Moscow, February 28, 2017
Unfortunately, this year’s Forgiveness Sunday in the Polish town of Hajnówka in the Podlasie Province was a restless one. For the first time in the history of the famous Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Rite of Forgiveness had to be served immediately after the morning Liturgy rather than in the evening due to a scheduled Polish nationalist march which was to pass under the walls of the cathedral, reports Sobor.by.
The town of Hajnówka is the center of Poland’s Belarusian minority, with the majority of them being Orthodox. The march scheduled that day was in fact to glorify an infamous killer of the Belarusian people of Podlasie, the Polish underground fighter Romuald Rajs, known as “Brown.” In the winter of 1946, Rajs’ group burned Podlasie together with its inhabitants, including the women and children of several Belarusian villages. Three dozen Orthodox peasants were also shot by “Brown’s” order.
Rallies, marches, and other events in honor of Rajs and his “cursed soldiers,” as they are known, are being held this week in Poland, as March 1 is the official commemoration date for these bandits who fought against the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs and the post-war authorities.
“Our community is shocked that at this time, on Forgiveness Sunday before the beginning of Great Lent, a march for the ‘cursed soldiers’ has been organized. We’re not against the ‘cursed soldiers,’ but if the banners in this march bear his face and the symbol of the Institute of National Remembrance which in 2005 officially considered his actions as bearing the signs of genocide, it is the usual provocation,” stated Lyutsina Rushuk, representative of the Hajnówka Division of the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood of Poland.
The majority of Hajnówka Catholics did not support the actions of the Polish nationalists, and several prominent figures came to support the Orthodox whose ancestors had died at “Brown’s” hands.
“First of all, I would like to express my solidarity with the Belarusians of Hajnówka, and with the Orthodox community of Hajnówka against this act of hatred, xenophobia and nationalism being carried out today in the form of a march in honor of the memory of this criminal, who killed Orthodox Belarusians in the tragic time of the Second World War. At such a time it is necessary to be with the people of Hajnówka and express our solidarity,” said Robert Tyszkiewicz, member of Polish Parliament.
The Belarusian Orthodox simply wanted to peacefully pray on Forgiveness Sunday, while what occurred is being considered basically a violation of the constitution right to worship. The route the organizers chose is not random, Tyszkiewicz explains. Last year one of the marchers was photographed with a smile on his face on the ashes of the homes of one of “Brown’s” victims. “This is not accidental. This is a vile, disgusting act, full of hatred, aimed at intimidating and dividing the people,” he concluded.