By still imitating the historically myopic Soviet version of celebrating the Allies’ World War II victory in Europe on May 9, the Ukrainian government continues to divide the country. The official line is that through great military and civilian sacrifice, the Red Army, whose ranks swelled with hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, vanquished the Nazi invaders from these lands.
But Ukrainians defended their homes and fought for their land – often times tragically against one another – wearing different uniforms: Red Army, Ukrainian Insurgent Army, and in German SS divisions. Few welcomed the Soviet occupation of their lands, which came with mass forced deportations, torture, murder and starvation. Underground partisans fought against Soviet occupation into the 1950s, well after the war ended. That sentiment is now reviving, particularly in the western Ukraine, among those who feel their statehood and culture is once again under attack.
According to Timothy Snyder’s powerful “Bloodlands,” some 14 million civilians were shot, starved and gassed in modern-day Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, western Russia and the eastern Baltic coast, while Hitler and Stalin were in power. Ukraine’s communities were crippled by those events – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – with scars visible until this day.