On July 22, 2016, the Polish parliament lower house, with 432 votes out of the possible 460 cast, passed the resolution establishing July 11 as National Remembrance Day “In memory of the victims of genocide – citizens of the Second Rzeczpospolita – committed by Ukrainian Nationalists from 1943-1945”. President of Ukraine Poroshenko used to hailing UPA members as “heroes” must have experienced burst of emotions on that day. Poroshenko swiftly voiced his regret over the decision of the Polish Sejm, though at that moment he was still cherishing hope for the things to make a better turn: Sejm had rejected to consider punishment for the murderers declaring instead that “only complete historical justice is the road to unity and mutual forgiveness”. However, not all the politicians in Poland turned out to be ready to “unity and forgiveness” and now in Sejm there’s quite serious debating under way to equate UPA fighters and SS members. The idea behind this is to legally declare military criminals all the persons who were formally enlisted into OUN-UPA. This initiative was launched by the group of the deputies representing the Law and Justice party.
The deputies insist on introduction of the comprehensive ban on any symbols relating UPA, and on introducing criminal responsibility for rehabilitation, approval, and justification of UPA, as well as for making this organization’s criminal activities subject to any doubts or complete denial.
The independent deputy Yanush Sanotsky also believes the time is ripe now for solving the issue of compensations for the UPA victims, though it is the International Court that is really able to put the lid on the matter.
The recent speech at the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada of the Israeli president Reuven Rivlin appears to have pushed Sejm to more decisive actions. Rivlin, in particular, reminded of the Ukrainian nationalists’ involvement in WWII crimes against the Jews.
Further on, it can’t be excluded that the Polish deputies had secured the backing of their Israeli colleagues, the ardent fighters against the Holocaust denial and attempts to rehabilitate the Nazi criminals and their accomplices.
“The decision to honor UPA fighters, the Nazi collaborators during WWII, turns those Hitler’s henchmen into heroes”, points Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the director for Eastern European Affairs at Wiesenthal Center, engaged in exploring Holocaust and opposing racism, anti-Semitism, and terrorism. “As for the attempts to rewrite history, which are prevalent throughout post-Communist Eastern Europe, they can never erase the crimes committed by Nazi collaborators in these countries, and only prove they clearly lack the Western values which they claim to have embraced upon their transition to democracy”, he added.