We don’t agree to relativising the Volhynia Massacre: Polish PM

People gather at the monument to the leader of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) Stepan Bandera during the celebration of his 114th birthday, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

In a Tuesday online Q&A, Poland’s Prime Minister affirmed how he could not find enough words to express his outrage of all activities affirming, glorifying or commemorating those responsible for the Volhynia Massacre, referring directly to the act of genocide committed by Ukrainian nationalists and Ukrainians alike, which claimed in the most brutal manner, the lives of up to 60,000 Poles in 1943-1944.

The PM asserted that he had spoken a couple of hours prior with Ukraine’s PM Denys Shmyhal about the issue of commemorating Stepan Bandera – one of the leaders of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) which carried out the massacre – by the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s unicameral parliament.

PM Morawiecki said he had expressed his “negative attitude” toward all in Ukraine who don’t understand the truth about the killing by UPA “and toward those who commemorate Bandera.” He added that resulting from the crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists, between 100,000 to 200,000 Poles had been brutally murdered in areas that prior to World War Two were part of the Second Polish Republic.

It was a genocide. We will ever fight for remembrance. There’s no agreement in me for the relativisation of this crime,” he said.

Ukrainian parliament commemorates Bandera

On Sunday, the 114th anniversary of his birthday, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine commemorated Stepan Bandera with a tweet showing a photograph of the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces General Valeriy Zaluzhny standing below a portrait of Bandera. The tweet also contained a number of quotes from Bandera’s book.

“A complete and final victory of the Ukrainian nationalist will come to be only once the Russian empire ceases to exist,” read one of the quotes. Another yet line was added to it, reading: “Currently, the fight against the Russian empire is ongoing. The commander-in-chief knows Stepan Bandera’s guidelines well.”

The PM also gave an account from his own family which had taken place at the time of the Ukrainian-perpetrated genocide in the Borderlands. He recalled that during WWII, his mother used to live in the city of Stanisławów, today’s Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk. “It wasn’t long ago that she recounted to me those terrifying memories. UPA fighters would reach Stanisławów too. It was something absolutely horrid. We will fight for remembrance and truth, for sure.”

PM Morawiecki recalled how in November 2022, Poland acquired Ukraine’s approval for reinitiating of the exhumation of Poles that had been murdered in the Borderlands. “We are waiting for this approval to take form,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, when at a press conference and asked about a prospective new Polish-Ukrainian Treaty of Good Neighbourship, PM Morawiecki mentioned that talks with the Ukrainian side are ongoing “under the auspices of President” Andrzej Duda.

He went on to say that after the war ends “we will, methinks, speak about the wording of such a treaty in much broader terms… Today, it’s not a number one priority for us.”