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In the summer of 2016, bilateral relations between Ukraine and Poland began to deteriorate. Then the Polish Sejm adopted a resolution on the Volyn tragedy, calling it the genocide of the Polish people. This decision was a kind of response from Warsaw to Ukraine’s recognition of OUN-UPA and renaming the streets in honor of their leaders. Poland considers Stepan Bandera (leader of far-right Ukrainian nationalists in 1940-1959 – Ed.) and Roman Shukhevych (who served in Nazi-led Nachtigall battalion – Ed.) the culprits of the loss of their compatriots during the Volyn tragedy.
Ukrainian parliament did not stand aside and adopted a response statement, indicating that it is necessary to honor the memory of all victims on the territory of both states. The parliament emphasized that the adoption of the decree of the Sejm was accompanied by an anti-Ukrainian action with the destruction of Ukrainian monuments on the territory of Poland, attacks on participants in religious celebrations, the ban on cultural events and chauvinist rhetoric.
Another round of misunderstandings in bilateral relations between the countries occurred in January this year, when Ukrainian border guards did not allow the mayor of Przemyśl Robert Jan Choma to enter the territory of Ukraine. As it turned out, the SBU declared him persona non grata and banned entry for five years because of the support of March of the Eagles in Przemyśl in 2016, which was organized by nationalist organizations. During the action, anti-Ukrainian slogans were sounded: " Przemyśl, Lviv are always Polish."
Polish Foreign Ministry reacted sharply to this decision. It began to demand the lifting of the prohibition on the entry, noting that the Polish government does not represent further cooperation with Ukraine under such circumstances.
A month later, the Ukrainian party complied with the request of Warsaw. In particular, the Security Service of Ukraine noted that the public evaluation of Choma of anti-Ukrainian marches in the city was taken into account. In addition, the "third" party used the ban on entry to split the relations between Ukraine and Poland.
In April of this year, a monument to the heroes of the UPA was destroyed in Polish Hruszowice. Its dismantling took place with the permission of local authorities, the alleged monument was "illegally established," but the Association of Ukrainians in Poland denied this statement.
The fact is that over the last three years, at least 15 acts of vandalism have occurred on the territory of Poland at the Ukrainian places of memory. Hruszowice were the last straw. And all these cases were ignored by the Polish authorities: the monuments were not restored, and the perpetrators were not punished.
Poland is interested in Ukraine's restoration of permits for the search and exhumation of Poles buried in its territory and the establishment of new memorials. But, as it turned out, for Warsaw, the fulfillment of these three requirements of the Ukrainian side is unacceptable. This was announced by the Director of the Office of Remembrance of Struggle and Martyrdom IPN Adam Siwek. "We are talking, in particular, about the legalization of such unauthorized Ukrainian monuments in Poland and Polish ones in Ukraine, as well as the restoration of the original version of the monument in Hruszowice," he said.
According to him, the restoration of the monument in Hruszowice is impossible, because the memorial did not stand in the burial place of Ukrainians, but just glorified UPA.
Until now, the rhetoric of Warsaw on the issue of honoring historical memory has not changed: the Polish side is not against perpetuating the memory of the victims of the OUN-UPA, but only in their burial grounds on the basis of exhumations.
"Our message is very clear: you will not enter Europe with Bandera, we are talking about it loudly and quietly," current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Witold Waszczykowski, states.
And last week Waszczykowski said that Poland was launching procedures that would not allow people with anti-Polish sentiments to visit the country. "People who demonstratively wear uniforms of SS Halychyna will not enter Poland," he added, adding that the restrictions would also affect people who use administrative tools, not allowing them to continue exhumation, to update places of Polish worship, etc.
At the same time, another interesting statement was made: the Polish senator and historian Jan Zharin accused Ukraine in barbaric behavior in matters of historical memory. He stated this in an interview wPolityce, answering the question about the situation around the Polish graves in Ukraine, reports European truth. The Senator said the presence of the multidimensional crisis in Polish-Ukrainian relations, which was caused by “serious and deep cultural differences between Poland and Ukraine.” “Ukraine does not want to belong to the Roman civilization. She behaves like a barbarian in matters of historical memory. In the current foreign policy we have a lot in common, we have a lot of positive suggestions. But the mutual relationship will be very shallow, if Ukraine does not understand that the more profound relationships come from cultural dimensions,” said the Senator.
Ukrainian Institute of Memory, in turn, stressed that they were ready for cooperation on the issue of historical memory, but the Polish side did not offer its options for resolving the conflict.