I should like to commend Tadeusz Olszanski on a relatively even commentary entitled “Ukraine's wartime nationalism.” There are however several inaccuracies and at least two have caught my attention in particular. The first ascribes “crimes” to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) “not only those against ethnic Poles” and the second characterizes the scale of fighting of the UPA against the Third Reich as “exaggerated beyond measure.”
Naturally, my position is subjective as that of Mr. Olszanski since I am a Ukrainian nationalist and a fervent admirer of the UPA struggle. I am an attorney by profession, merely a student of history, and words like “crimes” have specific meaning. I do not wish to waste anyone's time on historical facts not in dispute, to wit: Ukrainians and Poles were enemies before and during World War 2 and the region of Volyn among other regions was a battlefield between the two people throughout the 1940's with many casualties; the fighting between Ukrainians and Poles was on ethnographic Ukrainian territory; Ukrainian armed forces never invade ethnographic Polish territory; Nazi Germany invaded ethnographically Ukrainian territory in 1941 and remained at least through the better part of 1944. Historically, Ukrainians never invaded Poland, Poles invade Ukraine three times. I hope that Mr. Olszanski stipulates to these facts.
In ascribing crimes to a group or a formation I hope that Mr. Olszanski did not ascribe the individual crimes of some Ukrainians to the UPA. Similarly I would not ascribe the crimes of individual Poles to the Polish Armija Krajiowa (AK). The region of Volyn in 1943 while historically ethnographically Ukrainian was populated also by Polish colonizers. In the conflict among the Nazis, Soviet partisans, the UPA and the AK many civilians perished, in particular Poles and Ukrainians with the former in greater numbers perhaps While there were more Ukrainians than Poles in Volyn, the greater number of Polish victims was attributable to the fact that Polish colonizers were much more active politically than their more passive Ukrainian neighbors who and their ancestors had resided in Volyn for centuries.
This colonizing phenomenon was not unusual in western Ukrainian territory occupied by Poland prior to World War 2. Imperial Poland had a policy of colonizing particularly important cities and regions with its own ethnics. Furthermore, Ukrainians resided largely in villages. In some instances this policy went to an extreme. A striking example is the composition of the Ukrainian city of Lviv in 1941 when the Nazis invaded. Lviv was 63% Polish, 24% Jewish and only 11% Ukrainian.
The UPA and the AK were essentially guerrilla formations reliant on the support of the civilian populations where they fought. The struggle was severe with many actors including the Nazis and Soviet partisans. Civilians were often participants and not simply bystanders. In addition many civilians suffered from collateral damage.
However, inasmuch as a “crime” of the UPA requires evidence of intent I would challenge Mr. Olszanski to produce any document from the UPA or OUN central command evidencing an intent of ethnic cleansing in Volyn. I am certainly prepared to produce such a directive evidencing an intent of ethnic cleansing issued by Polish authorities in indigenous Ukrainian regions of western Poland in 1947 when pursuant to “Akcija Wisla” Poland murdered, interned or forcibly dislocated some 150,000 Ukrainians from those regions.
Regarding the scale of UPA fighting against the Third Reich, at least one fact is indisputable. The UPA was formed in 1942 to fight the Third Reich. Given the time of the UPA's formation and who were Ukraine's occupiers at the time, the evidence is clear. Furthermore, many documents both on the Ukrainian and the German sides evidence this fight. Prior to the German invasion of western Ukraine the OUN issued a memorandum to Hitler stating unequivocally that should Germany not accept an independent Ukrainian state, Ukrainians would be Germany's bitter enemies. Germany invaded June 22, 1941, reached Lviv by June 30, the OUN proclaimed an independent Ukrainian state on that day, the Nazis arrested the OUN leadership within a few weeks and the fighting ensued. Many OUN members were transported to Nazi concentration camps, most prominently Auschwitz. The remaining OUN leaders formed the UPA to fight the Nazis. Inasmuch as there were other national formations on Western Ukrainian territory at that time and more significantly after the Soviets took over western Ukraine a second time, the UPA fought the other invaders as well. By 1944 the Nazis had been removed from Ukrainian territory. The UPA fought the Poles both communist and AK on Ukrainian territory which became part of the Polish Peoples' Republic into the late 1940's and the Soviets on Ukrainian territory within the Ukrainian SSR into the 1950's.
In concluding I should like to thank Mr. Olszanski for his largely objective commentary on current Ukrainian nationalism. I look forward to extensive cooperation today between Poland and Ukraine in confronting the Russian menace.