Dr. Inna RogatchiThe writer is president of the Rogatchi Foundation. Her forthcoming book is "Stars of Despair, Stars of Hope: Personal Reflections on the Holocaust in Modern Times".
Heroization of Villains
To mark the second anniversary of the events that mark what the current Ukraine considers its new existence, the country’s officials are hurrying up the process of massive "name-lifting" of the region. Many Ukrainian cities and a massive number of streets all over the country are to be renamed by November 21st, 2015.
To complete the task, a special re-naming commission has been set up in each municipality of the country. The commissions have drafted their proposals for re-naming. To give the impression that the process is democratic in character, the proposals are announced on the sites of some, not all, municipalities, with the idea that people could read and react to those proposals. And they do.
People from Ukraine are telling us that they are terrified. “We are stunned. This is not the process of de-communisation. The recent law on de-communisation prescribed changing only the Soviet Communist names, but what’s going on here is the process of total and forceful Ukrainisation, in fact. Instead of the expected 60 streets to be renamed here (in the big city of Dnepropetrovsk), they are willing to re-name 350 of them. The situation in Kiev, Kharkov and Odessa, and the other big cities with a long history is the same."
This is what we are being told by extremely worried citizens of Ukraine. Loyal citizens, just very frightened ones. We are also told that “people here are very weary and all of them worry. People are afraid. They are depressed. People are scared on a level which they did not reach even when the conflict was in its hottest stage. Because at that stage there was a hope that it all will settle down and life will return to some sort of normality. But now people have realized that this was an illusion”.
The Ukrainian officials in charge of Operation Renaming openly and serenely are declaring that “it is our only chance to get rid of everything Russian now, not just ideologically, but culturally, too, so we are very committed to implement the system of new names – and new values – into our society at this very moment” – to quote Sergey Svetlichny, the chair of the working panel of the re-naming commission in Dnepropetrovsk. His interview has been published by several Ukrainian media. He calls himself an academic.
According to the plan accepted by municipalities and publicised re-naming plans, all the main streets and avenues in the downtowns of all major cities of the Eastern and Southern Ukraine are to get the names of Stepan Bandera, Roman Shuhevich, Eugen Konovaletz, thus glorifying the vicious murderers and Nazi collaborators whose criminal records are horrifying and are documented in detail.
On the record: in order to call these facts “Russian, Israeli or Polish, for that matter, propaganda”, one must be a certified Holocaust - and the crimes against humanity - denier.
Additionally,the proposal includes renaming big and important central streets and avenues after such vicious anti-Semitic bandits as Atamans (Cossack village leaders) Mahno and Petliura who commanded pogrom gangs in Ukraine after the Bolshevik revolution; and in whose name the Bandera militia conducted the second Lvov pogrom in July 1941 known as “Petliura Days”. These gangs were notorious for their cruelty in southern and eastern Ukraine in the 1920s murdering, robbing and raping thousands of people there and setting a vivid model for the Ukrainian ‘heroes’ massacres carried on in the 1940s .
Many Jewish families in those vast regions of Ukraine still remember both of those pogroms in their chilling details. Now they are supposed to live while being enlightened by the names of the criminals at their home or office addresses. It makes for nice walks through the city, too. All of the Ukrainian cities, to be noted.
To make it all even nicer, many central streets are to be renamed in honour of every possible Ukrainian hetman (Cossack army heads), the leaders of the gangs of butchers, from the XV century onward. On their hands are oceans of Jewish and the other non-Ukrainian blood, throughout all Ukrainian history.
Upon seeing the information on the current self-re-make of Ukraine, one cannot stop to think of a similar process meticulously described in the book first published in 1944 in the USA and that became an instant world best-seller. The book’s title was The Story of the Secret State, and its author was Jan Karski, a Polish hero who brought to the West the first factual account of the Holocaust (which no decision-maker was interested in at the time). In his book, Karski described how his beloved Poznan, the city of the most sophisticated Polish culture, had been Germanised by the Nazis over a few weeks in the Autumn 1939, and what an unbearable void it had become for thousands of people there. Jan Karski was a first-hand witness of the process. Now, 75 years and three generations later, we all are witnessing the beginning of something very similar in Ukraine.
“How we are supposed to live on the Bandera, Shuchevich, Mahno, Petliura and all those bloody hetmans' streets? Our families were victims of those criminals. People here remember it all very well. This is insane,” – people from Ukraine are telling us, in a state of panic.
It is also insulting, not just insensitive and frightening. What is going on there is an abrasive push of the new Ukraine's ideology which could find no one better than the infamous butchers of all Ukranian epochs, so as to infuse their citizen with a new-found patriotism. Patriotism about what? Torturing skills? the degree of hatred? the limitless cruelty?
