A small stadium in downtown Ternopil, a regional capital 400 kilometers southwest of Kyiv, rarely receives attention from foreigners.
However, on March 9, Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Joel Lion protested the city’s decision to name the stadium after Roman Shukhevych, the military leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army during the Second World War, who collaborated with the Nazi regime.
“We strongly condemn the decision of Ternopil city council to name the City Stadium after the infamous Hauptman (Captain) of the SS 201st Schutzmannschaft Roman Shukhevych and demand the immediate cancellation of this decision,” wrote Lion on Twitter.
The comments were sparked by the decision of the Ternopil city council to rename the recently renovated City Stadium in honor of Shukhevych.
The council’s decision came two months before the stadium is to hold Ukraine’s soccer cup final which is set to draw both domestic and foreign attention.
Lion’s comments don’t come as a surprise More than 71 years after his death, Shukhevych remains a controversial figure both inside and outside Ukraine.
Seen as a national hero by many Ukrainians for his dedication to re-establish an independent Ukrainian state, Shukhevych is often criticized by Israel for his collaboration with the Nazi regime and is ostracized by Poland for participating in the so-called 1943 Volyn Massacre, an ethnic cleansing carried out by members of the Insurgent Army.
In 2016, the Parliament of Poland passed a resolution recognizing the massacre — in which as many as 60,000 Poles and several thousand Ukrainians were killed — as genocide.
This classification is disputed by most Ukrainian and some non-Polish historians, who argue that the ethnic cleansing was carried out by both sides.
Read the Kyiv Post’s Honesty History series: Volyn Tragedy — Polish, Ukrainian ethnic cleansing still used as political tool
The Ternopil city council’s decision to rename the stadium was dedicated to the 71st anniversary of Shukhevych’s death.
In 1950, Shukhevych was killed near Lviv by the Soviet secret police.
Shukhevych is highly regarded in Ukrainian-speaking parts of Ukraine. He is also celebrated as a war hero among Ukrainian nationalists.
Before World War II, Shukhevych joined the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) which saw its goal to restore Ukrainian independence from Poland. As a result, Shukhevych spent over three years in Polish prisons.
After the war broke out, Shukhevych joined the Ukrainian police battalion which collaborated with the occupying German government. It became known as the 201st Schutzmannschaft Battalion.
The battalion was short-lived, with Ukrainians refusing to prolong their year-long contracts with the German administration. Those who refused to collaborate with the Nazi regime fled, so did Shukhevych.
Soon, Shukhevych joined the Ukrainian Insurgent Army which fought against the Soviet Red Army, the Germans Wehrmacht and the Polish Home Army.
In 1943, Shukhevych took charge of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
The biggest point of conflict over Shukhevych’s legacy deals with his role in the Volhynia Massacre, known as the Volhynia Tragedy in Ukrainian, and his previous collaboration with the Nazi regime.
In 2007, then-President Viktor Yushchenko posthumously awarded Shukhevych the Hero of Ukraine title “for outstanding personal contribution to the national liberation struggle, for freedom and independence of Ukraine.”
After pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych took charge of Ukraine, the title was renounced by a local Donetsk court based on the fact that Shukhevych wasn’t a Ukrainian citizen.
Ukraine gained its independence in 1991, 41 years after Shukhevych was killed.
After the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution ousted Yanukovych, Shukhevych regained the spotlight.
In 2017, the Kyiv City Council renamed an avenue in honor of Shukhevych. It was previously named after Soviet General Nikolay Vatutin. The remaining dragged on for years, due to pro-Soviet organizations appealing against the renaming in court.
In 2019 the Kyiv Court of Appeals allowed the renaming.
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