Polish, Ukrainian presidents pay tribute to victims of Soviet secret police
PR dla Zagranicy
The presidents of Poland and Ukraine on Wednesday paid homage to Polish soldiers murdered by Soviet secret police and buried at a cemetery in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Polish President Andrzej Duda (right) and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroszenko during ceremonies at the Cemetery of Victims of Totalitarianism in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Wednesday. Photo: PAP/Jakub Kamiński
Poland’s Andrzej Duda and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko led ceremonies at the Cemetery of Victims of Totalitarianism, which holds the remains of an estimated 4,302 Poles.
Most of them were prisoners of war killed by the Soviet Union’s NKVD secret police in the early 1940s.
Along with the remains of Polish officers, including eight generals, the mass graves in Kharkiv are the resting place of about 2,800 victims of Stalinist crimes from 1937 and 1938.
After the ceremony, President Duda, who was making a brief visit to Ukraine on Wednesday, was expected to talk with his Ukrainian counterpart about a range of sensitive bilateral issues, including a ban issued by the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance on work by Polish experts searching for the remains of Polish victims of wartime crimes in that country.
For many years, Poland and Ukraine have been divided in their interpretation of events from their shared history. This mainly concerns divergent approaches to the role of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which in 1943-1945 murdered about 100,000 Polish men, women and children, according to some estimates, a crime described in Warsaw as an act of genocidal ethnic cleansing. The Ukrainians insist this was the result of an armed conflict for which both sides were equally responsible.
On July 11, 1943, the day of the worst bloodshed, Ukrainian nationalists attacked 100 villages largely inhabited by ethnic Poles in what was then Nazi-occupied eastern Poland and is now western Ukraine.
This year on July 11, Poland marked its first National Day of Remembrance of Victims of Genocide by Ukrainian nationalists against Poles during World War II, referring to the Volhynia Massacre, a black page in Polish-Ukrainian relations.
After the Polish parliament last year adopted a resolution declaring a National Day of Remembrance of Victims of Genocide, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko voiced regret at the move.