Saturday, December 23, 2017

Reality, Responsibility, Recognition, Repentance

"We know that our community is being attacked because of our and Canada's support for Ukraine in the current war that Russia is waging there."
"The Russian government is trying to stir up controversy and sort of obfuscate from the current situation that's taking place in Europe."
"I think that the premise of calling them [nationalist Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazis] Nazi collaborators is slanderous. I think the real story here is about the Russian Embassy and what they're trying to do to our community and how they're trying to create an issue where there isn't one."
Ihor Michalehyshyn executive director, CEO, Ukrainian Canadian Congress
The cenotaph at Oakville's St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery, Wednesday, October 25, 2017. Peter J Thompson/National Post
"It would be refreshing and perhaps a form of self-healing if Ukrainians could offer a conception of their recent past that looked at all aspects of these events, recognizing in passing that heroes could be criminals."
David Marples, professor, University of Alberta, "Heroes and Villains"

"I've known about Roman Shukhevych since I was little, [but not] about him being in any war crimes or anything we should be hiding. I have never heard in my life that Shukhevych may have been involved in war crimes."
"Roman Shukhevych was the leader, very much respected even after the war, to continue this battle against the Soviet regime. He's completely seen as a hero, and respected to this day as a symbol of the fight for freedom."
Paras Podilsky, spokesman, Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex, Edmonton
"[Leaders such as Shukhevych] symbolize this long and historical attempt by Ukrainians to resist, to defend themselves. The Russian perspective is because there is a dark side, and the collaboration with the Germans, you reduce the entire insurgency to atrocities. And therefore the very idea that Ukrainians or any other group can resist Russian or Soviet occupation is delegitimized."
"Unfortunately, the Ukrainians-Canadian organizations have not shown real readiness to discuss these issues. On the whole, there's a great deal of resistance."
Dominique Arel, Chair, Ukrainian Studies, University of Ottawa

"I think the question that Canadians really need to ask is, does the presence of these monuments in any way contribute to anti-Semitism, or other forms of racism or bigotry in Canada today?"
"[The answer appears] no [since] the intent of these monuments is not to stir up hatred or to glorify crimes against Jews."
"[B'nai Brith doesn't see any requirement for existing monuments to be removed]. I think that the communities that have established these monuments, so namely the Ukrainian-Canadian community, should take a critical look at these facts and should remind themselves that many of these people were engaged in collaboration with the Nazis."
Aidan Fishman, interim director, B'nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights
Russia in CanadaVerified account @RussianEmbassyC
There are monumets to Nazi collaborators in Canada and nobody is doing anything about it. #NeverForget #Holocaust #WorldWar2

The facts as they are alluded to reflect the reality of the times, more nuanced than the Russian Embassy in Canada's public questioning of the loyalties and purported anti-Semitic cooperation between Nazi Germany occupied Ukraine drive toward. It does seem indisputable, in any event, that the Russian effort is meant to exploit potential divisions between Ukraine and the support they have been given by Canada politically and practically in response to Moscow's violent intervention in Ukraine and the unquestioned international criminality of annexing Crimea to Russian possession.

There most certainly were Ukrainian military units in cooperation with fascist Germany in its occupation of Europe and its preoccupation in rounding up European Jews for extermination. The enduring anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe was a virtual guarantee that Ukrainian police and military as well as local militias would be more than eager to help rid Ukraine of its traditional presence of Jews, forever persecuted there as elsewhere. Even in France, where secular civility is a prided attribute, French police were enthusiastic and brutal participants in making the country Judenrein.

As far as Russia is concerned, it is up to its usual mischief in its ongoing efforts to spread distrust in the West. What is at issue here is a number of Ukrainian monuments in honour of figures of national importance to Ukrainian independence and resistance to both Germany and the Soviet Union during the Second World War. The Galician military division comprised of Ukrainians focused on rallying against the Soviets placed them in the German sphere where both were on the same side in battles. These are the "Nazi collaborators" that the Russians refer to.

Concurrent with supporting the ethnic Russian Ukrainians, supplying them with arms, training and the presence of Russian troops and its 2014 illegal repossession of the Crimean Peninsula, the Russian Embassy has targeted the 1.3-million Ukrainian-Canadians as fascists-in-waiting for whom their national heroes are icons of salvation and adoration, when in actual fact many among them were actively engaged in aiding the Nazi occupation in rounding up and dispatching Jews to the death camps and their lethal crematoria.

One monument that has received attention stands in Oakville, Ontario at the St. Volodymyr Cemetery commemorating a battle fought by the Ukrainian Galician Division of the German Waffen SS against the Red Army where over three-quarters of the Ukrainian soldiers perished. "Fighting on the German side doesn't mean to be a Nazi right? You have to understand, those were the people who were fighting communism" explained Oleg Bezpitko, manager of the cemetery. The division in question was formed once a majority of Ukrainian Jewish victims had been targeted, though the Waffen-SS represented the military, not those tasked with operating concentration camps.

Another monument under question represents a bust of Roman Shukhevych standing at the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex in Edmonton. The Organization for Ukrainian Nationalists linked themselves with the Germans for help in battling the Soviets occupying Ukraine. Shukhevych commanded one of two Ukrainian divisions attached to the German army, called the "Naghtigall". Shortly after the battalion arrived in Lviv a pogrom occurred, killing thousands of Jews. Shukhevych set up another local militia which played a central role in killing Jews.
A veteran of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) marches with people dressed as UPA soldiers on October 11, 2009 in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv to mark the 67th anniversary of the founding of UPA in 1943. YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP/Getty Images

Individual members of the Ukrainian insurgency army which Shukhevych later also established were known to be involved in killing Jews and ethnic cleansing campaigns against Poles in Ukraine. But it is of course the broader conflict for Ukrainian independence that Ukrainians cherish their memories of this man for. The Soviets were already tainted with the death and deportation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians around the end of the war. Adding the memory of the Holodomor, the deadly famine that killed millions in the 1930s, there is no love lost among Ukrainians for Russia.

An organization named the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter conducts efforts to reconcile with the past, inviting experts on Ukrainian and Jewish history to discuss their scholarly research and resulting interpretations of what had occurred, in the hopes of reaching a combined narrative in agreement of truth and justice.
"It's about time that somebody paid attention to it [researching Ukrainian involvement in the Holocaust]."
"The fact is the  Ukrainian government and the diaspora have been honouring Holocaust perpetrators and war criminals for a long time."
"The West should put greater emphasis on confronting the past. I do think they're neglecting their role if they're not putting pressure on Ukraine to do an honest confrontation with the events of the Second World War."
John-Paul Hinka, professor of history, University of Alberta
This man, Dr. Hinka, has conducted research that implicates Canada's current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland's grandfather, to Nazi collaboration; he also happens to be Freeland's uncle. Dr. Hinka has researched and written about his discoveries of the reality of Ukrainian responsibility in cooperating with the Nazi occupiers of Eastern Europe.

The data he retrieves and attempts to make public knowledge has not endeared him to the Ukrainian community. He is viewed as a Ukrainian traitor to Ukrainian history. He reports having been banned from Ukrainian-Canadian publications in his efforts to bring research on Ukrainian involvement in the Holocaust to public knowledge.

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