During the commemoration of the Day of Memory of the Victims of Genocide, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stated that the anniversary marked “the best time to condemn the murder of Polish civilians by Ukrainians” during World War II and to pay tribute by building proper graves for the victims.

The Polish President has highlighted that “only the full truth about the violence that Poland describes as a genocide can strengthen bilateral ties with its neighbor in the future.”

“Let this truth in fact serve as a foundation… for new relations between our nations and societies,” Duda said during last week’s observance.

The truth about the horrifying wartime massacres (between 1942 and 1945) had to be “firmly and stated,” the Polish President added, and has urged the Ukrainian capital to recognize the ethnic cleansing of Poles by the latter’s nationalist militias.

Despite the two countries’ deplorable past, Duda stressed that the nation’s efforts to support Ukraine against the invasion of Russia prove that they have no plan for retaliation.

That Fateful Sunday of July 1943

At the height of the wartime violence, a group of Ukrainian Nationalists carried out a well-orchestrated simultaneous mass killing raid on over 100 Polish settlements within the Volhynia region on July 11, 1943. The death squad mercilessly murdered dozens of civilians who unknowingly attended church mass on that “Bloody Sunday.”

Wehrmacht soldiers showed alleged German victims
Wehrmacht soldiers showed alleged German victims to journalists on Bloody Sunday. One of many photos used by Nazi propaganda. The image bears the editor’s cropping marks, showing a portion of the idea that was intended to be used for publication. (Heinz Fremke, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Decades later, Poland established the day of memory in 2016 and has recognized that the events constituted a genocide – a term both Duda and Morawiecki used in their speeches.

The offending country, however, has not accepted that declaration and often refers to the Volhynia events as part of a conflict between Poland and Ukraine, organized by the latter’s independent fighters. These same nationalist fighters later play a significant role in paving the sovereignty of Ukraine.