Original article in Ukrainian by Oleksandr Paliy, for UP
Ukrainian society seems to be ready for a new, non-stereotyped judgment of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). At least recent public discussions suggest such a conclusion.
One of these stereotypes is that UPA soldiers demand recognition and equal rights with soldiers of the Red Army.
However, the Soviet Army fought for Ukraine only in opposing the fascist regime, which threatened to destroy entire nations.
All the rest of the time, the Soviet Army defended Stalin’s regime, and promoted the strengthening of totalitarianism in Ukraine and other European countries. It helped to kill nations, the Ukrainian nation among them.
Moreover, soldiers of the Soviet Army were totally blind to their negative mission. That is why they were often surprised by the attitude of people in the Czech Republic, Hungary and of course in Western Ukraine.
In contrast, UPA was fighting for the independent Ukraine we are now living in.
Accusations of collaboration with the Germans are actually ridiculous, because they were brought by the Communists. It was the USSR, after all, that signed a peace agreement with Germany.
It was official Moscow that signed the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which implied the division of Europe between the two countries. It was by agreement of Stalin with Hitler and fascist Germany that the Soviet government and Secret Services (the NKDV) appeared in Western Ukraine.
It was the USSR and Germany that, executing this pact, attacked Poland and rendered Germany technical assistance until July 1941. It was the USSR that held a joint parade with the fascists in Brest.
Who can explain why one of Kyiv's streets is named for UPA activist Olena Teliha?
She was murdered in Babyn Yar together with thousands of OUN-UPA activists. Lots of UPA members died in German concentration camps. Stepan Bandera’s brother was among them.
Fascists did not want an independent Ukraine. They needed territory in the East. Obviously UPA had its own goals apart from the fascists. An independent Ukraine was the final goal of Ukrainian patriots.
Accusations of killing civilians brought against UPA soldiers are inconsistent.
For some reasons, the population of Western Ukraine does not remember anything about these crimes. Instead, they do remember crimes committed by those whom UPA has always opposed and fought.
No propaganda can explain this inconsistency.
Besides, heroism implies a conscious choice. Well, maybe just volunteers of the Soviet Army may be compared with UPA soldiers who did not know the term of ‘mobilization.’
However, this comparison is not quite relevant. It is easier to fight when you are aware that you are supported by one of the most powerful and largest countries in the world than to fight armed only with lofty ideals and an awareness of the fact that you will not live to see your dream come true.
Had Ukrainian Soviet veterans known what is well-known now they would have naturally joined UPA.
That’s why UPA veterans do not simply need equal rights with Red Army soldiers. They need a different status.
Maybe they need to have equal status with Soviet veterans in the sense of social benefits. UPA veterans are not the only ones who need this special status. The succeeding generations also need to know what good and evil are.
The Ukrainian Insurgent Army showed the striking moral and personal courage of the Ukrainian people. UPA, all by itself, opposed the most powerful country in the world at a time when no one dared to offer even the slightest resistance, neither Soviet republics nor Western European countries.
People hate only those whom they fear. It is the stigma ‘Banderivets’, applied to nearly every Ukrainian, that shows the Soviets did not fear and hate anything and anybody as much as they feared the power of Ukrainian rebellion. They were right since it was the revived Ukraine that destroyed the empire.
That’s why appeals for a detailed consideration of UPA issue are hypocritical. 15 years of independence is enough for such an analysis. Soviet veterans have been always honored.
So, UPA veterans have the right to feel the honor and respect of the country they have been fighting for, at least in the twilight of their lives.
Naturally Natalia Vitrenko and company will not like such decision. However, that is no obstacle at all.
Vitrenko and company dislikes the existence of an independent Ukraine. That does not mean we have to destroy Ukrainian independence.
We have to confess there are some people in the country (fortunately not many) who sincerely believe that the only mistake made by the Soviet government regarding the Ukrainian people is that it did not kill another 10-20 million Ukrainians so that this country would forever pass into nothingness.
The disloyalty of some Ukrainian citizens to Ukraine is sometimes astonishing.
During the last presidential pre-election campaign, one fellow from Donetsk confessed his grandmother would scold him if she knew he could speak Ukrainian. “If she knew I actually speak it, she would kill me,” he added.
Lots of people who once came to Ukraine will never love it. For the rest of Ukrainians it became the Motherland where an ordinary Belarusan, Buryat or even an ex-prisoner can become the prime minister.
Maybe their grandchildren will understand that those who fought for the freedom of this Motherland deserve respect.
Oleksandr Paliy, historian, for UP