The action ‘Vistula’, carried out by the People’s Polish Army in spring 1947, was condemned by the parliament of the Third Republic of Poland and it was a right thing. Because of mass arrests of real and alleged bandits (about 1.5 thousand from the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and 2.9 thousand from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) and resettlements reaching the number of over 140 thousand people, from southern-eastern suburbs of current Poland the civil people of Ukrainian origin and Lemkos families were settled on western and northern lands in spring 1947. Nobody asked them for their opinion, nobody was looking for an individual’s fault. Collective responsibility won, a phenomenon not existing in the Polish legal tradition. Deportees could return legally to their fatherland only after the year 1956. However, the purpose of the action was not applying mass ethical purge, but finally breaking bandervite squads with their quartermaster facilities, that is, nearby villages. We must remember that after the war Poles -regardless of their attitude towards communism -in 1947 supported the liquidation of the last groups - the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists prowling not only on the area of the Bieszczady mountains but also influences reaching also Lubelszczyzna and Łemkowszczyzna. At that time people still remembered cruelty of the Second World War, genocide practices of the division of Bandera and Szuchewycz, bandera and melnykowce activists. A lot of those who do not know the realities of deportation, perceived the action ‘Vistula’ as an act of justice and atonement for the cruelty and ravaged hatred. As a condition of safety. And no wonder.
Genocide doctrine and practice
Another anniversary of terrible days and weeks is forthcoming, reminding about the time which was the end of life of thousands of Poles living on the area of Southern-Eastern Borderlands of revived Poland. Not earlier than last year, did first the Senate of the Republic of Poland, and then the Seym make a decision about special bills, so as to call a range of cruelties done in the years 1939-45 by the Ukrainian nationalists, possessed by a pagan ideology taken from ‘teachings’ of Adolf Hitler, on defenceless Polish civil people as genocide. The beginning of this mass cruelty was a belief, expressed by some Ukrainian elite just before the year 1939, that free Ukraine would re-exist on ruins. So, the dates are not accidental according to historians, already in September 1939 there were first murders, particularly drastic ones in the districts of Brzeżańsk and Stanisławów (for example, in Soroki near Buczacza babies’ heads were smashed). Their apogee were the events from July 1943 when during a few weeks the Ukrainians murdered a dozen thousand Poles living Wołyń. ‘There was no village in Wołyń, where a murder would not be done on Poles in a sophisticated way. The skin was ripped off faces, Poles were burnt alive, oak pegs were stubbed among rib bones, bodies were cut with an axe. Murders were done on individuals, whole families, people in villages. There were cases that in mixed marriages the Ukrainian party was murdering the Polish party’ – repots on Wyłyń were written by bishop Wincenty Urban. In total, 60 thousand Poles were killed in this part of the Second Republic of Poland. Refugees to big cities (for example, to Łuck) and to the west, towards Lvov, left their thrilling testimonies. Soon also those lands were invaded by Ukrainian commandos of death. How many Poles had been killed till the end of the war?
Probably from 160 to 200 thousand. Each of those people is a particular man – having his relatives, families, whose one of branches of the lineage genealogy was cut off brutally. Forever. Similarly as the Jews killed in Holocaust, the first victims of the Ukrainian genocide on the Southern-Eastern Borderlines.
The crimes on Poles were accompanied by mass destructions of peasant’s households, orchards and inventory, that is, property gained throughout their lives, and also the good of culture, property gained by many generations inscribed in building the Polish heritage. As Lucyna Kulińska and Czesław Partacz: ‘Having murdered inside a monastery (belonging to the Dominicans in Podkamienie) a few hundred local Poles and a big group of refugees from Wołyń who had hidden in this holy place, local Banderovites, collaborating with the 4th regiment of the SS Police – Galizien, for a few days they were plundering the destroyed monastery – one of the richest in valuables and treasures of art all over the Borderlands.
The Ukrainian nationalists, pagans in hearts, often motivated to the crime also by priests – particularly the Orthodox ones – were murdering Polish Roman-Catholic priests and nuns. According to calculations of Leszek S. Jankiewicz, in total, 148 priests, 15 monks, 4 clerics and 29 nuns were killed by the Ukrainians (also the Germans or the Soviets) in the years 1939-47. Probably a cleric Józef Janas was the first to be killed in 1939. Later the others, like: Fr. Hieronim Szczerbiński and Fr. Jerzy Cimiński, ‘were tortured and killed, and later naked, were barbed wire-wrapped and thrown into a deep well, but dried out’. Also Greek-Catholic priests were killed (at least 26 of them in total), being in solidarity with Polish priests: Fr. Serafin Horosiewicz, a Greek-Catholic parish priest of Żabcze, Łuck district, for friendship with a Polish priest he was closed in an orthodox church after a religious service in the evening on 26 March 1943; then the church was poured over with petrol and the priest was burnt alive’ - bishop Urban was describing testimonies of rescued people. Some people survived but had to keep those tragedies in memory, like Fr. Stefan Zawadzki, whose throat the Ukrainians slot. He survived but still felt his disability.
The crime has been unpunished for dozens of years. Maybe its dimension does not reach to consciousness of our eastern neighbouring countries? Maybe thousands of murderers should be sentenced, even after their death, symbolically, by the National Tribunal, so that contemporary Ukraine could understand Polish analysis of the cruelties on the Borderlands? One must ask oneself a question: what might have made a man do it and also what might have killed sensitivity of his consciousness so that he committed such mass and continuous crimes? It is necessary to ask oneself a question: What might have made the man do it and killed conscience in him, so that he made such mass and continuous crimes? How could have that man of the Bandera or Melnyk sign got lost, if he was able to hate a baby whom he had thrown against walls, a priest into whose anus he had put a rusty bar, or a woman who bare breasts he had cut off? We also ourselves a question about the continuity in the histories of nations. What is to be a distinguishing sign of the Ukrainian nation in its long existence? It is a Cossack freedom or a massacre of Uman from 1768 about which Władysław Serczyk wrote: ‘Crowds of insurgents got to the centre of the city (…). In churches, a synagogue and town hall there was a majority of nobility and the Jews. Catholic priests were giving communion and absolution (…). It was the beginning of a slaughter probably initiated by peasants wanting revenge. According to contemporary testimonies, about three thousand Jews were killed. They were tortured and killed. They were taken out from cellars, houses, and even – from trenches, where they had been looking for a hide in vain. Other victims of hatred of the insurgent mob were Catholic and Uniate priests’. How similar picture to the image of a Banderovite butcher!
Will talents and contribution in the culture of nation by Taras Szewczenko and Wasyl Stefanyk prevail or will they be shouted down by a similarly strong tendency to look for identity in doctrinarism of Dmytro Doncow, resulting in a range of murders in the years of the Second World War? Will devotion and courage visible in the recent times of Majdan become the fundament for the awakening modern nation or will a disability for creating one’s own sovereign country uniting citizens dominate? These and other questions must be asked every year when looking at historical policy pursued by the Ukrainian country and its agendas so as to understand our neighbor better, from which so much in history may either separate or unite us.