Bottled up during almost five to seven decades of communism, and one of chaos, the demons of World War II are being let loose in Ukraine. Each group has felt unfathomable pain: Russians starved to death in German war camps, Jews exterminated en masse, Poles massacred in Volyn, Ukrainians dead on every road and every warring side. The horrors of that war, more so in the blood lands of Eastern Europe than anywhere else, meant treason, fratricide and gratuitous violence were a common occurrence.
But while the Russians, Poles and Jews have had years to hone their historical narratives, and develop the institutions to spread their message, Ukrainians have not been afforded this chance. That they feel bullied by the propaganda that has regrettably seeped into the war’s memory is understandable.
Recently revealed cases of former Ukrainian Nazi SS unit members living abroad have once again painted Ukrainians as opportunistic Nazi sympathizers. While some did collaborate and commit war crimes, it is also important to consider the desperate position of a people fighting for their nation’s independence, free of Stalinist or Nazi rule. So some chose the enemy of my enemy is my friend principle, but all faced difficult decisions that cannot be comprehended today.