Kiev, Ukraine: The Presidents of Ukraine and Poland on Friday unveiled a memorial to the thousands of Ukrainians, Poles and others killed by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s secret police before and during World War II.
The memorial is part of a remembrance complex in Bykivnia, outside the Ukrainian capital, where up to 120,000 people are buried.
The victims include 3,500 Poles executed in the Kiev region by the Soviet secret police in early 1940. They were among some 22,000 Polish officers and civilians taken prisoner and killed on Stalin’s orders in western Russia and other parts of the Soviet Union in what became known as the Katyn massacre.
Katyn is one of the most painful pages of Polish history, and Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych was eager on Friday to show respect and support to Poland, Kiev’s biggest ally in its push to integrate closer with the European Union.
“By jointly exposing and condemning the crimes of Stalinism and restoring historical justice, we not only fulfill our duty before the dead, but we also fulfill our duty before future generations,” Yanukovych said.
Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski thanked the Ukrainian leader for helping organize a Polish section at the Bykivnia memorial. “Here in Bykivnia, as in no other place, we feel the unity of our Polish and Ukrainian fates,” Komorowski said.
The killing of Polish officers and other prisoners of war was part of Stalin’s attempt to exterminate the Polish elite after he and Hitler divided up Poland at the start of World War II, in September 1939 .