back to top

    Unveiling a Painful Past: Polish Archaeologists Search for a Mass Grave of UPA Victims in Ukraine

    For several weeks now, Polish archaeologists have been conducting search operations at the cemetery in the no longer existing village of Puźniki in Ukraine. Their objective is to locate a mass grave from 1945, which holds the remains of up to 80 individuals murdered by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). These efforts represent the only ongoing project of this kind in Ukraine.

    The Anti-Soviet resistance by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, (UPA - the initials of the Ukrainska Povstanska Armiya) was a guerrilla war waged by Ukrainian nationalist partisan formations against the Soviet Union in the western regions of the Ukrainian SSR and southwestern regions of the Byelorussian SSR, during and after World War II.

    The cemetery excavation is being carried out by experts from the Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin and the Institute of National Remembrance. Monika Kalka, an archaeologist from the Pomeranian Medical University, explains that they have been searching for the mass grave from 1945 for over a month. Currently, they are engaged in strictly archaeological search operations while relying on accounts provided by witnesses to those tragic events.

    Drawing on plans and aerial photographs from 1944, the archaeologists are attempting to pinpoint the burial site. They are searching for a grave measuring 18 meters in length, where, according to the testimonies of the interred, between 60 and 80 individuals were laid to rest between February 12th and 13th. Ukrainian archaeologists, collaborating with their Polish counterparts, are conducting archaeological drillings in areas inaccessible to excavators, allowing for even more detailed investigations.

    The village of Puźniki vanished from the map in 1945 following the UPA attack. Dozens of people, primarily women and children, were killed during the assault and buried in a mass grave at the local cemetery. Maciej Dancewicz from the Freedom and Democracy Foundation emphasizes that the aim of their work is to properly commemorate these individuals and provide them with a dignified burial. He further underscores that the majority of the victims were women and children, indicating that it was not an action directed against the Polish resistance, but a ruthless attack on defenseless civilians.

    Dancewicz acknowledges that obtaining permission to conduct these operations in Ukraine was complex. Initially, there was significant resistance, but the situation has changed, and the team has garnered support from the Ukrainian government. This is a breakthrough development that may pave the way for further research and memorials.

    During a visit to the burial site, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki expressed his commitment to locating all burial sites related to the horrific crimes of the Volhynian massacres and the Eastern Galicia massacres. He emphasized that it is their duty to the survivors and the memory of all those who perished. The Prime Minister also noted that the tragedy unfolded not only in Volhynia but also in the areas referred to as Eastern Galicia.

    The work carried out by Polish archaeologists in Puźniki, Ukraine, not only aims to uncover a painful history but also represents an important step towards reconciliation and deepening mutual understanding between nations. These efforts contribute to a better understanding of the past and ensure that the victims who lost their lives in these tragic events are appropriately commemorated.

    More in section