(1943 – 1945)
From the website of Polish Institute of National Remembrance
What were the Volhynian Massacres?
The Volhynian massacres were anti-Polish genocidal ethnic cleansings conducted by Ukrainian nationalists. The massacres took place within Poland’s borders as of the outbreak of WWII, and not only in Volhynia, but also in other areas with a mixed Polish-Ukrainian population, especially the Lvov, Tarnopol, and Stanisławów voivodeships (that is, in Eastern Galicia), as well as in some voivodeships bordering on Volhynia (the western part of the Lublin Voivodeship and the northern part of the Polesie Voivodeship – see map). The time frame of these massacres was 1943−1945. The perpetrators were the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists−Bandera faction (OUN-B) and its military wing, called the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Their documents show that the planned extermination of the Polish population was called an “anti-Polish operation.”
Having been annexed by its neighbors in the late 18th century, the Polish state, as reconstituted directly after WWI, had approx. 5 million Ukrainian inhabitants. This was roughly 16% of the population. In some south-eastern regions (Volhynia, Eastern Galicia) Ukrainians constituted the majority. Most Ukrainians from Volhynia and to the west in the Lublin Voivodeship were Orthodox Christians. The majority of Ukrainians in Galicia, however, were Uniates, or Greek Catholics (i.e., Christians preserving the Eastern rite, but recognizing the authority of the Pope), whose ethnic identity was much stronger. Over 90 % of Ukrainians in the Second Republic of Poland lived in the countryside, 3−6% worked in industry, and ca. 1% were intellectuals. According to the 1931 census, the population of the Volhynia Voivodeship was slightly over 2 million. Ukrainians constituted a vast majority of the local population — approx. 64% (ca. 1.5 million), followed by Poles — 15.6 % (ca. 340,000), Jews — 10 % (ca. 210,000), Germans — 2.3 % (ca. 47,000), Czechs — 1.1 % (ca. 30,000), and other less numerous minorities.
Pre-war Poland was rife with Polish-Ukrainian disputes. Following the overthrow of the Tsar in Russia, both the White Movement and the Bolsheviks made it impossible for Ukrainians to establish their own state with a capital in Kiev. The creation of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic was hampered by the Ukrainian defeat in the Polish−Ukrainian War and the loss of Lvov (1918). Most Galician Ukrainians did not accept the political status quo. On the other hand, the Polish authorities did not deliver on their own promises. For instance, they failed to open Ukrainian university (as per the 1922 Act of Parliament) and they imposed restrictions on Ukrainian elementary and secondary education. Radical Ukrainian organizations began to use terrorism as a form of political pressure. The Polish politician Tadeusz Hołówko and the minister of the interior Bronisław Pieracki were assassinated in 1931 and 1934 respectively. These were the two most infamous assassinations conducted by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), founded in 1929. The OUN also used terror against pragmatic Ukrainian activists.
In reaction to the act of sabotage conducted by the OUN in the fall of 1930, the Polish authorities ordered pacification of Eastern Galicia. This operation consisted of arrests, beatings, the compulsory quartering of Polish troops in Ukrainian villages, and in the so-called vicious searches (combined with destruction of property and crops). Even though the Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance (UNDO) did reach an agreement with the Polish government in the summer of 1935 and won its own political representation in the Polish parliament, the Polish concessions (e.g., credits for Ukrainian entrepreneurs, partial amnesty, and the release of some OUN activists from the camp for political prisoners in Bereza Kartuska) were insufficient for the Ukrainians. Even the “Volhynian experiment” – that is, fairly liberal administration of the Volhynia Voivodeship under governor Henryk Józewski during 1930−1938 – did not change the situation. When taking office Józewski declared that “a way for the Polish and Ukrainian nations to coexist peacefully had to be found.” Nonetheless, his concessions, were also to prove insufficient. Moreover, in the late 1930s Polish authorities tightened policy towards Ukrainians, which led to Polonisation in Volhynia, especially in the Chełm region, combined with destruction of Orthodox churches.
