Ukrainian culture min confirms lifting ban on exhumations of Poles

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Poland on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII brought about a breakthrough in lifting the ban on search and exhumation of Polish victims in Ukraine, something that the Ukrainian Culture Minister Volodymyr Borodiansky has recently confirmed.

Reset in Polish-Ukrainian relations

President Volodymyr Zelensky expresses delight at the results of talks he held on Sunday in Warsaw. According to the Ukrainian President they...

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During a meeting with Poland’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Bartosz Cichocki, the official reaffirmed President Zelensky’s declaration to lift the ban.

“For my part, I have confirmed the declaration of the Ukrainian president on the lifting of the ban on search and exhumation works,” Mr Borodiansky wrote on FB, adding that “in this context, I have received from the ambassador of Poland to Ukraine a letter of request for the issuing of relevant permits. I have promised to reply to it as fast as possible.”

Mr Borodiansky also expressed his hope for cooperation with the Polish Culture Ministry and Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) on the reconstruction of Ukrainian memorials in Poland.

In late August, Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukrainian MP and an appointed member of the “Friendship with Poland” committee blamed the current head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance (UINR) Volodymyr Viatrovych for the deterioration of Polish-Ukrainian relations and said that she “is against having [him] any longer as the UINR head… A great reset is coming in relations with Poland,” she said.

The beginning of the dispute between Warsaw and Kyiv over the exhumation of Polish fallen soldiers and civilians dates back to spring 2017 when Ukraine banned the Polish side from carrying out any exhumations of the Volhynia massacre victims, following the removal of a memorial to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in Hruszowice, southeastern Poland. The memorial was removed by local authorities after having been declared illegal. Later exhumations proved no UPA soldiers were buried there. Instead “single, civilian graves of 16 people including women and children were uncovered,” the IPN tweeted in May 2018.

According to historians, around 100,000 Polish nationals were killed in the 1943-45 Volhynia massacre, including 40,000-60,000 in Volhynia and 20,000-40,000 in Eastern Galicia, and at least 4,000 on the territory of today's Poland. According to Poland's National Remembrance Institute (IPN), some 10,000-12,000 Ukrainians were murdered during Polish retaliatory operations by the spring of 1945.