It’s time to bury this corpse

Interview with Lukas Yasina (Łukasz Jasina) — historian, employee of the Polish Institute of international Affairs (PISM).


Gość Niedzielny: Polish language is closer to Ukrainian than to the Russian…


Lucas Yassin: Similarities it is even possible to calculate exactly the Ukrainians themselves often note the similarity of our languages.


– However, to negotiate with them about how to name the historical facts by their names, we have not obtained exactly the same as with the Russians. About problems with historical memory, or in our excessive fault-finding?


— Perhaps this problem relates primarily to Ukrainians, not poles. In Poland managed to spend a lot of difficult discussions on the topic of our history. Their results are more or less “digested” the Polish intelligentsia. In Ukraine such discussions had very little, it wasn’t anything like the apology of President Kwasniewski (Aleksander Kwaśniewski) in 2001 in Jedwabno or President Kaczynski (Lech Kaczyński) in the village of pawlokoma in 2007 (the mass murder of Ukrainians by the poles in 1945 — approx. Gość Niedzielny).


President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko in the past year knelt on the Volhynia square in Warsaw. Such a gesture is not enough?


— Kneel before the victims is an important gesture, lacking only a clear statement of who is responsible for the Volyn massacre. It’s like that to pay tribute to the victims of Auschwitz or wolska massacre (mass extermination of the inhabitants of Warsaw Wola district August 5-7, 1944 — approx. lane), but did not say who was the criminal.


Is amazingly it turns out that with the Ukrainians to find common language with historical issues we have been easier Kuchma or Yanukovich, which represented, rather, Russian interests. The modern cult of Bandera and UPA (banned in Russia organization — approx. ed.) is pronounced anti-Russian character, but at the same time it is absolutely unacceptable from our point of view.


— In Poland there is a myth that then it was easier, but it’s actually problems with the Volyn massacre already existed under Kuchma. For nearly 20 years (except during the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko), Ukraine tried not to turn the story in a fundamental aspect of political life. The motive of the Patriotic struggle of Ukrainians is not emphasized as much as it is now, trying to maintain a balance between post-Soviet anti-Soviet memory and tradition. We are dealing with history, drew criticism primarily for themselves. Initially, the poles denounced the action “Vistula” (mass deportation of Ukrainians from southeastern Poland in 1947 — approx. TRANS.), paid tribute to the memory of its victims and victims of other crimes that occurred on the territory of modern Poland. We for many years have given the Ukrainians a chance to reply, tried to smooth over the problem of Volhynia, to resolve it through compromise. However, no one imagined that the Ukrainians will not care about Polish feelings. Frankly, we have taught part of the Ukrainian elites to the fact that the poles do not require the Ukrainians too much.


– The source of the problem lies in the fact that Ukrainians consider Bandera a hero who helped their country to gain full independence, and the poles try to oust him from the pedestal?


— First of all, Stepan Bandera is a symbol of the specific military-political movement, with whom the poles have a problem. It is not in the figure itself. Ukrainian Institute of national memory is engaged in the glorification of the political movement, the head of which stood Bandera. Initially, this movement, working in 1941-1942, the Germans have committed terrible crimes against the Jews, and then cold-bloodedly killed thousands of poles in Eastern Galicia and in Volhynia. Adopted in 2015, the laws make the movement.


In Ukraine there is no cult of Bandera and UPA cult, and this is the main problem. Ukrainians find it difficult to realize that the comparison of this cult, for example, with reverence in Poland józef piłsudski (Józef Piłsudski) is not quite appropriate. Of course, everyone can choose their own heroes, but here the situation looks as if the Germans suddenly began to honor Nazi criminals and the Austrians — to erect monuments to Hitler. Same problem on the basis of history remain with us with Russia, which also are not willing to repent for the genocide against the Polish people.