The course of events sped up after the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. 110,000 of the one million soldiers of the Polish Army were Ukrainian. They fought arm-in-arm with the other soldiers of the Polish Army. At the same time, however, a Ukrainian nationalist terror flared up in Volhynia, particularly after the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939. Instances of rape, looting, and murder spread across Volhynia. Polish manors and farms were set ablaze. The number of Polish victims is estimated at 2,000−3,000. Many of those people were soldiers, policemen, clerks, and refugees who had evacuated from Central Poland as it was being overrun by Hitler’s invasion force. Moreover, the Germans began to play the Ukrainian card. The “Sushko” legion is a good example. Six hundred men strong, this OUN detachment was trained by the Abwehr and organized by the Germany-based Col. Roman Sushko. The Sushko legion took part in the German invasion of Poland from the south.
The Polish territories that found themselves under the Soviet occupation stretched eastward from the Pisa, Narew, Bug, and San rivers and constituted 52 % of Poland’s territory (ca. 200,000 km˛). Inhabited by over 13.7 million people, they were incorporated into the USSR.
The period of the Soviet occupation of Poland’s eastern territories was one of numerous repressions, mostly (but not solely) against Poles. The persecutions continued with varying intensity and in various forms until the German invasion of the USSR on June 22, 1941. By then hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens had been arrested, imprisoned, or deported to Siberia during four deportation campaigns. Various repressions were levelled against Polish political and social activists, reserve officers, priests, landowners, policemen, foresters, industrialists, merchants, military and civilian settlers and their families, along with escapees from the territories occupied by Germany. But in mid-1940 the Soviets intensified the repressions against Ukrainian nationalists.
Deportations of 1939-1944 (click on the map for better resolution and legend)
After the German invasion of the USSR, the NKVD massacred almost all the people detained in Volhynian and Galician prisons before its evacuation from those territories. The number of victims in Łuck alone is estimated at 2,000−4,500. Similarly, approx. 500 people were killed in Dubno. Moreover, before their retreat from Lvov the Soviets murdered over 3,000 Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish prisoners.
Many Ukrainians hoped that the Third Reich would help create a Ukrainian state. In the summer of 1941 Ukrainian inhabitants of many localities enthusiastically welcomed the arriving German detachments. Ukrainians erected arches to welcome the Germans and they put up Ukrainian flags. On 30 June OUN-B set up Jaroslaw Stećko government in Lvov. Germans, however, were not interested in this political offer and sent the OUN-B leaders (including Bandera) to concentration camps. In the summer of 1941 Germans initiated a series of pogroms of Jews in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, which the Ukrainian militia formed by Banderites, took part in. For instance, during the Petlura Days (July 25-27) approx. 1,500 people were killed in Lvov. The former Volhynian Voivodeship and parts of the Lvov and Polesie voivodeships were incorporated as Generalbezirk Wolhynien und Podolien into Reichskommissariat Ukraine with its capital in Równe. Not only German, but also Ukrainian administrative bodies were established in those territories. The latter were to ensure delivery of provisions for Germans, recruit laborers to the Third Reich, and construct and repair roads. Lvov became part of the General Government as the capital of District Galicia (Distrikt Galizien).
The occupier waged terror throughout Volhynia, which some Ukrainians greeted with dismay. The Ukrainian nationalists from the OUN, however, chose to support the occupier. The Germans conscripted approx. 5,000 volunteers into the newly-created Ukrainian auxiliary police. At the very beginning of the occupation the Germans executed several hundred representatives of the Polish and Jewish intelligentsia on the basis of lists drafted by the OUN. These massacres took place in Krzemieniec, Kostopol, and Równe. Moreover, the Germans carried out arrests, executed inmates in prisons, and conducted public executions. After they had captured Lvov, the Germans inspired a pogrom against the local Jews and murdered 25 Polish professors at Wuleckie Hills in Lvov. Thousands of Poles were detained in concentration camps.
Ukrainian policemen from various units
Soon, the Ukrainian police in German service and Einsatzkommandos began to organize mass executions of Volhynian Jews. The Jews from the ghettos were not transported to death camps, but killed on the spot, that is, in ditches outside cities or at the edge of forests. By October 1942 the Germans had killed approx. 247,000 Volhynian Jews (97 % of all local Jews).
The executions of Jews in Eastern Galicia began in the fall of 1941. Most victims were intellectuals or “unproductive elements” (that is, people incapable of work). Deportations to death camps (mostly Bełżec and Sobibór) began in the spring of 1942. The Ukrainian police also participated in the Holocaust in Galicia. The brutal extermination of Jews proved that people could be killed on an unprecedented scale, with impunity, and in keeping with binding German law.
