‘VICTIMS ARE CALLING NOT FOR A REVENGE BUT FOR MEMORY’
KAMIL BROŻYNA, PAWEŁ CABAN
The year 1945 is the date of the big crime. ’The collapse of the Polish country in 1939 brought the incorporation of Wołyń and Eastern Lesser Poland to the Ukrainian Socialistic Soviet Republic, which was contradictory with Ukrainian dreams about independence. Changes could be brought only by the German-Soviet conflict. In June 1941 Hitler attacked the USSR and during a few weeks he conquered a bigger part of the territory of Ukraine. However, he did not establish the Ukrainian country. The management of the Ukrainian lands were overtaken by the Germans. In response to it, some activists of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists with the leader Stefan Bandera moved away from Germany. At the end of 1942, these activists started a partisan activity, using a secret military organization called Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA). (…).In 1943 the UIA started a slaughter of the Polish people in Wołyń and in the Eastern Lesser Poland. Certainly, it was convenient for the Germans and the Soviets. The National Army did not have enough strength to protect compatriots (…). Hundred thousands were murdered’ – writes the former professor of the Lower Seminary in Częstochowa Krzysztof Wielgut in his book ‘Pictures from history of Poland’.
About independence in a different way
In the lower Seminary, Sunday 17 November this year became a day of special memory about those events – within the celebrations of the Independence Day, the Holy Mass was celebrated in the chapel of the Seminary, presided over Fr. inf. Marian Mikołajczyk, with participation of cavaliers and ladies of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, Fr. rector Jerzy Bielecki, Fr. prefect Szymon Stępniak, Fr. prelate Teofil Siuda, Fr. prelate Stanisław Gasiński as well as teachers and educators. In the second part of the day there was an evening meeting devoted to the issue of Wołyń.
It might be surprising that the 95thanniversary of the return of Poland onto the maps of the world was not being celebrated in the lower Seminary under the sign of entering Homeland by Marshal Piłsudski or the Uhlan stories, but what happened twenty years later is inscribed in the memory about the road of Poles to freedom. ‘Victims are calling not for revenge but for memory’ – the motto quoted by Fr. rector Jerzy Bielecki in the beginning of the ceremony became the starting point for further reflections. The play which was staged by the alumni of the third year under the supervision of Fr. prefect Szymon Stępniak and the class teacher Prof. Grażyna Nowak, because it was a performance of a history lesson in the average Polish school.
Statistic data quoted in the beginning were very painful: ’47 per cent of the surveyed do not know either who was the culprit of the crime in Wołyń , or who was its victim. What is more – 7 per cent of the surveyed deeply believe that the slaughter in Wołyń was a crime committed on Poles by the Germans or the Russians, Only 30 per cent of the surveyed know that the slaughter in Wołyń was a crime committed on Poles by the Ukrainians. Two per 100 surveyed stated that victims and culprits were on both sides’. In the further part of the evening meeting, audience had a chance to find out that young Poles have to gain knowledge about this tragedy on their own in fact - history textbooks present this issue only in one sentence.
Genocide or slaughter?
The answer to the question asked during the meeting was not logically justified or supported by strong testimonies: ‘My uncle had sister Stanisława. She was nearly 25 years old. She was at home as well. Through walls one could hear how she was crying terribly, begging for life. In vain, as it later turned out. The Ukrainians literally cut her into pieces. They stuck her head, like other Poles’ heads, onto poles at a road leading to a village. Twenty two head were supposed to be a terror for Poles’. (Zuzanna Kurtyka ‘Wołyń: once again about the crime in Wołyń’ ‘wSieci’, no 31/32). Actors quoting dictionary meanings of the terms ‘genocide’ and ‘slaughter’, noted: ‘It result from the comparison of these terms that genocide is an action which is planned, thought out, conscious and whose purpose is destruction, whereas slaughter is mostly a result of fights, war struggles, battles. As it is seen, the sense of the slaughter term is milder and in reference to events which took place in Wołyń at that time- it is inadequate.
In this context the later words were very significant: ‘Our parliamentarians worked out an original attitude concerning commemoration of the carnage in Wołyń. The crime remains defined as ‘ethnic purge of genocide signs’, but not as ‘genocide’. The Sejm did not name the fact of murdering our compatriots in Wołyń in 1943 as a crime of genocide’ under the votes of MPs of the Civil Platform and the Movement of Palikot.
It is all about memory
The culminating point of the scene were the pronounced words: ‘Not for revenge but for memory are victims calling. These victims are calling for memory from graves which do not exist!’. And we also remember about our sisters and brothers who were brutally murdered. We speak about the event in Wołyń at our homes, in our environment, so that every Pole would remember because blood of Poles murdered there enlivens our patriotic feeling. Today we live as free, independent Poles, therefore, our duty is worship their memory. Pole! Do not forget! ‘They were dying, while thinking about the One which will never die. Poland did not forget about them. (…) Ashes are being overgrown with weeds, graves drown in lush grass’(Lech Makowiecki, ‘Wołyń 1943’) – we, the alumni of the lower Seminary, young Poles, want to opt for the side of the truth: We remember!
An element enriching the evening meeting was a significant staged play and beautiful music setting. The national hymn, performed with a trumpet finished this sad ‘lesson of history’.