The Stepan Bandera quandary

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April 19, 2010, 6:28 p.m. | Op-ed — by Andriy J. Semotiuk

Andriy J. Semotiuk writes that much of the current backlash against Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) diverts attention from both Soviet and Nazi crimes against humanity.

Andriy J. Semotiuk

The funerals in Poland arising out of the recent Katyn airplane catastrophe remind us not only of the current tragedy, but also serve to underline the Polish disaster in Katyn forest where some 20,000 officers were massacred by the Soviet NKVD secret police. Those familiar with that disaster know that the Soviet regime sought to blame the massacre on the Nazis, falsified records and refused to reveal the archives to allow the truth to emerge until after the Soviet Union fell apart. To this day, not everything about Katyn forest has been revealed. To all Poles, Katyn forest is a reminder of their suffering during World War II. But Polish wounds that took so long to heal were again reopened by recent events.

Ukrainians worldwide understand the lesson of Katyn forest, since that is where the Soviet secret police demonstrated to what depths of depravity it was capable of descending. It was this same Soviet NKVD secret police that used similar actions on the Ukrainian national liberation movement and one of its leaders, Stepan Bandera who former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko recently recognized as a Hero of Ukraine.

The European Parliament reacted by hurriedly passed a resolution at the behest of that institution’s Polish delegation calling on the Ukrainian government to revoke this recognition. Bandera, of course, had nothing to do with Katyn forest. Instead, Bandera has been accused of heading a fascist organization that strove for an ethnically pure Ukrainian state.

More recently, it has been alleged that members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists -- with his knowledge and approval, if not pursuant to his direct orders -- slaughtered thousands of Jews in pogroms in 1941 and later, in the spring and summer of 1943, that Ukrainian nationalist insurgent army units engaged in further killings of thousands of Poles in Volhynia.

It appears that Ukraine's newly elected President Viktor Yanukovych shares at least some of these apprehensions since it has been announced he will revoke the award during the upcoming ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II on May 9, where Katyn forest was part of the ceremonial reflections. But before the new president takes such an extraordinary step regarding Bandera, wouldn't it make sense to review the facts to see if such a move is warranted?

Stepan Bandera with his family. (Ukrinform)

Life of Stepan Bandera

Stepan Bandera's life was inextricably wound up with the history of Ukraine and its struggle for unity, statehood and independence in two arenas: eastern Ukraine and western Ukraine.

Bandera, who grew up in Galicia, had a relatively uneventful childhood until, at age 11, his mother passed away from tuberculosis. From then on, he was raised by his father, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest of the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church.

Bandera did not emerge on the political stage until 1928, when he was 19. He and his father, Rev. Andriy Bandera, were arrested that year by Polish authorities in Kalush for taking part in a requiem memorial service for World War I soldiers who fought for Ukraine’s independence in the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen military units.

The next year, in 1929, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists was created with a view to consolidating and actively leading the national liberation struggle against the colonial occupation and oppression of Ukraine by Poland in the west and Soviet Russia in the east. During World War II, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists also engaged in armed resistance against German occupation. Bandera joined the organization when he was 20 years old.

Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists ideology

Militarily conquered, repressed and effectively sealed off from the world, eastern Ukraine increasingly succumbed to the grip of the newly-created Soviet state. As a result, Ukrainian revolutionary political activity shifted westward to Galicia and western Ukraine. There the severity of the economic conditions, political repressions and cultural straightjacket imposed on Galicia by Polish rule, forced the Ukrainian population to reconsider both the means and ends of political resistance. While mainstream Ukrainian groups explored all manner of legal avenues to assert the cause of Ukrainian independence, the younger generation increasingly looked to more radical alternatives. Increasingly Ukrainians, particularly the radicalized youth of Galicia, saw the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists as providing the kind of leadership that was needed to directly address the severe repressions the population faced.

In democratic societies, it is possible to seek change through democratic means. But what is one to do under an authoritarian or even a totalitarian regime, especially when controlled by a foreign power? How does one respond to oppressive measures including widespread physical intimidation and violence, incarceration, exile and, as occurred in Russian-occupied Ukraine, the wholesale murder not only of the intelligentsia but of members of every class and group in society? Ukrainian leaders tried to employ democratic means in response to serious political repression under Russian totalitarian rule in Ukraine and Polish authoritarian rule in Galicia but without success. Following the failure of that approach, OUN and the Ukrainian Military Organization before it went underground where it was possible to employ far more radical measures. Bandera was drawn into this revolutionary underground movement.

The Ukrainian national liberation struggle headed by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists shared many characteristics with other national liberation movements of the 20th century. Although fundamentally populist in outlook and nature, operationally the movement was the product of the circumstances in which it arose: it was revolutionary, conspiratorial, authoritarian and not only prepared, but fully committed, to engage in violence and armed resistance to achieve its overriding objective.

That goal was to attain political, economic, social, cultural and linguistic freedom -- through the creation of a united, independent and sovereign Ukrainian state -- for a nation that for hundreds of years had been subject to foreign colonial and imperial occupation and oppression. Another defining characteristic of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (and one also shared by most other 20th century national liberation movements) was its reliance on nationalism as a radicalizing and galvanizing force as well as a catalyst to revolutionary activity. The fact that the ideological underpinnings of Ukrainian nationalism were influenced by political currents in central Europe and, especially, Italy in the first part of the 20th century, has prompted many critics to label the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists as fascist.

What these critics fail to grasp, however, is the profound difference between an armed struggle for self-determination by a subjugated and stateless nation and the reliance on nationalist rhetoric and symbolism to advance the imperialistic/colonial agenda of an oppressor state. There is an enormous difference between nationalism as the unifying dynamic or spiritual and ideological force defining a national liberation struggle versus the chauvinism, xenophobia and racism (cloaked in nationalist rhetoric) promulgated by the government of an established state to solidify its own hold on power, consolidate or extend the state’s imperial/colonial domains and/or oppress minorities within that state or other nationalities within the broader boundaries of its empire.

