The Polish president attended a memorial cermony in the western Ukrainian city of Lutsk to mark the 70th anniversary of a notorious massacre during World War II when more than 100,000 people were killed.
The massacres took place in 1943 and 1944 in Volyn, which was then part of Poland, when nationalists on both sides killed tens of thousands of civilians.
Historians estimate that 60,000 to 80,000 Poles were killed by Ukrainian nationalists in the ethnic conflict. The nationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) carried out the massacre. The army was anti-Soviet and pushing for Ukrainian independence. Before the war the predominantly Ukrainian-populated area was under a Polish rule.
As many as 20,000 to 30,000 Ukrainians are believed to have died in revenge attacks.
The tragedy marred the two nations relations for long decades. It was in 2003 when the then Presidents Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland and Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine jointly attended the memorial service in Lutsk for the first time in an attempt to turn the page on the painful past and start a closer new relationship.
Speaking at the Sunday’s service, Polish President Bronislaw Komorovski said: “I believe that under no circumstances can violence and ethnic cleansing be used to resolve conflicts between neighboring countries and can not be justified by political, religious or economical reasons”.
After the ceremony, one Ukrainian lady said: “We should teach next generations to respect the memory of victims and not to forget our ancestors.”
A Polish man said: “We want our countries to live in normal peaceful relationships, as friends. As we are brotherly people, but history divided us.”
After the service, the President Komorovski was attacked by male from Eastern Ukraine who smashed an egg onto his jacket. The man was immediately arrested by police.