry towards Ukrainians as they are towards Russian and, less, towards Germans. I think the experience of shared suffering might help both nations to overcome their difficulties :-)

  2. I think that there is no excuse for making a Bandera a hero, any more than there is in making Hitler a hero. The fact that they did good things for their respective nations does not change it.

    The OUN-UPA genocide of Poles was planned long before WWII--at the inception of the OUN in 1929. I have studied this genocide in considerable detail. To see a list of self-reviewed books on this matter, please click on my name in this posting.

  3. This is so sad. How much better it would have been if Poles and Ukrainians had got along with each other. I didn't know about this, and never heard of Bandera. I first became aware of these problems when reading one of the Society's Yearbooks. If I can find it, I will give you an extract.

    "Most Ukrainians, including hundreds of our brothers, were relocated to the east, within the new Soviet borders. Before this took place, however, there were numerous outbursts of hatred between the Poles and the Ukrainians living in the eastern and southern parts of the General Gouvernement. The Polish and Ukrainian Witnesses, on the other hand, were at peace. On one occasion, a Polish brother was returning home from a meeting, walking with three Ukrainian sisters, when they encountered Ukrainian guerrillas. The guerrillas tried to seize the brother, intent on shooting him, but the sisters protested, physically intervening on his behalf. The struggle went on for two hours. Finally the guerrillas relented, but first they tore off the brother’s clothes and burned them. Clad only in his underwear, he ran over a mile [2 km] barefoot through the snow to the home of a Ukrainian brother."
    (The 1994 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, published by The Watchtower Society)

    Christian teaching can free us of national and racial hatreds. As Jesus said, the mark of the his true followers would be the love they have for each other.

    "By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” - John 13:35

    The Stalins and Hitlers of this world would run very short of willing executioners if people would only listen.

  4. This is a ridiculous post - yes, there were lots of people murdered in the East - as in Poland, so too in the Ukraine, 90% of the population was for hundreds of years enslaved by the vicious, cruel master known as the szlachta - an amorphous concoction of villainy and sloth that brought down Poland - the szlachta was Polish-speaking and so the Ukrainians believed that it was Poles who oppressed them - that should be mentioned before you go on with this diatribe. Bandera was hardly a boy scout but he was an ally in the struggle against the Reds and being blinded by a petty rage - especially now - is self-destructive and, frankly, stupid.

    One should further mention that both "Poles" and "Ukrainians" were called Polanie before the Ukrainians became part of the "Rus" - coincidence? Maybe but the fact is we all spoke the same language and looked the same (also some "Russians") before we started fighting over idiotic issues such as how a cross should look like on which some Arab was killed a thousand years earlier.

  5. My Polish mother hated the Ukrainians. They killed her family during the war. Years later, she returned to her village, now in the Ukraine, to see what was there. She went to her house and asked the people if they remembered the Poles who were killed there.

    The Ukrainians said Poles never lived there.

    Then she searched the village to see if anyone had ever put up a marker or a tombstone for the Poles who were killed and thrown in a mass grave.

    There was no marker, no tombstone.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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