President, prime minister mark Volhynia Massacre anniversary

The Polish president and prime minister marked on Sunday the 78th anniversary of the 1943 Volhynia Massacre in which Ukrainian nationalists killed about 100,000 Polish nationals in the regions of Volhynia and Eastern Galicia (pre-WW2 eastern Poland).

"Today, independent Poland is paying homage to its murdered daughters and sons," President Andrzej Duda wrote in a message marking the National Day of Remembrance of the Massacre of Poles by Ukrainian nationalists.

"We do remember everything what happened to them in order to draw conclusions from the history for the future," Duda said.

Duda also stated that remembrance of this genocide was, above all, "an obligation to the future generations to consolidate the strength, sovereignty and security of Poland."

The president wrote that the crimes were directed against Poles, with ethnic cleansing in the region of pre-WW2 south eastern Poland being their aim. Duda also said that we should remember those who helped Poles, "the righteous, who were killed for their loyalty to the Christian commandment of mercy towards their fellowmen."

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki honoured the murdered Poles and praised the heroism of non-Poles, including Ukrainians, who sacrificed their lives to protect Polish nationals.

"We will never forget both the martyr's death of several dozen thousand Poles and the heroism of those who defended them," he wrote on Facebook.

"We will never allow this terrible and important chapter of our history to be erased from our memory," he added.

"Poland's aim is to have best possible relations with its neighbours. But they are possible only and solely on the foundation of complete truth about the most painful experience of the past," Morawiecki concluded.

In 1943-45, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), co-founded by Ukrainian national hero Stepan Bandera with his Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists faction, mass-slaughtered 35,000–60,000 Polish nationals in the then eastern-Polish region of Volhynia, and 25,000–40,000 in nearby Eastern Galicia. The purge, aimed to cleanse the areas of their Polish population, became known as the Volhynia Massacre. Its full victim count is still being debated.

The culmination of the massacre fell on Sunday, June 11, 1943, today known as the Volhynia Bloody Sunday. On that day, Ukrainian Insurgent Army units aided by the local Ukrainian population launched a simultaneous attack on around a hundred Polish settlements in Volhynia. The well-organised attack targeted people gathered for Sunday mass in Catholic churches.

Historians say around 100,000 Polish nationals were killed in the massacre. According to Poland's National Remembrance Institute, some 10,000-12,000 Ukrainians were murdered during Polish retaliatory operations by the spring of 1945.

Instituted in 2016 as the National Day of Remembrance of the Massacre of Poles by Ukrainian nationalists, the Volhynia Massacre anniversary is held on July 11 in memory of the so-called Volhynia Bloody Sunday.