Scholars and employees of the memorial research enterprise “Dolya” and the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance have been conducting important archeological digs on mass burials of Ukrainian Insurgent Army soldiers (UPA) and members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) in Ternopil Oblast.
According to eyewitnesses, after the Second World War, Soviet authorities gathered all the bodies of UPA partisans and OUN members who had fallen in battle against the Bolsheviks in the nearby forests. First, the bodies were exhibited near the district police station and identified. Then, they were taken out of the town and thrown into old trenches probably dating back to the First World War.
Local residents confirmed these assumptions and told the researchers that, at first, the bodies were buried so quickly that human remains – hands, feet, shoes – stuck out of the ground. Subsequently, they were properly interred.
Volodymyr Kharchuk, deputy director of “Dolya” said that artifacts, which researchers found in the excavation, confirm the testimony of local residents about the burial of UPA partisans.
“We found an aluminum cross, buttons from German and Soviet military uniforms, civilian buttons, a comb and a pocket knife. Of course, there wouldn’t be a lot of things to find because the pockets of the victims were always searched before burial.” said Volodymyr Kharchuk.
The remains will be examined by a forensic examiner, and subsequently, they will be honoured and solemnly re-buried in a cemetery.
“Finding the burial places of members of the Ukrainian liberation movement is an important field of our work. People who have died for our freedom must be honoured by the state. After all, it is they who fought for our country’s independence. This is our duty and responsibility towards our ancestors and our descendants. For only those who remember the dead can protect the living.” stated Volodymyr Viatrovych, Director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance.