Volyn Massacre: Polish Film That Ukrainians Are Not Ready to See

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



On 7th October in Poland, there will be a national premiere of Wojciech Smarzowski’s “Volyn” dedicated to the Volyn massacre in 1943-1945, which the poles recognized as genocide.

The trailer tells the story of a love story in a Polish village during the Volyn massacre. One of the heroines commented on the footage of the burning village: “They surrounded us at night. Banderists were coming, and behind them were Ukrainians”.

According to the Director, he wanted to make “an honest film” about those tragic events, and he doesn’t care what will happen after the premiere. Smarzowski noted that the film would be hard, but it is necessary for reconciliation between Poland and Ukraine.

In Ukraine the Premiere is awaited anxiously. Known Ukrainian writer Yuriy Andrukhovych even tried half-jokingly to note “I still haven’t seen the film, but want to write that I condemn it”.

“What had to happen, in the end, happened: Wojciech Smarzowski’s movie epic “Volyn”  appears on the screens of Poland. I still haven’t seen it yet,<…>, but it’s still tempting to write: not seen, but condemn it. If without jokes, then we can’t avoid this film, and it is alarming,” wrote Yuri Andrukhovych article for zbruc.eu.

The assurances of the Polish reviewers that the film is not at all anti-Ukrainian are not perceived in Ukraine. According to the remark of the same Andrukhovych, that everything is exactly the opposite, says the fact that the Director ignored the consultations of Ukrainian historians completely, and that in the guise of an epigraph he took the words of the Polish priest, an ardent Ukrainophobic Tadeusz Isakovich-Zalessky.

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“How can we consider the film free from propaganda when the first frames feature a quote from the worst, even for Poland, anti-Ukrainian propagandist?”, resented Andrukhovych.

The reasons for the indignation of those like Andrukhovych really exist. The same priest Isakovich-Zalessky clearly stated that the “movie {Volyn} will kill reconciliation, which  never existed”.

Such great films Polish cinema did not know in 1989, assures the Polish film critics.

Independent experts suggest that the movie is a Polish response to the glorification of Stepan Bandera by Kiev. The poster “Glory To Hitler! Glory to Bandera!” at the photo shoot, which appeared on the Internet earlier (see title illustration) vividly demonstrates in which tonality the film is made. It makes sense to assume that it will likely be banned in Ukraine. But in Russia, it is highly likely it will be shown.

As a reminder, the Polish Sejm (lower house of Parliament) on 22nd July adopted a resolution in which the Volyn massacre, organized by the OUN-UPA in 1943, was recognized as genocide committed by Ukrainian nationalists against the Poles. During the debate about the resolution in the Sejm, the number voiced that the hands of the OUN-UPA killed was more than 100,000 Poles.

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