M. Hryhor

UNRESOLVED UKRAINIAN QUESTION IN POLAND

(The following summary, along with the full article in Ukrainian, appeared in volume2/1975 of Annals of the World Lemko Federation)

According to the official statistics there are some 180,000 Ukrainians in Poland; however, unofficially, there are about 300,000. Only a small number of the Ukrainians live in that part of Poland which has been their native land, the ethnographic Ukrainian territories: the Bialystok district, eastern part of Lublin district, southern part of Ryashiv district, - the historical territories of Lemkivshchyna.

There are about 50,000 of the Ukrainians in the above enumerated territories. However, about 250,000 of them live in the districts of such former German cities as: Olsztyn, Gdansk, Koszalin, Zielona Gora, Wroclaw, and others. The Ukrainians have been scattered throughout the Northern and Western Poland: Bialystok district --- Goldap; Olsztyn district - Bartoszyce, Braniewo, Ketrzyn, Paslek; Gdansk district -- Elblag, Nowy Dwor, Kwidzyn; and others; Koszalin district -- Miastko, Czluchow, Bytow, Slawno, Bialogard, and others; Szczecin district, Poznan district, Zielona Gora district, Wroclaw district --- Wolow, Legnica, Lubin, Olawa, Olesnica, Zlotoryja, Milicz, Gora Salsa, over 30,000 of the Ukrainians live in such cities as: Warszawa, Szczecin, Krakow, Wroclaw, Legnica, Gdansk, Lublin.

Ukrainians deported to the territories received by Poland from Germany are the victims of the Polish state. Thousands of the Ukrainians had been forcefully removed from their native land on the basis of the bilateral agreement between Poland and Ukrainian SSR, 9 September, 1944 and 16 August, 1945. As a result of these treaties, some 400,000 Ukrainians were deported to the Ukr. SSR, and some 300,000 managed to stay in their native regions, within the borders of Poland. They lived in such Ukrainian historical territories as Lemkivshchyna, Posyannya, Kholmshchyna and Pidlyashya.

In 1945, a Ukrainian delegation, representing Rzeszow, Lublin and Krakow districts, headed by Mykhaylo Dons'kyi, Ivan Andrash, Petro Dudka, was sent to see the Polish Council of Ministry in regard to the needs for the Ukrainian population for schools, including the Elementary Schools, High Schools, Teachers Colleges, and Trade Schools. The delegation was received by the Polish state authorities on 24 August, 1945, which presented to the government "13 points." The first problem that the delegates raised was the religious question. They demanded a free practice of their religion, as well as the right to organize a democratic party. In the economic field, the delegation proposed that the Ukrainian cooperatives be organized. It expressed a need for meliorating the land, and demanded that the land of the Ukrainians who left for the Ukraine be turned over to the Ukrainians left behind in Poland. Also, that the Ukrainians in Poland be granted the same rights as those granted to the Polish citizens. The Lemko delegates demanded the land reform, rationally uniting the existing Lemko communities, and pointed out the need for the Ukrainian Bank. The Polish government was asked that the Polish Council of State (16 member group elected by the Sejm) influences the local authorities so that they would not discriminate the Ukrainians. It also petitioned that the Polish government declares an amnesty for the political prisoners, and the political crimes. The Councilman (a member of the Polish Council of State), Byeletski declared that Poland is not the same as it was prior to 1939 and, therefore, its nationalities will not be oppressed. However, he recommended that the Ukrainians ought to resettle to the Soviet Union for the good of both, the Poles and the Ukrainians, because this way, according to him, it will be possible to eliminate the historical tendency between the two nations to square accounts.

The delegates reminded the Polish official that Lemkos as well as other Ukrainians of the lands of Lemkivshchyna, Peremyshl, Yaroslav, Kholmshchyna and Pidlyashya, have been the aboriginal peoples of these Ukrainian lands. Whereupon the officials promised them that the Ukrainians in Poland will be treated on the equal footing with the Polish population. However, despite this declaration, a head of a Department stressed that there is a possibility that the Ukrainian population will be resettled into different parts of Poland, in order to prevent a further growth of the small households, and to secure independence for the existing households.

After the Red Army occupied Lemkivshchyna, already in January, 1945. the so-called Agricultural-Working Committee of Lemkivshchyna in Horlytsi was organized. The Committee was authorized to organize the Ukrainian school system throughout Lemkivshchyna. Already in April, 1945, there were functioning some 48 "Lemko" schools. By 1946/1947 school year, the schools, and the Ukrainian language teaching in them, were liquidated.

Apparently quite a few of Ukrainian Lemkos participated in the Polish endeavor to free Poland from under the Germans. Many of these Ukrainian-Polish veterans met at their Congress in Wroclaw, 1958, where they demanded that their relatives be granted permission to return from the territories to which the Lemkos were deported to their native Lemkivshchyna. The Polish officials denounced those demands, and the Congress was declared illegal and mischievous.

Some 10,000 Lemkos live on the territory of Lemkivshchyna. However, ii is almost impossible to obtain a permission from the local authorities to, for instance, organize a Ukrainian school in the region of Ryashiv. The genocidal policies of the Polish government toward the Ukrainian population has been practiced since the after-World War II period. The top Polish governmental officials, for the propaganda purposes, claim that the Ukrainians are granted their rights, while the local officials do everything possible to prevent the Ukrainians from both obtaining those rights, as well as from implementing them.

The Ukrainian church in Poland has been, legally, a non-existent entity. All elements of the Ukrainian culture in Poland have been systematically destroyed.

The genocidal "Wisla Action" is being continually practiced on the Ukrainians in Poland since 1947 and, so far, there has not come forward at least one courageous individual in Poland who would denounce this shameful and barbarous policy, and activity. On the contrary, this policy is being encouraged and approved.

The Ukrainian question in Poland can be solved only by allowing the Ukrainians to return back to their native land. Since this is not happening, it is up to the Ukrainians in the free world to raise this question at the international forum. This should be done all the more since those Poles who decided not to move to Poland, in Lviv, have obtained a cultural autonomy, have their Polish schools, churches, publishing houses, even their own theater.





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Originally Composed: May 31st, 1999
Date last modified: November 5th, 2002