Kyiv Post | 06May2011 | Marco Levytsky

Open letter villifies freedom fighters, minimizes Holodomor

The Open Letter: The UCCLA, the UCC and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights", signed by 78 international scholars and other individuals, which was first posted online by the Ukraine List [#452 of Dominique Arel]  on April 11, 2011 distorts the positions of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA), while at the same time vilifying those who gave their lives in the struggle for Ukraine’s freedom, and deliberately minimizing the horror of the Holodomor.

The letter begins by stating: “The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress have been campaigning against the plans of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg to mount a permanent Holocaust gallery.” Not true. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has called for an inclusive and equitable Museum that would include both Holocaust and Holodomor galleries. UCCLA says all 12 zones in the CMHR should be thematic, comparative and inclusive. It says both the Holodomor and Holocaust should have permanent displays in a thematic gallery dealing with genocide as a crime against humanity.

The letter continues with a completely irrelevant and grossly misleading digression regarding the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA in its Ukrainian acronym) and the 14th Grenadier Division of the Waffen SS ‘Galicia’ (1st Ukrainian), which was renamed the First Division of the National Army of Ukraine. The authors attempt to bridge this digression with the incredible statement: “What we object to is the dishonest manner in which the UCCLA and UCC have distorted historical accounts of the Holodomor while at the same time refusing to acknowledge the Ukrainian nationalist movement’s role in the Holocaust.”

But, seriously, who’s being dishonest here?

They describe the Division as “a military unit that was primarily involved in counterinsurgency activities”, when the largest action the Division was involved in was the 1944 Battle of Brody where the Germans used them as human shields against the Soviet Red Army killing machine. Only 3,000 of the 11,000 original members survived and the unit had to be reconstituted.

The authors also cite: “the political responsibility of the OUN in anti-Jewish violence in the summer of 1941”, and research that “demonstrates that many former policemen who aided the Nazis in genocidal operations subsequently joined the UPA, created in early 1943”.

The first charge is based primarily on unsubstantiated accounts that the OUN participated in anti-Jewish pogroms in Lviv when the Nazis invaded that city in 1941. That has been disproved by a document, found by the Soviet NKVD when they raided an UPA bunker and buried deep in their archives until the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) declassified it in 2008. It states that on July 4–7, 1941, representatives of Gestapo, who arrived in Lviv, turned to the Ukrainian population inciting them to carry out an anti-Jewish pogrom to which: “The OUN leadership, having got to know about that, informed its members that it was a German provocation in order to compromise Ukrainians with massacres.” That document has been verified as genuine by all objective analysts. However, it’s authenticity has been publicly disputed by one of the signatories of this letter (and perhaps the author or co-author, with Pers Rudling being a pretty safe educated guess as the collaborator), John Paul Himka, who in a Feb. 14, 2010, letter to the Edmonton Journal stated that the document in question “was already exposed as a deception in Kyiv Post and other venues”. When asked by this writer to provide a link to the Kyiv Post article that exposed the memorandum as a deception, Himka did better than that -- he sent the original MS Word file of the March 27, 2008 Op-Ed he himself had submitted to The Kyiv Post. So much for any independent corroboration of his claim.

The argument that many former policemen may have joined the UPA is totally ridiculous. As if an underground movement fighting the two most brutal totalitarian regimes in history would have the time or resources to vet their recruits, or the luxury of picking and choosing anyone who wanted to fight alongside them? But since the authors have decided to open up the issue of who did join the UPA, let me quote from “The Jewish Card in Russian Special Operations Against Ukraine”, a paper delivered at the 26th Conference on Ukrainian Subjects at the University of Illinois in June 2009 by Moses Fishbein, a distinguished Jewish-Ukrainian poet and translator:

“The claim that ‘the UPA engaged in anti-Jewish actions’ is a provocation engineered by Moscow. It is a provocation. It is a lie that the UPA destroyed Jews. Tell me: how could the UPA have destroyed Jews when Jews were serving members of the UPA? I knew a Jew who served in the UPA. I also knew Dr. Abraham Shtertser, who settled in Israel after the war. There was Samuel Noiman whose [UPA] codename was Maksymovych. There was Shai Varma (codename Skrypal/Violinist). There was Roman Vynnytsky whose codename was Sam.

“There was another distinguished figure in the UPA, a woman by the name of Stella Krenzbach, who later wrote her memoirs. She was born in Bolekhiv, in the Lviv region. She was the daughter of a rabbi, she was a Zionist, and in Bolekhiv she was friends with Olia, the daughter of a [Ukrainian] Greek-Catholic priest. In 1939 Stella Krenzbach graduated from Lviv University’s Faculty of Philosophy. From 1943 she served in the UPA as a nurse and intelligence agent. In the spring of 1945 she was captured by the NKVD while meeting a courier in Rozhniativ. She was imprisoned, tortured, and sentenced to death. Later, this Jewish woman was sprung from prison by UPA soldiers. In the summer of 1945 she crossed into the Carpathian Mountains together with a group of Ukrainian insurgents, and on 1 October 1946 she reached the British Zone of Occupation in Austria. Eventually, she reached Israel. In her memoirs Stella Krenzbach writes:

‘I attribute the fact that I am alive today and devoting all the strength of my thirty-eight years to a free Israel only to God and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. I became a member of the heroic UPA on 7 November 1943. In our group I counted twelve Jews, eight of whom were doctors.’”

