Polish Institute of National Remembrance hopes cooperation can continue


The Institute of National Remembrance in Poland hopes that fruitful cooperation can continue with Ukrainian historians despite the change in management in the Ukrainian Institute. As reported here, the Cabinet of Ministers has in recent days appointed Valery Soldatenko, specialist and for many years lecturer on the history of the Soviet Communist Part [CPSU].

Over the last 10 years Poland and Ukraine have come a long way towards historical reconciliation. The greatest level of cooperation between Poland and Ukraine was achieved under Presidents Kuchma and Kwasniewski. It was at their initiative that dialogue began between historians which made it possible, for example, to open the “Cemetery of Young Eagles” [the Orłat War Cemetery] in Lviv. This cooperation intensified during Yushchenko’s period in office, during which time an Institute of National Remembrance was also created in Ukraine. Janusz Kortyka, who was killed in the plane crash at Smolensk in April, had, as Director of the Polish Institute, initiated the creation of a new Polish – Ukrainian Commission of Historians which drew up a “roadmap of cooperation”. As spokesperson from the Polish Institute Andrzej Arseniuk told the Ukrainian Service of Deutsche Welle that fruitful cooperation had also been developed with the Ukrainian Security Service [SBU]. “Last year the Ukrainian side handed us extremely valuable documents regarding the Katyń Tragedy. And we in turn hand Ukraine what we have in our archives. There is already a large number of volumes with archival material, especially those which concern the Great Terror and Holodomor in Ukraine”.

At the initiative of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance a book on Holodomor in Ukraine 1932-1933 was published in English. It was presented in the European Parliament, as well as in London and Paris. At the same time, according to Mr Arseniuk, the greatest weight on Polish-Ukrainian relations remains the Volyn Tragedy (cf. The Edge of National Memory).

In the light of recent studies, Polish historians believe that in the massacres of Polish in the Volyn and Lviv regions as many as one hundred thousand civilians may have been killed. On the other hand, the Polish Institute is broadening its field of research to include repression of Ukraine, in particular with respect to the two resettlements (Almost half a million Ukrainians were forcibly resettled between 1944 and 1951 from the Chelm, Peremysl, Yaroslavsk and other powiats to what was then the Ukrainian SSR] as well as the deportation of the rest of the Ukrainians to the North and West of Poland as part of the Wisła Actions.

Mr Arseniuk says that the Volyn Tragedy is still treated differently by the Ukrainian and Polish sides. He believes it vital that the issue is discussed, together with other questions, such as the role of the nationalist leader Stepan Bandera.

Hopes for continuation of dialogue

Meanwhile in Ukraine the Institute for National Remembrance has just received a new Head. Ihor Yukhnovsky has been replaced by a former researcher into Marxism – Leninism, the communist Valery Soldatenko.

In Poland where the Institute for National Remembrance is involved, among other things, with the uncovering and lustration of former communist functionaries, it would be hard to imagine that a communist would be appointed to the post. Furthermore in Poland the appointment takes place according to very complicated procedure, with a public competition and two votes in the two houses of parliament. Nonetheless, the representative of the Polish Institute expressed his hope that the cooperation between the two sides would not be negated. “It is not our place to assess these appointments. Of course cooperation always depends on the will of the two sides. On our part, we are open to the Ukrainian side. Our archivists are ready to continue exchanging documents and publishing books together. All depends on the other side”.

At the beginning of July an exhibition opened in Lviv on the history of the city during the Second World War which the Polish Institute considers a great success. In Warsaw they are hoping that this will not be the last major project carried out in cooperation with the Ukrainian side.


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