Ukrainian historians, who write unbiased books on this topic and consider including the Polish point of view, challenging. The author is perhaps best Ukrainian monograph on the Polish-Ukrainian conflict during the Second world war, historian, Ihor Ilyushin, can’t find a job. It seems that many Ukrainians are not ready for such a debate. The genocide of poles trying to portray the Polish-Ukrainian peasant war, but this is wrong, because in this case the responsibility for it rests with the entire Ukrainian people. The Ukrainian Institute of national memory, which now sets the tone for the historic policy that puts at the forefront the glorification of the UPA and the Ukrainian revolution of 1919-1922 years. Ironically, glorifying the struggle with the Russians, the Ukrainians come into conflict with the poles. We, recognizing the right of Ukrainians to choose heroes that can’t accept that such heroes were people guilty of mass crimes.


– Perhaps the problem arises precisely because the Ukrainians have no alternative? The UPA associate it mostly with the confrontation of the Soviet Union, and that this movement was anti-Polish in nature, they do not know everything.


— The Ukrainians have a lot of heroes, on which to build a positive historical policy addressing the theme of the struggle with Russia and the desire for independence. Meanwhile, Ukrainians do not know much about what was the real role of the UPA, and the historical politics involved people who, for political reasons best idealization of this movement, the creation of the myth.


Poland, in turn, needs to translate into Ukrainian and English language work that occurred during the Second world war. You need to create the Polish historical Institute in Kiev and the Ukrainian — in Warsaw that will focus on the discussion of historical topics. Such institutions (they are, for example, Poland and Germany) will allow discussions to move from the political level to the level of those organizations. Now Ukraine’s desire to compromise with Poland in historical matters we can not see.


Germany was perhaps simpler: a strong partner who has to apologize, in a greater degree felt obligated to lend a hand. Ukraine, even if she is aware of guilty, harder to initiate, because Poland is a strong point. Perhaps this is the problem of psychological properties?


— Now in Ukraine believe that Poland is more interested in Ukraine, and not Vice versa. Many Ukrainian politicians and journalists often stress that they can count on the support of other allies from the EU: Germany, France, Lithuania. Poland Ukraine is no longer needed. They think that we need it because it plays the role of a buffer zone that separates our country from Russia.


– We have to admit that Ukrainians are largely right, because that is why Poland chose the political course, the essence of which can be expressed by the slogan “Polish and Ukrainian brothers”.

— From an objective point of view, Kiev is a much more complex situation than Warsaw, so he needs an Alliance with our country. The Ukrainian elite must understand that the poles attach great importance to historical topics. Now Ukraine is not appreciate contact with Poland, and because of this don’t realize the scale of the problems that have arisen in our bilateral relations.


Therefore, the day when Ukrainians got the right to enter the EU without a visa, President Poroshenko has appeared on the border with Slovakia, not Poland?


It was a fairly empty gesture, because Warsaw is the main “advocate” of Ukraine in the Association agreement. She deserved token. Frankly, these problems in historical politics have become for the Ukrainian leadership an excuse to not to give Poland a special significance. Meanwhile, topics such as the Volyn massacre is an unexploded bomb. 20 years ago it was little known even here, but now it has become part of our national memory. Ukrainians do not understand that they will have to deal with this problem.


– Why have them if she’s not worried, and in Poland they are not interested?


— This could cast a shadow on the perception of Ukrainians and the Ukrainian government in Poland. Ukrainians should understand that the conflict with Warsaw it is unprofitable. Unfortunately, the present Ukrainian elite, apparently, unable to do so. They really don’t see the point in resolving this conflict, since Poland seems im not important enough partner to go to her assignment.


– Do we become with such an unexploded bomb easy target for Russian manipulation, because Russia always uses the conflicts to their advantage?


— Ukrainian society is aware that the provocations are possible, but in the end, you can choose the easy way out in many areas and begin to attribute everything to Russia. If we want the project which you mentioned, “Polish and Ukrainian brothers” turned out to be successful, these brothers will have to tell each other the truth. It is impossible to hide the corpse in the closet, sooner or later he will fall. It’s time to let him do it, talk about it, and then together to bury him.