I hope everyone enjoys the new look this week. Yesterday I was hauling ass down Khreshatik to get to my apartment, and wouldn’t you know- someone put a large WWII exhibit in my way. That’s a surefire way to slow me down. Here are a couple photos I shot with my phone. All text was in Ukrainian only, so I didn’t have time to read all of it.
Hmmm…Something is wrong with this picture. Where to start? The top part is a tally of how many Ukrainians fought for each side in WWII, Allies and Axis. Right off the bat I have a problem with using the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi as a symbol for the Allied Victory. For one, victory over Japan would come months later, after bloody battle of Okinawa, the atomic bombs, and the Soviet Manchurian campaign. Second, just as Ukraine’s government appropriated the poppy, a British symbol of remembrance for the First World War, here too they are appropriating one of America’s symbols, most likely because someone was afraid of the massive explosion of buttrage that would occur if they put a silhouette of the Red Army soldier raising the flag over the Reichstag, you know, the Red Army soldier who happened to be from Kyiv?
It gets worse though. I’m going to skip the bizarre use of the Vietnamese flag to represent the Red Army here, because there’s something more egregious under it. There we see the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), represented by the Ukrainian state flag, at 100,000. That figure pretty much counts everybody who was ever in the UPA throughout its existence; generally at their most active periods they had somewhere between 20,000-40,000 people.
Let’s ignore the numbers though, the most important thing is how it puts the UPA on the allied side when in fact it never was. Claims that the UPA fought the Germans as much as the Soviets, who were on the allied side like it or not, are simply not substantiated by historical evidence. What is more, the UPA assisted the German war effort in a multitude of ways at different times, and many of its personnel including commanders like Roman Shukhevych previously served in German uniform. For the sake of historical accuracy the UPA should have been represented by their red and black flag and at least put in some third column instead of that of the allied coalition to which they never belonged.
As I said before I only snapped a few photos and didn’t have time to read much of the exhibit, but my overall impression was actually somewhat positive. It acknowledged collaboration and allied contributions, and many of the titles of the boards were phrased as questions, inviting debate. One board about the UPA had Stepan Bandera’s photo next to that of Andriy Melnyk, which I found amusing since they were bitter rivals and Bandera’s men were trying to kill the latter’s followers. That, incidentally, is the real reason Bandera wound up in a concentration camp.
I intend to go back and investigate more. It looked fairly balance but I fear it may suffer from this phenomenon I’ve seen in post-Maidan Ukraine, whereby it’s open season on the Red Army, for which the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians fought, while the OUN, UPA, and even Ukrainian Wehrmacht formations are taboo when it comes to criticism. Lately the mainstream view seems to be that Ukraine gets to claim credit for Soviet accomplishments during the war, while any and all atrocities or negative aspects of the Soviet liberation and everything thereafter are attributed to the dreaded “Moskali.” But the UPA? Oh no they fought for Ukraine! They said they did! No matter that they probably killed more ordinary Ukrainian peasants than Red Army or Wehrmacht soldiers. Forget the campaign of genocide against Poles, forget the pogroms some of their membership took part in or organized, and forget the fact that many of these men assisted the invasion of an army that planned to exterminate, sterilize, or enslave all of Ukraine and resettle it with “Aryan supermen.” The UPA is beyond reproach with some people.
I have one last thing to say for those folks who scream, “They were Ukrainian patriots! They fought for Ukrainian independence!” Fine, let’s go with that. The OUN and UPA claimed they were fighting for an independent Ukraine. You know what? They fucking sucked at it. Here’s some helpful advice that will help you out in real life- your intentions or what you say, in the long run, do not matter. All that matters is what people do, what other people can see or at least experience. Perhaps it’s time some of you start look more at the actual activities of the OUN and UPA, and their results, instead of babbling on about what they supposedly wanted to do, because that’s worth absolutely dick.