President of Ukraine demands that Poland restores monument to killers of Jews and Poles

It is located on the grave of Holocaust and genocide perpetrators, namely Ukrainian nationalists who exterminated Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish population

On January 27, 2020 President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the town of  Oświęcim in Poland, marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On the occasion, Mr. Zelensky asked the President of Poland to restore the monument to soldiers of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)1 on their burial site at Mount Monastyr near the village of Werchrata, Subcarpathian Voivodeship, Poland. The official President of the Ukraine website reports that, “ After talks with Andrzej Duda, Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed that Ukraine had allowed exploration works, and Polish experts had conducted the first exploratory digging in the Lviv region. The next step is the restoration by the Polish party of the damaged Ukrainian grave” on Mount Monastyr. 

Several weeks before, Adam Siwek, head of the Office for Commemoration of Struggle and Martyrdom, Poland, said: “I emphasize that Ukrainians are allowed to erect monuments in Poland, but only in full accordance with the Polish law. The only condition here is that every commemoration case, whether in Poland or Ukraine, needs proper verification, since we need to know who is to be commemorated and how.” 

Now, what is wrong with the monument that the Ukrainian leader asked to restore on the Holocaust Remembrance Day? The answer is, it is located on the grave of Holocaust and genocide perpetrators, namely Ukrainian nationalists who exterminated Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish population. At least two former policemen are buried there, including the former chief of the Ukrainian police in Lubycza Królewska Voivodeship. 

There is a memorial plate on the grave that reads “They died for a free Ukraine. Here lie those who were killed in the fight with the NKVD in Monastyr forests on the night of March 3, 1945.” The plate lists first and last names and dates of birth of 62 people. Neither are their military ranks specified, nor any emblems are seen, except for the Ukrainian trident on the cross. In 2016, somebody broke the memorial plate.

The monument is located on Mount Monastyr in Werchrata, Lubaczów County, Subcarpathian Voivodeship. According to the official Polish sources, members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)  killed “at least 1620 people of Polish and Ukrainian ethnicity” in that county. 

In Lubaczów County, Ukrainian policemen deserting from Nazi service became the backbone of UPA’s  boyovki, or combat units. In February 1944, Ukrainian policemen from Lubycza Królewska department defected to join the OUN. They formed a county-level unit of the OUN security service, headed by former police commandant Ivan Hrihorievich Pohoryskyy also known as “Boris” and “Bozhich”. 

As a first step, “Boris”’s unit killed three Polish families in the village of Szalenik. Photos of the victims have been preserved to this day. 

In March 1944, “Boris”’s unit helped Ukrainian policemen desert from their service in Rawa-Ruska. Most ex-policemen did not join the security service, but formed UPA sotnia in Lubaczów county. The history of this unit is described in the Ukrainian book, “Walking partisans’ trails with Commander “Zaliznyak”” (Partyzans’kymy dorohamy z komandyrom “Zaliznyakom”). According to the book, half of men in the 1st sotnia (51 men) were former Nazi collaborators, that is 31 policemen (6 of them conscripted to Nazi service following the order of the OUN), 17 members of SS-«Galizien», 1 Wehrmacht soldier, 2 members of the Ukrainian legion. Other UPA sotnias in the Lubaczów County followed more or less the same proportions. 

The unit of the OUN Security Service, together with UPA sotnias, was involved in the “de-Polonization” of the Lubaczów County. The murder of passengers on the Zamość—Lwow train is probably the most thoroughly documented anti-Polish action taken by “Boris”’ boyovka. On June 16, 1944, “Boris”’ militants stopped the train in the forest near the village of Zatyle. They killed all the Poles on board – mostly women, as well as men and children they could identify from papers. Photographs of the victims have been preserved to this day, as well as the tape-recorded voice of one of the perpetrators, Petr Khomyn, OUN security service unit member and “Boris”’s subordinate. 

[A video of the perpetrator telling the story of the mass murder with Russian subtitles can be found under this link

On the night to March 3, 1945, one UPA sotnia from Lubaczów was engaged in a battle with NKVD troops near the villages of Gruszka and Mrzyglody. In their first report from the battlefield, UPA commanders spoke of 32 soldiers killed. In a later report by a Banderite political officer, 42 names can be found, yet another two chota (platoon) commanders were buried separately from the others. After several days it turned out that 18 men were missing. In fact, the NKVD captured them, which is confirmed by Soviet documents2. In May 1945,  44 militants were re-buried in a mass grave in the village of Monastyr. Before that, Osyp Bzdelya, a militant of the OUN security service killed in the autumn of 1944, was at the same place3. Members of the OUN security squads were buried in the grave even after May 1945. 

In 1993, a local resident of Ukrainian ethnicity set up a cross and a memorial plate on the mass grave on Mount Monastyr in Werchrata, reading that there lied 45 OUN-UPA men, without names or nicknames. Most probably, that resident was a participant of a burial ceremony since his number was correct: 44 militants killed in action on March 2—3, 1945, and Osyp Bzdelya from Boris’ OUN security unit4

Some time later, UPA veteran Dmytro Bogush insisted that the cross should be replaced with a monument in the shape of a big trident with the following inscription: “Here lie 45 insurgents from Shuma sotnia, killed on March 3, 1945 fighting for freedom and independence of Ukrainian and Polish peoples. Those people, the salt of their nation, fell victim of the traitors. Surrounded in the Monastyr Forest by Bolsheviks and UB (the Security Directorate), they continued stubborn fighting and never gave up, like all brave sons of Ukraine would do. All of you, standing on our father’s land, remember them in your prayer, as they were carrying freedom to all of us5.