Following the mass deportations and arrests carried out by the NKVD and after the subsequent German repressions (e.g., deportation to the Reich to forced labor, arrests, detention in camps, and mass executions), by 1943 Poles constituted only 10−12 % of the entire population of Volhynia. Poles became an ethnic group deprived of most of its social activists, intellectuals, and military men. Thus, the Poles did not seek to create conflict situations. On the contrary, they did everything to avoid them. This fact should be stressed because some Ukrainian historians try to dispute it. Contrary to the truth, they suggest that the Volhynian massacres were not the first, but the second stage of a bloody Polish-Ukrainian conflict. According to their version, which has no basis in reality, the first stage began in the spring of 1943 as a “peasant war” (a “Jacquerie”) — spontaneously, and not inspired or controlled by Bandera’s OUN. The war was purportedly declared by the “masses of Ukrainian refugees” from the Chełm region who had fled across the Bug River eastward as early as 1942/1943. In Volhynia they inflamed the anti-Polish sentiments among Ukrainian peasants by telling them about the atrocities Poles had purportedly committed against Ukrainians in the Chełm region. All this is in line with the pro-Bandera propaganda put forward during the last stages of World War II and successfully promoted after the war by émigré Ukrainian nationalist historians associated with OUN-B.
The first particularly cruel massacre of Poles took place on February 9, 1943 in the colony of Parośla located 1 km from Sarny. The number of Polish victims exceeded 155.
In early 1943 the Ukrainian auxiliary police in Volhynia and Podole had nearly 12 thousand members. In March and April approx. 5 thousand of them deserted from the German service taking weapons and ammunition. Many of them had previously participated in murdering Jews of Volhynia. Majority of the deserters joined UPA, and many of them became commanders. From that moment on the number of initially sporadic massacres of Poles increased.
The OUN-UPA terror assumed a mass scale in the summer and fall of 1943. The massacres of Poles initiated in the Sarny, Kostopol, Równe, and Zdołbuny counties spread across to Dubno and Łuck counties in June 1943. In July of that year they affected the Kowel, Włodzimierz Wołyński, and Horochów counties, before spreading further still to Luboml county in August. The month of July 1943 proved particularly tragic, with the Sunday of July 11, 1943 being especially bloody. At the crack of dawn that day UPA detachments (often actively supported by local Ukrainians) simultaneously surrounded and attacked 99 Polish villages in the Kowel, Włodzimierz Wołyński, and Horochów counties, as well as in a part of Łuck county. Ukrainians ruthlessly slaughtered Polish civilians and destroyed their homes. Villages were burned to the ground and property was looted. Researchers estimate that on that day alone the number of Polish victims may have amounted to some 8,000 people — mostly women, children, and the elderly. The perpetrators used bullets, axes, pitchforks, knives, and other weapons. Many Poles were killed in churches.
Attacks on churches were indeed common, as the Bandera followers wanted to murder as many Poles as possible. On “Bloody Sunday” of July 11, the Ukrainians killed approx. 200 parishioners in the church in Poryck. The local parish priest, Father Bolesław Szabłowski, a Pole, was killed a bit later. Similarly, the Polish priest Father Jan Kotwicki died along with some 150 parishioners in the church in Chrynów. Father Józef Aleksandrowicz, aged 74, was killed in similar circumstances in the Zabłoćce parish. Furthermore, Polish parishioners died in the churches in Krymno and Kisielin (approx. 40 and 80 victims respectively).
Poles had to abandon their homes and seek shelter in the cities and towns which had posts of Hungarian and German troops. It was an irony that in order to escape from the UPA Poles had to seek protection from their oppressors: firstly from the Germans, and during 1944−1945 from the Soviets. The Germans deported Polish escapees to the Reich to forced labor. To escape the massacres some escapees tried to get to the General Government, particularly to the Lublin District. Finally, a small number of Poles created self-defence centers to protect themselves, with the most well-known ones located in Przebraże (where 10,000 Poles defended themselves), Huta Stepańska (600 Poles dead), Zasmyki, Dederkały, and Ostróg. Due to the lack of arms, ammunition, and a cadre of commanders most of the approx. 100 Polish self-defence centers were defeated.
