Volhynia victims commemorated in European Parliament in Brussels

The victims of the World War II Volhynia Massacre were commemorated in the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, with the launch of an exhibition entitled "Unfinished Volhynia Holy Masses," about Polish clergymen killed in the massacre.

The exhibition was opened on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the so-called Bloody Sunday, the culmination of the Volhynia Massacre in 1943.

Poland's ruling Law and Justice party MEP Tomasz Poreba, who was behind the exhibition, said at the unveiling that "the genocide perpetrated on the Polish population continues to cast a shadow on Polish-Ukrainian relations."

"We should always remember it and loudly call for historical justice," the lawmaker added.

The exhibition features archival photos and biographical information concerning 25 priests from the then-Polish diocese of Lutsk (now southern Ukraine), killed by Ukrainian nationalists during World War II.

As Leon Popek of the Institute for National Remembrance (IPN), which co-organised the exhibition, explained, Polish churches were often the last refuge of Volhynia's persecuted Polish residents and it was there that many of them, and their priests, met their death. The Polish population, which numbered almost 400,000 before the war, fell to no less than 2-3,000 by 1947, the historian added.

"This shows the scale of the destruction brought about during the war," Popek noted. "Today, merely a few percent of the victims are commemorated by a modest cross or a monument," the IPN scholar said, "in the majority of cases, we do not even know where their graves are situated."

The Volhynia Massacre of Polish nationals in the pre-war eastern-Polish regions of Volhynia and Galicia started on July 11, 1943, when the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) attacked some 100 Polish villages. July 11 marks the massacre's culmination throughout the Volhynia district in what became known as the Volhynia Bloody Sunday.

According to historians, around 100,000 Polish nationals were killed in the massacre, including 40,000-60,000 in Volhynia and 20,000-40,000 in Eastern Galicia, and at least 4,000 on the territory of today's Poland. According to Poland's National Remembrance Institute, some 10,000-12,000 Ukrainians were murdered during Polish retaliatory operations by the spring of 1945.