Ukrainians were an oppressed majority within their own homeland. The nationalism embraced by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists constituted a powerful means of distinguishing the oppressed majority from its foreign oppressors and those minorities which sided on most, if not all important matters, with the colonial powers. In this sense, Ukrainian nationalism was not only a precondition for national liberation, but in so far as it was inextricably bound up with the quest for political self-determination, it reflected the population’s overwhelming desire to have a full and meaningful say in the creation of the institutions of the new Ukrainian state and in its overall governance. In other words, Ukrainian nationalism had as its fundamental goal not only the creation of an independent state, but one in which the Ukrainian population would be able to determine its own destiny through the democratic expression of its own will.

It cannot be said that the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists had a fully developed political platform from its inception. The organization consisted of people with varying political views united in the belief that Ukrainian statelessness in Ukraine’s own ethnic territory was the primary problem to be addressed. They referred to themselves as “Ukrainian nationalists” because they sought Ukrainian sovereignty, in whatever form that may take, other than an extreme like communism or Nazism. While they agreed that Ukrainians should be masters in their own home, there was a diversity of opinion on precisely what that entailed as became evident in later Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists congresses. When challenged to spell out their ideology, at least in the early years, the leadership argued: “First you must build a house before you can decide what goes into it.” This was a far cry from a fascist approach.
Indeed, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists early and rather simplistic political platform underwent significant change in 1941-42.
The leadership very quickly came to understand that if the movement was to attain the same degree of support in eastern Ukraine as in western Ukraine, it would need to modify and expand its political program to deal with social and economic issues, minority rights and other matters of importance to citizens resident in what was then Soviet-occupied Ukraine.

The measure of the organization’s commitment to building a unified Ukrainian state that respected the needs and desires of all its citizens was amply demonstrated in the resolutions that were adopted at the Third Party Congress in August 1943. These included a shift to a much more social-democratic political and economic orientation that would not only guarantee freedom of speech, religion, and the press, but would also protect the rights of workers, national minorities and the equality of women. The amended program also made mention of various social programs ranging from pensions to health care and free education. Clearly, such a shift in policy in response to the perceived, if not actual, demands of the majority of the Ukrainian population which was then residing in communist-occupied territories demonstrate the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists’ commitment to democracy once an independent Ukrainian state had been achieved.

The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists rejected the notion of working with the occupying power as an interim measure on the road to sovereignty, be that Russia or Poland. While it sought help from Germany in overthrowing the Soviet regime, it split ranks with its erstwhile ally immediately upon the latter’s invasion of Ukrainian territory when it became clear that Germany had no intention of supporting Ukrainian statehood and, instead, was intent on colonizing Ukraine herself.

It is undeniable that the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists’ leadership, like most of Europe's political leaders at that time, was influenced by the emergence of fascism as a dominant ideology on the European continent. However, John Armstrong, the leading scholar on the subject, has persuasively argued that neither the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists nor its brand of nationalism was fascist in nature or substance. It never advocated a dictatorship for Ukraine. On the contrary, it sought to overthrow one. It never maintained that the Ukrainian people or race was superior to others. On the contrary, it sought to unite with other oppressed nations in the struggle for justice and freedom. It never sought to conquer foreign territories, but only to liberate its own. And, at the end of the day, it had no fascist political program to implement. But instead, it was prepared to advance that mix of social-democratic policies, principles and programs as would meet the needs and desires of the western and eastern halves of the country, including the national minorities that constituted an essential part of both.

After all, its motto was: “Freedom for all peoples, freedom for each individual.”

Bandera as a rank-and-file member

In the 1930s, Stepan Bandera became a rank and file member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in western Ukraine. Two major anti-Ukrainian events stoked the fires of the Ukrainian underground. One was the 1932-1933 Holodomor in Soviet Ukraine, in which millions of Ukrainians perished during an artificial famine inflicted upon them by the Kremlin. The other was the Polish occupation of western Ukrainian territories by force following World War I and the subsequent 1930 policy of “pacification.” This latter policy was aimed at breaking the backbone of resistance by Polonizing Ukrainians, closing Ukrainian schools, destroying Ukrainian churches and randomly subjecting thousands of completely innocent people to physical violence as a means of establishing Polish domination and control over them. Under pacification, private property belonging to Ukrainian residents as well as to Ukrainian educational institutions, cooperatives and cultural centers was vandalized or destroyed, while Ukrainian political leaders not even associated with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists were arrested and imprisoned.

Bandera rose up through the ranks of the movement. At first, he was the head of the organization’s underground publishing unit. Then he became chief propaganda officer in Ukraine. Finally, he became head of the organization’s executive in Ukraine. This work was far riskier than the work of the older leaders living in Europe, outside the reach of the Poles and the Russians.

In retribution for the suffering inflicted on the Ukrainian population under Stalin in the east and Poland in the west, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists undertook a series of assassinations of high-ranking Soviet and Polish officials. The victims of their actions were targeted political or military leaders. One of the most prominent was the 1933 assassination of Soviet envoy Alexei Mailov in Lviv to draw international attention to the Holodomor of 1932-33 in Soviet Ukraine. Another high profile example was the June 15, 1934, assassination of the Polish minister of internal affairs, General Bronislaw Pieracki, undertaken by Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists operative H. Matseyko as a reprisal for hte repressive pacification regime that had been introduced in western Ukraine.

Ultimately, the Polish government resolved to crack down on the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in a series of arrests, including that of Stepan Bandera in Lviv. From 1935 to1936, Stepan Bandera and other leading members stood trial in Warsaw and Lviv for their revolutionary activities. Following the trials, Bandera was sentenced to death, but this was later commuted to life imprisonment. He remained in various Polish jails, including the infamous Bereza Kartuzka concentration camp, specifically created by the Poles to incarcerate Ukrainian “nationalists” until 1939 and the outbreak of World War II. With the Nazi invasion of Poland, Bandera escaped from jail and made his way to Lviv and then on to Slovakia, Austria and Italy.

