A hunt for the graves of Poles murdered during the Second World War by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) will go ahead after the Ukrainian authorities agreed to the search.
The decision was announced on social media on Friday by the Freedom and Democracy Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, which had sought Kyiv’s consent for the search, and possible exhumations.
The foundation said on its Facebook profile that on November 2 it had obtained the Ukrainian authorities’ consent to start looking for the graves of Poles murdered by the UPA in February 1945 in the village of Puzniki in Podolia, western Ukraine.
“We thank the Ukrainian authorities for this important decision as well as all representatives of the Republic of Poland, in particular the President, Prime Minister, and the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, who took steps to enable the search and exhumation of our compatriots, whose remains rest in Ukraine,” the foundation said.
The Ukrainian decision was also confirmed by the Polish Foreign Ministry.
“The Ukrainian side has informed us with a formal note that search work with the participation of Polish specialists in Ukraine will be possible,” Poland’s deputy foreign minister, Marcin Przydacz, told PAP.
He said that Ukraine’s formal notification of the possibility of searching “is a big change to how the Ukrainian authorities previously approached this situation.”
“We are pleased with this change. We believe it is a step in a very good direction,” Przydacz added.
On the night of February 13 and 14, 1945, a UPA unit, under the command of Petro Chamczuk, raided Puzniki. During the assault, almost 100 people were murdered.
Will the exhumation work begin later this year?
Marcin Dancewicz, vice-president of the board of the Freedom and Democracy Foundation, which is involved, among other things, in the search for the burial sites of Poles in the Kresy and their commemoration, asked when the exhumation work can be expected to start explains that it is necessary to complete all the formalities, which are more complicated due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
“Fortunately, the site is far from the front, nevertheless, for understandable reasons, some obstacles have to be reckoned with – curfews, restrictions on movement between Ukrainian regions, etc. We are optimistic that exploration could begin later this year. Counter-intuitively, this is easier during mild winters, when lush vegetation does not prevent people from reaching the site. However, it seems more feasible to start these activities in spring 2023,” explains Dancewicz.