Volhynia

 
 

Border: Poland – the USSR
At present: Ukraine

 

The picturesque water gap of the Sluch river, which is considered to be the gate of the Volhynian Polesie, has earned the name of Nadsluchchya Switzerland in the interwar period. To the north there stretch vast areas of forests and swamps, and to the south, gentle hills and ravines of the Volhynian Upland. Mrs. Janina Dąbrowska from the village of Siwki is 90 years old and she speaks beautiful Polish to this day. She remembers the times when soldiers of the Border Protection Corps were stationed in the nearby Lewacze. The old woman has miraculously survived what followed after September of 1939 – terror of the Germans, Russians and Ukrainian nationalists; today she is one of the last Polish inhabitants of these areas. 
    As a result of mass murders carried out by Ukrainian nationalists associated with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (the so-called “Banderites”) with the support of part of the local Ukrainian population, 60,000 people died in Volhynia. An analogous ethnic cleansing in Eastern Małopolska, that is, in the provinces of Tarnopol, Lviv and Stanisławów, resulted in the death of at least 25 thousand people, and in the Lubelskie and Polesie voivodeships there died from 10 to 20 thousand. In total, the systematic pogroms in 1943–1944 led to the death of about 100,000 Poles, as well as righteous Ukrainians who had saved their Polish neighbors or refused to participate in the murders. 

As mentioned by Mrs. Sofija, a Ukrainian from the village of Tesiw: “We too were paid a visit by the Banderites one night. They said to my brother: «Come now, you’ll take a walk with us ». He looked at them and replied that they should leave him alone because he wasn’t intending to murder anybody. They sized him up, it was a horrific moment of terror. But they let it go, they left us alone and went alone. There were several Polish families living in our village. They were good people, we helped each other out. They killed them for nothing. Just like the parents of my husband.” 
And yet, Aleksander and Wiktoria Radica from Zdołbunów prove that, despite the tragic history in Volhynia, reconciliation is possible. The couple runs a scout troop “Volhyn” that refers to pre-war traditions. Most scouts have mixed roots, but all must speak at least two languages.
“This scout troops refers to the tradition of cooperation between our nations. There is no shortage of such past examples, but it takes some time to find them.” In one breath, Alexander mentions the figures and events proving that Polish-Ukrainian alliances were possible and brought quantifiable outcomes. From the Grand Hetman of Lithuania Konstanty Ostrogski, who defeated the Muscovites at Orsza at the beginning of the 16th century, to the leader of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, Symon Petlura and his alliance with Józef Piłsudski against the Bolsheviks in 1920. 

 

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A public task co-financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland in the "Public Diplomacy 2020 – a new dimension" competition

 

The publication merely expresses the views of the author(s) and cannot be equated with the official position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

© 2020 by Kaja Grzywaczewska | Tomasz Grzywaczewski |  Martyna Wróblewska