Ukraine, Polish Leaders Remember 1945 Massacre

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's president expressed "the greatest sadness" over the murder of 366 Ukrainian civilians by Poles at the end of the Second World War as he and his Ukrainian counterpart lit candles at a memorial to the dead.

Presidents Viktor Yushchenko (L), of Ukraine and Lech Kaczynski of Poland attend a ceremony in the village of Pawlokoma , Poland , Saturday May 13, 2006, remembering the murder of 366 Ukrainian civilians by Poles at the end of World War II, a step in reconciliation between the neighboring nations.

Polish soldiers murdered Ukrainian civilians in the eastern village of Pawlokoma in March 1945 in revenge for the killing by Ukrainians of about 10 Poles.

The countries' presidents joined in prayers conducted by leaders of Poland's Roman Catholic and Ukraine's Greek Catholic church at the recently built memorial in Pawlokoma. They laid wreaths and lit candles.

"Pawlokoma became for Ukrainians a symbol of the tragedy of their nation," Polish President Lech Kaczynski said in remarks that fell short of an apology. "We reflect on that today with the greatest sadness."

"A strong and lasting reconciliation can only be built upon the truth," Kaczynski said. "We cannot change the past but can ensure that it doesn't determine our future."

Calling it "a historic day," Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko stressed the importance of reconciliation for the sake of the future.

The memorial, a large grey granite cross, remembers the suffering that Poles and Ukrainians suffered at one another's hands amid the brutality of the Second World War.

"To the eternal memory of the 366 victims who tragically lost their lives in the village of Pawlokoma March 1-3, 1945," it reads. "To the memory of Poles, residents of the village of Pawlokoma, who in 1939-1945 suffered death from Ukrainian nationalists."

The memorial was officially unveiled in March on the anniversary of the massacre.

For years, residents of the village opposed erecting the memorial. They agreed after Ukraine last year restored Lviv's Cemetery of Orlyats, the resting place of 2,500 Polish soldiers who struggled against Ukrainians in a 1918-20 war.

Source: AP