Since in Lubaczów, families of the OUN-UPA victims did not share the opinion that the murders of Poles committed by UPA were part of a freedom fight, the memorial plate was soon destroyed. After that, it was replaced with a new one, containing the names of UPA soldiers who, allegedly, lay in the mass grave. However, there were 62 names on the list, not 45, among them no OUN security militants this time.  

There is no mentioning of Osyp Bzdelya on the plate, who was, as we said above, a member of Boris’ OUN security boyovka and was definitely buried on Mount Monastyr, which is a long-known fact6, neither is Ivan Kidan, an OUN security militant killed in early 1945 and buried on Mount Monastyr 7. Two other names of the militants are absent. On November 17, 1945, the NKVD killed two members of “Boris”’ OUN security unit, Yuzef Kedan and commander Ivan Pohoryskyy (“Boris”, “Bozhich”).  According to a witness, Ivan Pritulskyy8 was the first to be buried on Mount Monastyr. Since Ivan Pohoryskyy is not mentioned on the cemetery plate in Werchrata, the likelihood is high that “Boris” was also buried there: one death, one grave.  

Not long before his death, Ivan Pohoryskyy reported on killing the Skyba family in the village of Teniatyska. The report was preserved to this day in the Institute of National Remembrance Archive of the Republic of Poland9. Here is the full version of it: 

Hail to Ukraine! 13.10.45.

My dear Commander,

1) I hasten to report to you that we eliminated a family of Cheka informants in Teniatyska (2 people) on 11.10.45. Particularly, Skyba, Mikhaylo, son of Prokop, born on 14.10.1921 in Teniatyska, Rawa Ruska powiat, 4 grades elementary, Ukrainian ethnicity, single,  motor driver; and his mother, Skyba, Anna. The family was executed publicly. They publicly declared that Banderites were yet to be hanged on fences, and rivers of blood are yet to be spilt because of goddamn Ukraine. 

The fact that Mikhaylo Skyba fled from the Bolsheviks is not true. On the contrary, he sought for a chance to meet them when they came to the village. He never delivered any men for our organization.  

After the elimination of the family, we seized one horse, one cow and some clothing. All belongings were submitted to the superintendent. 

2) I hasten to let you know that I am bound to bed right now, having caught cold and furuncles. I believe I will soon get well and continue my work. 

3) If you have any sheepskin coats, please save some for me for I do not have much clothes for a cold weather.  

With best wishes. 

Hail to heroes! Bozhich.

According to Timothy D. Snyder, an American historian, Ukrainian policemen in WWII learned how to kill from the Nazis and applied the lessons learned. These smart learners took part in the genocide of the Jews and then, in 1943—44 they defected in large numbers, forming the main UPA cadre which was involved in mass killings of Poles and “disloyal” Ukrainians.

Discussions over the OUN-UPA memorial on Mount Monastyr in Werchrata gives a perfect opportunity to remember Banderite crimes committed not only against the Polish but also the Ukrainian population. The crimes of those buried on Mount Monastyr are well-documented. 

The decision to restore the destroyed monument on the grave is hardly acceptable. It is impossible to hide that at least four people buried in Werchrata are guilty of killing peaceful civilians. It is hardly possible to officialy authorize inscriptions like “died fighting for Ukraine” on the killers’ grave. Another controversial thing about this situation is that, if the monument restoration is approved, it will cause sentiments in some part of the Polish society that could possibly affect the result of the forthcoming presidential elections in the country. 


  1. The Ukrainian insurgent army (UPA) is an organization whose activities are banned in Russia by the decision of the Supreme court of the Russian Federation of November 17, 2014.
  2. See Lviv Oblast State Archive, Stock P-3. Register 1. File 228,. Sheet 128-134;  State Archive of the Russian Federation, Stock F. 9401. Register 2. File 94. Sheet  253-257
  3. “Povstansʹki mohyly. Propamyatna knyha vpavshykh na poli slavy voyakiv Ukrayinsʹkoyi Povstansʹkoyi Armiyi Zakhid-Syan”. Warsaw; Toronto, 1995. P. 249-250
  4. Guk B. Prazdnik v Buchine // Nashe Slovo 1994. No. 37. p. 5
  5. Krajewski K. Ukraińskie miejsca pamięci narodowej na terenie Polski // Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej. 2010. № 7-8.  S. 133
  6. “Povstansʹki mohyly. Propamyatna knyha vpavshykh na poli slavy voyakiv Ukrayinsʹkoyi Povstansʹkoyi Armiyi Zakhid-Syan”. Warsaw; Toronto, 1995. P.  249-250
  7. Kordan A. Odyn nabiy z nabiynytsi. Spomyny voyaka UPA z kurenya “Zaliznyaka”. Toronto; Lʹviv, 2006. p. 135-136
  8. Central State Archives of Foreign Archival Ucrainica) Stock  52. Register 1. Part 1 (Kolektsiya spohadiv voyiniv UPA ta zbroynoho i tsyvilʹnoho pidpillya z terytoriyi Zakerzonnya, zapysanykh Bohdanom Hukom v 1989-2000 rr. Nazva fonodokumenta: Spohady Yastruba […] Vykonavetsʹ, dopovidach: Yastrub (Prytulʹskyy Yvan-Petro)
  9. IPN BU 1554/79, k. 254-255
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