Bloody Sunday in Volyhnia – a genocide without punishment

The day of the commemoration is the anniversary of the so-called Bloody Sunday. On 11th July 1943, the UPA repressions reached the culmination point during the Volhynian genocide, a mass extermination of the Polish civilian population in Volhynia by the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Ukrainian civilian population.

The start of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany, brought the lands of East Lesser Poland under the military occupation of the Third Reich. Some hoped that a quasi-sovereign Ukrainian state would be established alongside the Third Reich. However, the Reichskommissariat Ukraine was established with a commissioner in the person of Erich Koch who ruled over that territory. The Germans cooperated with the Ukrainian Nationalist troops. The Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) came out of the underground and assisted the Germans in the political cleansing of the area, with mass killings of the Polish and Jewish population. 

Ukrainian nationalists murdered Poles with extraordinary cruelty, and they aimed to purge the Borderlands of the Second Polish Republic, present-day western Ukraine, of all people of non-Ukrainian nationality. 

The activities of the Ukrainian nationalists were aimed at the widespread cleansing of Poles from the area to which the Ukrainians aspired, wanting to create their state with the help of the Germans. The Ukrainians committed crimes so drastic that they exceeded the imagination of present-time society. This was a procedure intended to create even greater fear among the Poles,” says Polish historian Prof. Tomasz Wolsza in an interview for TVP Info. 

Between 100,000 and even 130,000 Poles may have been brutally murdered as a result of the crimes committed against the inhabitants of Volhynia and Eastern Lesser Poland during the Second World War. Professor Wolsza recalls that the Ukrainian nationalists also destroyed material traces of the Polish presence.

Despite decades of discussion and diplomatic efforts, Poles murdered by Ukrainian nationalists mostly rest in nameless death pits. Several years ago, the Ukrainian authorities banned Poles from conducting search and exhumation work in western Ukraine.

The situation creates frustration, especially among family members of those who witnessed the genocide many of which were later deported to Western Poland because of the territorial changes of the Yalta Conference. Many of those people inhabited the regions of Silesia, Lubuskie and Zachodniopomorskie. 

Members of the football club Śląsk Wrocław commemorated the victims and placed a banner in the city centre, calling on Ukrainian authorities to allow the research and preparation of graves for the victims. 

The symbol of the commemoration of the National Remembrance Day of the Volyhnia Genocide is the flax flower bringing the memory of a popular plant in that region of today’s Ukraine.  

 

Photo: X/@siewiera_jakub

Tomasz Modrzejewski

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