Polish Senate recognizes Volyn genocide: Is Polish-Ukrainian friendship over?

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July 8, 2016 – 

By Eduard Popov for Fort Russ

Translated by J. Arnoldski

On July 8th, the Polish Senate (upper house of parliament) adopted a resolution urging the Sejm (lower house of parliament) to recognize as genocide the mass murder of Poles committed by Ukrainian nationalists during the Second World War. In the Senate’s resolution, the Poles killed at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists during the war years were called “victims of genocide.” In addition, the document remarked that the memory of the victims of these crimes has yet to be properly immortalized and that such mass murders have hitherto not been recognized as genocide. Up to 100,000 thousand Poles of the “Eastern Kresy” were killed at the hands of Bandera and other Ukrainian nationalist factions.

The Polish Senate’s resolution was an unpleasant surprise for Ukrainian authorities. In a previous article for Fort Russ, we wrote about the negotiations between Verkhovna Rada Chairman Andrey Parubiy and Sejm Marshall Marek Kuchcinski. The latter promised his Ukrainian colleague not to raise the issue of the Volyn massacre for vote in the Sejm at least until after the NATO summit in Warsaw. Many in Ukraine have perceived the Polish senators’ decision as an anti-Ukrainian step. A subsequent official statement said that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine would respond to any call of the Senate of Poland to call the Volyn tragedy a genocide against Poles. Some radical deputies in the Verkhova Rada will probably propose some kind of symmetrically anti-Polish bill in revenge against the “treacherous” Poles. 

Ukraine’s political leadership, however, is not interested in this. After Brexit and the loss of a strategic ally in the EU in the face of Great Britain, Poland remains the main lobbyist for Ukraine in the EU. Poroshenko and Parubiy have tried to spin Polish senators’ call in a way beneficial for them, i.e., repeat cliches about tragic pages in history while reminding everyone of the unbreakable friendship between Poles and Ukrainians. In the end, the blame for the genocide against Poles in Volynia is placed on the USSR.

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The cooling in Warsaw and Kiev’s relationship does not interest Washington and Brussels. Thus, we can quite confidently predict that before the end of the NATO summit, the Sejm will vote not pass the “anti-Ukrainian” project on recognizing the Volyn massacre as a genocide against Poles.

Kiev is, of course, understandably concerned by the event. The Senate’s resolution (not to mention the dim prospects for such a vote in the Sejm) opens the floodgates for the Polish public’s discontent with official Warsaw’s pro-Ukrainian policies. Growing anti-Ukrainian sentiments in Poland, until recently, had no way to reach the political level. But the Polish Senate has offered such an opportunity. The Ukrainians hardly have any grounds for blaming the Poles. The Poles have waited long enough to recognize the Banderites’ crimes in Ukraine. The Polish government has showed wonders of patience towards the country where a real cult of the murderers of Poles at Volynia has been established.

I believe that the common interests and common allies of Poland and Ukraine will reconcile them at the upcoming NATO summit. This will reduce the chances of a vote on the Volyn massacre in the Sejm. However, silencing the public’s sentiments especially following such support in the Senate will be far from easy. 

I think that the further course of events could be represented by the formula “The states are friends, while the peoples are hostile.” On the official level, both states will avoid sharp corners and sharp statements. But at the public level, mutual phobias will accumulate and periodically break out. Anti-Ukrainian moods in Poland and anti-Polish sentiments in Ukraine will heighten, which will turn out to have a growing, albeit indirect influence on the policies of these states. 

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