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Polish-Ukrainian friendship masks a bitter, bloody historical past

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WARSAW, Poland — Poland has emerged as one Ukraine‘s most ardent supporters throughout Russia’s invasion regardless of historic grievances between the neighboring nations that fire up dangerous emotions to today.

The tensions between the nation at warfare and its staunch ally have been acknowledged Wednesday when Ukrainian President President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a state go to to Poland, the place he was welcomed with honors.

President Andrzej Duda promised that Poland would maintain serving to Ukraine battle off Russia’s aggression, however he additionally acknowledged at a joint information convention with Zelesnkyy that the connection was difficult.

”There are nonetheless open wounds within the reminiscence of many individuals,” Duda mentioned, an apparent reference to the massacres of some 100,000 Poles by Ukrainian nationalists throughout the Forties. Poland considers the killings genocide.

The tough previous in Poland-Ukraine relations goes again even additional than that. In part of Europe the place complete nations have disappeared from maps for generations earlier than getting back from the ashes of collapsed empires, typically on the expense of neighbors, Poles and Ukrainians share a historical past of existential rivalry.

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Ukrainians, for instance, harbor resentment from centuries spent beneath Polish rule, a interval which isn’t remembered as utterly benign.

As the 2 presidents delivered public addresses to a crowd of Ukrainians and Poles in Warsaw, Duda acknowledged that each nations had made a number of errors “for which we paid the final word worth,”

“We’re sending a transparent message to the Kremlin in the present day: You’ll by no means achieve dividing us once more,” he mentioned.

Polish and Ukrainian officers have largely averted addressing the {old} grievances brazenly as they continue to be centered on Ukraine’s survival and fear that Russian might exploit any divisions. It’s, in any case, a warfare whose final result will decide Ukraine’s very existence and Poland’s personal safety for many years to come back.

“Sooner or later, there will likely be no borders between our peoples: political, financial and — what is essential — historic,” Zelenskyy mentioned in a Telegram message earlier than his assembly with Duda. “However for that we nonetheless want to realize victory. For that, we have to stroll facet by facet just a little extra.”

By elevating the matter now, the leaders appeared to acknowledge that thorny points couldn’t be swept beneath the rug endlessly, even with the warfare dragging on.

Duda and different nationalist authorities face political stress to ensure Polish struggling at Ukrainian fingers will not be forgotten, particularly with the rising power of a far-right celebration, Confederation, that has typically expressed anti-Ukrainian views. A parliamentary election in Poland earlier than the top of the 12 months will likely be a take a look at for the ruling celebration, Regulation and Justice, and decide whether or not it wins a 3rd time period.

On Wednesday, although, Zelenskyy was met with purple carpets and pomp. Duda bestowed on his customer Poland’s oldest and highest civilian distinction, The Order of the White Eagle. “You might be certainly one of the vital excellent individuals who has obtained the excellence,” the Polish president mentioned.

Zelenskyy referred to as Duda a good friend and mentioned Polish-Ukrainian relations have by no means been so good. On the identical time, Duda insisted the previous should not be forgotten and now was the appropriate time to confront it.

“We can not overlook those that have perished previously,” Duda mentioned. “There aren’t any taboo themes between us.”

Most likely the touchiest level of rivalry is the right way to bear in mind one among Ukraine’s nationwide heroes, Stepan Bandera, the far-right chief of the Group of Ukrainian Nationalists who briefly allied himself with Germany’s Nazis.

Efforts by Bandera-led forces to carve out an unbiased territory for Ukraine led them to perpetrate atrocities towards Poles, Jews and Soviets.

Such topics have been off-limits throughout the Soviet period, when Ukraine was a Soviet republic and Moscow additionally managed Poland.

Historians say that greater than 100,000 Poles, together with girls and younger kids, perished by the hands of their Ukrainian neighbors in areas that have been then positioned in southeastern Poland and are largely in Ukraine now.

The height of the violence was on July 11, 1943, often called “Bloody Sunday,” when the Ukrainian rebel fighters carried out coordinated assaults on Poles praying in or leaving church buildings in additional than 100 villages, mainly within the Volhynia area.

Polish officers insist that solely the total fact can strengthen the nations’ ties.

Poles have been angered in January when Ukraine’s parliament commemorated Bandera on the 114th anniversary of his beginning by tweeting a picture of the present commander of the Ukrainian armed forces towards a portrait of Bandera. The publish was later deleted.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki mentioned then that his authorities took “an especially important stance towards any glorification and even remembrance of Bandera.”

After assembly with Zelenskyy on Wednesday, Morawiecki mentioned the 2 spoke concerning the crimes and Poland’s request to hold out exhumations on the Polish victims, one thing Ukraine has to date banned.

“We had a really tough historical past and in the present day there’s a likelihood to rewrite this historical past and base it on the reality,” Morawiecki mentioned.


Monika Scislowska in Warsaw contributed.

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