Poles living in Ukraine demand autonomy
Poles in the Zhitomir Region want to form autonomy with broad self-governance rights on the territory of Ukraine. According to the statements made by some representatives of that ethnic minority, “over the last decades they have been going through difficult times being prosecuted and discriminated against by the Ukrainian authorities”. The Polish authorities support the idea to unite with their historic homeland. Over the past few years they have been freely handing out Polish passports on Ukrainian territory anyway.
With Warsaw’s approval the Ukrainian Poles started to demand that the authorities in Kiev give back TV broadcasting in Polish, revive the Polish street names in Zhitomir Region and open kindergartens and schools with the Polish language.
Nationalists in Poland itself also came alive. The radical nationalist party of Ruch Narodowy together with the Hungarian Jobbik Party has published a joint statement demanding autonomy for the Poles and Hungarians living on the territory of Ukraine. In Warsaw maps are being published that show parts of Ukrainian territory as “originally polish”.
According to Albina Noskova, an expert at the Institute for Slavic Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, despite the apparent friendship between the Polish and Ukrainian nations, these ethnic groups rather have a love-hate relationship. The Poles can still not forgive their neighbors for the 1943 massacre in Volhynia and the subsequent inclusion of the Polish territories in Ukraine.
“In reality, the Ukrainian territories that used to belong to Poland have turned into a base for the Ukrainian nationalistic movement. The Poles do remember that, as the issue of the Volhynia Massacre is very difficult. The Ukrainians started the massacre in early 1943. It was a vicious killing of the Polish population, including children and women. The figures of the Poles killed back then vary: from 50-60 thousand to 80-100 thousand victims”.
The Volhynia Massacre remains an apple of discord in the relations between Kiev and Warsaw, thinks Tatyana Tsaryovskaya-Dyakina of the Russian State Archives of Social and Political History.
“To date that subject is very sensitive for the Polish people and the Polish state, as well as for the Ukrainian people on the other side. Each time the issue of the Volhynia Massacre comes up (the term itself implies that the Ukrainians were cutting out the Poles), there comes an answer: “The Poles did exactly the same thing”. And that is also true. But the percentage of victims of the two sides was different. Ones were pushed into a church, the others into a chapel – and burned down”.
The numerous visits of Polish politicians to Maidan in Kiev only confirm Warsaw’s desire to add the Ukrainian territories where ethnic Poles live to Poland. In the situation of instability in Ukraine the Poles have a good pretext, as they believe, to “cut a tidbit” from the neighbor’s territory.