A youth with his face painted with the colors of the flag of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) carries a portrait of Stepan Bandera, the founder of the UPA, during an ultra-nationalist march in Kiev on October 14, 2009 to mark the 67th anniversary of the founding of the organization. The UPA was a group of Ukrainian nationalist partisans who engaged in a series of guerrilla conflicts during World War II. (Yaroslav Debelyi)

Assassination of Yevhen Konovalets

Meanwhile, leading into World War II, the Soviet leadership arranged the assassination of Yevhen Konovalets, the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, by Pavel Sodoplatov, a Soviet NKVD agent on May 23, 1938, in Rotterdam.

A year later, on Aug. 23, 1939, the infamous Molotov- Ribbentrop pact was signed. Pursuant to this agreement, Stalin and the Soviet Union allied with Hitler and Nazi Germany and, among other things, agreed to divide Poland (including all of occupied western Ukraine) between them. Through this high-handed collaboration, Hitler’s armies were able to invade Western Europe and to goose step through its major capitals as Stalin protected Hitler’s back for 21 months while simultaneously launching a campaign of terror in western Ukraine, spearheaded by his dreaded secret police, the NKVD.

In April 1941, some three years after the murder of Konovalets, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists fractured into two parts, with the more conservative older faction represented by Andrei Melnyk remaining in Western Europe.

The more radical younger faction, now represented by Stepan Bandera, burrowed underground in western Ukraine. Bandera’s generation saw that of its parents sacrifice everything in the struggle for Ukrainian independence following World War I. That struggle was doomed from the start, however, due to a lack of resources, a lack of effective communication of its political program and the absence of a well-equipped, well-trained army to hold and defend the newly proclaimed independent Ukrainian state from foreign invaders. When their opportunity came 20 years later, Bandera and his followers were bound and determined not make the same mistakes.

Collaboration with the German military

By 1941, after Hitler had consolidated his control of Europe, it became increasing clear that his armies would soon invade the Soviet Union. In view of this inevitability, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists devised a plan to capitalize on the upcoming invasion to create the core of a Ukrainian army that, after being built-out and augmented, could ultimately stand in defense of a newly established independent Ukraine. The nationalists believed that the clash of these titans would result in the demise of both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, thus making it possible to proclaim a free Ukraine as a fait accompli. Its leadership therefore pursued an agreement with the Abwehr (German military intelligence) and Wehrmacht (unified German armed forces) – together, the least sympathetic of German military organizations to Nazi ideology.

The plan was to initially establish two army units - Nachtigal and Roland – consisting of some 600 Ukrainian soldiers to be trained and armed by Germany to join in the fight against the Soviet Union once the war on the eastern front began. As it later became apparent, these two battalions were formed without the knowledge or authorization of Hitler, Himmler or the other Nazi leaders who detested Ukrainians as an inferior race.

Let he who is without sin cast first stone

Was it wrong for the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists to attempt to create the nucleus of a Ukrainian army with the assistance of the German military? Before rushing to conclusions, it is necessary to consider the organization’s actions in the context of Ukraine’s circumstances and what others did at that time.

If it was so wrong for Bandera and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists to negotiate with the German military, what should be said of the conduct of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier, and Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, who met Hitler in Munich to negotiate and sign off on the annexation of Sudetenland to Nazi Germany in September 1938?

By comparison, Bandera and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists had no country, no army, and no power to influence Hitler like these leaders did. Consider also the role of Italy, Japan, Slovakia, Romania, Croatia,Vichy France, Hungary, Bulgaria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, and Albania, all of which fought as allies of Nazi Germany during the war. If we are to condemn Bandera, what should be said about all of these “collaborators,” none of which, incidentally, was engaged in a national liberation struggle?

The Nazi invasion

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the two Ukrainian battalions were among the first military groups to enter Ukraine. These battalions were greeted warmly as a liberation army by the Ukrainian population. But the declaration of a free Ukraine proclaimed by the Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists on June 30, 1941, in Lviv was not received favorably by Hitler and the rest of the Nazi leadership. On the contrary, on July 4, 1941, Hitler called a meeting to review the situation in Ukraine. The meeting resolved to arrest the Ukrainians who took part in this unilateral declaration of Ukrainian statehood and independence and bring them to Berlin. At the same time, the two Ukrainian battalions were recalled from the front and decommissioned.

The Nazis proceeded to round up Bandera and the entire nationalist movement’s leadership, demanding that they retract their declaration of independence. When they refused, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists leadership was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Bandera’s two brothers were arrested and taken to Auschwitz, where they later perished at the hands of Polish guards serving the Nazis there. Bandera himself remained incarcerated in Sachsenhausen until 1944, when he was again released. After refusing a German request to express support for Hitler at this late stage in the war, he went into hiding under the assumed name of Popil, eventually settling in Munich at the conclusion of the war. It was here that Bohdan Stashynsky, a Soviet secret police agent, finally assassinated him on Oct. 15, 1959.

June 1941 in Galicia

Recently, allegations have been raised that Bandera's Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists conducted a pogrom against the Jews in Galicia in July 1941 as part of the Holocaust. These allegations are worthy of some discussion.

Immediately following the departure of the Soviet administration from Galicia in late June 1941, the corpses of thousands of recently-murdered political prisoners – most of them Ukrainian, but among them also many Poles and Jews -- were found in 22 cities, towns and villages throughout western Ukraine. All had been massacred by Stalin’s NKVD secret police.

