Polish President Andrzej Duda and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymir Zelensky, on Sunday were together in the Ukrainian town of Lutsk at an ecumenical mass to commemorate the victims of the Volhynia massacre.
After prayers, the two presidents together placed lights in front of the altar as a mark of respect for those approximately 100,000 murdered.
In two identical social media posts placed by each president in their respective languages, they stated that “Together we pay homage to all the innocent victims of Volhynia! Stronger together!”
On July 11 and 12, 1943, the Ukrainian Liberation Army (UPA) coordinated an attack on around 150 villages and townships inhabited by Poles in the Volhynia region. The attack took advantage of the fact that July 11 was a Sunday, a day when people congregated in churches. That day has been called “Bloody Sunday” as it was the day on which most of the slaughter took place and was the moment at which the ethnic cleansing being conducted by the Ukrainian nationalists was at its peak. The genocide claimed around 100,000 lives.
Małgorzata Gosiewska, the deputy speaker of the Polish parliament who was present at the commemoration ceremony at Lutsk cathedral, told Polish Press Agency (PAP) that this was a historic moment, but conceded that “time will tell how this will affect both our nations.” However, she felt that “these are big steps on the road to reconciliation which the Ukrainian side is making.”
“We have been prepared for reconciliation for a long time, but at last we have some understanding and willingness to act on the other side. I trust that the coming days will bring decisions to follow the gestures. That is what I expect,” she added.
Paweł Szrot, the Polish president’s chief aide, was hopeful that the exhumation of the remains of the victims of Volhynia will be resumed. “We are all counting on it,” he said.
The exhumations have been suspended and the Ukrainian side is under pressure to allow them to go ahead.