The tragic events of 1943 in Volhynia had a significant influence on the development of the Polish underground, including the formation of the largest partisan unit of the occupation period, that is, the 27th Volhynian Infantry Division of the Home Army. Formed within the framework of Operation Tempest (January−February 1944), the division had up to 7,000 soldiers. Initially (that is, until mid-March 1944) the division fought against the UPA to protect the surviving Polish population as well as against the German Army. Thereafter, it joined the Red Army in frontline combat against German and Hungarian troops. Moreover, several thousand Poles (mostly in Polesie Wołyńskie) fought in the ranks of Soviet partisan units, where Poles sought help and protection from the UPA for their families. For these same reasons, in the summer of 1944 at least several thousand Poles joined the “destruction battalions” — Soviet auxiliary military police subordinate to the NKVD. It remains uncertain as to what extent those destruction battalions formed in early 1945 protected Poles against the UPA and to what extent they provoked the UPA to carry on with its campaigns.
In 1944 the anti-Polish terror of the OUN-UPA shifted to Eastern Galicia (the Lvov, Stanisławów, and Tarnopol voivodeships) as well as to the Lublin region. Polish researchers cautiously estimate the number of Polish victims of the Volhynian massacres, which started during the winter of 1942/43 and ended in mid-1945, at approx. 100,000 (40,000–60,000 victims in Volhynia, 30,000−40,000 in Eastern Galicia, and at least 4,000 in today’s Polish territory, including up to 2,000 in the Chełm region— as was called the south-eastern part of the Lublin Voivodeship was called). Moreover, the Ukrainian partisan units forced at least 485,000 Poles (125,000 from Volhynia, 300,000 from the Eastern Galicia, and 60,000 from the Chełm region) to flee to central Poland to avoid death. It should also be said that in the spring of 1944 nearly 20,000 Ukrainians from the Chełm region abandoned their homes for fear of the Polish underground.
The number of Ukrainian victims of Polish retaliatory attacks until the spring of 1945 is estimated at 10,000−12,000 (approx. 2,000−3,000 in Volhynia, 1,000−2,000 in Eastern Galicia, and, until 1947, 7,000−8,000 on present-day Polish territory, including 2,500 in the Chełm region). Some Polish retaliatory attacks were war crimes. According to Polish historians, however, those attacks cannot be equated with the organized anti-Polish operation of the OUN-UPA.
The Roman Catholic Church lost approx. 200 members of the clergy (priests, monks, and nuns) on the Eastern Borderlands during 1939−1947. It is also estimated that Ukrainian nationalists killed 28 Greek Catholic clergymen and approx. 20 Orthodox clergymen in Volhynia.
The Łuck diocese in the Volhynian Voivodeship lost 50 Catholic churches (i.e., 31 % of all temples). Another 25 chapels (15 %) were burned down, vandalized, or destroyed. As a result of the UPA raids ca. 70% of all 166 parishes ceased to exist. All rural parishes (churches, chapels, and rectories) were destroyed.
It is estimated that 1,500 of the 2,500 Volhynian localities inhabited by Poles in 1939 ceased to exist due to the operations of the OUN-UPA (they were burned down or otherwise destroyed). Today in only 150 localities are there crosses commemorating the tragic death of the more than 10-thousand Polish victims of the massacres (monuments are less frequent still, and some are not even on the burial site). Thus, in ca. 1,350 Volhynian localities there are still no crosses on the graves of Polish victims of the OUN-UPA.
The Ukrainian Righteous
According to a range of testimonies, many Ukrainians helped their Polish neighbors whose lives were in danger. That help assumed the following forms: warnings about attacks; showing an escape route during an attack; sheltering Poles before an expected attack; misleading the attackers; the provision of first aid to wounded Poles; the provision of food or clothing to survivors; taking care of orphans and children lost after attacks; helping to bury the victims; refusal to carry out an order to kill a Polish member of one’s own family; refusal to participate in an attack; public protest; sparing the lives of Poles; and the release of arrested Poles.
Even though it is difficult to estimate the scale of this help, it was real. In 500 localities of the Eastern Borderlands examined in this regard (massacres occurred in over 4,000 localities) the OUN-UPA killed ca. 20,000 Poles. Ukrainian acts of solidarity and mercy saved both individuals and populations of entire villages (several thousand people in total). Over 1,300 Ukrainians are documented as having helped Poles to a lesser or greater extent. Ukrainian nationalists killed several hundred of the righteous as punishment, for all manifestations of friendliness toward Poles were regarded as acts of collaboration with the enemy and betrayal of national ideals, and that called for merciless revenge.
