Ukrainians must stop 'falsifying' history says education minister

"Let us bury Poles with dignity, and honour their memory," said Czarnek. Marcin Obara/PAP

Poland’s education minister has called on Ukrainians to stop “falsifying history” in reference to a wartime massacre of tens of thousands of Poles at the hands of Ukrainian forces.

Eighty years ago, on July 11 and 12, 1943, Ukrainian ultra-nationalists launched a coordinated attack on the Polish inhabitants of 150 villages in Volhynia, which is now part of Ukraine but was then in eastern Poland.

It was the culmination of the wave of killings that had been going on since the beginning of 1943, and which would eventually claim the lives of an estimated 100,000 people in the Volhynia and Eastern Galicia regions. The slaughter has the collective name of the Volhynia Massacre.

The killings still cast a shadow over Polish-Ukrainian relations, and pose a diplomatic challenge for Warsaw.

The Polish government would like Kyiv to recognise the culpability of Ukrainians for the massacre, while at the same time avoiding a clash over history that could undermine Poland's strong relations with Ukraine forged by the Russian invasion.

Speaking about the massacre Przemyslaw Czarnek, when asked what gestures he would like the Ukrainians to make on the anniversary of the massacre said: "The first thing I would expect from Ukraine is not an apology, but that they stop falsifying history, and allow the exhumation of the remains of people who have been buried under rye, under wheat for 80 years, and they who rest unworthily."

He also claimed that, Ukrainians do not want to accept what their ancestors did.

Poland, he added, allowed Ukrainians to venerate the graves of their compatriots in Poland, but Poles were not afforded the same freedom in Ukraine.

According to the minister, the victims of the Volhynia Massacre must be exhumed and buried formally.

"Let us bury Poles with dignity, and honour their memory," said Czarnek.

Welcome to The First News weekly newsletter

Every Friday catch up on our editor’s top pick of news about Poland, including politics, business, life and culture. To receive your free email subscription, sign up today.