Proti „fašistickým bandám UPA“. Ukrajinci v propagandě lidového Polska
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Against the ‘Fascist Gangs of the UPA’: Ukrainians in the Propaganda of the People’s Republic of Poland
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The author discusses Ukrainian topics in Polish Communist propaganda, which have till now been largely ignored in both Poland and the Ukraine, even though the post-war struggle against ‘Ukrainian nationalists’ constituted a lasting element of the propaganda repertoire of the Polish People’s Republic. He also discusses how these topics were developed and passed on in Polish periodicals, belles-lettres, film, and historiography and he seeks to explain the impact this has had on Polish public discourse since the collapse of Communism. This propaganda drew its basic material from the struggle of the Polish armed forces against the partisans divisions of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukrayins’ka Povstans’ka Armiya – UPA), which operated in southeast Poland beginning in 1945. Before the establishment of the Communist régime, it was mainly the non-Communist political parties and the armed anti-Communist underground who identified with it. After the second half of the 1940s, this propaganda grew quiet, and was not revived until 1956, in connection with endeavours to increase the prestige of the army; in the second half of the 1960s, it was supported by chauvinist and antisemitic members of the Polish Communist leadership. It last intensified when martial law was imposed in Poland in 1981. According to the author, the content, arguments, and gist of the anti-Ukrainian propaganda did not essentially change from the end of the Second World War in mid-1945 to the collapse of Communism in late 1989. The soldiers of the UPA and the proponents of an independent Ukraine were identified with Fascists and enemies of Poland and this picture became fixed in the minds of a large part of Polish society, which more or less identified this image with Ukrainians as a whole. These national stereotypes did not begin to be surmounted till the appearance of the democratic opposition in the 1980s. A special place in these historical images is held by the legend of General Karol Świerczewski, codenamed Walter, who was assassinated, apparently, by Ukrainian nationalists while on a tour of inspection in March 1947. A month later, Operation ‘Vistula’ ( Akcja Wisła ) was launched. The operation, whose aim was the forced resettlement of Ukrainians out of southeast Poland, was then publicly presented as revenge for Świerczewski’s murder. He was turned into a hero, and his legend was cultivated by naming streets, squares, schools and other institutions after him, publishing biographies singing his praises, and erecting monuments to him. A fundamental role in the depiction of the Polish-Ukrainian conflict was, according to the author, played by the novel Łuny w Bieszczadach (A Blaze in the Beskids, 1959) by Jan Gerhard (born Wiktor Lew Bardach, 1921–1971) which was hugely popular, went into several editions, and triggered a boom of publications on the topic. Whereas fiction went hand in hand with the nationalist distortion of the truth, works of historiography on the topic could, according to the author, allow themselves the luxury of sticking closer to the facts, providing they did not run counter to official propaganda.
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