On Friday, Poles flocked to theaters to watch Volyn, a new historical drama by director Wojciech Smarzowski which depicts the atrocities committed by Ukrainian nationalists during WWII. Even before it was released, Ukrainian commentators blasted the film. Some now fear that movie could help ruin Polish-Ukrainian relations.
During the Second World War, at the same time that millions of Ukrainians fought Nazi Germany in the ranks of the Red Army, several hundred thousand nationalists from groups including the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) collaborated with Nazi forces in their occupation of what had been Polish and Soviet Ukrainian territory. In addition to a series of murderous campaigns against Jews, Gypsies, Soviet POWs and anti-fascist Ukrainians, UPA nationalists conducted a mass campaign of ethnic cleansing targeting the Polish minority in western Ukraine.
According to historians, the campaign resulted in the deaths of between 80,000 and 120,000 people, predominantly women and children, between 1943 and 1945.
In February 2014, Ukraine's government was overthrown in a coup d'état. The new authorities have since actively sought to rebrand organizations like OUN and UPA as heroic movements fighting for Ukraine's independence. Kiev has sponsored monuments to UPA leader Stepan Bandera, renamed roads, funded textbooks and documentaries and supported a series of other projects to try and clean up the war-era nationalists' image. (more...)