Neighbours’ grievances have been accumulating for a long time and turned out to be a lot of blood.
After the First World War, many nations of Eastern Europe dreamed to find their own state. On the political map Poland has appeared, which immediately entered a dispute with neighbours over land. Polish politicians believed that the Ukrainians inhabiting Galicia, were incapable of self-government. They need the Polish government and Polish culture. Warsaw did not allow Western Ukrainians to create their own state. November 4, 1918 Polish troops moved at the newly proclaimed West Ukrainian Republic, and in the night of 22 November attacked and took over the city of Lviv.
That is why the Ukrainian nationalists say bitterly that after the First World War Poles got their own state, and Ukrainians did not. However, then European politicians assured us that in the end western Ukrainians have not lost anything: they were better off under Polish control than under Stalin.
Nationally-minded Ukrainians considered the Poles as their main enemies, under the authority of which was a large part of the Ukrainian population. It was in Poland between the two great wars when a militant Ukrainian nationalism was born.
Galicia was oppressed by the role of an abandoned Austrian and then the Polish province. Here the Ukrainian national idea gained warlike, aggressive traits. The explanation may be found in the Galician peasants’ psychology full of prejudice, who have seen the machinations of foreign enemies everywhere. And belonging to a private - Unitarian, ie Greek Catholic Church made the inhabitants of Galicia an isolated community.
The most active and radical supporters of the liberation and reunification of all Ukrainian lands were included in the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). OUN has adopted methods of terror.
The first priority – to confront anti-Ukrainian policy of Polish authorities. And at the same time avenge the Bolsheviks for the suppression of the national movement in Soviet Ukraine. The militants of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, dreamed of their own state, which will establish a national dictatorship, dreamed of getting rid of the Poles, Russians, Jewish and dreamed to remain all alone at last! Ukraine - only for ethnic Ukrainians, other nations living side by side - the enemies, the extra on this land: they have to be expelled or destroyed.
Father of the future leader of OUN Stepan Bandera - Uniate priest Andrei Bandera was a deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the short-lived West Ukrainian People's Republic. In Warsaw, western lands were called Eastern Malopolska, they did not recognize the right of Ukrainians to have even a minimum autonomy. This has created frustration and anger among Western Ukrainians. Andrei Bandera was arrested by Polish authorities for "anti-Polish propaganda
When on the April 10, 1931 a student of Lviv University Stepan Ohrimovich died beaten by the Polish police, Bandera turned his funeral into a demonstration against the Polish authorities. This demonstration made young Bandera popular among the Ukrainian population. In schools, Ukrainian students have demonstratively thrown the Polish coat of arms out from the windows, in class refused to answer in Polish and shouted at Polish teachers telling them to go back to their Poland.
Murder of a Minister
In summer of 1934, Stepan Bandera has prepared the loudest attack of pre-war time in Warsaw - against the Minister of Interior Affairs General of Poland Bronislaw Peratskyi. It was a response to a "crime against the Ukrainian people
": the minister harshly persecuted Ukrainian nationalists.
Hatred of Ukrainians to the Poles was so strong that the Red Army which entered the territory of Western Ukraine in September 1939, was greeted with flowers as liberators from the Polish yoke.
The defeat and occupation of Poland in 1939 became a celebration for Ukrainian nationalists: the enemy is defeated and humiliated! OUN underground press was triumphant: "God punished Poland for abusing Ukrainian people, for the polonization campaign and terror against our people in western Ukraine
". In occupied territory OUN members were in a privileged position and mocked Poles.
In March 1941, the OUN Congress was held in Krakow. Delegates supported the Bandera line on the creation of an independent Ukraine through armed struggle. It was then when a welcome gesture was approved (right hand is raised right and aslant - just above the head), and the formula of greeting, which the members of the organization had to meet each other:- Glory to Ukraine! (Slava Ukraini!)
- Glory to the heroes! (Heroyam Slava!)
Bloody day in Lviv
The Red Army, retreating under the pressure of the Wehrmacht, had left Lviv on June 30, 1941 in the night. Until the occupation administration was formed, the city went under control of Ukrainian nationalist armed groups in about a day: and under a created in advance German military intelligence, and hastily knocked together police which consisted of volunteer citizens.
The emergence of the Ukrainians in uniform was seen as a symbolic act - finally armed people will determine their own destiny. They are spread throughout the city, occupying all the important facilities. Then the city began one of the most horrible and hideous pogroms. In the first days after the departure of the Red Army there were about four thousand Jews killed in Lviv. Following them were the Poles.
Extermination of Jews and Poles in Lviv was well organized and well thought-out action. Extreme nationalism or rather, racism was the principle of the Bandera organization. OUN slogan read: "Long live the independent Ukraine without Jews, Poles and Germans. Poles - for the San, the Germans - in Berlin, Jews - on the hook!
German occupation administration reported to Berlin:
"Ukrainian police did not stop to rob, rape, kill. Stolen property is treated as personal property. Poles were treated as Jews. In many places, the Ukrainian police established units such as the "Ukrainian Gestapo
Bandera showed fanaticism and ruthlessness, intimidating anyone who was not with them. The entire Polish villages were destroyed, their houses were burned, property taken.
UPA against AK
In the history of UPA an important role played the war with a polish underground Krayova Army, which broke out in 1943. The Germans were extremely pleased with this confrontation.
Ukrainian Insurgent Army drove out the Poles from Volhynia, which according to the plans of Ukrainian Nationalists was supposed to be a purely Ukrainian territory.
August 4, 1943 4th NKGB department reported to the Deputy Commissar Bogdan Zakharovich Kobulov:
"The agent returned from the city of Vladimir-Volyn, said that he was an eyewitness of the mass extermination of Polish population by Ukrainian Bandera-Nationalists. Eleven priests and two thousand Poles were killed in the streets during the liturgy in churches by Bandera people
The older generation of Poles remembers what Ukrainian nationalists were doing; they were real bandits:
"September 19, 1944 Ukrainians suddenly appeared in front of our door. Only brother managed to escape. Mother barefoot, wearing only shirt was dragged out of the house together with father. They took my father's scalp, cut out his tongue. Mother had a knife cut on her back resembling a cross
Pictures of horror are so alive, as if these people only yesterday found the bodies of their parents, buried in the ground and covered with branches. As if yesterday vowed to avenge them. Revenge, nothing but revenge.
In response, the hunt for the Ukrainians was announced by Krayova Army. Designed to combat the German occupiers, it was subordinating to the Polish Government, which in turn immigrated to England. The fight was ruthless and bloody. Fighters of Ukrainian Insurgent Army were watched over when they came to the village to a wedding or birthday. Krayova army soldiers broke into the huts at night, shot them through the windows.
But in the collective consciousness of the majority of Poles only their own suffering in a bloody war with the Ukrainian nationalists was preserved. In eastern Poland, there are monuments everywhere to the soldiers, the police, state security officials and volunteers of the workers' militia.
In the years 1944-1945 the formation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army retreated with the German army to Poland and Slovakia, and went into hiding. There were about two thousand soldiers of the UPA in Poland at the time. They tried to slow down the execution of "ethnic cleansing
" but this time Ukrainians were actually expelled. Nonetheless, they were not able to prevent it.
However, the aspirations of Poles were not justified as well. They hoped to restore the pre-war borders, hoping that the Western Ukraine and Western Belarus would be a part of the Polish state. But Stalin decided otherwise.
March 1, 1944 the head of Soviet Ukraine Nikita Khrushchev, speaking at a session of the Supreme Council of Ukraine, said this clearly and definitely:
- At a time when we can already see the end of the defeat of the German fascist army, the legitimate rights of the people of Ukraine are violated by some of our hapless neighbours. Deputy Comrades! As you know, the Polish government being in exile in London, now presents its illegal claim on the land that belonged to the Ukrainian people - the western region of Ukraine. The Ukrainian people will not admit that the native Ukrainian land reunited into a single Ukrainian Soviet state by the will of the population of the western regions of Ukraine, would be detached from the Soviet Ukraine.
