It’s interesting that all we get via our 5 eyes media is spin like… “everybody is on board’ with supporting Ukraine. But that’s not ever been true. Not even with Ukraine’s closest neighbours. Because Ukraine has an unpleasant history that is kept hidden.
Poland has emerged as one Ukraine’s most committed supporters during Russia’s invasion despite historical grievances between the neighboring nations that stir up bad feelings to this day.
The tensions between the country at war and its staunch ally were acknowledged Wednesday when President Zelensky made a state visit to Poland, where he was welcomed with honors.
President Duda promised that Poland would keep helping Ukraine fight off Russia’s aggression, but he also acknowledged at a joint news conference with Mr. Zelensky that the relationship was complicated.
“There are still open wounds in the memory of many people,” Mr. Duda said,
an obvious reference to the massacres of some 100,000 Poles by Ukrainian nationalists during the 1940s. Poland considers the killings genocide.
The difficult past in Poland-Ukraine relations goes back even further than that. In a part of Europe where entire nations have disappeared from maps for generations before returning from the ashes of collapsed empires, sometimes at the expense of neighbors, Poles and Ukrainians share a history of existential rivalry.
Polish and Ukrainian officials have mostly avoided addressing the old grievances openly as they focus on Ukraine’s survival and worry that Russian could exploit any divisions. It is, after all, a war whose outcome will determine Ukraine’s very existence and Poland’s own security for decades to come.
“In the future, there will be no borders between our peoples: political, economic and — what is very important — historical,” Mr. Zelensky said in a Telegram message before his meeting with Mr. Duda. “But for that we still need to gain victory. For that, we need to walk side by side a little more.“
Mr. Duda and other nationalist authorities face political pressure to make sure Polish suffering at Ukrainian hands is not forgotten, especially with the growing strength of a far-right party, Confederation, that has sometimes expressed anti-Ukrainian views. That party is also openly hostile to the European Union, which Ukraine hopes to join in the future.
A parliamentary election in Poland before the end of the year will be a test for the ruling party, Law and Justice, and determine whether it wins a third term.
Mr. Zelensky called Mr. Duda a friend and said Polish-Ukrainian relations have never been so good. At the same time, Mr. Duda insisted the past must not be forgotten and now was the right time to confront it.
“We cannot forget those who have perished in the past,” he said. “There are no taboo themes between us.”
Probably the thorniest point of contention is how to remember one of Ukraine’s national heroes, Stepan Bandera, the far-right leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists who briefly allied himself with Germany’s Nazis.
Efforts by Bandera-led forces to carve out an independent territory for Ukraine led them to perpetrate atrocities against Poles, Jews, and Soviets. Such subjects were off-limits during the Soviet era, when Ukraine was a Soviet republic and Moscow also controlled Poland.
Historians say that more than 100,000 Poles, including women and young children, perished at the hands of their Ukrainian neighbors in areas that were then situated in southeastern Poland and are mostly in Ukraine now.
The peak of the violence was on July 11, 1943, known as “Bloody Sunday,” when the Ukrainian insurgent fighters carried out coordinated attacks on Poles praying in or leaving churches in more than 100 villages, chiefly in the Volhynia region.
All is not well with Poland either... There will be borders. As Poland takes back it’s territory. That’s the outcome I’m seeing at this time.