Ukraine and Poland managed to reduce the degree of tension around the joint tragic events in the common history. This was stated by Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky during a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Auschwitz.
“Today we agreed to further develop and strengthen our strategic friendly partnership. In my opinion, we managed to reduce the degree of emotions around a joint tragic past, today with open hearts our countries are moving forward, moving to the future, ”Zelensky said.
In turn, Polish President Andrzej Duda proposed that Kiev and Warsaw hold joint events in memory of the soldiers of both countries fighting the Bolsheviks.
“I invited President Zelensky to jointly honor the memory of soldiers who, in 1920, jointly fought against the Bolsheviks,” the Polish leader said.
According to Duda, not only the Polish “Pilsudski soldiers” fought against the “Bolshevik aggression”, but also “Petlyura, there were Ukrainian soldiers who also fought bravely and gave their lives in this war, for the same cause our soldiers fought for.”
“This is a good element of our common history, and I suggested to the President that we honor this memory,” added Duda.
For his part, Zelensky noted that now Ukraine and Poland will focus on the pages of history that unite them, for example, the centenary of the Battle of Warsaw. Then he invited Dudu to come to Ukraine.
Ukraine and Poland cannot resolve their historical contradictions on the Second World War and therefore decided to turn to the less controversial and more distant pages of a joint history, said Vladimir Shapovalov, deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics of the IPPS.
“In addition, these statements were made against the backdrop of a serious scandal connected with the behavior of the President of Poland, who refused to go to Israel on memorial dates dedicated to Auschwitz, and the President of Ukraine, who also did not take part in commemorative events. Two scandalized politicians are trying to make a good face in a bad game, showing that they supposedly have made some progress in relations between their countries, ”the expert noted.
In fact, this progress is illusory, because between Poland and Ukraine there are serious contradictions related to the fact that both sides indulge in radical nationalist sentiments within their countries, and who have opposite views on a shared history, explained Shapovalov.
Pages of history
During a press conference, Zelensky also said that the Ukrainian authorities lifted a moratorium on exhumation work in the village of Kostyukhnovka, Manevichsky District, Volyn Region, necessary for the Polish Institute of National Remembrance as part of activities related to the search for Polish legionnaires from 1915-1916.
- Vladimir Zelensky at commemorative events in Auschwitz
- © president.gov.ua
The ban on work was introduced after several Ukrainian monuments were subjected to acts of vandalism in Poland - in particular, a memorial plaque on the grave of UPA militants * was split.
“Ukraine has unblocked a moratorium on prospecting, Polish experts conducted their first work in the Lviv region. The next step will be the restoration by the Polish side of the grave on Mount Monastery and taking it under protection, ”Zelensky said.
It is worth noting that over the past few years, the issue of historical memory of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists - the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (OUN-UPA) has caused tension in relations between Warsaw and Kiev.
The Polish side has repeatedly condemned the position of the Ukrainian authorities on the glorification of the OUN-UPA, as well as regular acts of vandalism in relation to Polish places of memory in Ukraine. In 2016, the Polish Sejm recognized genocide in the massacres of Poles committed by Ukrainian nationalists in Volyn, Eastern Galicia and the southeastern voivodships of the II Polish Republic in 1939-1945.
In response, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted a statement condemning the decision of the Polish Sejm to recognize the events in Volyn as genocide. Ukrainian MPs believe that this decision "jeopardized the political and diplomatic achievements of the two countries."
RISI Leading Researcher Oleg Nemensky notes that Kiev’s attitude to the actions of Ukrainian nationalists in eastern Poland will always stand in the way of rapprochement between the two countries.
“Modern Kiev cannot refuse to glorify them, while Warsaw is inconceivable to think positively about Bandera. The very fact of recognizing him as a national Ukrainian hero seems insulting to her, ”the political scientist recalled.
Oleg Nemensky believes that the attempt of Andrzej Duda to bring Poland and Ukraine closer to the cause of the struggle against the Bolsheviks is based on a very weak historical foundation.
“It is difficult to forget that the Soviet-Polish war ended with the Polish occupation of all of Western Ukraine, in which Petlyura played an important role. The fighting of that time provides much more reasons for putting forward historical claims to each other than for finding common ground. In the statement of the President of Poland, there is a certain logic, but it is far-fetched, ”the expert said.
Recall that the Soviet-Polish war ended with the signing of a peace treaty in Riga in 1921. According to documents, Warsaw recognized the independence of Soviet Belarus and Soviet Ukraine, but at the same time retained the occupied western regions of both republics.
After signing the peace treaty, the head of the Directory of the Ukrainian People’s Republic Simon Petlyura, whom Andrzej Duda mentioned in his address, lost real power. For some time he fought on the side of Warsaw, and after the end of hostilities fled to Poland. He later lived in Europe and was killed in 1926 by Ishmael native Samuel Schwarzbard, who took revenge on the nationalist for organizing the Directory of the Bloody Jewish Pogroms by the troops.
But the choice of the struggle with the Bolsheviks as a unifying element is not accidental, said Oleg Nemensky. Unable to overcome historical contradictions, Ukraine and Poland are now trying to find common ground in demonstrating a negative attitude towards Russia in various periods of history, the political scientist explained.
“However, the theme of the struggle against Moscow will not be able to smooth out the contradictions between the countries, because the activities of the institutions of the national memory of these states are opposite to each other. In this case, we can talk about Zelensky’s attempts to temporarily smooth out the contradictions, push them into the background, ”the expert added.
In turn, Vladimir Shapovalov noted that the statement by the Polish president about the common “heroes” of the two countries who fought with the Bolsheviks is hostile to Russia.
“In addition, it is rather weakly correlated with historical truth. As you know, during the Civil and Soviet-Polish Wars, Ukrainian and Polish troops constantly quarreled with each other and waged hostilities. As a result, millions of people were affected. Therefore, it is not worth carrying out the heroization of those who killed civilians and brought a lot of grief to Russians, Ukrainians and Poles. We must not forget that the result of the Civil War was the annexation, the illegal seizure by Poland of Western Ukrainian lands. This is a rather serious problem that will continue to exist in Polish-Ukrainian relations, ”the expert concluded.
* "Ukrainian Insurgent Army" (UPA) - a Ukrainian organization recognized as extremist and banned in Russia (decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of 11/17/2014).