As the local population opened up the jails of Galicia and discovered the atrocities that had been committed by the Soviet secret police, the Gestapo sought to exploit the situation through provocation and the instigation of anti-Jewish violence. In pursuit of this policy, General Major Otto Rash, the Commander of Einzatsgroupe C, who arrived in Lviv on July 1, 1941, delivered a speech to his troops and to a large assembly of people from Lviv gathered before him, blaming the NKVD’s bloody massacres on the Jews. The plan, approved by the Fuhrer himself, linked Jews with the Stalinist regime and encouraged the lowest elements of Lviv society, including Ukrainians and Poles, to undertake a pogrom against Jews living in that city. German posters accusing the “Jewish Bolsheviks” of the massacre were put up on the walls of buildings.

These provocations resonated with at least some residents of the city. It is true that some Jews, including those who earlier had identified Ukrainian nationalist leaders in Lviv for the Bolsheviks to imprison, were shot on the spot or rounded up by relatives and friends of the prisoners, sometimes mistreated along the way, and brought to the jails to see “what they had done” and for the role they played in the NKVD. For the most part, however, exacting vengeance on the Jewish population of Lviv for the acts of the Soviet secret police in the first days of July 1941 was without any semblance of justification or warrant. Ukrainian and Polish hooligans in rioting mobs “settled scores” with Jews, particularly in the Jewish quarter. These scenes continued until July 3, 1941. In the end, some 4,000 innocent Jews were killed. The entire anti-Jewish strategy of the German authorities, however, was nowhere near as “successful” as the Nazis had hoped. The evidence at Nuremburg indicated that the number of individuals who were provoked by the Gestapo in this manner was relatively small and certainly far smaller than had been anticipated or hoped for by the Nazi instigators. In general, the population’s antipathies increasingly turned in an anti-Bolshevik/anti-communist direction rather than towards the city’s Jews. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists itself, at its August 1943 congress, and in numerous official publications in the years preceding the congress, expressly recognized that Ukraine’s enemies were not the Jews but the ruling authorities of oppressor states who turned Ukrainians against Jews and vice versa.

From the perspective of this inquiry, the most important point is that the acts in June 1941 in Galicia were the acts of hoodlums, the dredges of this earth. They were not those of the leadership of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, nor its organized membership.

As attorney Askold Lozynsky the former head of the World Congress of Ukrainians pointed out, Soviet prosecutor Roman Rudenko had the capacity to pin blame on them at the Nuremberg trials if the evidence was there. Consider the fact that Rudenko had full access to both Soviet and German archives, as well as a strong motive to pursue “Ukrainian nationalists” as one of the Soviet Union's greatest threats. The Nuremberg trials were concluded in 1949 at a time when Ukrainian Insurgent Army units were still engaged in widespread guerilla combat against the military might of the U.S.S.R.

The facts were still fresh in the post-war memory, unlike today 65 years later. Moreover, it can categorically be stated, based on the evidence assembled and published by Myroslaw Kalba in his book Nachtigal, as well as from the evidence at Nuremberg, that neither the Nachtigal nor the Roland battalions were in anyway linked to, or involved in, any actions against the Jewish community in Western Ukraine or Lviv during this (or any other) time. A decisive role in stopping the pogroms was the appeal for calm issued by Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytysky of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the efforts of the Ukrainian militia in Lviv to stop it and the arrival of the bulk of the 49th army corps of the German Wehrmacht.


As for the actions of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in Volhynia, as Professor Peter Potichnyj of Canada, editor of the book Poland and Ukraine, Past and Present, points out, if minorities fought in support of the NKVD secret police or other oppressors, they ran the risk of falling victim in the war.

Those who opposed the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, including Poles who sought to restore the 600-year oppression of Ukrainians under Poland, chose to do so at their own peril. There is no denying, however, that thousands of innocent Poles were slaughtered in Volhynia. This happened in the context of a total war, where Germans were playing Ukrainians and Poles off against each other and where Poles were slaughtering Ukrainians at the same time. Those who seek further clarity in this regard would do well to consult the book and other works by Professor Potichnyj. Although the issue of Ukrainian-Polish conflict remains a topic of considerable debate, Poles and Ukrainians can unite in their condemnation of Stalin, the leadership of the former U.S.S.R. and the acts of the former NKVD secret police in Katyn forest or in the cities of western Ukraine in June 1941. On these matters there is no disagreement.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (L) at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2010. (Andriy Mosienko)

What Yanukovych should do

In regard to the tragedy of Katyn forest, including the recent airplane catastrophe, all Yanukovych and the rest of the Ukrainian nation and diaspora can do is acknowledge the Polish pain and the rightfulness of their truth about what happened there. But in regard to Bandera, instead of retracting his recognition at the upcoming ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II, Yanukovych would be better advised to condemn those who were responsible, including Stalin, for the killings of thousands of Ukrainians and others in the prisons of western Ukraine at the end of June 1941, while expressing sorrow for the innocent Jews killed in the Lviv pogrom and elsewhere shortly thereafter. In this he can invite Polish solidarity.

Yanukovych should say that for Ukrainians, however, while May 9, 1945, was a moment to celebrate the victory over Nazi Germany, it was also a moment that marked the consolidation and continuation of the Soviet Union's totalitarian control over Ukraine, and other former Soviet republics, for another 46 years. Whether Polish leaders agree with Bandera’s legacy or not, he should join in expressing his support for the cause in whose name Stepan Bandera and many other leaders of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists laid down their own lives, namely, to ensure that the Ukrainian people never again fall under foreign colonial rule.

Andriy J. Semotiuk is an attorney practicing in the area of international law in the field of immigration. He is a member of the bars of California and New York in the United States and Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia in Canada. A former United Nations correspondent who was stationed in New York, Semotiuk resides in Los Angeles.
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Anonymous April 19, 2010, 6:49 p.m.    

I stopped reading as soon as I got to "The European Parliament reacted by hurriedly passed a resolution at the behest of that institution’s Polish delegation calling on the Ukrainian government to revoke this recognition."