Of particular interest is what Fishbein has to say about the wife of UPA Commander Roman Shukhevych, who UPA detractors have often attempted to unjustly link to anti-Jewish pogroms.

“In 1942-43 Natalia Shukhevych, the wife of UPA Commander in Chief Roman Shukhevych, hid a young Jewish girl named Ira Reichenberg in her home. General Shukhevych prepared a fake passport for the girl in the name of Iryna Ryzhko. When the Gestapo arrested Mrs. Shukhevych, the little girl was brought to an orphanage based at a convent located in the village of Kulykiv in the Lviv region. There the little girl survived the German occupation and the war. In 2007 Iryna Ryzhko died in Kyiv, where her son Volodymyr lives.”

Having hurled their unsubstantiated accusations against those who gave up their lives in the struggle for freedom, the authors of the Open Letter proceed to minimize the scope of the Holodomor, using highly selective and pseudo-scientific terminology, in order to deliberately diminish its significance in terms of human tragedy.

They state: “All demographic studies place the number of famine deaths in Soviet Ukraine in the range of 2.6 to 3.9 million,” adding “nonetheless, the UCC has, at times, inflated the number of victims to seven or even ten million”.

First, the 10-million figure came directly from the perpetrator of the Holodomor himself -- Joseph Stalin -- in a private conversation with Sir Winston Churchill, which the British statesman later recorded in his memoirs. Second, it was echoed by Stalin‘s biggest apologist and most notorious Holodomor denier, New York Times reporter Walter Duranty, in a secret briefing recorded by the British Embassy and later released publicly.

Most important, however, is that the 7–10 million estimate (and I stress that it remains an estimate) is an internationally accepted number that was included in a Joint Statement on the Holodomor issued at the United Nations on November 10, 2003, and signed by 26 delegations including those of Canada, the United States, Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

At that time, the president of Ukraine was Leonid Kuchma, Viktor Yanukovych was Ukraine’s Prime Minister, and Vladimir Putin was the President of the Russian Federation.

It is worthwhile to note that, unlike the Open Letter, which deliberately omits relevant facts to distort the truth, the UN resolution does not set any boundaries for the Holodomor. The Wolowyna study, which provided the 3.9 million figure for the Ukrainian SSR, calculated over 7.6 million direct losses in the entire Soviet Union. Aside from Kazakhstan, the greatest number was 2.5 million in Russia, which was almost totally concentrated in the ethnic Ukrainian regions of the Kuban and the Volga. In the Kuban and the ethnic Ukrainian pockets of the Volga, where the famine was combined with the closure of all Ukrainian newspapers and schools, an entire community of several million was wiped out as an ethno cultural entity. Surely that fits the definition of genocide.

Furthermore, every single demographic study depends upon comparisons between the 1926 and 1939 Soviet census -- which was falsified. The true situation was reflected in the 1937 Soviet census, but, because of that, Stalin immediately ordered it destroyed and sent all its organizers to the Gulag as saboteurs. The 1939 census was then adjusted to deliberately lower the number of deaths resulting from the Holodomor. Thus, any demographic study that depends upon the 1939 census immediately understates the extent of the Holodomor because that’s what the original data it is based upon was intended to do.

Significantly, some respected scholars who once accepted these demographic studies are now backtracking. As David R. Marples wrote in a Nov. 23, 2010 op-ed piece in the Kyiv Post: “The scale of the tragedy, in what had been the most productive grain-growing republic of both the Russian Empire and the 1920s USSR, is hard to fathom. The Italian Consul in Kharkiv (which remained Ukraine’s capital until 1934) reported that some 40-50 percent of peasants had died and estimated the death toll at around 9 million.

“But we do not know the death toll. No one was counting the bodies, many of which lay unburied for days or were dumped into mass graves.”

We also do not know whether Marples has changed his opinion on some of the matters related to the OUN that he has written about in the past, but his absence from the list of signatories of this Open Letter is quite conspicuous.

Nevertheless, we must distinguish between the some of the signatories, who may not be sufficiently familiar with the true historical facts, and the author or authors who penned this vitriolic piece. The authors accuse the UCC of “a manipulative attempt to exploit human suffering,” which “is reprehensible and should not be acceptable to the Canadian public.”

Frankly, they should look themselves in the mirror.

Marco Levytsky is the editor and publisher of Ukrainian News, an independent bi-weekly newspaper based in Edmonton and distributed across Canada.


Guest, Guest | Yesterday at 05:07
John-Paul Himka and Pers Rudling are at the centre of a nest of vitriolic anti-Ukrainian bigots at the University of Alberta. It is ironic that one of the leading Universities supporting Ukrainian studies at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) also houses the West's leading hub for anti-Ukrainian bigotry. The only key fact missing in Levytsky's excellent account is the funding support for these "scholars" -- the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Guest, Guest | Yesterday at 00:17
For the complete text of Moses Fishbein's address see

Guest, Guest | 2 days ago at 22:29

For UCCLA's reply to the 'open letter' calling for the censure and silencing of two established Ukrainian Canadian organizations go to and look under Media Releases (19 April 2011).