Ukraine to Poland: My darling, will you marry me? Please say I do, and be my blushing bride. Poland: I do! I do! But one tiny condition... Ukraine: Yes, my love? Poland: You must never use the B-word...
In yesterday’s post we saw how the Ukrainian Rada is preparing to pass a bill that would grant Polish citizens in the Ukraine the exact same rights as Ukrainian citizens. What this means in practice, I honestly have no clue, although I attempted to do some research. Does it mean that a Polish tourist visiting a Kiev cabaret can be torn away from his table and forced to enlist in the Ukrainian armed forces? Or that a Polish youth can be attacked and duck-taped to a tree because he was seen wearing the wrong kind of tee-shirt?
More sinisterly, I suspect there are some secret clauses in this law, that we are not meant to know about. For example, that Poles serving in Ukrainian armed forces would not be subject to prosecution for war crimes, even if they did something naughty (?) Like I said, I have no idea, I am just guessing.
What we do know, however, is that the Ukraine is keen on the idea of 20,000 Polish troops serving in the Ukrainian Western Oblasts; that would free up Ukrainian soldiers for their famous “massive counteroffensives” in Kherson and the Donbass.
Some people say that Polish-Ukrainian friendship has never been better. But, as in any long-term relationship, there is always some impediment that gets in the way of true love. All of that leading up to this story, by reporters Rafael Fakhrutdinov and Mikhail Moshkin. The headline reads:
Poland Is Up Against The Core Mythology Of Ukrainian Statehood
What is the core mythology of Ukrainian statehood? Why, Bandera, of course. The B-word. Stepan Bandera is the ideological founder of Indepedent Ukraine, just as Thomas Jefferson was the ideological founder of the United States of America. No tickee no shirtee, as they used to say in the Chinese laundromat: You kill Bandera, there is no more Ukraine. Hey, I didn’t make up these rules, so don’t look at me. It was the Ukrainians themselves who concocted their own “origin story”, in their place I would have picked something different (like maybe, “We arrived from the planet Krypton”), but it wasn’t up to me.
Given all of this, we are left with 2 main postulates:
- Ukrainian identify flows from its founding hero, Bandera; and
- Ukraine wishes to marry Poland. In a marriage more of crass convenience than romantic love.
I believe it is easy even for the uninitiated to see the main impediment to this wedding, namely that Poland cannot tolerate Bandera. Poland is willing to marry Ukraine, but only if the latter denounces Bandera. Which it can never do, any more than the U.S. government could denounce George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and still remain standing on Capitol Hill.
It was Polish President Andrzej Duda who first tossed down the gauntlet, when he demanded that the Ukraine admit to, and apologize for, the Volhynia Massacres of 1943-45. He also demanded that the Ukraine build a memorial that would allow Poles to visit and pray for their dead. Duda made these demands earlier this week, July 11, which in Poland is celebrated as “The Day of Mourning for Victims of Polish citizenship, Subjected to Genocide by Ukrainian Nationalists” (in Polish Narodowy Dzień Pamięci Ofiar Ludobójstwa dokonanego przez ukraińskich nacjonalistów na obywatelach II Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej).
This commemoration is celebrated every year in Poland, and is now the 79th anniversary of those ghastly events from the past. In his speech, Duda made it clear that the Poles do not intend to carry out any revenge, on behalf of those 100,000 innocent Polish civilians who were grotequely murdered by Bandera’s acolytes. They simply want Ukraine to officially admit that these events happened, and that the Ukrainian Nationalists dunnit. It was on this very same day (July 11) that Zelensky brought to the Ukrainian Rada his draft bill on granting Polish citizens the same rights as Ukrainians. The timing was not a coincidence. Both Zelensky and Duda are treating this bill as a sort of symbolic apology non-apology for Volhynia.
It isn’t nearly enough, though. Polish pundit and former Parliamentarian Mateusz Andrzej Piskorski:
“Many people in Poland are hoping, of course, that Ukraine will recognize the Volhynia Massacre as a genocide. This would be the right thing to do, from the factual and historical point of view, and also given the current political situation, when Kiev is talking about a strategic partnership with Warsaw, and even about a friendship [between the two nations]. Unfortunately, Zelensky has not yet made any such announcements.”
Piskorski is not alone in hoping that Ukraine will man up and take responsibility for the crimes of the Ukrainian Nationalists, especially given Kiev’s growing dependency on its Western neighbor. In 2009 the Polish Parliament unanimously voted to denote the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) as responsible for the ethnic cleansings in Volhynia; in 2016 the Poles upped the ante by declaring these ethnic cleansings as an actual genocide. But it goes without saying that nobody in any of the successive Ukrainian governments (including Zelensky’s) has agreed with this formulation. The most they will admit to, is that there were some “excesses”. And also try to cover themselves with “they did it too” debating point, asserting that “Poles killed Ukrainians, and Ukrainians killed Poles… everybody was doing it…”
Ukrainian Identity Politics
See, if Ukraine was still a Soviet nation, they wouldn’t have these issues, because Bandera and his gang most certainly had nothing to do with the Soviets; in fact, it was the Soviet NKVD which happily liquidated them. It is only because “independent Ukraine” decided to throw off the Soviet legacy and try to redefine itself, that it had to search backwards for a different “origins” story, and that’s why it got itself into this pickle, saddled with Bandera and Shukhevych and the others as their founding heroes. Also taking into account the ideological baggage of the Ukrainian diaspora (in Canada and the U.S.) which exerts such bloated influence upon the state ideology. Piskorski again: “The Anglo-Saxon curators of the Ukraine clearly pedal this ideology [themselves], under the guise of Ukrainian identity, and within the framework of Ukraine the anti-Russia project. They don’t really have any other kind of ideological framework that they could utilize, given the quantity and influence of the ideological supporters [of this framework]. If Zelensky were to rebut it, then they would have to admit that much of what the West has done in the Ukraine in the past couple of decades, has been just a huge mistake.”
Which is why, according to Russian historian Vladimir Kornilov, the Kiev regime can never admit to genocide or even say one bad word about Stepan Bandera. Because that would cut right to the quick of the state-formation myth of Bandera as a “freedom fighter” for Ukrainiain independence. And, in fact, the Bandera mythology grows stronger with every succeeding Ukrainian government, to the point where it is a national mania. Ukraine and Bandera are linked inseparably: They are one and the same. You kill one, you kill the other.
Which brings us back to where we started: the eternal conundrum. A logical paradox that spins like a widening gyre. Ukraine cannot denounce Bandera. Poland cannot accept a friend who loves Bandera. The impediment is too great: the wedding cannot take place. Things fall apart, the falcon flies around haphazardly … you know the thing…
Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. (W.B. Yeats)