About a thousand remains, majority of them Polish and believed to be victims of Stalinist terror, were unearthed in Kazimierz, the great castle in Ukraine by Ukrainian and Polish scientists. Polish media has already dubbed the mass grave site as the new Katyn.
Kazimierz, the location of the mass grave, is in the town of Volodymyr-Volynsky which is situated on the western part of Ukraine and is close to the Polish border. Polish soldiers were among the victims found in the said mass grave.
Though the NKVD (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del or People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) built a base on the remnants of the 13th-century Ukrainian castle from the years 1939 to 1956 (excluding the German occupation years), scientists have specified that the victims in the recently discovered mass grave were killed between the years 1940 to 1941.
According to Alexi Zlatogorski, the head of Ukraine’s archeological team involved with the discovery and investigation of the unearthed mass grave, the team had already found about 950 individuals. Several of the cadavers were of Polish soldiers and the remaining were civilians.
Mr. Zlatogorski further added that aside from the corpses, the site where the mass grave was located yielded TT pistol cartridge cases. TT pistols were a Soviet sidearm. The discovered cartridge cases were the ones to pinpoint that the found remains were killed by the NKVD between 1940 and 1941.
Moreover, the team’s findings coincided with one of the preferred means of killing by the secret police — shooting a person at the back of his head in a single shot using a pistol.
On the other hand, a Polish scientist involved with the mass grave investigation, Dominika Sieminska, elaborated that the remains found int he Stalin-era mass grave were in very poor condition. Their estate reveals that the NKVD used quicklime to cover the mass grave during the burial. She also pointed that the corpses looked like they were crushed using rifle butts before they were dumped into the mass grave via an excavator.
The recently discovered mass grave provides yet another proof of the Soviet Union’s huge-scale crimes committed against the Poles during the first years of WWII. These crimes still cloud Pole-Russia relations.
Majority of the Poles feels that Russia, the inheritor of the legacy left by the Soviet Union, has done so little to atone for the sins it committed in those times. Meanwhile, Moscow has let out exasperation with, according to it, Poland’s transfixion of years and events gone by.
For the time being, exhumations of the remains in the mass grave are still continuing. Ukrainian authorities have decided to bury the unearthed corpses in a cemetery within the municipality. Additionally, they plan to erect a memorial for the victims on September 23.