Volyn tragedy should not be used to mar relations between Ukrainians and Poles – statement by Kuchma and Kwasniewski
On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the tragic events in Volyn region, ex-president of Ukraine (1994-2005) Leonid Kuchma and ex-president of Poland (1995-2005) Alexander Kwasniewski have appealed to their countrymen with a request to do everything to prevent the commemoration of victims of past conflicts from becoming a pretext for the deterioration of relations between the two nations.
In a joint statement on the 70th anniversary of the Volyn tragedy made available to Interfax-Ukraine, Kuchma and Kwasniewski noted that the long history of the Ukrainian-Polish relations knew many bright pages and many tragic events.
"The tragedy that occurred in 1943-1944 in Volyn, Chelm region, Eastern Galicia remains a sore wound in the memory of Ukrainians and Poles. It swallowed the lives of tens of thousands of people turned into ashes villages and farms, and brought much suffering to both peoples. The causes of the tragedy had both historical and contemporary political character. Our ancestors paid dearly for the realization that the Ukrainian and Polish people should live in peace and friendship," the statement reads.
At the same time, Kuchma and Kwasniewski noted that the fall of non-democratic systems in both countries created a good foundation for mutual understanding and reconciliation between the peoples. Poland has become the first country to recognize Ukraine's independence in 1991.
The ex-presidents recalled that in the second half of the 1990s, the Polish and Ukrainian presidents have taken on the mission of patronage over the process of the Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation. "In May 1997, we signed a joint statement 'Towards understanding and unity', and in July 2003 a joint statement 'On the reconciliation on the 60th anniversary of the tragic events in Volyn.' We supported the maintenance of graves and the memory of those killed in Poland and in Ukraine. Our efforts culminated in the opening of a memorial at Lychakivske cemetery in Lviv. The foundations of mutual forgiveness and reconciliation were laid then," the statement reads.
On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the tragic events in Volyn, the ex-presidents asked the citizens of Ukraine and Poland to do everything possible so that the commemoration of the victims of past conflicts should not become a reason for the deterioration of relations between the two nations. They expressed the hope to see the continued progress of in the dialogue and rapprochement between the two peoples next year.