Why are there new tensions between Ukraine and Poland?

Polandeu

 

2016/07/16 • Analysis & Opinion

Article by: Petro Bilian

Why have Ukrainian-Polish relations recently become more troubled and what should Ukraine do about it?

For the past 25 years, Poland has always been Ukraine’s most reliable partner, even something of an advocate for Ukraine in Europe, who wanted to see our country in the European Union even more that we ever wanted it ourselves. However, as it has become clear over the past month and a half, everything is not as rosy and wonderful in Ukrainian-Polish relations as it had seemed before.

Examples include the attack on the Ukrainian procession in Przemysl, the unexpected termination of local border traffic, the anti-Ukrainian hysteria in the Polish right-wing media. And, of course, the political campaign that is to culminate with the adoption of the decision by the Polish Sejm (lower house of the Polish parliament — Ed.) designed to prove that the bloody ethnic cleansing during the German occupation when Ukrainians and Poles slaughtered each other in Volyn, Pidliashia, and Halychyna was nothing other than the genocide of Poles organized by the UPA. These absolutely do not appear to be random events.

What happened?

kaczynsky

Jaroslaw Kaczynski

Should one assume this change was unexpected?  Perhaps so, but only for Ukrainians. Sadly, neither the Ukrainian elite, nor the journalists, nor especially average Ukrainians, have been overly concerned by what is happening , relatively speaking, behind Ukraine’s Western “fence,” on the territory of our closest ally, Poland. This is why the current situation looks like news.

In fact, after the party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), came to power in Poland, precisely this kind of development should have been expected … Why?

Because  this political force has a particular vision of Poland’s place and role in the world, of Polish history, and especially its prospects.

For Ukrainians and even Europeans, it seemed that over the past 25 years Poland has become synonymous with success, that its economy was growing at an unprecedented rate and that achievements in politics and culture could only be envied and possibly even copied. But this is the way it appeared from the outside.

Inside, the Polish reality appeared somewhat different, especially for the supporters of Jaroslaw Kaczynski and the Law and Justice Party. In their view, there has been no Polish success during the past 25 years. There have been serious mistakes and defeats. Lies and betrayals.

It turns  out that Poland has been oppressed by the European Union. The Germans and Angela Merkel are keeping it from developing normally, the Ukrainians are manipulating the unfortunate country, and it is being threatened by Putin’s Russia.

Regarding the last point, Ukrainians are in agreement, of course, because it is true. The rest looks like outright nonsense, but this is now the political reality in Poland.

Moreover, for Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his supporters, there are people responsible for all these misfortunes that have befallen “unfortunate” Poland during the last quarter century.

In particular, it is the Nobel Prize winner and fighter against communism, the former president Lech Wałęsa, the well-known reformer of Polish economy Leszek Balcerowicz, and the former Polish prime minister and current president of the European Union, Donald Tusk. There are, of course, all kinds of small fry, communists, thieves, and so on, but the main enemies are major figures.

Accordingly, after Law and Justice gained power, its assignment was to “repair” Poland, to bring about “good changes,” to make a historic transition from the Third Republic to the revised Fourth Republic.

It should be noted that the very idea of a Fourth Republic inspired the Ukrainian leaders considerably, especially the current Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko and the head of the presidential administration, Borys Lozhkin, who even began to write a book with the same title. However, unfortunately (or fortunately), the distance to the realization or even the understanding of Kaczynski’s plans for the “good change” or the “Fourth Republic” is considerable.

Today the slogan “good change” is not simply part of the electoral ideology of Law and Justice, but a Polish reality.

After Jaroslaw Kaczynski gained complete power last year after the parliamentary and presidential elections in Poland, he began to work on “repairing” Poland despite the fact that he does not hold any official position but only the “modest” post as leader of the ruling  party.

And one has to admire his talents as administrator.

In seven months Poland has changed dramatically:

  • Social media have been subordinated to the state, and journalists and news anchors disloyal to the Kaczynski party have been let go.
  • The campaign to discredit Lech Wałęsa has begun (supposedly, he cooperated with the security services. Although the evidence is questionable, it makes for interesting conversation and nothing can be proven anyway).
  • The Prosecutor’s office has been subordinated to the Ministry of Justice, where active cleansing of disloyal people is taking place and “reliable” people are being placed.
  • And as culmination of all this activism, the Constitutional Tribunal has been blocked, which in turn makes it possible for the Polish officials to act as they see fit. Which, of course, is not difficult since they  have the total support of the church behind them. However, these “good changes” have not pleased everyone, not just the “thieves” and “communists” but also Poland’s powerful allies.

It has reached a point where US President Barack Obama found it necessary to defend Polish democracy and the Constitutional Tribunal during the NATO summit , stressing that the rule of law must be preserved.

This is without mentioning the comments of the Venice Commission, the European Parliament and other European institutions. One could envy the activism of Mr. Kaczynski and his colleague if only all this energy were directed for peaceful purposes. However, that is not the case.

History has become another goal of the “good changes.” In Particular, a review of relations with Germans has begun.

The argument is that they (Germans) have oppressed and destroyed and, furthermore, are failing to repent sufficiently. Brussels was next in line, because the Euro bureaucrats are keeping the wonderful Poland from developing. Then came the turn of the internal enemies, who had destroyed everything and what they failed to destroy they either sold or stole.

Now it is the Ukrainians, who are not repenting adequately. There is no doubt that this is the plan for putting Poland in the “right” direction, and one can definitely say that this is not the final “good change.”

The other question is what should Ukrainians do?

First, they must take more interest in what is happening with our closest Western neighbor in order to at least understand what is changing and why. Of course, this requires money and time, but the matter is important nonetheless.

