Polish Genocide in Wołyń: Poet torn apart by horses – by Coryllus

One must be very strong emotionally to not feel nauseous or horrified while creating in the mind an image of the described atrocity. On the night of July 10, 1943, three young men, beaten bloody, were tied by their arms and legs to horses. Someone shouted “wai” or “hey” or just cracked a whip, and the horses took off running. The entire episode lasted only a few minutes. One of those tied to the horses was Zygmunt Rumel, a Polish poet and soldier of the Peasant Battalion.

That summer, the forests in Volhynia were full of soldiers with “tryzubs” (trident – the official code of arms of the Ukraine) on their caps, police officers escorted by the German police, peasants hurriedly armed with pistols or only pitchforks. At that moment a genocidal plot was being realized. The high command of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army had decided that that summer they would begin the process of clearing the lands they considered indigenously Ukrainian of the Polish element. The “purification” was to consist of physical elimination of the inhabitants of Polish villages, as well as destruction of their homes and churches. The Soviet front was approaching, and they thought this to be the appropriate time to liquidate the Poles before the Russians would appear in the Ukraine. The UPA command speculated, completely falsely and unrealistically, that the Red Army would be exhausted and weak when it reached the Ukrainian lands. Then, in the absence of foreign elements in the Ukraine, it would be easier to fight the Russians and even defeat them. The greed and pure fantasy of this plan surpassed by far other unrealistic political decisions made at that time in the area of then Poland and testified to persistent misinterpretation by the leadership of the Ukrainian partisans regarding the events taking place around them. It also shows that people like Stefan Bandera did not quite fathom the scale of these events and their consequences. Bandera likely habored grand illusions about Józef Stalin and his methods of waging war believing that killing thousands of Poles would be adventageous for the Ukrainian organizations during their encounter with the advancing Russian armies as well as in their effort to create the independent country of Ukraine.

Individual murders of Poles began in the Ukraine in 1942, but the terror gradually intensified and spread closer to the centers of the Polish population in the western part of Wołyń (Volhynia).

In July 1943, the last attempt to communicate and negotiate with the Ukrainians was made. A delegate of the Polish government in exile, Kazimierz Banach, ordered two officers from the BCH (the Peasant Batallion) regional office in Wołyń to accompany a delegation to the village of Wołczak, where they were to contact the commander of the northern division of the UPA , Yuriy Stemaszczuk. The two officers were Zygmunt Rumel and Krzysztof Markiewicz, a special tasks officer. The meeting with the Ukrainians and the conversations were confirmed by letters in the UPA headquarters in Volhynia. Rumel and Markiewicz had reasons to believe there was a chance for a successful agreement that would avert the escalation of the conflict. The first preliminary meeting of the Polish government delegates took place two days earlier, on the 7th of July, near the village of Świniarzyn, with an officer by the name of Szabatura representing the Ukrainian side. After the war, under the changed name, he was the commander of the UB in Szprotawa (today Lubuskie province). The second meeting with the Ukrainians was to take place in the village of Kustycze on July 9. Rumel and Markiewicz arrived in full uniforms accompanied by a hired coachman, Witold Dąbrowski. However, no negotiations took place. Instead, the men were brutally murdered. They were torn apart by horses at the lake in Kustycze and buried there. The grave in which their remains rest is not marked to this day.

The next day, on July 10, 1943, the masacre in Volhynia began. Peasant wagons loaded with UPA soldiers came to the Polish villages where they were murdering with unimaginable cruelty everyone without exception. The few who managed to escape alive owed it to those Ukrainians who had not let themselves be manipulated by the Bandera’s propaganda and simply helped the Poles out of Christian mercy. The wife and daughter of the murdered Zygmunt Rumel avoided death thank to a Ukrainian who was a family friend. He took the woman and the child from Volhynia to Warsaw in an ordinary peasant car after having them change their appearance a bit so that they would look more like typical village women.

Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz wrote that Rumel was one of the diamonds that were fired at the enemy. Rumel’s poems are practically unavailable anywhere, so we must believe Iwaszkiewicz. Zygmunt Rumel was born in Krzemieniec where he attended school. He was a very talented student and his talent came out very early in life. During the meeting of Zygmunt’s mother with Leopold Staff, he said, “guard this boy; he will be a great poet.” However, Zygmunt Rumel did not get a chance to develop his talent and become a great poet. His name is rarely mentioned, and his poems have been forgotten. He is not mentioned at schools or colleges. He remains one of the many tragic Polish victims of the war.

Encyclopedias mention two of his works – “Poemat o roku 1963” and the poem “Two Mothers.” The latter song is part of the long tradition of Polish poetry talking lovingly about the Ukraine, which was Poland at the time. “Two Mothers” is a confession in which the poet speaks about his attachment and love for Poland and the Ukraine. In connection with the death of the author, this poem can be understood as a metaphor for Poland’s parting with the Borderlands and the whole Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which spread over half of eastern Europe, and ended with blood spilled on the lake in Kustycze on the nights of July 10 and 11, 1943. The sons of Zygmunt Rumel’s “second mother” – the Ukrainians, his metaphorical half brothers, did not want to hear songs sung by romantic Poles about their “second mother”. Unknown to Rumel and others, they had their own poems, their own legend, their own myths and their own weapons. The latter was to give them freedom and fame, but it brought only shame. Today nobody in Ukraine remembers the poet Zygmunt Rumel, the author of the poem “Dwa matki”. Also, too few call that genocide what it should be called – genocide. It is often referred to as “anti-Polish action” that removed Poles from “our land”. Those who cracked the whip by those horses on that July night over the Kuszyce lake, with the Polish officers tied to the horses, call themselves knights. Maybe they even believe what they say. Probably because they never had two mothers.

The original article by Coryllus, in Polish, can be found here: https://www.salon24.pl/u/coryllus/206793,poeta-rozerwany-konmi

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