As this is blatently untrue, there is no reason suppose anything else is true which has been written thereafter, which I did not read.

The EU does not make statements on behalf on one nation. The EU is 27 Sovereign States and any statement the EU makes is the consensus of all nations. To get the consensus of all nations cannot be "hurriedly passed" even in cases of extreme emergency. Bandera's award was not an extreme emergency.

Yushenko awarded this man an honour on 22 January and the EU made its statement on 26 February. Some rush eh?

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Anonymous April 19, 2010, 8:35 p.m.    

there is not worst blind and false minded people that the one who doesn't want to read.....

Concerning the declaration of the European Parliament, and knowing the level of the debate in France, I wonder which French European deputee could know about Bandera when they even don't know anything about Ukraine.....

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Anonymous April 19, 2010, 8:47 p.m.    

Obviously this article represents certain point of view, with which I cannot agree.

A couple of more detailed comments:

Detention center (not a concentration camp) in Bereza Kartuska was established to lock down members of fascist party called ONR which was seen as perpetrators of the assassination of Pieracki. OUN members later formed larger part of prisoners, but mainly because of their activities - not because the jail was created to 'oppress them'.

Pieracki was assassinated right after he banned the ONR that is why it was believe this fascist party was to blame. Also the minister was killed during negotiations with Ukrainian leaders from moderate parties - so clearly not only in revenge. Maybe even more - to make any compromise solution impossible.

Home Army in Volhynia (and local self-defence units formed by Poles) was a defensive force. Reprisal killing when they happened were made in wrongly perceived revenge.

Describing it as something different is not true and only will be understood as attempting to shift the blame.

Many other points are also questionable, but the author knew this too.

My regards

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 9:07 a.m.    

Regarding collaboration with the Nazis -NO one was as obnoxious as the Poles who demanded during their collaboration that the Nazis let them have Ukraine from Sea to Sea and the Poles would let the Nazis have Russia! An outraged Hitler worked out a better deal with Stalin and put the Poles in their place but those fools NEVER learn they?

The above is well documented : see memorandum v. Ribbentrop February 01,1939 regarding his discussions with Beck in Warsaw in the end of January : Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945, Vol.V,Document 126.


Also according to Anatoli Levin:

&quot;The Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, apologized for Poland’s role in Hitler’s partition of Czechoslovakia, stating that, “Poland’s participation in the annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938 was not only an error, but above all a sin.” He should have added that this built on an earlier criminal error, that of Poland’s nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1934, which effectively demolished France’s alliance system in Eastern Europe, and made it much harder to prevent Nazi Germany’s expansion in the mid-1930s.&quot;

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Anonymous May 5, 2010, 10:31 p.m.    

Funny story, unfortunately completely untrue. I wonder when Ukrainians will deal with their participation in holocaust? Ukrainians worked as guards in Nazi death camps - Sorbibor, Treblinka, and Ukrainian policemen took part in massacres of Jews.

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Anonymous May 5, 2010, 10:32 p.m.    

Anatoli Levin don't tell the whole true.

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Anonymous April 19, 2010, 10:39 p.m.    

How was this party fascist?

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 5:11 p.m.    

Bereza Kartuzka was a concentration camp that did not take a back seat even to such Nazi camps as Auschwitz. Some who were inmates in both have classed Bereza as worse. A filmed documentary on this KZ is available here:

My own father had been imprisoned there 3 years and he went to his grave with wounds still festering, inflicted on him by his rabid Polish torturers at Bereza.

Pieracki was a violent Ukrainophobe with the aim of destroying the Ukrainian nation. As an invader of Ukraine, he got his just punishment.

Polish &quot;Home Army&quot; in Volhynia were invaders and colonists of Ukraine whom, under international law, it was legitimate for the indigenous Ukrainians to fight and oppose with all possible means.

You refer to some nonexistent &quot;fascist party calle ONR&quot;. I presume you mean the OUN, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, which mobilized Ukrainian resistance to ethnic cleansing by Poland. Here is the Decalogue, the 10 great principles of the OUN. Please so kind as to identify for readers the fascistic aspects of it.

1. You will either achieve a Ukrainian State, or perish in the struggle for it.

2. Allow no-one to impugn the glory or the honour of your nation.

3. Remember the great days of our struggle for freedom.

4. Be proud of having inherited the battle for the glory of the Trident of Volodymyr.

5. Avenge the death of our Great Heroes.

6. Speak not of our cause with whoever will listen, but with whoever must know.

7. You will not shrink before even the most dangerous deed, if such be required for the good of our cause.

8. With hate and implacable struggle will you confront the enemies of your Nation.

9. Neither pleadings, nor threats, nor tortures, nor death will force you to reveal our secrets.

10. You will fight to extend the strength, the glory, the wealth, and the breadth of the Ukrainian State.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 11:20 p.m.    

Bereza Kartuska - I browsed some materials on web and it seems you are right. However the biggest difference between Nazi's camps and Polish one was the purpose. Polish camp was not intended to eradicate another nation. Amount of prisoners is estimated for around 7000 and half of them it was Ukrainians. I admit it is a dark side of our history.

Concerning your further section


Polish &quot;Home Army&quot; in Volhynia were invaders and colonists of Ukraine

end of quote.

It is not so simple. Let's talk about facts better. In 1939 Poland had 35 100 000 citizens. On so called Kresy (this was 8 eastern voivodships) was living 13'021'300 of them. If we assume that criteria of being Pole is using Polish language there was living there 5'597'600 people using this language.

