RFE/RL: Killing of Ukrainian in Poland Points up Old Enmity

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Subject: RFE/RL: Killing of Ukrainian in Poland Points up Old Enmity

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RFE/RL: Killing of Ukrainian in Poland Points up Old Enmity

RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report
Vol. 3, No. 7, 27 February 2001
A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by
the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team


weeks ago of a Ukrainian citizen in Poland has caused much outrage -
but not much surprise - in Ukraine.

Serhiy Kudrya was driving across Poland to Ukraine with his pregnant
wife on 25 January when he was stopped by Polish police for speeding -
and shot. According to the police, Kudrya refused to identify himself
and tried to flee the scene. But Kudrya's wife says he complied with
police demands and was nonetheless shot at point-blank range.

For many Ukrainians, especially in west Ukraine, the incident has only
reinforced historical enmities. The area - known as Galicia under the
Austro-Hungarian Empire - has been fought over for centuries by the
two countries. Their troubled history of war and cultural repression
is never far from the surface in Lviv, west Ukraine's unofficial

Andriy Stetskyy works for the non-governmental Citizens' Foundation
for Law and Democracy, which demonstrated in front of the Polish
consulate in Lviv to demand a thorough investigation into Kudrya's
death. Stetskyy says Kudrya's death tapped Ukrainian resentment of its
more successful post-communist neighbor.

"Many Ukrainians are envious of Poland, which has managed to get
through the economic crisis and now enjoys a standard of living higher
than Ukraine. And such incidents do sharpen attitudes and feelings, so
that at such moments [Ukrainians] remember our historical problems in
[bilateral] relations," Stetskyy told RFE/RL.

Since Ukraine attained independence in 1991, many of the estimated
500,000 to 2 million Ukrainians who seek to work abroad each year find
jobs in Poland. And Poland remains a top destination for Ukrainian
small traders traveling across the border to buy goods. Poland has
postponed implementing the European Union requirement that it impose
visas on Ukrainian citizens because it is afraid of destroying this
trade, on which much of eastern Poland relies.

But Poles do not always look kindly on Ukrainian workers and traders.
Most Ukrainians working in Poland do menial jobs, and many are there
illegally, which does not help foster respect for them. In the past
two years, 270 Ukrainians have died in Poland, most because of their
involvement in criminal groups.

Stetskyy says both Polish and Ukrainian authorities should regulate
the massive labor migration and protect Ukrainians from exploitation
and violence. But the Polish consul in Lviv, Krzysztof Sawicki, says
Poles doing business in Ukraine have an equally hard time. Sawicki
acknowledges there is little economic cooperation between the two
countries today, with Polish investment in Ukraine to date amounting
to only $56 million.

Sawicki, too, refers to history when explaining why. He says Poles
have a built-in fear of their eastern neighbors, which present-day
Ukraine does little to allay.

"People ask why our economic relations with Ukraine are so weak. But
picture to yourself a small, average businessman from Poland who goes
to Ukraine. And on the road to Lviv or Kyiv he is stopped many times
by the police, and they all want something. They hold on to him and
take his identification papers. The result of this police behavior is
that many Poles have developed a pathological fear [of Ukraine],"
Sawicki said. (Lily Hyde, an RFE/RL corespondent based in Kyiv)


Copyright (c) 2001. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.
RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report is prepared by Jan
Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by
"RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed
every Tuesday.
Direct comments to Jan Maksymiuk at maksymiukj@rferl.org.
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