On November 28th, the local authorities of the Polish city of Przemysl decided to rename a street named after “traitor of Poland” Iosafat Kotsylovskyi.
They explained the decision with the fact that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishop was a known Nazi collaborator during the Second World War.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Warsaw, in addition to the Mayor of Lviv immediately reacted, calling for the street’s name to be returned, because despite being a Nazi collaborator, Kotsylovskyi was a hero of the Independence.
Even during the discussion in the city council of Przemysl, representatives of the Union of Ukrainians in Poland and the local Greek Catholic Church categorically opposed the renaming of Kotsylovskyi Street. And after the decision was made, the Ukrainian Embassy in Warsaw joined the protests.
On its Facebook page, the diplomatic mission called the decision “hasty” and “reckless,” and accused the Polish deputies of “manipulating arguments taken out of context” and “reluctance to listen to Polish citizens of Ukrainian nationality”.
It turns out that the classic Ukrainian excuse was used when anybody is accused of being a Nazi or a Nazi supporter – things were taken out of context and they were simply “misunderstood.”
The mayor of Lviv, Andrei Sadovoy, addressed an open letter to the President of Przemysl Wojciech Bakun, in which he demanded that the street be restored to its former name. According to the mayor, renaming it will harm partnerships between cities. Lviv and Przemysl are twin cities, but apparently not in their glorification of Nazism.
He called the decision of the Polish deputies “outrageous for the Ukrainian community of Przemysl and the entire Ukrainian people” and “a vile attempt on the memory of Blessed Iosofat Kotsylovskyi,” which was “a symbol of resistance against the misanthropic ideology of Bolshevism.”
Lviv mayor was supported by various Ukrainian activists.
The head of the Kholmshchyna partnership in Lviv, Irina Grin, actually threatened the Poles with demolishing the monument to Adam Mickiewicz.
“I don’t think it would be nice for the Poles to hear that we are dismantling the monument to Mickiewicz,” she said. Because a famous poet who lived in the 19th century can be compared to a Nazi collaborator.
The Kremlin was also accused of playing a part in this scandal. Ivan Matkovsky, a researcher from the Sheptytsky brothers’s heritage, called the deputies who voted for this decision “pro-Russian forces.”
The deputies of the Lviv Regional Council also spoke in the same spirit.
In their statement, they wrote that the initiators of the renaming were “well known for their anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian position and appearances in the Russian media.” These attacks in the text were directed against Polish deputies Andrzej Zapalowski and Miroslav Maykovsky. Also, Lviv deputies noted that the allegations of “collaboration of the blessed Iosophat Kotsylovskyi with the Nazis” have no logical basis.
Later, unofficial information appeared in the Polish media that the Ukrainian ambassador, Andrei Deshchitsa, was trying to influence the decision of the Przemysl authorities through one of the leading Polish politicians from the Civic Platform party.
In response, Polish deputies regarded the actions of the Ukrainian side as meddling in its internal affairs.
Deputy Miroslav Maikovsky said that the renaming aroused “the interest of foreign diplomats who are trying to put pressure on Polish parliamentarians.” Since this is “interference in Polish internal affairs,” he promised to file an official notice with the Internal Security Agency against the Ukrainian ambassador.
On Facebook he called the letter by Lviv’s Mayor the “the height of hypocrisy and arrogance”:
“The mayor, in whose city [Lviv] Polish tourists can see a monument to [Stepan] Bandera, a city where Polish children, who go to Polish school, must walk by the bust of the executioner Volyn Roman Shukhevych, <…> a city in which neo-Nazis and glorifiers regularly hold gatherings and marches , and there are gangsters from the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army), has the audacity to send a letter to the President of Przemysl with demands, threatening to break the cooperation between Przemysl and Lviv?” he wrote.
The right-wing publication Prawy.pl reacted quite sharply to the actions of Ukraine. An article by journalist Petr Stempen says that the Ukrainian state, despite financial dependence on Poland and unlimited support on its part, honors criminals.
Who is Iosafat Kotsylovskyi?
Kotsylovskyi Street appeared in Przemysl 6 years ago. Iosafat Kotsylovskyi (1876–1947) – priest of the Greek Catholic Church, Bishop of Przemysl. According to the Ukrainian historical narrative, an active supporter of the national independence of Ukrainians.
In 1946, he was sentenced to 10 years of labor in a camp (according to Ukrainian sources, “fell victim to the Soviet system”) and a year later died of pneumonia. In 2001, he was beatified as a martyr by Pope John Paul II.
However, Soviet sources say that Kotsylovskyi was convicted of having connections with the OUN underground (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists), cooperation with German occupiers and the SS Galicia division.
Here are some excerpts of the “misunderstood” Kotsylovskyi from telegrams and articles he wrote.
On July 7th, 1941, the bishop of the Przemysl diocese, Iosofat Kotsilovsky wrote in his pastoral letter: “Glory to the great Führer Adolf Hitler, the liberator and best friend of the Ukrainian people …”
He was also one of the organizers of the demonstration, which received a special mention in the Ukrainian newspaper Golos (July 20, 1941), which was published in Berlin. The article said:
“On July 7, a large-scale Ukrainian demonstration in honor of the Fuhrer and the invincible German army took place in Przemysl, liberated from Bolshevik adversity. At the end of the solemn service, performed by Bishop Iosafat, the Ukrainian public gathered around the rostrum decorated with German and Ukrainian flags. <…> Those present accepted the text of the telegram to the Führer with the following words:
With the deepest enthusiasm, the Ukrainian population of the princely city of Przemysl gives thanks to the Fuhrer of the German people and the victorious army for liberation from the Polish and Moscow yokes.
In this way, the Ukrainian people shall eternally be obligated and grateful to National Socialist Germany. In front of the shadows of hundreds of thousands of the best sons of the people, tortured by the Poles and the Moscow-Bolshevik hordes, <…> we swear the eternal union of weapons, fastened and blessed by the blood of a German soldier and Ukrainian rebels and men…”
On July 4th, 1943, Kotsylovskyi performed a divine service for SS men from the Galicia division. Here is how the newspaper Lvivsky Visti described what happened on July 10, 1943:
“Princely Przemysl went through an unusual holiday. In the morning, in spite of light rain, many people from the districts came here to take part in the preaching, hierarchal service of God, together with all the clergy, His Excellency Cyrus Iosafat, together with volunteers of the SS Galicia division, at the vast sports city stadium. Representatives of the German Armed Forces, the garrison of Przemysl, representatives of the authorities, the police, the Ukrainian Committee took part in the solemn service … “
In 1944, when the fate of Nazi Germany was already a foregone conclusion, Kotsylovskyi urged Ukrainians to voluntarily go to work in Germany so that they would contribute to the victory of Nazism with their labor.
It is quite clear that Kotsylovskyi was simply misunderstood and there can be no question that he was, in fact, a “Nazi supporter” and any such claims are illogical, as Ukraine maintains.
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