Poland commemorates 1940s Volhynia massacre

“An unbroken link exists between Poles who remained there and those who managed to escape here,” said Elżbieta Witek, Speaker of the Lower House (Sejm) during an event in Kędzierzyn Koźle, south-west Poland, commemorating the genocide of Poles, which was conducted in Volhynia region (present day Ukraine) by Ukrainian nationalists, between 1942 and 1945.

EXPLAINER: Volhynia massacres and its significance in Polish-Ukrainian relations

The Volhynia massacres consisted of anti-Polish genocidal ethnic cleansings conducted by Ukrainian nationalists.

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Poland commemorates the victims of the genocide on July 11, on the anniversary of the so-called Bloody Sunday, an especially savage attack on 99 Polish villages and on thousands of men, women and children celebrating Sunday mass, which was orchestrated on July 11, 1943 by the Ukrainina Insurgent Army (UPA). During the whole month of July 1943, 520 Polish villages were attacked and an estimated 10,000-11,000 Poles were brutally killed by UPA.

“July 11 is a special day in our history. It is special because it is very painful. What Poles went through in Volhynia was excruciatingly painful, and please, believe me, that we remember and we will never forget...We must remember about the events that took place in Volhynia, because this is our history, this is an element of our identity, a painful one, but an element of our Polish identity. We owe it to the victims, who died a horrible, martyr-like death at Volhynia,” said Mrs Witek during the commemorative ceremony in Kędzierzyn Koźle.

The Volhynia Massacre was a deliberate cleansing of Polish nationals living in the Volhynia region, present day Ukraine, conducted systematically by the Ukrainina Insurgent Army (UPA), between 1942 and 1943.