Historical story

Why did Ukrainian husbands kill their Polish wives?

When we read about the Volhynian crime, the words "And that I will not leave you until death" take on a completely new meaning. In these dark times, it was possible to die at the hand of the closest loved one.

In Volhynia and in Eastern Lesser Poland, the national identity of Ukrainians was shaped in opposition to Poles. Although people lived side by side, the division into their own and foreigners, Roman Catholic Poles, Orthodox Ukrainians and Greek Catholics, was still present. Young people ignored this polarization, even in small local communities, and bonded with each other regardless of ethnicity.

Mixed marriages combined the traditions of both nations, for example, twice celebrating the most important holidays. The wedding was customarily held in the bride's parish, and neither spouse renounced his religion. Also, the question of whether the children belonged to the Church or the Orthodox Church was usually decided in accordance with the custom - the daughters accepted the mother's faith, and the father's sons.

"Cleansing of indigenous Ukrainian lands"

The situation began to change drastically with the development of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), established in 1929. Its activists instilled in the minds of Ukrainians the idea of ​​building their own nationally uniform state, preferably as far as the San River.

Flag of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. The same color combination is present in traditional Ukrainian embroidery. Not every man with a black shirt embroidered with red thread is automatically a nationalist.

Along with the radicalization of moods, nationalists began to postulate the total removal of other nations from the "essentially Ukrainian" territories. Although it was not publicized, it was about physical extermination, after all, no one imagined that Poles, Jews, Czechs and other minorities would pack their belongings and leave the Borderlands one day.

An increasingly visible split in society also began to creep into the everyday life of mixed families. As Ewa Siemaszko writes in the work "The Crimes of the OUN-UPA in the Eastern Borderlands and the situation of Polish-Ukrainian families", even the siblings showed hostility to each other. For example, in a house where the sisters considered themselves Ukrainian, their brother, who felt himself Polish, was renovating the chimney on purpose on Prazdnik (Ukrainian holiday).

By the time of the fateful year of 1943, the minds of many people were completely rotten by nationalism. The book "Crimes of Ukrainian nationalists against the civilian population in south-eastern Poland (1942-1947)" lists the exact dates, places and names of the victims of the UPA crimes against the Polish population.

Unusual stories about women who survived the tragedy were told in her latest book "Girls from Volhynia" by Anna Herbich (Horizon 2018 sign)

One of the more dramatic ones are those carried out inside mixed families, like the case in a village in the Lubaczów poviat. On March 31, 1944, nine people were murdered there, including Katarzyna Mazepa, a Ukrainian, mother of Poles, Ludwik and Stanisław. The circumstances of her death are described by the authors:

According to a hidden neighbor, she was supposed to speak Ukrainian to one of the Banderites - being her nephew - "Peter, what are you doing?" In response, he killed her with a bayonet.

In the name of God?

Believers in many churches were also persuaded to attack Poles and to aggress within mixed families. Clergy steeped in nationalist ideas forgot about the Christian values ​​they were supposed to promote.

Today Wólka Żmijowska is an almost completely depopulated town in Podkarpacie, where the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been standing for a long time. It's hard to imagine the drama that took place there in the mid 1940's.

Instead, they incited hatred. Ewa Siemaszko quotes in her work the words of the delegate of the Polish Central Welfare Council:

In Trościaniec near Mariampole [voiv. Stanisławowskie] the parish priest of Greek [ecko] kat [Olicki] said at his sermon that the spouse of Greek [ecko] kat [Olicki] could re-marry, because so-called marriages mixed are free…

Although the clergyman did not directly call for the crimes, he did question the validity of the marriages on the grounds that they were mixed. The road to remarriage was to be open, provided that it would be purely nationally pure, untainted by Polish poison.

This attitude can be considered significant. A belief in the uniqueness of the Ukrainian race began to spread among nationalists. This corresponded with the views of the ideologist of the movement, Dmytro Doncov, who translated the theory of evolution into a struggle between nations. Only the strongest nation stood a chance to survive, and the best path to domination was to physically remove an opponent.

Ideologist of the Ukrainian nationalist movement, Dmytro Doncow.

Wipe away the disgrace

Ewa Siemaszko gives an example of how it looked in practice. A representative of the third generation of the family talked about the almost animal understanding of "defilement of the race" and "washing away the shame." However, she made a reservation that she would not provide any data enabling the identification of the victims.

UPA militants, having killed a Pole - the head of the family, in order to "remove" traces of Polishness, gang raped a Ukrainian woman - the wife of the murdered and their two daughters. The women survived this crime, left their place of residence, and eventually emigrated to America. A sexual act with violence was understood as the "physical" elimination of Polishness and "cleansing of the dirty" race.

The Second World War caused the value of human life to decline dramatically. Those who had seen the crimes up close over the years gradually became immune to them. Nationalism was eating into their minds like a cancer, putting the idea of ​​building its ethnically unified nation-state above all else.

Higher than family or love. Even if they once "betrayed" their nation by tying up with a representative of a hostile nation, this mistake could be corrected and OUN activists incited it to do so. This could be described as the ultimate solution to the mixed-relationship issue. There was only one method - to kill the Polish branch of the family.

Nobody keeps statistics on how many Polish women died during the Volhynia massacre at the hands of their Ukrainian relatives ...

When 1943 came and the bloodshed began, no one was safe anymore. The book "Crimes of Ukrainian nationalists on civilians in south-eastern Poland (1942-1947)" describes a case from Borchów in Podkarpacie:

He was murdered by the UPA Mazurkiewicz Piotr, 38, who came from across the San River for a day. A Ukrainian wife said at the funeral that she had sacrificed her husband for "Greater Ukraine".

Mainly women fell victim to domestic crimes against the background of nationality. Husbands killed their Polish wives, brothers-in-law "removed the shame" of their brothers. Even sons who considered themselves Ukrainians murdered their own mothers. This infrequently cited chapter of the Volhynian tragedy shows what people who burn with nationalist hatred are capable of. In Europe, national movements are growing in strength, and slogans of national purity and non-race mixing are beginning to appear on their banners. Let's hope history doesn't come full circle…

Check where to buy "Girls from Volhynia":