In Bialostockie (now partially in Bielorussia) - Poles were 66.9%

in Vilno region - 59% (now Latvia)

In Ukraine

Lvov region - 57.7%

Novogrod - 52,4%,

Ternopylskiy - 49,3%,

Stanislavovskiy - 22,4%,(now Ivano Frankivskiy)

Volhynskiy 16,6%,

Poleski 14,5%

(source: prof. dr hab. Maria Paw&amp;#322;owiczowa &quot;Ludob&amp;#243;jstwa i wygnania na kresach&quot; - Katowice - O&amp;#347;wi&amp;#281;cim 1999)

It doesn't look like we were invaders and colonists. In reality ethnic composition of those lands was not that easy as you and some others would like to see. Looks like evil Poles invided in beginning 20th century those lands and conquered them. It's simply not true.

I am also not saying it was Polish land however this what you say it's not true.

From OUR Polish perspective we were defending our compatriots.

And I am really sorry and ashamed that Poland in 20th and 30th of XXth century treated you in such a way. It is shame for us indeed.

However ask your self question - did we really were so bad to Ukrainians to deserve 300'000 killed.

Concerning another of your statement

&quot;(...)mobilized Ukrainian resistance to ethnic cleansing by Poland (...)&quot;

Despite the fact of certain level of oppression from Poles I could not found in any serious sources evidence to support your statement.

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Anonymous May 5, 2010, 10:23 p.m.    

Under international law, Western Ukraine was Poland back then.

OUN killed also Ukrainian and Polish moderates, like Tadeusz Ho&amp;#322;&amp;#243;wko.

It's ridiculous to compare a detention camp Bereza Kartuska to death camp like Aushwitz - you are offending milions of people who were murdered in Auswitz! Bereza was not a place where people were killed!

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 10:44 p.m.    

Quote: &quot;Regarding collaboration with the Nazis -NO one was as obnoxious as the Poles who (...)&quot;. Interesting thesis. Could you support it with some sources?

Sorry but who is Anatoli Levin?


Poland's nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1934, which effectively demolished France’s alliance system in Eastern Europe, and made it much harder to prevent Nazi Germany’s expansion in the mid-1930s

I need to disagree with this as this is not correct. Polish diplomacy was realizing directives of Pilsudski regarding relationship with its neighbors. From Polish raison d'&amp;#233;tat it was very logic solution.

Concerning destroying France alliance system in Eastern Europe and making harder to prevent Nazi's - it's also not correct. Actually it was Pilsudski in 1934 (I think) who proposed to France and England to start preventive war against Hitler - to remove him from power as he clearly understood how danger he was for Polish state.

As far as I understand from your post you use arguments recently given recently by various Russian historians; those arguments were used recently in debates concerning genesis of WW2. IMHO this is so called political history and arguments used by them are motivated politically.

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Anonymous May 5, 2010, 10:25 p.m.    

ONR was polish party. Educate yourself. OUN was also a fascist organization.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 12:19 a.m.    

Dear Mr.Semotiuk,

I am Pole which is now living in Ukraine. I think I understand a bit the point of view of my Ukrainian colleagues on our not really easy history of relationship. I think you should however be more precise writing about history of our nations.

I do now that Ukrainians were the citizens of 2nd category in so called Druga Rzeczpospolita and Ukrainians rather see us as oppressors.

Being not at home now I have no access to all my sources (books) however I can point out some mistakes in your text which I believe should be corrected or at least commented/answered by you

1. I don't think that there should be some equation sign between Soviet, Nazi Germany and Polish ruling of Ukrainian lands. Polish government was authoritarian but only after year 26 (Pilsudski coup) – before 26th it was rather very young and unstable democracy. However during whole Polish ruling (1921 – 1939) there was never state policy to eradicate Ukrainian language and culture; I would say rather opposite – for example in 1924 there was a set of laws on education which gave Ukrainian people rights to learn in Ukrainian. Of course implementation of those laws was imperfect and in fact Ukrainians suffer a lot of injustice from us – no doubt.

2. Quote “(…)Bereza Kartuzka concentration camp, specifically created by the Poles to incarcerate Ukrainian “nationalists” until 1939 (…)”; Bereza Kartuska was a prison to isolate of political prisoners and enemies of Polish state. It was established in 1934. So IN FACT it was not a camp specifically for Ukrainians! And using concentration camp expression concerning this prison is a serious misuse. Readers understand concentration camp in quite different category – everybody portray himself immediately pictures from Auschwitz, Buchenwald or similar what Bereza Kartuska WAS NOT. Concerning the death toll of Ukrain

3. Quote “(…)Bandera’s two brothers were arrested and taken to Auschwitz, where they later perished at the hands of Polish guards serving the Nazis there (…)” – this is a bit ridiculous attempt of blaming Poles. First of all it is not known to public about Polish guards serving in Auschwitz – we all waiting for sources of your sensational discovery! I am sarcastic here but it looks like Poles were signing up for job in Auschwitz (sic!) to oppress their compatriots, Jews and Ukrainians. What an absolute nonsense Mr.Semotiuk.

4. Massacre of Polish civilians on Volhynia was an ethnic cleansing. Quoting another guest reviewer “Home Army in Volhynia (and local self-defence units formed by Poles) was a defensive force. Reprisal killing when they happened was made in wrongly perceived revenge.

Describing it as something different is not true and only will be understood as attempting to shift the blame.”

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 8:12 a.m.    

Enemies of the Polish State? All the Poles had to do was leave the Western Ukrainian State alone in 1918. Instead they attacked a freely declared Ukrainian state. Cultural Polonization is a fact..they might say they were opening Ukrainian Schools..but in practise what happened is exactly what they wanted. Just as the Soviets explained that in Ukrainian language and culture was on par with Russian...while in true reality it wasn't, and was being destroyed.

Before 1926 the Pacification killed thousands of innocent people of all walk of life...women,children,men, Clergy etc. The Poles did not learn their historical lessons in Ukraine while from the 17th century, and the made the same mistakes in the 20th century..aiming for domination. No separation of States let alone equality.

No matter, Poland has its Historical Western lands, which Germany took. And Ukraine finally has its Historical Western Lands.

