“The truth about the Volhynian massacre must be stated strongly and clearly,” says President Andrzej Duda

On the occasion of the 79th anniversary of what Poles call Bloody Sunday, President Andrzej Duda gave a speech in which he reiterated the necessity of investigating the historical truth surrounding the tragic events which unfolded on Polish soil (today’s Western Ukraine) in the later years of WWII. The event took place at Wołyński Square in Warsaw.

This is a difficult topic, extremely painful for us, demanding a tough stance of the truth, and for Ukrainians – difficult, because it is, above all, embarrassing. The truth must be clearly and strongly stated” – Andrzej Duda explained.  

It is neither about revenge nor about retaliation […] What we are now witnessing between Poles and Ukrainians is the best proof of it. […] The rifles, axes, pitchforks […] which were once displayed have been replaced by bread and a helpful stretched hand […] welcomed with gratitude and tears” – he underlined. 

A few (non-exhaustive) words about the Volhynian massacre

In the eyes of Ukrainian nationalists during the interwar period, Poland and USSR were the hereditary enemies of the Ukrainian nation and had to be fought for the creation of an independent Ukrainian state. It was the goal pursued by the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), created in 1929. The OUN’s methods included violence and terrorism against those who were perceived as “enemies of a free Ukraine.” It was led by Roman Shukhevych.

The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (or UPA) was a paramilitary nationalist army engaged in a series of conflicts during World War II. It was composed of various fighter groups of the OUN and other formations, all of whom were following the orders of their leader, Stepan Bandera.

At the start WWII, many Ukrainians saw Nazi Germany with naïveté as a partner susceptible to endorse the creation of an independent Ukrainian state. Hitler was considered a symbol of hope in the midst of Soviet domination, which had led to the Holodomor a few years earlier. 

The act of restoration of the Ukrainian state, dating back to the 30th of June 1941, states this clearly:

“ […] The newly formed Ukrainian state will work closely with the National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler which is forming a new order in Europe and the world and is helping the Ukrainian People to free themselves from Muscovite occupation.(1)

On the 28th of April, the SS Galizien Division was created. It was a military formation mostly made up of Ukrainian volunteers from the region of Galicia (Western Ukraine). Under the initiative of the Wehrmacht, the SS Galizien division slaughtered practically the entirety of the Jewish population of this region.

Once most Jews have been exterminated, the time had come for Poles to succumb to a similar bloody fate. It is principally in the Western region of Ukraine that took place the massive slaughter of Polish citizens took place. 

Ukrainian nationalist leaders commanded their followers to slaughter the Polish population in the region. Here is a passage of the order given by the OUN on the 2nd of February 1944 to its members:

[…] Liquidate every inch of Polishness. Destroy the Catholic churches and other Polish cult places […] Destroy the houses, so there would be no trace that someone ever lived there […] Keep in mind that if something Polish remains, then Poles will come to claim our territories.(2)

The groups of Ukrainian nationalists went to the towns of Galicia and Volhynia and killed between 40,000 and 60,000 people, mostly women and children. None was spared. 

On the 11th of July, nearly 100 villages were plundered, and their population slaughtered in the most brutal fashion. Besides assassinating the local population, Stepan Bandera’s men tortured their victims in a rare atrocity. 

Despite the absence of resistance, civilians were killed in their houses, at school, or in the churches during the office. As practised later by the Soviet army, rape was also largely used as a terror weapon.


Image: Twitter (@czaplinskiii)

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen


  1. MOTYKA, Grzegorz, Od rzezi wołyńskiej do akcji Wisła, pp.123-129.
  2. WOLCZANSKI, Jozef, Eksterminacja Narodu Polskiego i Kościoła Rzymskokatolickiego przez ukraińskich nacjonalistów w Małopolsce Wschodniej w latach 1939–1945.



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