In late April, Ukraine ordered Poland's Institute of National Remembrance to halt its search for Polish graves in Ukraine, including burial sites of soldiers who lost their lives in WWI, the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921 and Poland's defensive campaign against the German and Soviet invasion in 1939.
Ukraine's move came after authorities in Hruszowice (south-eastern Poland) removed an illegally-erected monument to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a World War II nationalist military formation responsible for the Volhynia killings of thousands of Polish civilians.
President Duda admitted at a press conference with Poroshenko that there are "many difficult issues" between Poland and Ukraine. He also expressed hope that it would be possible to resolve those issues "in the spirit of good neighbourly cooperation between the two countries and their societies."
"We don't want history to determine what happens today or what will be in the future, but very often things that happened years ago have an influence on our current reality through human sensitivity, the pain that remains," Andrzej Duda said.
The president underscored that politicians should understand and respect that sensitivity. "We must take care that at all costs the truth is sought and that untruth and slander do not cast a shadow over relations between our countries, our nations," said the Polish president.
President Duda said that together with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko, they have decided to "call on everyone to refrain from any commemorative actions which are not based on scientific evidence."
He noted that first of all he had in mind the problem of exhumations. The president stressed he has turned to President Poroshenko with "a very clearly worded appeal so that we could break the impasse which has arisen in this sphere of Polish-Ukrainian relations." "Historical research and exhumations must be allowed again in both countries," the Polish head of state added.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said he had agreed with President Duda that history should not affect the strategic character of relations between Kiev and Warsaw, and that both countries ought to move forward. "We have come to the conclusion that history should not affect the strategic character of our relations," Poroshenko emphasised. "Heroes need to be remembered, the memory of innocent victims must be honoured, but we need to move forward because, while we cannot change history, we can change the present and create better conditions for the future so that no one is ever able to sow hatred and enmity in the hearts of Polish, as well as Ukrainian people," Poroshenko said following a meeting between the two leaders in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
The Ukrainian president also announced both leaders had agreed to raise the status of the Polish-Ukrainian committee on historical matters, so that the body included both countries' deputy PMs.
"I am convinced that we will be able to demonstrate swift and considerable progress in this regard," Poroshenko said.
Thanks to the efforts of the bilateral committee, he added, it should be possible to give the green light to "exhumations and historical research", as well as stop acts of vandalism against memorial sites in Poland and Ukraine, the Ukrainian president concluded.
At the beginning of the visit, the two presidents paid tribute to Polish soldiers murdered by the Soviet security service NKVD and buried at the Victims of Totalitarianism Cemetery in Kharkiv. Over 4,300 Polish victims have been buried there. (PAP)