This text is written after the Polish Sejm adopted the resolution at the end of July 2016 but considering tense situation about the historical memory between Ukraine and Poland the article is still actual.
Sejm of Poland on 22 July with impressive majority of the votes adopted a resolution «On commemoration of the victims of the genocide committed by Ukrainian nationalists against the citizens of the Second Commonwealth of Poland in the years 1943-1945″ that qualifies the events that took place in Western Ukraine as genocide.
This resolution was controversially perceived by Ukrainian society. It made a certain dissonance also in the interstate Ukrainian-Polish relations.
It was announced several variants of possible reaction of Ukrainian community, and Ukrainian politicians on this issue: the resolution can be ignored as legally incorrect and left without response, the similar resolution can be adopted about the actions of the Polish underground against the Ukrainian people in the same area and at the same time, or to give a balanced, meaningful and asymmetrical response.
See also: Ukrainian Parliament wants to recognize genocide of Ukrainians by Poland in 1919-1951
In our opinion, yet it is not possible to leave such an important event without reaction in response.
But might not be repeated the obvious political and legal error of Polish Sejm.
That’s why we believe that the answer of the Ukrainian community and Ukrainian politicians must be very different – we have to comprehend what happened in those tragic years of the Nazi and Bolshevik occupation among our nations not because of the fleeting political conjuncture, but giving a look at the future of our two nations. We have come not from the political manipulation of the past, but with the understanding that for Europe the Ukrainian-Polish agreement is no less important than the French and German – and on it was founded the future of the whole political construction of Europe after the Second World War.
To come to mutual understanding between Ukraine and Poland is important not only for Ukraine and Poland, it is the second half of the lungs that breathes Europe.
That is why the third party does everything that Europe not to receive in this understanding its second wind.
Searching for the forms of a balanced reaction to the emotional breakdown of the Polish Sejm we come from the fact that the adopted by it resolution is incorrect from a legal point of view.
See also: Ukrainian Parliament responds to Polish Parliament`s decision on Volyn tragedy
In accordance with international practice to qualify any of the events as genocide can only the International Court by its decision. This court must be established by the high and representative international organization – the United Nations.
We are convinced that such the decision of the International Court necessarily has to be based on a previous thorough and impartial investigation.
We are convinced that for this investigation to be impartial it must be carried out by impartial and uninterested investigative institutions and individuals that have no links with any of the parties to the conflict.
We are convinced that this conflict can not be examined as an unilateral, and therefore it must investigated and given appropriate impartial legal assessment of both parties to the conflict – whether military or paramilitary units or individuals.
We are convinced that should be investigated and given an appropriate unbiased legal assessment to the participation of the occupying German and Soviet governments, which actually controlled these territories.
We are convinced that must be identified victims of both parties to the conflict.
Despite 25 years of Ukrainian and Polish Independence the investigation was not carried out.
We are convinced that this is the failure of the Ukrainian and Polish authorities during the whole period, which for the sake of political conjuncture didn’t courage to sum up a whole period of common history, full of terrible mistakes and even crimes of politicians and citizens on both parties to the conflict, which led to tragedies of both nations.
Investigators of the Institute of National Remembrance of Poland, although it is not an international court opened investigations in 32 cases concerning events in Volyn in 1943, but no one was brought to trial.
However, even without waiting for the results of their work and the relevant decisions of at least the Polish judicial institutions, Sejm of Poland unilaterally, without responding to repeated requests Ukrainian authorities at various levels, not conducting proper procedures, adopted the resolution in favour of the internal political conjuncture.
It unilaterally glorifies the members from one party to the conflict and condemns others; it totally unsubstantiated determines the composition and the number of victims of this conflict, but only from one side.
We consider that not less scandalous is the use by the Sejm of Poland in above-mentioned resolution revisionist terminology that defines the territories where these events took place – “Kresy (Eastern Borderlands) of the Second Commonwealth of Poland”. We estimate it at least as bad taste and neglect of emotions of Ukrainians to which this resolution seems to appeal.
