World War II isn’t over. At least in Ukraine it isn’t

Kyiv Post
Mark Rachkevych
October 14, 2010

Every time “conscious” Ukrainians bring up the existence of an army that fought German Nazis then turned its guns on Stalin’s NKVD forces in a futile struggle to gain Ukrainian statehood, their efforts to gain recognition get drowned out in the hollow rhetorical trope spewed by people who have a phobia towards anything for which the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) stood.

Oct. 14 was the first time UPA supporters were denied a permit to rally in Kyiv to commemorate the anniversary when that army’s first detachment formed in 1942 in the marshlands of Volyn Oblast.

Yet a group of people bent on denying their nation’s history, who refuse to conduct a balanced examination of UPA's historic role, one that the Soviet propaganda machine and certain politicians and government officials today continue to blacken, contort and misconstrue, was given permission to stage an “Anti-Fascist” rally in the heart of Kyiv on Independence Square.

UPA wasn’t formed in one day, it was a process like anything in history. Its activities encompassed all of today’s Ukrainian territory and their numbers reached 100,000. It pitched open battles and conducted hit-and-run ambushes as far as Zhytomyr and Vinnytsia Oblasts and had cells in every oblast to disseminate pro-Ukrainian statehood literature and recruit people to its ranks.

Its leader, Roman Shukhevych, even visited Kyiv to inspect secret UPA cells on his way back to war ravaged western Ukraine from his second trip (!) to Odesa where he sought treatment for rheumatism using a fake teacher’s identity card and forged passport at a time when he was the most wanted man in the U.S.S.R. The passport, get this, had Shukhevych’s actual picture in it.

Russians, Jews, Armenians, Tartars, as well as other ethnicities served in UPA.

It conducted three “raids” through central Europe to reach occupied Germany after WWII to tell the world of their plight, that the unvanquished freedom fighters were still at war in Western Ukraine against NKVD secret police troops for a free Ukraine.

Their message didn’t fall on deaf ears. The CIA and Britain’s MI6 drafted plans to drop weapons and other supplies to UPA soldiers but their operation was foiled by British traitor Kim Philby.

Members of the of nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) movement rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Oct. 14. Nationalists and supporters of Ukrainian partisans rallied to receive official recognition as World War II veterans. The partisans from the Ukrainian Insurgent Army fought against both Nazis and Red Army soldiers during World War II in a bid to create an independent Ukraine and they celebrate UIA's 68th anniversary today (Yaroslav Debelyi).

Almost twenty years has gone by since UPA achieved its much delayed victory, that of an independent Ukrainian nation.

But instead of forming peace and reconciliation commissions, instead of bringing together historians from within and outside Ukraine to put the actions of UPA and Soviet forces in historical perspective with the goal of coming to terms with its troubled and bloody WWII past, Ukraine has a mythic Victory Day, celebrated on May 9.

Victory over whom or what…over Nazi Germany? It was a world war. And war is ugly.

Why not a memorial day to commemorate all the victims of that horrific war and the sacrifices made by all its combatants: civilian, Soviet and UPA soldiers, the Red Partisans, alike?

That’s a how a nation is built, by confronting its past soberly, not by turning a blind eye to it.

War is still being waged.

The education ministry has recently taken out the heroic feats and UPA’s role from school text books. Ukraine’s SBU intelligence agency has again locked up and sealed access to Soviet-era archives. There’s talk in parliament to resurrect the October Revolution holiday. An UPA researcher was recently detained by the SBU. Ukrainophobe parliamentarians are pushing to give the Russian language “official” language status in a bastardized attempt to skew the intention and principled wording of European Union minority language policy.

Some wars never end.

I sincerely hope that peace and reconciliation can be found, and UPA’s role be put in a proper historic perspective.

Kyiv Post staff writer Mark Rachkevych can be reached at

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