If that can be agreed on. Then there is no reason to squabble.

Other then that, hopefully the two can cooperate positively for the interest of both parties. Nobody is innocent of everything, nor guilty of everything.;pg=PA4&amp;lpg=PA4&amp;dq=Polish+atrocities+in+Western+Galicia&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=h_ynLNfAy7&amp;sig=Jx7_JL50pepu4TJcYSPh6vdsZDc&amp;hl=en&amp;ei=yCnNS7PZNonW9ASkvdi8Dw&amp;sa=X&amp;oi=book_result&amp;ct=result&amp;resnum=4&amp;ved=0CA8Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&amp;q=Polish%20atrocities%20in%20Western%20Galicia&amp;f=false

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Anonymous May 5, 2010, 10:08 p.m.    

There is nothing in this book about thousands killed during pacifications. Why are you lying?

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 4:47 a.m.    

Sir, though I may disagree with you on certain points, I must compliment you on the intelligence, balance and calm with which you present your views. Despite the difficult history involved, may Ukraine and Poland continue down the road of mutual respect and reconcilliation, and please accept my sincere condolences on the terrible recent events in Smolensk. Slava Polshchi!

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 9:27 p.m.    

I agree completely. Ukrainian and Polish relations have come a long way, it's even demonstrated by the fact the we're hosting the Euro 2012 together. I think we should keep moving forward.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 11:14 p.m.    

&quot;for example in 1924 there was a set of laws on education which gave Ukrainian people rights to learn in Ukrainian. Of course implementation of those laws was imperfect and in fact Ukrainians suffer a lot of injustice from us – no doubt.&quot;

That's right NO DOUBT! The Poles hated Ukrainians and oppressed them as much as the Russians did. They hated Ukrainian churches, language and culture just as much as the Russians did. And my own family suffered from that Polish occupation, so I thank God that the Poles are no longer occupying Western Ukraine.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 9:22 p.m.    

I may be wrong here but didnt UNR promise Galicia to Poland in return for an alliance with Poland.

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Anonymous May 5, 2010, 10:18 p.m.    

That's true.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 12:27 a.m.    

Please keep a clear distinction between Ukrainians and Galicians.

Galicians cannot stand true Ukrainians from the East, just as they cannot stand Russians. UNA was exclusively a Nazi-sponsored Galician terrorist organization, which actively collaborated with the invading Nazi forces by serving in the Nazi military police.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 7:52 a.m.    

The South-East Ukraine was sparsely populated..Ukrainians from the North and WEST, escaped Polish domination by populating those Eastern Ukraine and All of Ukraine is the same.

The only that Millions of those True Eastern Ukrainians were starved to death...and Gopnik Russian's settled in....and Masvka has used this a tool for its fifth column in stir trouble.

Khmelnytsky was from Western Ukraine...if you didn't know that Katsapy.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 7:51 p.m.    


Maimai, you get F- in history lesson.

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Anonymous April 21, 2010, 3:04 a.m.    

An F- in Soviet lies and propaganda &quot;history&quot;, so an A+ in real history.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 9:15 p.m.    

Those living in Eastern Ukraine (in Donbas at least) are more likely than not to be Russians with Ukrainian passports, as Eastern Ukrainians suffered greatly during Holodomor and World War II, and the region was repopulated by Russians.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 11:09 p.m.    

Oleksandr, you are absolutely correct and this is what the current Ukrainian administration is trying to hide and deny.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 5:50 a.m.    

The bottom line is that there were 7 million Ukrainians in the Red Army, and anywhere from 20.000-100.000 in UPA. And while the Red Army was fighting fascist invaders, UPA shot them in the back. That’s what makes them traitors and not heroes. And the guise under which this was done is irrelevant.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 8:53 a.m.    

Red Army fought for Stalinist tyranny and genocide AGAINST Ukrainian Nation!

UPA fought AGAINST Stalin and Hitler and FOR Ukraine's freedom.


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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 11:06 p.m.    

The bottom line is that almost all of the Ukrainians who fought in the so called &quot;Red Army&quot; were forced conscripts who were forced to fight for another totalitarian state that had occupied Ukraine and succeeded in occupying Ukraine again after WW II and murdered far more Ukrainians than the Nazis did. Both were foreign totalitarian regimes against whom Bandera and the UPA fought for a free Ukraine, a Ukraine that did not attain its independence until the fall of the EVIL Soviet Union and its EVIL Red Army.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 7:12 a.m.    

wow!!! so much anger against Poland. There should be a life sentence for posting this article

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Anonymous April 21, 2010, 3:01 a.m.    

What anger?

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 9:25 a.m.    

You should do a little research and find out who Andriy Semotiuk is. He cares passionately about Ukraine, Ukrainians, and most of all about the truth. If all Ukrainians were like him Ukraine would be the envy of human civilization. Bandera and others like him gave up everything for Ukraine. How many Ukrainians would make the same sacrifice? For those Ukrainians criticizing this article-would you?

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 9:40 a.m.    

Regarding Andrij Semotiuk's recommendation that Ukrainians should express &quot;sorrow for the innocent Jews killed in the Lviv pogrom and elsewhere shortly thereafter,&quot; we should keep in mind that there was no &quot;Lviv Pogrom&quot;. Below are three quotations from pre-eminent Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg to this effect. Following the 60 Minutes broadcast &quot;Ugly Face of Freedom&quot; which alleged a &quot;Lviv Pogrom,&quot; I wrote Hilberg to ask what he knew about it, and his listing of incidents that did not include mention of the Lviv pogrom in question indicated that he didn't know of any Lviv pogrom. This should not be surprising, as John Demjanjuk was convicted and sentenced to death for crimes committed by Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka when in fact there was no Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka:


From the Ukraine Einsatzkommando 6 of Einsatzgruppe C reported as follows:

Almost nowhere can the population be persuaded to take active steps against the Jews. This may be explained by the fear of many people that the Red Army may return. Again and again this anxiety has been pointed out to us. Older people have remarked that they had already experienced in 1918 the sudden retreat of the Germans. In order to meet the fear psychosis, and in order to destroy the myth ... which, in the eyes of many Ukrainians, places the Jew in the position of the wielder of political power, Einsatzkommando 6 on several occasions marched Jews before their execution through the city. Also, care was taken to have Ukrainian militiamen watch the shooting of Jews.

