Ukraine’s foreign ministry asked the Polish embassy to stop the screening today of a Polish set set against the background of WWII massacres.
The Polish Institute in Kiev has therefore postponed the screening of ‘Volhynia’ (Wołyń) by Polish director Wojciech Smarzowski.
The movie deals with the Volhynia Massacres, a traumatic page in Polish-Ukrainian history. The screening was planned for Tuesday in Kiev, with the director and Ukrainian guests invited, including the country’s president, prime minister and MPs. It was to have been followed by a discussion.
The screening was scrapped for the sake of “public order”.
The film follows the plight of a young Polish woman who wants to marry a Ukrainian from the same village, contrary to her parents’ wishes. In the midst of World War II, the pair are caught up in a frenzy of reciprocal massacres.
The region of Volhynia, which had lain within Polish borders prior to World War II, was first occupied by the Soviets in 1939, and then by the Nazi Germans in 1941.
According to historians, up to 100,000 ethnic Poles were slaughtered in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia from 1943 to 1945 by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a guerrilla force that sought Ukrainian independence, and by local Ukrainians.
One of the darker stains of that legacy is represented by the village of Pawlokoma, where ethnic Ukrainian inhabitants were killed by a Polish military group in 1945. The Ukrainian and Polish presidents will attempt to come to terms with that tragedy by unveiling a memorial to the victims during their visit.
In March 1945, a detachment of Polish anti-Nazi guerrillas from the Home Army (AK) subordinated to the Polish emigre government in London shot to death hundreds of Ukrainian inhabitants of Pawlokoma. The Ukrainians were herded in a local Greek Catholic church, interrogated and likely tortured, and then taken to a local cemetery where they were executed.
The massacre was a retaliation for numerous killings of Poles from Pawlokoma and neighboring villages carried out by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
The UPA was created by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) in Nazi-occupied Ukraine in 1942. The armed force pursued the ideal of an independent Ukraine, which led it to fight Polish, Soviet, and Nazi forces at various times.
Reprisals by Poles claimed the lives of some 10,000-12,000 Ukrainians, including 3,000-5,000 in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia.
The postwar period only added to the Polish-Ukrainian record of mutual wrongs and prejudices. In 1947, the Polish communist government forcibly resettled some 140,000 Ukrainians from their native areas in southeastern Poland to Poland’s newly acquired northern and western territories. The official excuse for that mass expulsion was the desire to undercut the social base of support for the UPA in the area.