— Ukrainians in Volhynia begin to form military detachments, partly for protection against the pacifications conducted by German units with the use of Ukrainian police. Birth of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukrayins’ka Povstans’ka Armiya, UPA) led by the prewar Petlura-supporter Taras Bulba-Borovets.
— Taras Bulba-Borovets is attacked for his refusal to submit to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera faction (Orhanizatsiya Ukrayins'kykh Natsionalistiv, OUN-B) and to participate in the ongoing anti-Polish ethnic cleansings.
— the conference of miltary officials of Bandera’s OUN in Lvov results in a decision to form partisan detachments that are to initiate a nationwide uprising at the most opportune moment. Moreover, all Poles and Jews are to be expelled from Ukrainian territory under threat of death. Those who refuse to leave voluntarily are to be killed.
— Bandera’s OUN forms partisan detachments in Volhynia. They begin to use a name that was to become widely known in Volhynia — the UPA.
— a UPA detachment under the command of Hryhorij Perehijniak “Dovbesho-Korobko” massacres the Polish village of Parośle, killing over 150 people.
— about 5,000 Ukrainian policemen, ones who have participated in the extermination of Jews, desert from the German service and join the pro-Bandera partisan units.
— the greatest intensification of the UPA’s massacres, committed mostly in Sarny, Kostopol, and Krzemieniec counties.
— UPA detachments under the command of Ivan Lytvynchuk “Dubovy” massacre a minimum of 179 people in Lipniki.
— a UPA detachment personally commanded by “Dubovy” burns down the village of Janowa Dolina, murdering ca. 600 Poles.
— the UPA broadens the scope of its “anti-Polish operation” to include Dubno, Łuck, and Zdołbuny counties.
— Dmytro Klyachkivsky “Klym-Samur” gives the order to exterminate the Polish population of Volhynia.
— the UPA operation spreads over the entirety of Volhynia.
— the climax of the first phase of the Ukrainian terror against Poles in Volhynia. On July 11 and July 12 the UPA attacks 99 and 50 Polish villages respectively (e.g., Poryck, Sądowa, Zagaje, and Kisielin).
— the biggest wave of the UPA attacks on Polish localities (in July alone the number of Polish victims exceeds 10,000).
— the UPA attacks 85 localities (e.g., Ostrówki and Wola Ostrowiecka) mostly in Kowel, Włodzimierz Wołyński, and Luboml counties.
— the greatest intensification of the UPA attacks on the Polish self-defense centers (e.g., Huta Stepańska was defeated on July 18, 1943, while Przebraż near Łuck managed to fight off the attack on August 30, 1943).
— another wave of UPA raids on Polish localities in Równe, Łuck, Kowel, and Włodzimierz Wołyński counties.
— the beginning of the concentration of Polish detachments (ca. 6,500 soldiers) and the subsequent formation of the 27th Volhynian Infantry Division of the Home Army [27 Wołyńska Dywizja Piechoty Armii Krajowej], which fought against the Germans and Ukrainians. In July 1944 the division was forced to fight its way westward to the Lublin region.
— individual acts of murdering Poles in Eastern Galicia.
— the central leadership of Bandera’s OUN and the Eastern Galician UPA led by Roman Shukhevych “Taras Chuprynka” decide to de-Polonize these territories. Ukrainians distribute leaflets calling on all Poles to leave Eastern Galicia under threat of death, and then carry out their threats.
— the final wave of the UPA attacks on Poles in Volhynia (e.g., on the cloister in Wiśniowiec).
— the first UPA attacks on Poles in Eastern Galicia (e.g., in Kruhów and Markowa).
— intensification of the UPA attacks on Polish settlements, particularly in the Stanisławów and Tarnopol voivodeships (e.g., in Korościatyn, Hanaczów, and Berezowica).
— massacre of the village of Huta Pieniacka (ca. 600 victims) conducted by the 4th SS Police Regiment consisting of volunteers to the “Galizien” SS Division.
— a UPA detachment (probably supported by volunteers from the “Galizien” SS Division) massacres Poles in the Dominican cloister in Podkamień.
— the wave of violence moves to the Lvov Voivodeship (e.g., Huta Wierchobuzka, Wołoczków, and Wasylów).
