Archive for July 4th, 2013

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Svoboda protests Polish President’s visit to Lutsk on 14th July

July 4, 2013

Last week, I highlighted the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church’s apology to Poland for the heinous acts that occurred in 1943 at Volhynia and throughout Eastern Galicia.

An apology accepted by the Catholic Church in Poland, calling it “free from nationalist or backwards thinking”.

A step toward reconciliation – at least between the Greek Orthodoxy in Ukraine and the Catholic Church of Poland and their respective adherents.

It seems, however, that the forthcoming visit of the Polish President, Bronislaw Koromorski and his planned visit to Lutsk to remember the Poles slaughtered there in WWII is being framed by the Ukrainian nationalist Svoboda Party as a “provocation”.

It seems like Bronislaw Komorowski wants to come to symbolically humiliate the Ukrainians who fought for independence, and introduce them as murderers. I am convinced that Komorowski has no business being in Lutsk after months of anti-Ukrainian hysteria from Polish politicians… People may accept his initiative as a provocation.” – Anatoliy Vitiv MP Svoboda Party 

A “provocation”?  Surely that depends on what – if anything – the Polish President says when commemorating the deaths of so many people.  The Polish parliament has yet to define any wording of a resolution relating to the incidents in 1943, and thus until that occurs, the Polish President has no official wording of the Polish position to follow – or disregard – in any statements he may make.  His words may prove provocative or conciliatory.

The official position of Ukraine is yet to be known also.

I must admit I find it impossible to accommodate or accept the actions at Volhynia and East Galicia in 1943 with regards to what amounts to ethnic cleansing – to the point of removing all traces of “Polish-ness” in that area.  Other acts that genuinely fought for Ukrainian independence against the armed forces of both Soviets and Nazis alike, I can accept and understand.

I appreciate to some in 1943 it may have seemed like a necessary – if unpalatable – plan to create a space for a Ukrainian State – but the manner in which this plan created, authorised and carried out by a would-be Ukrainian leadership is indefensible – It is no different to Srebrenica, only 19 years ago – which has rightly been classed as a war crime.

One has to ask, with Svoboda purportedly supporting EU trajectory and democracy, why its members are stating that the head of state of one of Ukraine’s most steadfast supporters within the EU should not be welcomed in Ukraine at any time – let alone to visit a site on the eve of a massacre that took so many lives – even if events surrounding it are challenged in some quarters.

If the situation was reversed, Sovoboda would call it a “provocation” from a supposed EU ally if they wanted to visit a site of the slaughter of Ukrainians within Polish territory and were refused?

If Ukraine receives an official request to visit from a foreign head of state with which it has friendly relations – particularly one from a nation that has steadfastly supported  the Ukrainian cause within the EU – how and why should it refuse?  How is such a refusal going to be viewed by those who doubt the Ukrainian cause?

I have no objection to Svoboda speaking out over the issue – that is a democratic right – though I wince at how the statement is worded and the way they are trying to frame the visit as a “provocation” against Ukrainian society.  I have no problem with any peaceful demonstration that may occur during the visit either.  That is yet another democratic right.

However, it is the sign of a democratic and tolerant nation, a democratic party, and a democratic and tolerant society, that nationals and visitors alike, can exercise their right to freedom of movement, expression and speech.

Considering Svoboda’s formal association with UDAR, Batkivshchyna and a RADA declaration they signed relating to EU trajectory – and with numerous claims to be champions of democracy engaged in a battle with undemocratic forces – they must wholly agree with the right for Komorowski to exercise such rights within Ukraine either when acting as a head of state or private individual.

If so then the democratic normative of free movement (including to Volhynia), freedom of expression (commemorating those slaughtered) will be tolerated for a visiting European head of state, no differently than it is for many thousands of Jews who visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman every year.

The anti-Svoboda feelings are already becoming entrenched within the European Parliament, regardless of which European Parliament party you care to examine.  Pressure for UDAR and Batkivshchyna to disengage at the earliest opportunity is consistent and a matter of public record from MEPs.

One hopes that if this visit occurs and if President Komorowski visits Lutsk, any peaceful protests from those with nationalist sympathies remain consistent with democracy, tolerance and the rule of law.

Any disintegration from that will undoubtedly further entrench the anti-Svoboda emotions across the EU and amongst many of Ukraine’s most stalwart supporters within – and that will have consequences – particularly if an opposition coalition comes to power that includes Svoboda.

Let us hope all occurs without serious incident.

Post Script:  I am well aware that Poland is without an unblemished history.  Most established old European nations are without unblemished histories – particularly those that had empires – and thus I readily include my own when it comes to guilt in what would today be classed as crimes against humanity, either by direct action or indirect manipulation of ethnic divides.

However to hide behind comparatives and state “well they did it too and are equally as guilty”  is no excuse and is nothing but “nationalist or backwards thinking“.  Crimes against humanity are just that – regardless of who committed them or when – and in no way should they be mitigated by stating others have done it as well –  They are what they are, shameful and uncomfortable as they may be.

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