Between 1939 and 1943, Volhynian Poles had been already reduced to some 8% of the region's population (around 200,000 people). They were dispersed around the countryside, deprived of their elites by Soviet deportations, with neither local partisan army of their own nor state authority (except the Germans) to protect them.
On February 9, 1943, a UPA group commanded by Hryhory Perehyniak, pretending to be Soviet partisans assaulted the Paroślesettlement in Sarny county. It is considered a prelude to the massacres, and is recognized as the first mass murder committed by the UPA in the area. Estimates of the number of victims range from 149 to 173.
In 1943 the massacres were organized westwards, starting in March in Kostopol and Sarny counties. In April they moved to the area of Krzemieniec, Rivne, Dubno and Lutsk. Between late March and early April 1943, killing approximately 7,000 unarmed men, women, and children in its first days.
On the night of April 22–23, Ukrainian groups, commanded by Ivan Lytwynchuk (aka Dubovy), attacked the settlement of Janowa Dolina, killing 600 people and burning down the entire village. Those few who survived were mostly people that found refuge with friendly Ukrainian families. In one of the massacres, in the village of Lipniki, almost the entire family of Miroslaw Hermaszewski (Poland's only astronaut) was murdered along with about 180 inhabitants. The attackers murdered the grandparents of composer Krzesimir Debski, whose parents met each other during the Ukrainian attack on Kisielin. Debski's parents survived, taking refuge with a friendly Ukrainian family.
In another massacre, according to UPA reports, the Polish colonies of Kuty, in the Szumski region, and Nowa Nowica, in the Webski region, were liquidated for cooperation with the Gestapo and German authorities." According to Polish sources, the Kuty self-defense unit managed to repel the UPA assault, though at least 53 Poles were murdered. The rest of the inhabitants decided to abandon the village and were escorted by the Germans who arrived at Kuty, alerted by the glow of fire and the sound of gunfire. Maksym Skorupskyi, one of UPA commanders, wrote in his diary: Starting from our action on Kuty, day by day after sunset, the sky was batching in the glow of conflagration. Polish villages were burning.
By June 1943, the attacks had spread to the counties of Kowel, Włodzimierz Wołyński, and Horochów, and in August to Luboml county. The decisive Soviet victory at Kursk acted as a stimulus for escalation of massacres in June and August 1943, when ethnic cleansing reached its peak. In June 1943, Dmytro Klyachkivsky head-commander of the UPA-North made a general decision to exterminate Poles in Volhynia. His secret directive stated: "We should make a large action of the liquidation of the Polish element. As the German armies withdraw, we should take advantage of this convenient moment for liquidating the entire male population in the age from 16 up to 60 years. We cannot lose this fight, and it is necessary at all costs to weaken Polish forces. Villages and settlements lying next to the massive forests, should disappear from the face of the earth".
In mid-1943, after a wave of killings of Polish civilians, the Poles tried to initiate negotiations with the UPA. Two delegates of the Polish government in Exile and AK, Zygmunt Rumel and Krzysztof Markiewicz attempted to negotiate with UPA leaders, but were captured and murdered on July 10, 1943, in the village of Kustycze. Some sources claim they were tortured before the death.
The following day, July 11, 1943, is regarded as the bloodiest day of the massacres, with many reports of UPA units marching from village to village, killing Polish civilians. On that day, UPA units surrounded and attacked Polish villages and settlements located in three counties – Kowel, Horochow, and Włodzimierz Wołyński. Events began at 3:00 am, leaving the Poles with little chance to escape. After the massacres, the Polish villages were burned to the ground. According to those few who survived, the action had been carefully prepared; a few days before the massacres there had been several meetings in Ukrainian villages, during which UPA members told the villagers that the slaughter of all Poles was necessary. Within a few days an unspecified number of Polish villages were completely destroyed and their populations murdered. In the Polish village of Gurow, out of 480 inhabitants, only 70 survived; in the settlement of Orzeszyn, the UPA killed 306 out of 340 Poles; in the village of Sadowa out of 600 Polish inhabitants only 20 survived; in Zagaje out of 350 Poles only a few survived. In August 1943, the Polish village of Gaj (near Kovel) was burned and some 600 people massacred, in the village of Wola Ostrowiecka 529 people were killed, including 220 children under 14, and 438 people were killed, including 246 children, in Ostrowki. In September 1992 exhumations were carried out in these villages, confirming the number of dead. Altogether, on July 11, 1943, the Ukrainians attacked 167 towns and villages. This wave of massacres lasted 5 days, until July 16. The UPA continued the ethnic cleansing, particularly in rural areas, until most Poles had been deported, killed or expelled. These actions were conducted by many units, and were well-coordinated and thoroughly planned.
In August 1943 the UPA placed notices in every Polish village stating "in 48 hours leave beyond the Bug River or the San river- otherwise Death." Ukrainian attackers limited their actions to villages and settlements, and did not strike towns or cities.
Polish historian Władysław Filar, who witnessed the massacres, cites numerous statements made by Ukrainian officers when reporting their actions to the leaders of UPA-OUN. For example, in late September 1943, the commandant "Lysyi" wrote to the OUN headquarters: "On September 29, 1943, I carried out the action in the villages of Wola Ostrowiecka (see Massacre of Wola Ostrowiecka), and Ostrivky (see Massacre of Ostrowki). I have liquidated all Poles, starting from the youngest ones. Afterwards, all buildings were burned and all goods were confiscated". On that day in Wola Ostrowiecka 529 Poles were murdered (including 220 children under 14), and in Ostrówki, the Ukrainians killed 438 persons (including 246 children).
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Famous quotes containing the word events:
“There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community. By carefully chronicling the current events of contemporary life, it shows us of what very little importance such events really are. By invariably discussing the unnecessary, it makes us understand what things are requisite for culture, and what are not.”
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