— the UPA attacks on Poles spread across the entire Eastern Galicia. In April 1944 the number of victims numbers some 8,000.
— the UPA conducts massacres along the line stretching from Hanaczów in the north to villages in the Stanisławów Voivodeship in the south (e.g., 300 farms are set ablaze and 40 Poles are killed in Tomaszowce; Pniaki, Sokołów, and Zady are burned down).
— the UPA massacres ca. 100 Poles in Huciska.
— the UPA continues its attacks on Poles (e.g., 120 victims in Bryńce Zagórne, and an attack on Polish passengers of a train in Zatyl).
— Polish administrational structures and a garrison of the Home Army begin to operate overtly in Lvov after the Soviet and Polish armies capture the city. The final negotiations between the AK leadership and the Soviet authorities lead to the arrest of Polish officers by the NKVD and to the disarmament and internment of the AK detachments exposed in Lvov and in the provinces.
— the UPA leadership issues its first orders to limit the scope of the anti-Polish ethnic cleansing.
— another wave of raids on the Polish localities in the Tarnopol Voivodeship (e.g., several thousand Polish victims in Wichrowica).
— the “Vovky” UPA company conducts a series of massacres in the Lublin region (e.g., several dozen Polish victims in Borydyca); this series is regarded as the epilogue of the anti-Polish purges.
— UPA detachments arrive in the Lublin region. A Polish-Ukrainian frontline is formed. Mutual raids on local rural communes result in several thousand Polish and Ukrainian victims.
— Polish attack on the Ukrainian village of Sahryń.
— 33 Poles are killed at the train station in Gozdów by a local OUN armed group consisting of former policemen in German service.
— a wave of mutual attacks on Ukrainian and Polish villages along the line stretching from Lubaczów to as far as Sanok.
— the Polish attack on the Ukrainian village of Powłokoma (365 victims) and the subsequent UPA raid of the Polish village of Wązownica (ca. 100 Polish victims).
Genocide is a legal category. The Volhynian massacres have all the traits of genocide listed in the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which defines genocide as an act “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” In Polish academia the Volhynian massacres are referred to as genocidal ethnic cleansings, the Volhynian (or Volhynian-Galician) slaughter, or, in legal terminology, the crime of genocide. Regardless of which qualification of the Volhynian massacres is the most suitable, there is no doubt that the crimes committed by the OUN-B and the UPA were anti-Polish ethnic cleansings of a genocidal character. The public prosecutors of the investigation division of the Institute of National Remembrance (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, IPN) are conducting 32 investigations regarding the Ukrainian nationalists’ crimes against Polish citizens. These crimes have been recognized as a crime against humanity in its special form, that is, genocide. Article 118 § 1 of the Polish Penal Code of 1997, which introduced the notion of genocide into Polish domestic law, serves as the legal basis for these investigations.
Polish-Ukrainian Historical Disputes over the Volhynian Massacres
The anti-Polish drive of the pro-Bandera Ukrainian
underground during World War II, together with the subsequent Polish retaliation
it largely spawned, undoubtedly mark the bloodiest period of the
Polish-Ukrainian conflict in the 1940s. This conflict raged in territories
which were within Poland’s interwar borders (basically, the country’s
south-east), and which, taken as a whole, had nearly co-equal Polish and
Ukrainian populations. We use the word “conflict” because there was obvious
antagonism between Poles and Ukrainians, and they waged a fight for land –
even though they had been citizens of the same state (the Second Republic of
Poland, 1918-1939). “Conflict” is thus one of the terms used to describe what
happened between Poles and Ukrainians during World War II.
The perpetrators — Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B) and its military wing, that is, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) — used the codename “anti-Polish operation” in their documents in to refer to the planned extermination of the Poles. Bandera’s followers carried this aim out during 1943−1945 on the disputed territories of Volhynia, Eastern Galicia, and the south-eastern Lublin region (centered on Chełm), which they regarded as “indigenously Ukrainian.” The present-day state of the Polish-Ukrainian historical debate on the topic is therefore but one proof of how complex the matter is. The endless publicist discussion, which is often accompanied by negative emotions, continues to heat up the historical debate. Thus, the echoes of those tragic events continue to have a significant influence on political decisions in Poland and Ukraine with regard to commemoration of the victims – for indeed, they have become an element of the Polish-Ukrainian conflict of memory.