The Volynia Massacre in the Light of the Politics of Memory (II)

Part I

The Volynia massacre is one of the bloodiest episodes in the Ukrainian-Polish conflict of the mid-20th century. Polish historians interpret it as an anti-Polish campaign of the Ukrainian nationalists of the OUN/UPA. Researchers in Ukraine are attempting to shift the emphasis to the retaliatory anti-Ukrainian activities of the Armia Krajowa (AK) against the civilian population, including on the territory of Poland. 

«Now historians from the Ukrainian neofascist camp», writes one Polish author, «are attempting to invoke the so-called 'moral' justification of the Volynia massacre: they speak, for example, of the 'difficult situation of the Galician and Volynian population as part of Poland between the two World Wars'. Such attempts are yet another testimony to the extreme moral degradation of modern Ukrainian neofascism». 

However, in Poland the situation with regard to historical memory is not much better. 

On the 65th anniversary of the Volynia massacre, Polish authorities rejected a draft resolution in the Sejm which accused the OUN/UPA of the genocide of Poles. Something similar is planned for the 70th anniversary on July 11. The president at that time, Lech Kaczynski, did not take part in the events dedicated to the tragic date, confining himself to a stock letter to the participants. And the current Polish president, Bronisław Komorowski, states that the guilty party in the Volynia tragedy is...Soviet Russia. Such a statement is the height of cynicism and duplicity, if only because it was the Soviet partisans who protected the Poles from the Banderovites…

«It is difficult to justify the shameful acquiescence with which some in Poland are renouncing the truth, and the part of the elite which shapes public opinion reacts hysterically to any reminder of the OUN or the use of the most appropriate word in this case, 'genocide'», writes the central Polish publication Rzeczpospolita. «Instead of the truth, for several decades we have had a disgraceful charade in which the mouths of those who have a good memory are shut, and all this in the name of distorted geopolitics and 'reconciliation'... By agreeing to the falsification of history and consigning the Volynia tragedy to oblivion, the Poles are committing an act which is doubly worthy of the harshest censure. It is a disgrace, because a crime demands truthful illumination, and reconciliation is worthless if it is based on falsehood»...

Lipniki, Kostopol district, Łuck province, March 26, 1943. Here 179 Poles were slaughtered, mainly women, old men and over 50 children from 1 to 14 years of age. Photo 1 - Janusz Belawski (3), Roman Belawski (5), Jadwiga Belawska (18) and others. Photo 2 - the headless corpse of Jakub Warumzer. Photo 3 - the central part of the communal grave of Poles before burial at the National House.

Ukrainian nationalist ideologist Dmitro Dontsov was an ardent admirer of the works of Mussolini and Hitler, which he translated into Ukrainian and by which he was inspired when creating the program of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (1929), whose armed wing was the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), created in 1942. According to Dontsov and his disciple Stsiborskyi, the creation of a Great Ukraine «on the border of two worlds» requires the total elimination of non-Ukrainians and the liquidation of «racially unfit» Ukrainians in order to «purify» the lands for the «racially fit»: «Be aggressors and invaders before you can become rulers and masters...Universal human justice does not exist».

Today Dontsov's followers are predicting the «European future» of Ukraine with the same fanaticism. 

A Polish delegation which visited Ukraine in 1992 and obtained permission for research and exhumation on the sites of the occurrences found over 600 mass burial sites of the Ukrainian fascists' Polish victims. The total number of victims (figures vary based on what period is taken into account, as the killings were committed over the course of several years; July 1943 was only one of the peaks, when over 150 Polish settlements were attacked simultaneously and were mostly destroyed) varies from 36,000 to over 100,000 people, mostly women, children and old men.

The corpses of Polish children: Zamojszczyzna, Lublin province, 1942. 

«The Polish authorities and a significant part of the intellectual elite are zealously promoting the distortion of the memory of the Volynia tragedy by obscuring the guilt of the ideology behind it... Our circles which shape public opinion are eagerly taking up the propagandistic assertion of the Ukrainian nationalists that the crimes were of a mutual, symmetrical character and there is no sense in measuring the guilt of each side. This assertion contradicts the facts, and is just as monstrous as if some German politician addressed the Jews today, saying, 'The relations between our peoples have varied; you stabbed our army in the back during the war and robbed us during the great crisis, and then we took revenge for it. Well, maybe we went overboard a bit, but now it is time to forget old arguments, shake hands and never go back to this,'« writes the Polish publication Rzeczpospolita. - «What distinguishes the massacre in Volynia from all other known ethnic crimes is the incredible cruelty of the criminals. Neither Stalin's NKVD nor Hitler's Einsatzgruppen were noted for the personal cruelty of their agents. But the cutthroats of the OUN-UPA and other nationalist unions seemed to have a special passion for it». 

Below are several testimonies from the anthology of documents THE FORGOTTEN GENOCIDE: The Volynia massacre of 1943-1944:

Photo 1 - Lubycza Królewska, Rawa Russka district, Lwów province. June 16, 1944. 

Photo 2 - Czortków district, Tarnopol province. Residents of the village of Polowce in the Rosochacz forest, killed by the UPA the night of January 17, 1944. The victims' clothes were stolen by the executioners. 

From a special communication of the SMERSH Counterintelligence Center of the 1st Ukrainian Front,
May 20, 1944
...Witness JANICKI S.I. testified the following about KRICHKOVSKIY:

«The night of March 17-18, Ukrainian nationalist Banderovites committed the mass murder of Poles in the village of Mogilnitsy. In the guise of Soviet partisans, in masks, they burst into the houses of the Poles and subjected them to the cruelest of abuse; they cut them with knives, chopped children with axes, and smashed heads, after which they burned everything to cover up their crimes.

That night the Banderovites tortured, stabbed and shot up to 100 Soviet activists, Jews and Poles to death. On that same night my family was slaughtered: my wife, my 17-year-old daughter and my son. Up to 15 nationalists burst into my house, among whom I recognized the Banderovite KRICHKOVSKYI Iosif Antonovich, who took direct part in the murder of my family».

In verifying the testimony of the witness JANICKI, 94 corpses of murdered residents of Mogilnitsy, killed by nationalists the night of 18.III.44, were found in pits in the forest near Mogilnitsy.

TsA FSB. F. 100. Op. 11. D. 7 L. 231-234.

From the transcript of the interrogation of Deputy Commander of the Kruk unit of the UPA Lev Yaskevich, 
 September 28, 1949

...I remember that in the village of Zabara in the Szumski district we eliminated 10 or 15 families of the Polish population. How many families were eliminated in other villages, I don't remember. Put it this way, the people who had not yet moved out of the village were completely exterminated; during the extermination of the population we didn't pay attention to whether they were children or old men, we wiped out every last one, young and old...

DA SBU. F. 13. D. 1020. L. 214-220.

From the transcript of the interrogation of OUN member Vladimir Gorbatyuk,
January 6, 1945
...When we arrived, there were already about 100 people there from various Ukrainian villages... Some of them were armed with real rifles, and the rest with various things, some with shovels, some with pitchforks...The defenseless Poles could not put up any resistance; we killed them with whatever was handy on the street, in residences, in barns, etc. I personally killed two Poles, men aged 25 to 30. 

DA SBU. F. 13. D. 985. L. 130-133.

From the transcript of the interrogation of peasant Yukhim Orlyuk, 
July 26, 1944
...After that, about a week and a half to two weeks later, Lutsyuk, Nedbaylo, Fishchuk and others gathered all the Ukrainian men in the Ovadnoye forest, then in the evening they led everyone to the village of Mogilnoye, lined everyone up, and Lutsyuk said: «...Now we will go and kill all the Poles (living in Mogilnoye), as an order has come from the government of the UPA to eliminate all the Poles..»

...the Taczynski family consisted of 4 people, and 3 people in the family were killed; I don't know how many people the Szczurowski family consisted of, but around 7 or 8 people; 4 people in their family were killed. The Poles put up no resistance...

