Edmonton's statue of Roman Shukhevych, an infamous Ukrainian Nazi collaborator, has once again been defaced with red paint. This time, a second local monument—a memorial honouring the 14th Waffen SS Division—was targeted as well.
An unknown person or persons painted the words "Nazi monument" and "14th Waffen SS" on the latter monument, which is housed at the St. Michael's cemetary on the north side of the city. Shukhevych's statue was painted with the words "actual Nazi."
The Roman Shukhevych statue at the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex in Edmonton.
This monument to the 14th Waffen SS Division is in St. Michael's cemetery in Edmonton.
It’s unclear when this happened but pictures of both defaced monuments were sent to the Progress Report on August, 10, 2021.
Abe Silverman is manager of public affairs for Alberta for B'nai Brith, an international organization whose stated mandate is to combat antisemitism. Silverman says that B'nai Brith has been contending for some time with the organizations that house and maintain these monuments, but that progress has been slow due to pushback from Ukrainian cultural organizations.
Shukhevych was a leading figure in the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), a group that through the 1920s and 1930s engaged in a series of attacks against Polish people in the region of Galicia. The OUN aligned itself with Nazi Germany for most of the Second World War, and was one of several groups from which the 14th Waffen SS Division, a Nazi division made up of Ukrainians, recruited from. Near the end of the war, in an attempt to ensure Ukrainian dominance over the regions of Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)—the military wing of the OUN—massacred tens of the thousands of Polish people.
“Was Roman Shukhevych an actual Nazi? He was a Ukrainian nationalist and the evidence shows that was a fascist organization aligned with Nazi Germany. Did he hate Jews? Yes. Does that make him a Nazi? Probably yes,” said Silverman.
“It seems to me that someone like that should not have a statue in his honour in our community. It’s not acceptable. To hide behind the fact that he was a leader of a group that was fighting against communism is no excuse for being a murderer. To intentionally target civilians because you don't like who they are, be they Poles or Jews, is abhorrent.”
The modern Ukrainian nationalist movement seems keenly interested in rehabilitating the image of Shukhevych and his notable comrades-in-arms, particularly Stepan Bandera. In March of this year the city council of Ternopil in Ukraine named their local soccer stadium after Shukhevych. But the records of Shukhevych’s participation in massacres and ethnic cleansing are clear. According to University of Alberta history professor emeritus John-Paul Himka, Shukhevych was the architect of the Ukrainian National Militia, which was deeply engaged in anti-Jewish violence in the summer of 1941, and the commander of the UPA, which killed tens of thousands of non-Ukrainians (Poles, Jews, Roma, ethnic Germans, and others) in 1943-44.
Shukhevych also served in German military formations. He was the highest-ranking Ukrainian officer in the Nachtigall battalion, which took part in the Lviv pogrom and murdered Jews as it marched towards Vinnytsia. This unit lasted from February until November 1941. When Nachtigall was dissolved, Shukhevych and the soldiers were reorganized into the 201 Schutzmannschaft Battalion, which suppressed anti-German partisan activity in Belarus for a year.
“There are a variety of credible historians who have studied his history. The estimate is that 100,000 Poles were slaughtered by the UPA, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. And he was the leader of that organization, so the buck stops with him,” said Thomas Lukaszuk, former deputy premier of Alberta and Progressive Conservative MLA and board member with the Canadian Polish Historical Society.
“We see Shukhevych as an individual who led a movement in Ukraine that focused on slaughtering Poles and Jews. There’s just no doubt about it. Any glorification of a figure who has 100,000 deaths that can be attributed to them should not be taking place. And those acts need to be denounced. We need to know about them, we need to remember them, and we need to make sure this never happens again,” said Lukaszuk.
“It’s very important to highlight the fact that Canadian Ukrainians need not be apologetic for what their ancestors did. They should understand it, they should denounce it. But Polish people are not asking for an apology for this. Just please don’t glorify this individual,” said Lukaszuk.
The monument at St. Michael's cemetery is dedicated to "Fighters for the Freedom of Ukraine." Among the veteran organizations mentioned on the plaque is "1st UD UNA," which is an abbreviation for the 1st Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army. This is what the 14 Waffen SS Division was renamed as Germany was being definitively defeated in April 1945.
The 14th Waffen SS Division had officers and noncommissioned officers who came from the Nachtigall battalion, the same division that Shukhevych commanded. The 14th Waffen SS Division also swore an oath to Hitler, were personally addressed by Heinrich Himmler, and took part in the Huta Pieniacka Massacre, according to both the Polish Institute of National Remembrance and the Institute of History at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.
The Polish Institute of National Remembrance’s investigation into the anti-Polish campaign is unequivocal about its result: a brutal massacre.
“The crime was committed by the 4th battalion of the 14th division on February 28. On that day, early in the morning, soldiers of this division, dressed in white, masking outfits, surrounded the village. The village was cross-fired by artillery. SS-men of the 14th Division of the SS “Galizien” entered the village, shooting the civilians rounded up at a church. The civilians, mostly women and children, were divided and locked in barns that were set on fire. Those who tried to run away were killed. Witnesses interrogated by the prosecutors of the Head Commission described the morbid details of the act. The crime was committed against women, children, and newborn babies,” investigators wrote.
“These monuments are in Edmonton because many veterans of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the 14th Waffen SS Division migrated to Canada a few years after the war. Many in the organized Ukrainian community regard them as heroes,” explained Himka.
When the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex, who maintain the Shukhevych statue, were contacted about the statue being defaced they replied by referencing a statement they provided to the Progress Report in July, 2020 on the matter, asserting that their position had not changed.
In that statement they denied that Shukhevych had committed war crimes, claiming the evidence of this was fabricated by the KGB. They referenced his “heroic” leadership of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army against Nazi and Soviet rule and that he died in battle against Soviet operatives in 1950.