Polish President on Volhynia Massacre anniversary observances
"The events in Volhynia in the 1940's were not a war between Poland and Ukraine, but purely ethnic cleansing," Polish President Andrzej Duda said at a cemetery in Olyka in western Ukraine on the 75th anniversary of the Volhynia Massacre on Sunday.
"The 75th anniversary of the genocide in Volhynia will be observed on July 11," he said, adding that this will be a national day of remembrance of victims of the genocide committed on Poles by Ukrainian nationalists in Volhynia.
The President addressed the gathering at the cemetery in Olyka near Lutsk where he laid a wreath at an unnamed collective grave of murdered Poles.
"This is a very sad date for many Polish families, who lost their close ones during that time. Their number is estimated at 100,000," the President went on to say, underlining that these were not soldiers but ordinary people - farmers, entire families, women, children and old people.
"The events in Volhynia in the 1940's were not a war between Poland and Ukraine, but purely ethnic cleansing. That is what we call it today. The point was to remove Poles from these territories," the President stressed, adding that the massacre was ordered by the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and carried out by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
"I want each of the Poles murdered and buried on this soil to regain their names and surnames," the president stressed, appealing to the Ukrainian authorities to make it possible for Poland to conduct necessary proceedings to reach this goal.
"The Volhynia Massacre is a tragic chapter in the history of the Polish and Ukrainian nations, marked by suffering and mutual hard feelings," President Duda emphasised and added it was followed by Polish retaliatory operations, in which ordinary Ukrainians were killed.
President Duda also underlined that "we must base our relations on truth, build our good relations and friendship on historical truth." "One could not speak about revenge. The pain will continue, but I believe that time will heal these terrible wounds."
"We should build friendship between our nations. Today, we have common fears, concerns and thoughts about security," he stressed.
See also: Polish and Ukrainian presidents for lifting ban on exhumations President Duda declared that Poland tries to support Ukraine and its citizens in their EU bid and in their striving to get back the territories occupied by Russia. He also said that Poland wanted peace to return to Ukraine.
"This is what I emphasised at the NATO UN Security Council forum," he went on to say.
"We want to support Ukraine in its reforms, we want to economically support Ukraine, and we want to help Ukraine be a secure state," Andrzej Duda said and repeated that he wanted mutual relations to be based on truth leading to friendship between our two nations.
Speaking about Ukrainians coming to Poland, President Duda said they were welcome in his country. He stressed he had in mind both Ukrainian tourists and people seeking jobs in Poland. "(...) I believe that in this way we build prosperity of our nations," he said.
In the morning, the President attended a Mass said by Lviv Metropolitan archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki at the Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral in Lutsk, western Ukraine. Also present were Polish Ambassador to Ukraine Jan Piekło, President's Office officials Wojciech Kolarski and Halina Szymańska, and Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki.
After the Mass, President Duda visited the site of the no-longer existing Polish village of Kolonia Pokuta in Volhynia, where he laid flowers on a field.
The Volhynia Massacre of Polish nationals in the pre-war eastern-Polish regions of Volhynia and Galicia started on July 11, 1943, when the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) attacked some 100 Polish villages. July 11 marks the massacre's culmination throughout the Volhynia district in what became known as the Volhynia Bloody Sunday.
According to historians, around 100,000 Polish nationals were killed in the 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, some 10,000-12,000 Ukrainians were murdered during Polish retaliatory operations by the spring of 1945.