Hall responded by thunderous standing ovation.
August 19, 1944, Beria reported to Stalin about the situation in Lviv, liberated from German troops:
"The Jewish population in the districts of the region is almost completely exterminated. According to preliminary data, at present there are 134 500 people of the adult population residing in Lviv. Including: Russian - 6950 people (of which four thousand came after the liberation of the city), Ukrainians - 43 thousand (of which three thousand came after the libertion), Poles - 71 thousand.
The predominance of the Polish population in the city, as well as the nationalist sentiment of the Poles appeared at the entry of the Red Army. On the city streets and on the houses the Polish national flags were hung. Existing under the Germans the Polish underground nationalist organizations emerged and had the intention to proceed to the organization of the Polish administration, the police and the government
But the question of Lviv has been resolved. In 1944, the Polish communists agreed with Moscow and Kiev: the Poles will leave Volyn and Galicia, Ukrainians will leave Chelm and Bieszczady regions. Migration began.
But the Ukrainians, who agreed to voluntarily move from Poland to their historic homeland, were promised to be allocated land plots on Soviet territory. In fall of 1944 Ukrainians asked to postpone their move at least until spring, because the children made the migration in autumn much harder. By March 1, 1945 only eighty thousand people accepted the offer. People were leaving their homes with difficulties. In such cases the force was applied.
Polish police and army troops surrounded the village and forcibly evicted Ukrainian families. Those who did not want to obey, were beaten. Here is one of many preserved bitter memories:
"September 25, 1945 at five o'clock in the morning the Polish police and military surrounded my home village. We were give one hour to pack. Who would not want to leave their yard, was then beaten and forcibly dragged outside the village. Several people have been shot, to suppress others. Taking our own belongings was prohibited. Neighbours Poles waited to search abandoned houses for property. They broke into the empty house and grabbed everything that came to hand. Sometimes they even transferred a house frame
In response, the OUN and UPA fighters were killing Polish police officers and Red Army, and representatives of the CPC of Ukraine on the resettlement of the Ukrainian population from Poland to the Soviet Union - they made travel documents.
In 1946, Moscow has decided to stop the relocation. In Warsaw many disappointed because they had not yet said “goodbye
” to all Ukrainians. They were looking for a reason to finish the job. An occasion helped Poland.
March 28, 1947 a squad of "Major Hrina
" (Commander of Drogobych site of Ukrainian insurgent army Stepan Stebelskoy) has ambushed and shot Polish Deputy of Defense Minister Gen. Karol Świerczewski. The newspaper "Zycie Warsaw
", wrote: "Swierczewski killed by "Ukrainian fascist". We know that hand
Murder of Karol Świerczewski has become the pretext for the final decision to "Ukrainian question
". The action was called "Vistula". It began on 28 April 1947, at four o'clock in the morning. Its implementation was attended by seventeen thousand soldiers of the Polish Army.
"Our village was surrounded by the military in the morning, - remembered the Ukrainians. - We were given time up to 12 am to collect our belongings. Only three peasants still had horses. Children and chickens were loaded on wagons. If someone had a cow, they would drive it in front. The rest left their belongings in backpacks and carried them along. First, we walked six kilometres to Carlsbad, where we were herded into a large garden, enclosed by a barbed wire. From there, it took four days to Sanok, where we spent the night in the car factory. Two days later we were loaded into railway wagons and cattle on to the platform and departed to Auschwitz. There was a distribution point
Auschwitz death camp was empty. The vacated barracks were filled with evicted Ukrainians.
South-eastern Poland, where Ukrainians lived for centuries, became an ethnically clean territory. At first the Germans with the help of Ukrainians killed all the Jews there. And after the war a short report "free of Jews
" was added by another: "Free of Ukrainians
". A Ukrainian insurgent army in the eyes of many Ukrainians gained heroic aura - it turned out that it protected its people from the hated Poles.
* * *
Modern Poland and Ukraine has repeatedly made efforts to draw a line under the past. Sometimes it seemed that they almost succeeded. But there are always politicians who apply the tragic past to the current political struggle.