This &quot;deflation&quot; of the Jews in the public eye did not have the desired effect. After a few weeks, Einsatzgruppe C complained once more that the inhabitants did not betray the movements of hidden Jews. The Ukrainians were passive, benumbed by the &quot;Bolshevist terror.&quot; Only the ethnic Germans in the area were busily working for the Einsatzgruppe. (Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 1961, p. 202)



The Slavic population stood estranged and even aghast before the unfolding spectacle of the &quot;final solution.&quot; There was on the whole no impelling desire to cooperate in a process of such utter ruthlessness. The fact that the Soviet regime, fighting off the Germans a few hundred miles to the east, was still threatening to return, undoubtedly acted as a powerful restraint upon many a potential collaborator. (Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 1985, p. 308)



First, truly spontaneous pogroms, free from Einsatzgruppen influence, did not take place; all outbreaks were either organized or inspired by the Einsatzgruppen. Second, all pogroms were implemented within a short time after the arrival of the killing units. They were not self-perpetuating, nor could new ones be started after things had settled down. (Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 1985, p. 312)


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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 10:21 a.m.    

If he had succeeded in any of his aims, he would be remembered as a hero and as the founder of modern Ukraine today.

If you can overlook Stalin's actions, you can certainly keep Bandera's in proper perspective.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 4:31 p.m.    

The March 9, 2010 letter from the head of OUN to the President of the European Parliament criticism of Bandera's Hero of Ukraine award goes without reply. He is too embarrassed to reply:

&quot;. . . Apart from being another example of disinformation and propaganda, which has been disproven by international commissions and trials such as Canada’s Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals presided over by Justice Jules Deschenes, the Nuremberg Trials and others, you nevertheless persist at continuing to initiate tensions and international disharmony at the highest level, when in fact your role is to do the opposite.

. . . The struggles of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and the efforts of Bandera are now well-documented. The archives of the Security Service of Ukraine are now open and accessible. Your resolution perpetuates the disinformation and propaganda which in the past did not allow the world to know the truth, leaving the world with a tainted perspective. We believe you have been caught up in a pro-Russian propaganda attempt, carried out through the hands of others.&quot;

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 6:59 p.m.    

It is deeply embarrassing for the UON traitors that the MAJORITY of the Ukraine people joined the Red Army and fought against them and their nazi Germany masters. The facts hurt the Ukraine nazi-onalists very bad, heh, heh, heh :D

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Anonymous April 21, 2010, 3:01 a.m.    

Its embarrassing that Russians are still obsessed with the fact that Ukraine is expressing an independent identity and that the b.s. Soviet propaganda regarding Ukraine's freedom fighters is being shown to be the sh*it that it really is.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 8:19 p.m.    

LOL, 5 MILLION Ukraine patriots who joined the Red Army whaked the arse of the nazi Geramny and their UON lackeys - very embarrassing for the convicted UON war criminslas :D

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Anonymous May 2, 2010, 5:24 a.m.    

If you knew how to read then you would know that OUN was never convicted.

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Anonymous April 20, 2010, 10:58 p.m.    

&quot;As for the actions of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in Volhynia, as Professor Peter Potichnyj of Canada, editor of the book Poland and Ukraine, Past and Present, points out, if minorities fought in support of the NKVD secret police or other oppressors, they ran the risk of falling victim in the war.

Those who opposed the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, including Poles who sought to restore the 600-year oppression of Ukrainians under Poland, chose to do so at their own peril.&quot;

This is a holy truth that all of Ukraine's foes need to remember. The Ukrainian people will NEVER stop fighting for their national and individual liberties of life, liberty and pursuit of truth, justice and happiness. Minorities who chose to support the oppression of the Ukrainian people during times of foreign occupation cannot absolve themselves of their guilt when the Ukrainian people rose up to break the chains of their oppressors and occupiers.

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Anonymous April 21, 2010, 12:50 a.m.    

I echo this sentiment and straight forward truth. As the son, grandson and nephew of Ukrainian freedom fighters, I will carry on the pursuit of justice for the Ukrainian people.

No matter what it takes... and no matter where.

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Anonymous April 22, 2010, 9:11 a.m.    

Thankyou thankyou thankyou for this much needed detailed account of truth in history. If all contemporary regimes acknowledge their

human rights abuses and the lies of denials, unified healing might be possible ......which is now desperately needed to propel us beyond the mistakes of the past into a'just balanced future with equity and dignity afforded all who stand in unison

with Human Rights everywhere for everyone......

Soviets have yet to apologize to anyone for anything....

It is even demanded of common criminals in court ..... to prove

their remorse as they confront their victims in submission with their guilt.

All victims need validation from their persecutors ...... regardless.

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Anonymous May 2, 2010, 1:41 p.m.    

Ukraine soldiers killing other Ukraine soldiers = traitors. True heroes do not kill their own. Anyone that uses the Nazis to serve their own purpose = traitors. Ask the Ukraine people and soldiers you killed if you are worthy of hero status..........the dead you have killed will not speak so highly.

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Anonymous May 6, 2010, 7:40 p.m.    

The Communists killed MORE Ukrainians in ANY YEAR you want to compare: 1933,1939, 1941, 1944, 1945, famine 1946-47, and don't forget GULAG !

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Anonymous May 5, 2010, 10:39 p.m.    

This article is unfortunately very one sided, some claims are untrue or outdated, disinformation. Shame.

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