Few places on the map evoke as much emotion as Volhynia.
This land in the east of the Second Polish Republic, picturesque, not rich but unanimously once inhabited by many nationalities, became a symbol of the anti-Polish ethnic purge of 1943. Eighty years ago, nationalists from the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) began attacking Polish villagers, first in Volhynia, then also in other regions. The German occupation authorities did nothing to protect civilians, although it was their duty to do so. As a result, tens of thousands of Poles were killed in Volhynia alone. In total, some 100,000 people lost their lives as a result of the nationalists' actions.
The Poles retaliated with reprisal actions which, according to historians, cost the lives of several thousand Ukrainians.
For eighty years, those events have been an unhealed wound. And the biggest ever recurring historical dispute between our countries.
The 80th anniversary of those events seems a good opportunity for us – Poles and Ukrainians – to consider what to do so that the tragedy of Volhynia stops dividing us. For us to learn from it together. And to be able to move forward together toward a future free of hatred and violence.
Volhynia 1943–2023
Beresteczko in Volyn Voivodeship. View of the village from the Styr River.
Trinity Church can be seen on the left. 1935.
Photo National Digital Archive
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