Polish-Ukrainian relations have not been sweet since the Second Republic was established. However, the internal conflict escalated before the outbreak of World War II. Historian Jan Kęsik claims that as a result of the actions of our army, desperate Ukrainians began to look for the Nazi troops as salvation ...
In the second half of the 1930s, the Polish authorities began to implement the ruthless program of the Polish minority in the Chełm region and Volhynia. A view was put into practice according to which the Orthodox inhabitants of these lands were in fact devout Poles. Therefore, it was necessary at all costs to bring them into the bosom of the Catholic Church and the Polish nation.
The decisive role in the planning and implementation of this task was played by the military, especially the Coordinating Committee at the Command of the 2nd Corps District in Lublin, established in December 1936. His activities culminated in the spring and summer of 1938.
Demolition of the church and other repressions
The initial guidelines stated that every citizen (...) not only has the right to freedom of native speech, freedom of religion and cultural development, but also should be kindly welcomed. These were just idle clichés - in fact, there was no understanding for citizens who did not express their desire to become Poles.
Orthodox church in Szczebrzeszyn. In 1938, its demolition began, but it was interrupted due to protests from the local intelligentsia. The building was left in a semi-ruined state, in the photo after a partial renovation (photo:MaKa, CC BY-SA 3.0).
The Polonization and recovery action in the Lublin Province was carried out by the 3rd Legions Infantry Division. Its elements were, among others Polonization of surnames and place names and forced conversions to Catholicism . However, the soldiers did not stop there. The authorities ordered the unceremonious demolition of the Orthodox churches to commence. Those closed, but also those used by parishes not recognized by the Polish administration.
As Jan Kęsik writes in the last issue of "Kwartalnik Historyczny": the voivode of Lublin (...) informed (...) that a total of 127 objects were demolished , of which 91 churches, 10 chapels and 26 prayer houses. 3 churches were handed over to the Catholic Church, while 4 chapels were left as mortuaries. The oldest of the destroyed buildings were from the 16th century. There were even cases of profanation objects of worship.
"He's going to fuck the Lachs"
The leveling of the church with the ground was received by the Ukrainian people with great indignation. Many representatives of the Polish intelligentsia also protested, such as Senator Felicjan Lechnicki with his family or the president of the Staszic Foundation, Stanisław Czekanowski. Jan Kęsik points out that:
Among the Ukrainian minority, it has become common to expect the outbreak of a war that will end the existence of the hated Polish state:" We are oppressed by Poland, and if there is a war, Poland will be depressed ". Hopes for an independent Ukrainian state were commonly associated with Adolf Hitler.
The material is based on a scientific article published in the periodical "Kwartalnik Historyczny".
The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists distributed leaflets warning against converting to Catholicism, announcing the imminent reconstruction of Ukraine by the Third Reich.
From the Polish perspective, the primary goal of the entire operation was to improve the state's defense, while the actions had exactly the opposite effect. In some places, Ukrainian self-defense has even started to form.
" He's going to fuck the Lachs to decorate the trees" - the Ukrainians used to say at that time. And it is hard for them to be so completely surprised. What would be the reaction of Poles if any partition or occupation authorities decided to immediately destroy almost 130 Polish churches? And yet, in the opinion of the Ukrainian population, the Second Republic was not their homeland, but rather - the occupant. And the events of 1938 only confirmed their belief. Obviously, this cannot be an excuse for Ukrainian crimes during World War II.
The source of the above news is:
Jan Kęsik, Participation of the army in the recovery and polonization action in the eastern and southern poviats of the Lubelskie Voivodeship in the years 1937–1939 , "Kwartalnik Historyczny", r. 121 (2014), No. 4, pp. 799-831.
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