In Europe - East, Ukraine

By Maria Kislykh, New Cold, April 10, 2017

Photo showing rocket grenade attack against Polish consultate in Lutsk, western Ukraine on March 29, 2017

KRAKOW, Poland – During the night of 28 to 29 March, the General Consulate of Poland in the city of Lutsk, Volyn region of western Ukraine, was hit by an explosion to an upper story window. Police suspect that the main weapon used was a grenade launcher. (Report in  Volyn Post).

The Polish consulate in Lutsk reacted instantly by suspending operations. The same day, closings were made to the consular section of the Polish embassy in Kyiv and the other Polish consulates in Ukraine – Kharkiv, Odessa, Lviv and Vinnitsa. The process of getting Schengen Area visas for Ukrainians traveling to Poland was suspended for seven days.

Polish Consul-General Krzysztof Sawicki called the night’s incident “a true terrorist attack”.  In the aftermath, Petro Poroshenko and Andrzej Duda, the presidents of Ukraine and Poland, both condemned the attack on Polish Consulate.

“The president has strongly condemned the attack on the Polish General Consulate in Lutsk and has ordered the authorities to immediately use all means necessary to clarify this incident and to find those guilty,” a spokesman for Poroshenko said on Facebook.

Ukrainian politicians, including Zorian Shkiriak, advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, and Andrii Deshchytsia, the Ukrainian ambassador in Warsaw, have expressed a theory regarding the motives of this crime. Deshchytsia said: “Parties which are not interested in good Polish-Ukrainian relations are behind [the attack]”, adding: “It is Russia without a doubt.”

In Ukraine and in Poland, several political figures hint at the existence of a ‘third force’ behind the attack on the consulate, referring specifically to Moscow trying to destabilise the situation in Ukraine and worsen the relationship between Ukraine and Poland. Among the Ukrainian figures voicing versions of this are Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, a Ukrainian politician and journalist, and Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin.

The March 29 attack was not the first attack this year against Polish institutions in Ukraine. The Lviv region has seen several incidents where  monuments dedicated to Polish history in Ukraine and gravestones of Poles were defiled. For example, on January 8, vandals blew up a memorial to Poles who were killed during a special German-Ukrainian nationalist military operation. The killings took place on February 28, 1944 in the village of Huta Pieniacka, near the city of Brody. Historical estimates of the number of victims in Huta Pieniacka range from 500 to 1,200

Brody is located some 90 km north of the city of Lviv. It was once part of Polish territory. The destroyed monument was restored by the Ukrainian community there. Both sides expressed their hope for starting all over again and building a stronger relationship between Ukraine and Poland.

Last year, several acts of vandalism occurred in Poland against monuments to the ultranationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army. (Report in Sputnik Polska.)

Despite the official position of politicians from both countries advocating close cooperation, there are growing signs of tension on both sides. Very different historical interpretations from the World War Two era are at play.

On July 22, 2016, the Polish Parliament officially recognized the Volyn Massacre as genocide. Tens of thousands of Poles were massacred and larger numbers fled the Volhynia region of what is Ukrainian territory today in an ethnic cleansing operation conducted by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) beginning in March 1943 and lasting through 1944. (Wikipedia.)

This history came to the fore in Poland in 2016 following the release of the film Volhynia, a Polish WW2 historical drama directed by Wojciech Smarzowski. The movie displays extreme, graphic violence, including scenes of the UPA killing Poles. The film was never shown in cinemas in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, as part of the ongoing ‘decommunization’ drive by the Maidan government in Kyiv, Moscow Avenue in Kyiv was renamed Stepan Bandera Avenue. He was the most infamous of the extreme-right leaders of Ukrainian nationalists. He is considered personally responsible for the deaths of thousands of Poles during the war. In Ukraine, he is presented by ultra-nationalists as a heroic fighter and symbol for Ukrainian independence.

The whole situation between the two countries is a grand, historical paradox that cannot be discussed easily since both sides have completely opposing perspectives. Yet the governments of the two countries are both right wing and conservative, and both profess loyalty to the threats and military buildup against Russia by NATO military alliance.

We can ignore the frictions between Poland and Ukraine and choose to hypothesize about a “third party” that wants to rupture relations between Ukrainians and Poles. But with nationalist movements rising in both countries and adhering to very different views of the same historical events, further clashes seem likely.  Sooner or later.

Maria Kislykh is a student of film and communication from Ukraine studying in Krakow, Poland. Krakow is the second largest city in Poland, located app 225 km west of the border of Ukraine and app 300 km west of the city of Lviv, Ukraine.


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