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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Ab Imperio
Volume (Issue) 2018(1)
Page(s) 255 - 283
Title of proceedings Ab Imperio
DOI 10.1353/imp.2018.0009


The article tells the story of the conflicting narratives of the memory of Huta Pieniacka, a village in Western Ukraine that was burned down together with its inhabitants in 1944, during World War II. The Polish-Ukrainian rivalry over the territory overlapped with the anti-German resistance of Soviet and Polish partisans and factional rivalry among various guerrilla formations, which eventually led to the gruesome massacre. Today this entangled history is differentiated into competing one-sided narratives, claiming an exclusive privilege of suffering for a particular group as a powerful resource of political mobilization and legitimization. For the Soviets, the murdered villagers served as vindication of the USSR's rule over Western Ukraine as the regime that crushed the Nazis and their Ukrainian nationalist allies (who were held responsible for the massacre). For the Poles, the victims in Huta Pieniacka symbolized the Polish nation, which was driven from its historical territory by Ukrainians (both nationalists and citizens of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic). In the Ukrainian nationalistic narrative, Huta Pieniacka plays a marginal role as a conflict between alien forces – Polish national activists and Soviet and German invaders – while the main attention is given to the glorification of national freedom fighters. A true reconciliation process requires an open public debate and acknowledgment of the complexity of the historical past, which implies acceptance of responsibility for the conflict (at different stages, to a different degree) by all sides.