Polish foreign minister expects Volhynia victims to be honored by Ukraine before it joins the EU

By Grzegorz Adamczyk
3 Min Read

Any future EU membership for Ukraine must be contingent on the nation appropriately honoring the victims of the Volhynia massacre committed by Ukrainian nationalists against the Polish minority during World War II, Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau has said.

Speaking at a conference in London on the reconstruction of Ukraine, Zbigniew Rau said that the ongoing conflict in the country cannot cancel out the moral debt owed by Ukraine to the victims of the Volhynia massacre. He said that Poland is expecting its Ukrainian allies to do all that can be done to honor the dead before the country joins the EU.

Rau was responding to remarks made by the chief of the Ukrainian National Remembrance Institute, Anton Drobovych, who said that Ukraine would not allow for the resumption of exhumations of Volhynia victims until Poland restores the graves of Ukrainian Liberation Army (UPA) fighters who fought the Poles and the Soviets during World War II.

The Polish foreign minister said that Ukraine must be helped during the war with Russia by all possible means, as this was not only morally right but also in the Polish national interest. He added, however, that “the moral consideration which we have toward Ukraine in this war cannot cancel out our moral responsibilities toward the victims of the Volhynia massacre. This war has not made that responsibility any less important.”

The minister said that Poles carried the memory of Volhynia in their hearts and that they were part of Polish identity. He added that he had no doubt “this matter must be resolved fully before Ukrainian accession to the EU.”

Poland’s Institute of Remembrance (IPN) has refused to be drawn into exchanging insults with Drobovych, saying that he is not the decision maker on the issue of the exhumations. Instead, it pointed to the declarations made by the Ukrainian government in 2022 that the exhumations of the victims of Volhynia would be restarted. 

The Volhynia massacre took place in 1943-1944 and was carried out by Ukrainian nationalists against tens of thousands of Poles in territory occupied by the Germans. It was the culmination of the ethnic cleansing of Poles that had been organized by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

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