Michael Stawnychy    Ukrainian Weekly     14-Mar-1993   Hatred and indignation strewn between

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Timeworn blunder at news magazine

Dear Editor:

On February 22, Time magazine ran an article on rape in war, titled "Unspeakable," which focused primarily on the systematic rape of women in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  This article drew sharp criticism from the Ukrainian community for the insertion of a photograph portraying Ukrainians as being anti-Semitic.  The caption underneath the picture of a woman, nude, sitting in the cobblestone street, as another woman apparently helps her, read: "Traditions of atrocity: A Jewish girl raped by Ukrainians in Lvov, Poland, in 1945."  This caption bears the only mention of Ukrainians in the entire article.  The photo is credited to the Ghetto Fighters House in Israel.

A Life publication in 1990, titled "World war II," published the same photograph only with a different caption: "A Lvov rape victim screams as a woman tries to comfort her.  Such rapes were routinely committed in the streets."  This photo also is credited to the Ghetto Fighters House.  The text makes no mention of rapes by Ukrainians and implies that the perpetrators of the alleged crime in the photograph were advancing German soldiers.  The text goes so far as to state that, "Even the peasants of the Soviet-leery Ukraine ... were vengeful beyond reconciliation [towards the Nazis]."  Twelve pages later a photo of a receding line of peasants amidst rising smoke carries the caption, "Ukrainians embittered at Nazi cruelties join the Red Army in retreat before the all-engulfing waves of the Wehrmacht."

The Life publication paints a distinctly different picture of Ukrainian-Jewish relations; one of mutual struggle against common enemies, not each other.

Yet, using the same photograph, Time magazine spins an image of hatred, and implies that this is a deep-rooted "traditional" phenomenon between Ukrainians and Jews.  Why this sudden change of opinion from the same Time-Life conglomerate?  Time will contend there was no malice intended towards Ukrainians, or any other specific groups in an otherwise well-written and well-researched article.  The question then lies with the actual history of the photograph.

The outrage in the Ukrainian community set off subscription cancellations and a postcard campaign throughout the United States and Canada.  Taras Ferencevych and Nicholas Sawicki distributed 1,600 postcards addressed to Jason McManus, editor-in-chief of Time magazine, through their Plast group.  The Demjanjuk Defense Committee of Kyyiv also expressed its outrage in a letter questioning the historical accuracy and validity of the photograph.

On March 4, Time replied to a letter written by Dr. Roman Alyskewycz with an apology for the "misrepresentation" and "imprecision" of the date in the caption.  According to Winston Hunter of the Editorial Offices, the error in the caption is the year, which should read 1944.  Time contends the rest of the caption is accurate and "the fact that it identified Ukrainians was, in our view, secondary to the purpose of the photograph."

In its March 15 issue, Time printed one heavily edited letter in its letters section from Danylo H. Struk, editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, condemning and accusing the magazine of attempting to forment animosity in Ukrainian-Jewish relations.  (For the full text of the letter see The Weekly, February 28.)

This issue also contains an article on ethics in journalism, in which Time asserts that "Falsifying the facts is the most absolute taboo."  Perhaps it is time that such bold righteous language be applied to the ethical standards of its own magazine.  If Time cannot furnish accurate information about the rape victim photograph, then nothing less than a formal, public apology will come close to tackling the stumbling blocks of hatred and indignation strewn between Ukrainian and Jewish relations.  Ukrainian and Jewish people deserve a more sensitive approach to this issue of ethnic relations from the editors and writers of Time.

Michael Stawnychy
Rutherford, N.J.