Second, we must not remain silent and fail to react, especially when the Sejm has passed a resolution accusing the UPA of genocide. We must respond pragmatically and with the greatest accuracy and with full understanding of whom we’re dealing with while being careful not to destroy future relations with Poland.

Law and Justice is a powerful force, but it will not always be in power. We will never escape Poland, for good or bad, and geography cannot be overcome.

And third, historians, writers and psychologists must do their work — perhaps the greatest share — to understand what and how it happened that people who used to be neighbors began to kill one another and even found “rational” explanations for their behavior.

Unfortunately, people can easily turn into brutal monsters, especially when they become too enthused with dreams of “good changes.”

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
Source: Espreso TV

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  • laker48

    Not too much substance, only some beating about the bush and ranting on tangent. The real reason behind the disagreement is that the Polish party eventually called GENOCIDE the Volhynia and other western Ukrainian ethnic cleansing of Jews and Poles by the OUN/UPA-B (Bandera and Shukhevych fraction) and local Ukrainian peasants that started in September 1939, culminated on the 11th of July 1943 and ended in 1945, resulting in the massacre of up to 200,000 non-Ukrainians, mostly Poles and Jews. Since the genocide is well documented and many of its still alive perpetrators identified and located as highly decorated “freedom fighters”, no wonder that Poland demands justice for victims of that callous crime against humanity perpetrated by that small group of Ukrainian ultranationalists.

  • Nowhere Girl

    Actually, I’ve read a bit in both Polish and Ukrainian media by journalists who said that termination of local border traffic was a good move. According to them, it mostly served small-scale smugglers of alcohol and poison sticks (so-called cigarettes :]) and fueled corruption.
    An interesting fact, quite unknown in Poland: due to very high duty on imported cars – which is also a corruption-related situation by itself because oligarchs profit from it and so they want to keep it that way – at least among Ukrainians who live close to the Polish border, owning cars who are still only registered in Poland is not uncommon. (After the Mukachevo incident some Poles made much of the fact that supposedly the Right Sector members drove away in a Polish car – unaware that in Western Ukrainian reality having a Polish car doesn’t necessarily mean being Polish or living in Poland.) Under one condition: to keep its status as a “vehicle in transit”, they have to cross the border every five days. And they do it – they go to Poland, have a coffee and drive back… and unfortunately, lots of these drivers also use the opportunity for some smuggling.
    Even if local border traffic remains closed, Ukraine should, of course, finally reform the car duty system because it’s very corruptiogenic and, even without smuggling, it’s the main factor that keeps queues on the border so long… But I hope that Ukraine will also, anyway, soon enter the visa-free regime…

    • laker48

      The suspension of local across the border traffic was due to the Warsaw NATO summit and fired back at small time alcohol and cigarette smugglers from Ukraine who make a good living off it. Local flea and farmers markets on the Polish side of the border were Ukrainian-free. After the cross-border traffic is restored, Polish police and customs officers may start detailed checks of Ukrainian sellers and confiscate illegally imported goods. where’s a will, there’s a way.

  • Rick

    I don’t know who Petro Bilian is but he’s totally in the dark when it comes to Poland. Petro, I suggest you have a look at some decent independent Polish websites that aren’t working for the Soros people, e.g. :

    http://www.wprost.pl

    http://www.niezalezna.pl

    http://www.wpolityce.pl

    Apart from getting a better idea of the Polish political scene you’ll also find plenty of articles and discussions on the Ukraine, e.g. :

    http://wpolityce.pl/polityka/300870-prof-zaryn-jezeli-ukraina-chce-sie-znalezc-w-tradycji-zachodnio-europejskiej-to-nie-zmiesci-sie-w-niej-z-ludobojczym-banderyzmem-nasz-wywiad

    https://www.wprost.pl/kraj/10014633/73-rocznica-rzezi-na-Wolyniu-Polscy-politycy-kontra-ukrainskie-media.html

    • laker48

      That was my impression too that he is totally out to lunch as far as Poland’s political landscape is concerned. His ignorance is stunning ad he seems to copy and paste lies regurgitated by Gazeta Wyborcza and other foreign-controlled Polish language media. Ukraine may be up for a very brutal awakening sooner rather than later realising that there are no friends left to abuse.

      • Rick

        I see that what seems to be the only truly objective Ukrainian TV channel — Savik Shuster’s 3S.TV — is threatened with closure for lack of funds and is imploring viewers to give them financial support by buying club cards.

        Shuster’s live discussion programme is what both the oligarchs and the Bandera people fear most, because what they dread is freedom of speech, which means freedom to talk about corruption and — perhaps in the not-too-distant future — the war crimes of Ukraine’s present “national heroes”.

        I might add that public criticism of Bandera and the UPA is now a punishable offence in the Ukraine. No wonder they’re shocked by all this talk of genocide. If I was writing this in the Ukraine I’d be arrested for thought crime!

        Perhaps the worst thing is the Bandera cult in the Greek Catholic / Uniate Church, which I’ve heard is even trying to have members of Bandera’s family beatified! Hopefully the Pope will ignore Ukrainian requests that he beatify Archbishop Szeptycki, who steadfastly refused to speak out against the mass killings of non-Ukrainian civilians, of which he was only too well aware.

        • laker48

          It’s weird that before the Maidan Bandera enjoyed authentic and massive support only within a small area around Lviv, while even in Kyiv or Kharkiv calling someone a “banderovets” was considered an insult, even back in 2008. Now, the cult of that petty terrorist and thief has spread like malicious cancer throughout most of the country.

  • iJutsu .

    Think Kurwas of Europe forgot their Place…