Politicization of art: Polish ultras vs. Ukrainian music band

Author : Daria Tarasova

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukrainian group Ot Vinta was not allowed to Poland because of the ethnic cleansing operation carried out by Ukrainian nationalists in 1943-1945
21:53, 5 July 2016

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July 2, celebration of the Kupala Night (annually held on July 7, ed.) should take place in Przemysl (Poland). Ukrainian community in Poland has invited Ukrainian group Ot Vinta. But Polish fans of Polonia FC addressed a letter to the Mayor of Przemysl with the request to prohibit their performance.

One of the reasons of Polish "ultras" was the support and glorification by Ukrainian musicians of UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army, ed.). The grounds for such conclusions were photos of the band leader Yuriy Zhyravel and other musicians at the monument to Stepan Bandera (controversial Ukrainian far right political activist and a leader of the Ukrainian nationalist and independence movement, ed.) against the background of red and black flag (UPA symbol, ed.).

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Members of the "Przemysl brotherhood" also mention Volyn tragedy (the massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, ed): "We have nothing against the Ukrainian minority and its culture. We must however remember that history of many Polish families is related to the genocide conducted by Banderas. Naturally, UPA colors and symbols hurt feelings of the Polish patriots."

Photos of the musicians were the only reason for this kind of charges; their songs have no connection with any glorification of UPA or glorification of Stepan Bandera.

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Polish fans have even threatened to fire the stage. As a result, the City Mayor has canceled the concert and the whole festival as well. Local police forces are not enough to guarantee the safety of participants of the festival, and also the UPA devotees should not provoke Poles.

In response, the Ukrainian community has invited musicians to Warsaw to sing on one of the main scenes of the capital. Artists received an official letter from Lublin Consulate, which had to help them quickly and easily cross the border.

However, the serious problems occurred on the Polish side of the border. Ukrainians have spent nine hours at the check point; the body guards took their fingerprints, and one by one they were asked to complete some documents and forms.

Later, the border guards reported that they have received a letter from the Poland’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, which ordered not to let the Ot Vinta band enter Poland. Moreover, the musicians were threatened to be deported with revocation of multiple-entry visas.

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The only reason for the cancellation of the concert was the statement of Poland’s radical fans, who appealed to the Volyn massacre. The official comments had the other content though.

Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaschak, a representative of Polish nationalist party "Law and Justice" commented the incident as follows: "In the context of the NATO Summit and 73rd anniversary of the Volyn genocide committed by Ukrainian nationalists, I do not agree to threat the public order or the safety of our citizens, for which I am personally responsible."

The Embassy of Ukraine in Poland stressed: "Quite a pity that the Ukrainian music band has become a hostage to emotional hysteria and groundless phobias of our Polish friends."

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The explanatory memorandum of the Polish Border Guard stated that Ukraine’s group is "a threat to law and order."

However, Ot Vinta has held more than a dozen of concerts in Poland, and it had not caused any problems.

Unfortunately, the incident with Ot Vinta is not the only one. Although Ot Vinta could not come to Warsaw, Ukrainian community has invited Joryj Kłoc folk-rock band from Lviv. Ukrainian musicians held a concert in the Polish capital without scandals or fights. Yes, Polish nationalists have proclaimed some offensive slogans, but nothing more.

26 June, the Polish "ultras" in Przemysl attacked the procession of Greek Catholics and Orthodox, which leaded to the local Ukrainian military cemetery to honor the soldiers of the Ukrainian liberation movement. About 20 people broke out and tried to stop the procession, attacking and shouting insults at the expense of Ukrainians.

Last year there was a wave of anonymous destruction of the Ukrainian monuments in Poland, in particular, a monument at a military cemetery in Pikulice.

Currently, Ukrainian and Poles cannot reach a consensus on the issue of the Volyn tragedy. In Ukraine, Volyn events in 1943-1945 years are called Volyn tragedy, but Poland insists on defining it as a genocide.

Note: The massacres of Poles in Volhynia (Volyn) and Eastern Galicia were part of an ethnic cleansing operation carried out in Nazi German-occupied Poland by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)'s North Command in the regions of Volhynia (Reichskommissariat Ukraine) and their South Command in Eastern Galicia (General Government) beginning in March 1943 and lasting until the end of 1944. The peak of the massacres took place in July and August 1943. Most of the victims were women and children. The actions of the UPA resulted in 35,000-60,000 Polish deaths in Volhynia and 25,000-40,000 in Eastern Galicia. Ukrainian side argues that “Volyn massacre” were mutual ethnic cleansing of Ukrainian and Polish people conducted by Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukrayinska Povstanska Armiya, UPA) and the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) together with Polish Schutzmannschaft battalions, and Soviet partisans in 1943 during the Second World War in Volyn, Western Ukraine. While Polish side states that it was genocide of the Polish people.

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