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Zelenskyy, Duda remember WWII Volhynia massacre victims

July 9, 2023

The Volhynia massacre, which took place between 1943 and 1945, has been a source of tension between Poland and Ukraine.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Polish President Andrzej Duda attend a church service, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Lutsk, Ukraine, July 9, 2023.
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, held commemorations at a church in LutskImage: Alina Smutko/REUTERS

The presidents of Ukraine and Poland together marked the anniversary of one of World War II's bloodiest episodes for the two countries, while visiting a church in the western Ukrainian city of Lutsk on Sunday.

"Together we pay tribute to all the innocent victims of Volhynia! Memory unites us!" the office of Polish President Andrzej Duda wrote on Twitter. "Together we are stronger."

Television footage showed Duda and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, inside the church during Sunday Mass.

"Together, we honor all the innocent victims of Volhynia," the Ukrainian president wrote both in Ukrainian and Polish on his Telegram account, adding: "Memory unites us! We are stronger together!"

What is the Volhynia massacre?

The Volhynia massacre took place between 1943 and 1945 during the Second World War. Ukrainian nationalists killed tens of thousands of Poles, in what the Polish Parliament says bore elements of genocide.

Kyiv rejects this categorization, and tensions over this episode in history have muddied the waters between the two allies.

Polish historians say Polish retaliatory operations killed up to 12,000 Ukrainians.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Polish President Andrzej Duda speak after commemorating victims of World War II at the Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Lutsk, Ukraine July 9, 2023.
The Volhynia massacre has for long muddied the waters between the two alliesImage: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/REUTERS

Earlier this year, a Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman said Zelenskyy should apologize and ask seek forgiveness for the massacre, prompting an unusually public row between the two otherwise friendly countries.

To diffuse the tension, Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk told the Polish Parliament in May that Kyiv understood Warsaw's pain over the events.

Ukraine has long referred to the events as part of a conflict with Poland that affected the two nations.

Warsaw has been one of Kyiv's staunchest supporters since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

rmt/nm (dpa, Reuters)