Stepan Bandera – a new symbol of Ukraine?

Marek Jurek

President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko awarded to Stepan Bandera the title of Hero of Ukraine. Bandera was the leader of OUN-B (Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists – the fraction of Bandera’s supporters), which was the military wing of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. These organisations are fully responsible for the massacres of the Polish population in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. The purpose of the ‘politics’, especially in Volhynia, was a total elimination of the Polish life. Poles were to be killed or forced to leave their houses. This was the plan but in practice women and children were often murdered, without being given a change to escape. Those crimes were not – as the defenders of UPA try to justify – only bloodier elements of the chain of violence. The principles of Bandera’s ‘politics’ were defined by the official OUN documents written many years before World War II, ‘you will treat the enemies of your nation with hatred and trap’, ‘the Ukrainian nationalism does not take into account any universal principles of solidarity, justice, mercy, humanitarianism’, ‘every way that leads to the highest aim is our way regardless of being called heroism or dirty trick by others’. Stepan Bandera was the co-founder of the Ukrainian units allied with the Germans during World War II. However, after the Ukrainian state in the Republic of Poland was announced in 1941 he was arrested by the Germans and imprisoned in the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen (his two brothers, who were also involved in the nationalistic activities, were imprisoned and killed in Auschwitz). During that time the Security Service of OUN, founded by Bandera, and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, created by his followers, conducted genocide of the Polish population in the territory of their activities. That cannot be erased by the fact that Bandera’s troops fought against the Soviets for Ukraine’s independence. Nobody denies that. But it is the followers of Bandera that denied the fact of the genocide of the Polish people. Even President Viktor Yushchenko did not acknowledge the massacres despite his intention to honour Bandera officially. We do not want the Ukrainians to look at their history from the Polish perspective. We should look at our common, difficult history together in a critical and Christian way. Both Hetman Skoropadski and Waclaw Lipinski, who created the Ukrainian conservatism, were Poland’s opponents. But Viktor Yushchenko did not choose them as patrons of new Ukraine in his sovereign act as the President who was not subject to elections. Honouring Bandera Ukraine did not only honour the justified fight of the Ukrainian nationalists against the Soviet Union but also the massacres that were not condemned and morally reckoned up. And only by condemning those crimes we can reach mutual understanding. Future relationships cannot be built on silence concenring the crimes that have not been condemned and on deformations of the memory about the victims. In long perspective, such false ‘reconciliation’ will always create aversion, misunderstanding of one’s reasons, injustice and consequently, it will lead to hostility. The only way to avoid being led astray in dialogue is to get to know the truth.

"Niedziela" 6/2010

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: