For the righteous
The Sejm is working on legislation to create the Eastern Cross, which would honour foreigners who saved Poles in the former Eastern Borderlands. Also posthumously.
“We want to show that Poland is grateful to all individuals who risked their lives and welfare to help Poles during turbulent times,” says Michal Dworczyk (PiS), the head of the Committee for Liaison with Poles Abroad.
“Up to now there was no such distinction. By doing this we are filling a certain gap. It is worth remembering that other countries have such distinctions, for example the Yad Vashem Institute awards the Righteous Among the Nations of the World medal,” Dworczyk adds.
The Eastern Cross would be awarded to foreigners who provided assistance to Poles persecuted in the East between 1937 – 1959. Among those that could be honoured are: Ukrainians who rescued Poles, including Jews, during the Wolyn massacres.
“The time-frames that will be considered when bestowing the distinction refer to the anti-Polish operations carried out between 1937 and 1938 on the territory of Soviet Russia as well as the second repatriation in 1959,” Dworczyk says.
The first date marks the start in the Soviet Union of the so-called Polish Operation, which saw the murder of 110,000 Poles. 1959 is when the so-called second repatriation was concluded, during which a quarter of a million Poles were forced to leave the former Eastern Borderlands. The legislation is due to cover people who helped persecuted Poles on the territories occupied by Germans and Soviets, and later administered by the Soviet regime.
“Today it is difficult to estimate the number of people that rescued Poles,” Dworczyk adds.
Dr Mateusz Szpytma, the Deputy Director of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), points out that the Institute published an “Eastern Borderlands Righteous” book, which has information of hundreds of people that rescued Poles in the area.
“It has been translated into Ukrainian. We will no doubt expand our knowledge of the issue,” he says.
The members of parliament want the distinction to be awarded from 1 January 2017. The plan is for the cross to be awarded by the president on the initiative of the minister of foreign affairs. The minister will make proposals made on his own initiative or based on suggestions made by veteran associations and organisations, social organisations, the head of the Office of Veteran Affairs as well as private individuals, upon seeking approval of the Director of the IPN.
According to the initiators of the projects, the Eastern Cross award is meant to create reconciliation between the Polish nation and our Eastern neighbours. It is meant to show, amongst other things, that although the massacres took place they were the doing of specific people and not the whole nation, which included people and groups who risked their lives in order to rescue Poles.
The Cross will contain an inscription reading: “To Those That Rescued Poles” as well as the emblem of the Commonwealth of Three Nations.