So, the Sejm of Poland with this resolution replaced by itself the investigating authorities and the authorities of the court, which is unacceptable.
That’s why this resolution has no political and legal consequences for the state of Ukraine. At the time of the conflict the Ukrainian government did not exist, and therefore can not be responsible for the events that took place in the territories occupied by Nazi Germany and the USSR. Not to mention that the number of Ukrainians killed in the struggle for the liberation of Poland from the German occupation in ten times is bigger than the number of civilian victims from both sides.
However, pay attention that if to recognize the Republic of Poland as successor of the Second Commonwealth of Poland, the Polish government in exile may also be involved in the events in Western Ukraine and Eastern Poland – and therefore in some way responsible for what was happening there for all decades of tragic conflict between its own citizens of different ethnic groups – but the final verdict on this, again, may make only the international court.
Responding to this resolution, we are convinced that the Ukrainian representative and executive state power of highest level should not repeat false from legal and political points of view steps of the Sejm of Poland.
Repeating the others’ mistakes does not solve the problem, but moving it to a dead end.
However, we are convinced that can’t be ignored the most tragic mistakes which were made by our Ukrainian and Polish predecessors – if we consider ourselves Ukrainian and Polish and believe that independent Ukraine and Poland have appeared, including, thanks to Ukrainian and Polish anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet underground struggle. Then we have to face the truth and also clearly define their achievements, and their mistakes, and perhaps even crimes – and by decisions of the courts to give them the proper qualifications.
Also we have to give a worthy tribute to the victims on both sides, who were brought to the altar of destructive for both nations confrontation. We grieve for the victims of the Poles and Ukrainians; we sympathize to the families and relatives of all the victims of mutual fighting each other.
We are convinced that the resolution adopted by the Polish Parliament hit primarily on supporters of Ukrainian-Polish unity for the future of Ukraine and Poland on both sides of the border that despite everything, despite all these tragedies, beginning from the difficult post-war years were holding this difficult dialogue.
See also: Ukrainian Parliament adopts joint Declaration of Remembrance and Solidarity, later to be endorsed by Poland`s Sejm
They knew the tragedy not from books and movies, as our generation. They were witnesses and victims and participants in these events. However, they had enough fortitude to start a dialogue. We also have to have enough fortitude.
For many of us, this resolution has become a personal catastrophe – especially considering neglect, with which it was taken, when Polish politicians tightly closed its doors to any Ukrainian voices.
We are very grateful to those Polish parliamentarians who refused to vote for this resolution – the voice of reason came under the dome of the Sejm quietly, but it was.
However, we understand that politics from a capital letter, as a public act, is for liable people.
So we consider this unfortunate incident as a failure, that is against Ukrainian and, what is important, Polish national interests.
Ukraine and Poland will have a lot of great achievements in future.
That’s why we, feeling responsible for the future, consider it necessary to convey to those who are willing to go further by building a large and free Europe, our attitude to the resolution of the Sejm of Poland «On commemoration of the victims of the genocide committed by Ukrainian nationalists against the citizens of the Second Commonwealth of Poland in the years 1943-1945″
Antin Borkovskyi – journalist, editor
Vyacheslav Bryukhovetskyi – honorary President of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
Yevhen Bystrycky – chief executive officer (CEO) of The International Renaissance Foundation
Yuriy Vynnychuk – writer and editor
Taras Voznyak – Head of the Board of Directors of Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Center of International PEN-Club
Sergei Datsyuk – Ukrainian philosopher
Orest Drul – political expert, editor
Yevgen Zakharov – human rights activist, Soviet dissident
Zenoviy Mazuryk – Vice-president of the Ukrainian Committee of the International Council of Museums
Yuriy Makarov – journalist
Taras Plakhtiy – political scientist
Leonid Finberg – head of the Center for Studies of the Culture and History of East European Jews
Translated by UaPosition.