...That night 11 Polish families were exterminated, but a few people from these families were able to run away. I don't know how many people total were exterminated.

...That night every last Pole in the village was killed, that is, adults, old people, children, and even infants. 

Question: Who was killed personally by your group?

Answer: From the Taczynski family, the wife of Jozef Taczynski, his 8-10-year-old son and an infant were killed. From the Szczurowski family, Antoni Szczurowski, two adult daughters aged 18-20, I don't know their names, and the wife of Antoni Szczurowski, about 50 years of age.

...I know that the Poles' property and livestock were partly divvied up by the people, but the best part - horses, 10 or so cows, about 10 pigs and the best part of the property - were seized right away by the Banderovites. 

DA SBU. F. 13. D. 1020. L. 136-143.

Original, manuscript.

From the transcript of the interrogation of UPA fighter Vladimir Dubinchuk,
August 6, 1941
... When the participants were near the wagon, I ran into the house of Anton Soszynski and shot a child of about 5. There were two more children in the room, but my one remaining cartridge misfired. After that I went out of the residence and reported this to Iosif Lupinka, who gave me two cartridges and instructions to kill those children. I went into the room again and shot a second child of about 2 years of age. At that time Iosif Lupinka came into the residence and shot the third child, who was about 6-7 years of age, in my presence.

After the shooting of the children of Anton Soszynski, the other bandits and I returned to the village of Svichev, and we immediately drove to the farmstead of citizen Jarmolinska Majewska. Iosif Lupinka and I found Majewska in the neighboring house, after which we led her to her farmstead, where I personally shot her. We left this corpse on the spot as well, and drove to the village council building. The bandits Iosif Lupinka, Vasilii Torchilo, Golumbitskii, I, and one whose name I don't know went to the Polish cemetery. There Lupinka and Torchilo killed citizen Dobrowolska, whose corpse we also left on the spot. When returning, Lupinka went into the priest's house and seized the housemaid, after which he led her to the neighboring farmstead and shot her there in the yard. 

DA SBU. F. 13. D. 1020. L. 26-34.

Photo 1 - Katarzynowka, Łuck province. May 7/8, 1943. The Gwiazdowski brothers - Janek (3), with broken limbs and Marek (2), stabbed to death with bayonets. In the middle lies Stasia Stefaniak (5) with his belly cut open and his entrails hanging out, and also with broken limbs. 

Photo 2 - Podziarków, Bobrka district, Lwów province. August 16, 1943. The Kleszczynski family - a married couple and two children. The perpetrators put out the victims' eyes, beat them about the head, burned their palms, attempted to chop off their upper and lower limbs, as well as their hands, inflicted stab wounds all over their bodies, etc.

From a special communication of the 4th Directorate of the NKGB SSSR from August 4, 1943

...During worship services in the Catholic churches, 11 priests and up to 2000 Poles were killed by the Banderovites on the city streets.

TsA FSB. F. 100. Op. 11. D. 7 L. 102.

From the transcript of the interrogation of UPA Platoon Commander Stepan Redesha, 
August 21, 1944
...We surrounded 5 Polish villages and over the course of the night and the next day we burned these villages and slaughtered the entire population, young and old, a total of over two thousand people.

My platoon took part in the burning of one large village and an adjacent farm. We slaughtered about 1000 Poles.

...We threw many Poles — men, women, old people and children — into the wells alive, then finished them off with gunshots. The rest we stabbed with bayonets, killed with axes and shot...

We burned the Polish settlements so that there would be no traces left of their existence and so that the Poles would never make any claims on Ukrainian lands...

DA SBU. F. 13. D. 1020. L. 164-176.

Tarnopol province, 1943. A so-called wreath of Polish children. The executioners fastened such «wreaths» to each tree on the rural road, above which they hung a banner on which was written in Polish: «The road to independent Ukraine».

In the more than 20 years that an independent Ukraine has existed, not one of its leaders has publicly pronounced words of repentance for the monstrous crimes committed by Ukrainian fascists or publicly condemned the practice of glorifying the OUN/UPA in our day.