On January 22nd, one of President Yushchenko’s last decrees was to award the late Stepan Bandera with the award of ‘Hero of Ukraine’ for “defending national idea and for the fight for independent Ukrainian state”. A leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), it was one of the few groups that had to fight both the Nazis and the Soviets in World War 2 for an independent Ukraine. Yushchenko was Ukraine’s first and only President to advocate worldwide recognition of the genocide that was the Holodomor, open trade to the west and promote Ukrainian language and culture in its own country where Russian hegemony has been spreading for centuries.
Last Sunday (Feb 7), the Edmonton Journal produced an op-ed from David Marples – an Alberta historian and ‘Ukraine expert’ entitled “Hero of Ukraine linked to Jewish killings”. The article sparked outrage and the Journal received letters this week from the Ukrainian community including other members of the newspaper media:
In February 2008, Ukrainian Security Services (SBU) archive representative Oleksander Ishchuk showed declassified documents which provide an objective basis to state that OUN (the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) is not connected with any violent actions against the civilian population of L’viv on or after July 4, 1941.
As well as Bandera’s own grandson had to write in to defend his family’s history:
The Soviet investigation into the killing of L’viv’s Jews identified the “42 butchers of L’viv” responsible for the slaughter of the Jewish innocents in July of 1941. That list, compiled immediately after the Second World War and submitted to the Nuremberg military tribunals for prosecution, does not contain a single member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.
Furthermore, Marples neglects to mention that Stepan Bandera’s two brothers — Oleksa and Vasyl — were killed by the Nazis in Auschwitz. Their tattoo numbers were 51020 and 49271 respectively.
Our family cleared the Bandera name before the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada in 1985.
Sadly while the Edmonton Journal printed these replies in their ‘Opinion’ section, it reproduced Marples’ original op-ed as news (with a less sensational title) yesterday as “Yushchenko erred in honouring Bandera”. It’s difficult to know how much the article has changed (if at all) since the original op-ed has now been deleted.
The Edmonton Journal’s biases has been shockingly apparent especially for a town with such a large Ukrainian population, it was the only outlet to produce this pessimistic news piece Tuesday: “Young Ukrainians Dismiss Talk Of Another Orange Revolution”
The new President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych has no plans of stripping Bandera the medal of honour.
The Canadian courts in the 1980’s looked into matters of war crimes for Ukrainian groups in World War 2 and could not find any evidence to make such a conviction:
The Commission of Inquiry on War Crimes was established in February 1985 in Canada, with the purpose of exposing and prosecuting war criminals residing in Canada. The Simon Wiesenthal Center and other Jewish groups in Canada have repeatedly denounced the Ukrainian Division Galicia as a perpetrator of war crimes. Because of these allegations, the veterans of the Division came under the scrutiny of this Commission, which during its investigation lasting several years, was not able to establish any base to the accusation.