Marco Levytsky, NP-UN.
Two recent pieces by purportedly reputable journalists have viciously smeared the Ukrainian Canadian community by giving credence to Russian propaganda which accuses Ukrainian Canadians of Nazi sympathies by erecting monuments to Nazi collaborators.
At issue is the monument to veterans of the First Division of the National Army of Ukraine (originally created as the 14th Waffen SS Galizien Division) at St. Volodymyr’s Cemetery in Oakville and the monument to the commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA in its Ukrainian anacronym), Roman Shukhevych, which is located in the courtyard of the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex in Edmonton, which bears his name.
Two journalists, Scott Taylor of d’Esprit Magazine and David Pugliese wrote pieces that unapologetically stated that the Russia tweets were correct. Taylor’s piece first appeared in his own d’Esprit Magazine, and was later reprinted in The Hill Times and the Winnipeg Free Press. Pugliese’s ran in the Ottawa Citizen, which is part of the Post Media chain, so could go anywhere from there.
In both cases, they charge Shukhevych with participating in the July 4 – 7 massacres of Jews in Lviv, and the Galician Division of committing war crimes at Huta Pieniacka in Poland.
Let’s start with Shukhevych, who in June and July, 1941, commanded the Ukrainian battalion called Nachtigall, which surged ahead of the advancing German armies to liberate Ukraine from the Soviet Red Army. There is an old saying: the enemy of my enemy is my friend and that is precisely how the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) felt about the war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Let us not forget that just eight years earlier, Moscow had starved millions of Ukrainian peasants to death in the genocide known as the Holodomor. Their brief occupation of Western Ukraine between 1939 and 1941 which was accomplished by collusion, crated under the infamous Hitler-Stalin pact of August 1939, was extremely brutal. During their retreat they viciously murdered and tortured to death up to 8,000 political prisoners. Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests were especially targeted. For example, Father Yakym Senkyvskyi, who was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 2001, was boiled to death in a cauldron in a Drohobych prison on June 29, 1941.
While the OUN collaborated with the Germans in the very early stages of the war, they had a much different agenda which came to light on June 30, 1941 when the Bandera wing of the OUN declared the reinstatement of Ukrainian independence, which led to prompt Nazi reprisals. By the time of the Lviv massacre the arrests had already begun. OUN then turned against the Nazis and the UPA fought both Nazi and Soviet invaders (the latter right until the mid-fifties).
What’s more, in 2008, the Ukrainian Security Service declassified KGB archives among which was a document which noted that on July 4-7 of 1941, representatives of Gestapo, who arrived in Lviv, turned to the Ukrainian population inciting them to carry out an anti-Jewish pogrom, but OUN ordered its members not to take part. “The OUN leadership, having got to know about that, informed its members that it was a German provocation in order to compromise Ukrainians with massacres”, reads the document.
OUN detractors like Prof. John Paul Himka claim this document is a fake. In a February 14, 2010 letter to the editor of the Edmonton Journal, in which he was reacting to my earlier letter, Himka stated the document cited “was already exposed as a deception in Kyiv Post and other venues”. It ultimately turned out that the only article in the Kyiv Post, in which this document was referred to, was a March 27, 2008 Op-ed piece that Himka himself wrote. Hardly an independent corroboration. And why would the KGB fabricate a letter that cleared Shukhevych of participation in the massacre of Jews? Would they try to hide it deep in their vaults? You bet they would.
Russian attempts to discredit both OUN and UPA are very well documented in “The Jewish Card in Russian Special Operations Against Ukraine”, a paper delivered at the 26th Conference on Ukrainian Subjects at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, June 24-27, 2009, by Moses Fishbein, a leading member of Ukraine’s Jewish community as well as a distinguished Ukrainian poet and translator, winner of the Vasyl Stus Prize, and a member of the Ukrainian Center of the International PEN Club and the National Union of Writers of Ukraine.
“The claim that ‘the UPA engaged in anti-Jewish actions is a provocation engineered by Moscow. It is a provocation. It is a lie that the UPA destroyed Jews. Tell me: how could the UPA have destroyed Jews when Jews were serving members of the UPA? I knew a Jew who served in the UPA. I also knew Dr. Abraham Shtertser, who settled in Israel after the war. There was Samuel Noiman whose [UPA] codename was Maksymovych. There was Shai Varma (codename Skrypal/Violinist). There was Roman Vynnytsky whose codename was Sam,” he wrote. Of particular interest is what Fishbein has to say about the wife of Shukhevych.
“In 1942-43 Natalia Shukhevych, the wife of UPA Commander in Chief Roman Shukhevych, hid a young Jewish girl named Ira Reichenberg in her home. General Shukhevych prepared a fake passport for the girl in the name of Iryna Ryzhko. When the Gestapo arrested Mrs. Shukhevych, the little girl was brought to an orphanage based at a convent located in the village of Kulykiv in the Lviv region. There the little girl survived the German occupation and the war. In 2007 Iryna Ryzhko died in Kyiv, where her son Volodymyr lives.”
As for the Division, it was formed in 1943 to fight the Soviet Red Army. It was founded in order to serve as a nucleus for a future army of Ukraine which would fight for Ukraine’s independence should both the Nazi and Soviet Empires collapse, just as the Austro-Hungarian army unit of Ukrainian Sich Sharpshooters proved to be most disciplined fighting unit in the war for Ukraine’s independence during 1917-1921 when the Russian Empire collapsed. Non-Germans were not allowed membership in the regular army but only in Waffen SS units. Unlike the SS units that operated the concentration camps, Waffen Units were strictly military forces.
The largest action the Division was involved in was the 1944 Battle of Brody where the Germans used them as human shields. Only 3,000 of the 11,000 original members survived and the unit had to be reconstituted.
As for Huta Pieniacka, Russian, Polish and Ukrainian historians have very conflicting versions about the Ukrainian involvement in this German engineered massacre.
Best to look to objective judicial sources – namely British and Canadian ones. The Division was investigated as to any involvement in any war crimes – not once – not twice – but three times and was cleared every time. The last investigation, that of the Canadian “Commission of Inquiry on War Crimes”, headed by the Honourable Justice Jules Deschênes, in October, 1986 concluded that:
“The Galicia Division (14. Waffen grenadier division der SS [gal. #1]) should not be indicted as a group. The members of Galicia Division were individually screened for security purposes before admission to Canada. Charges of war crimes of Galicia Division have never been substantiated, either in 1950 when they were first preferred, or in 1984 when they were renewed, or before this Commission.”
So why would supposedly reputable Canadian journalists take the word of some troll, grovelling in the lowest depths of the cellars of the Kremlin, over that of a highly respected justice of the Supreme Court of Quebec who was credited with a stellar judicial career? One can only assume that their real objective is simply to parrot the political propaganda of Vladimir Putin.