The cooperation agreements were signed on Monday by the President of the Institute of National Remembrance, Jarosław Szarek and the directors of the Ukrainian State Archives in Odessa, Vinnytsia and Khmelnytskyi - Dr. Lilia Belousowa (Odessa), Dr Jurij Łehun (Vinnytsia) and Dr Volodymyr Bajdycz (Khmelnytskyi). The director of the IPN Archive, Dr. Marzena Kruk, was also present at the conference.
"Our common rich history - a place where we can meet"
“Poland and Ukraine are connected by ages of neighborhood - a difficult one, but also one of which we can be proud,” Jarosław Szarek, the President of the Institute of National Remembrance, said. He emphasized that thanks to the cooperation with Ukrainian archives, thousands of pages had already been published in Polish and Ukrainian (e.g. last year the IPN publication "Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in Poland 1944-1950, Liquidation of Management Structures" was published).
Dr Jarosław Szarek deplored that when it comes to commemorating or exhuming, for example, Polish victims in Volhynia, the topic is "suspended" for political reasons. “The Institute of National Remembrance has always approached these issues in such a way that there are difficult subjects, while there are other issues around which we must build. We are neighbours and the difficult past cannot divide us, especially because Ukraine was also a victim of totalitarian regimes – Bolshevism and communism. We remember the victims of the Great Terror, the drama of millions of victims,” the President of the Institute of National Remembrance said.
“We have got important anniversaries. In two years we will celebrate the anniversary of the 1920. For Poland Vinnitsa is a place where Piłsudski and Semen Petlura signed an agreement, we remember about the joint defense of Zamość and the restraining of the Bolsheviks. This is the topic of our common rich history where we can meet and celebrate this anniversary,” - emphasized Dr. Szarek.
Director of the IPN’s Archive: this is a new stage
The Director of the IPN Archive, Dr. Marzena Kruk, pointed out that "today is not the beginning of cooperation. “We have been working for a year - first we met in Odessa, then we talked with partners from Vinnitsa and from Khmelnytskyi,” she emphasized. The Director of the Archive hopes that in the autumn the first copies of documents will go to the IPN resources, because already in April and May employees of the Archives are going to Ukraine and starting work in the field of digitizing collections.
“The IPN has been cooperating with the SBU archive for years, but this is a new stage: for the first time, we will receive entire files of victims of repression aimed at Poles. First of all, we are interested in the documents of the victims of the "Polish NKVD operation" of 1937-1938, but our goal is to collect copies of documents depicting the repression of the entire communist period,” Dr. Marzena Kruk explained.
The Institute of National Remembrance will not limit itself only to the three regional archives of Ukraine, it wants to collect all possible documents. “Thanks to the cooperation with the archives directors, we will be able to show not only to historians, journalists, scientists, but above all the families of the victims, what happened to their relatives at that time. There are still such families who do not know the fate of their relatives, “the director of the Archive, emphasized, adding that she hopes for "further fruitful cooperation".
Dr Lilia Belousowa: this is a large and important project
Dr Lilia Belousowa, director of the Archives of the State Archives of Odessa Region, has no doubts that it is a "very large and important project" for which she is grateful, among others, to the President of the Institute of National Remembrance, Dr. Jarosław Szarek and the director of the IPN Archive Marzena Kruk. “This project has a chance to succeed firstly thanks to material help, thanks to scanners that Poles will provide us, but also thanks to the experience of Polish archivists, which will be passed on to us,” she said.
Dr Belousowa also stressed that the Odessa archives contain more than 2 million cases that present the history of the region, where more than 100 nationalities live, including Poles. She pointed out that until today in the Odessa region many certificates of the Poles' presence have been preserved, not only street names (eg Kołłątaja street), but also old palaces – Potockis’ or Czartoryskis’.
“Our common history, Poland and Ukraine, is very rich,” Belousowa added, declaring that Ukrainian researchers are also interested in studying the history of Ukrainians who lived in Poland.
“We, Poles and Ukrainians, have the opportunity to pay off the debt we owe to previous generations. A week before Easter, we are taking the first step,” Dr. Volodymyr Bajdycz, director of the State Archives of Khmelnytskyi Region, said. He stressed that mutual forgiveness should be a condition for good cooperation between Poles and Ukrainians in the future. “We believe that in an atmosphere of cooperation and friendship we will be entering Europe,” he added.
The archivist from Ukraine said that 100 years ago Poles constituted about 22 percent of the population in Chmielnik. “In the 1930s, the totalitarian regime did not spare Ukrainians or Poles. In cases of the repressed, we will find both Polish and Ukrainian names. Their fates are also mixed at the family level,” he reminded.
Dr. Jurij Łehun, the director of the State Archives of Vinnitsia, also expressed the hope that the agreement with the Institute of National Remembrance will contribute to improving Poland's relations with Ukraine. He reminded the words of the American historian Prof. Timothy Snyder, who wrote about Poland, Ukraine and Belarus as "bloodied lands".
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