From Bandera Street to Hitlerstrasse
The world community seems to be bothered little by this outrage. There clearly is a wave of the growing concern in the leading Western media, but all is still quite serene, at least, publicly, on the international diplomacy and political front. Well, if this is so acceptable and not worth noticing, it would be logical to expect a hypothetical re-naming the streets all over the world.
We can start with Hitlerstrasse in Berlin, Kaltenbrunnergasse in Vienna, Mengele platz in Munich, and so on. They all were fighting for the glory of the Reich, their fatherland, were they not? Additionally, they were the ones to whom Bandera, Shuchevich and their criminals gave an oath, who recruited and bred them from the early and mid -1920s, who paid and formed their divisions, who taught and trained them. If their pupils, agents and paid workers have become heroes in the country which is supported by Europe so enthusiastically, it is logically acceptable for their masters to be proclaimed super-heroes.
The ineptness of the world's leaders with regard to the flourishing Ukranian neo-Nazification does demand answers from senior decision-makers, the blind and unequivocal supporters of the country that lost 5.3 million of its citizens in the Second World War, but decided to promote and support, in its new appearance, a blatant neo-Nazification .
Back in early 2014, when the Ukrainian conflict started to unfold, replete with neo-Nazi parties and organizations, 27 of them registered and operating in Ukraine at the time (now there are many more), we discussed this looming problem with many senior US and European officials. Not one of them dismissed my concern; everyone did confirm that the problem is acute and worrisome. “Yes, we know about it , it is existing and worrisome“, but – “We’ll deal with it a bit later”; “ we can assure you that we are keeping our fingers on the pulse of it”, “it is going to be under control” – that is what I was hearing from all of them in unison . Well, is it?
Has the case of Hungary not been alarming enough, where the same problem of the rising neo-Nazi movement was left unnoticed to become a really acute phenomenon for all of Europe some 15 years later when the movement matured in a remarkable – and unchallenged – way, until it is now too late? And would not it be a bit sobering to remember that population-wise, Ukraine is four and a half times bigger than Hungary?
The young generation which will be born and grow up on Bandera street, will read and see what is on Ukrainian TV and in their text-books and will be brought up as natural fans of the Ukrainian ‘heroes’, vicious murderers and zoological racists. This generation will also have a wide array of current, very active and highly profiled neo-Nazis, to help their illustrious bringing up. So, we should not be surprised at the qualities of that society within the span of a decade.
Apart from the eastern, southern and central parts of Ukraine which have become subject to Operation Renaming, it is worth mentioning that the process of thorough typonimical and historical glorification of vicious murderers was successfully completed in western Ukraine decades ago. All cities of the six regions ( out of 24 in Ukraine) enjoy their Bandera, Shuhevich & Co street names since the mid 1990s, plus numerous very pompous memorials to vicious Nazi collaborators whom the Ukrainian new leadership and parliament have re-qualified into ‘fighters for the Ukraine’s freedom and independence’, also numerous museums of all sizes establishing the legacy of racial hatred and unspeakable crimes as a noble national tradition.
Many Western publications, including special monographs, such as Erased by Omer Bartov, documented that shocking reality in detail. It is a very uneasy reading. But the point is that the phenomenon has been registered and efforts were made to bring the subject into the limelight of public discussion as long, as 8 years ago, from 2007 onward. To no avail.
I remember very vividly, just a few years ago, at the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict, our Ukrainian – Ukrainian by nationality and origin – friends were terrified while saying to us:”Have you seen those giant memorials to Bandera in Lvov, and the other places of the Western Ukraine? What a horror! How on the earth is it possible? Why did you in Europe overlook it in silence and negligence? “ Now the same people are looking at us with their sad eyes, living in the still nightmare-like for them reality and trying to grasp the meaning of the continuing silence of the world, with Europe so close, while the wave of the glorification of Nazism is sweeping all over Ukraine. Those people have no questions any longer. And this is alarming, indeed.
In the process of their own contribution into the matter of the national pride today, in all those cities of the Western Ukraine, the streets already named after Bandera, Shuhevich and Co in mid-1990s, now will be re-named - and become the streets of the Hero Stepan Bandera, National Hero Roman Shuhevitch, Hero of Ukraine Eugen Konovaletz, etc. There is no limit to the striving for perfection.
And we have not even mentioned the Jews yet. (Part II to be posted tomorrow)
Dr Inna Rogatchi is the writer, scholar and film maker. Her forthcoming book is Dark Stars, Wise Hearts: Personal Reflections on the Holocaust in the Modern Times. Her film The Lessons of Survival is due to the Special Film Commemorative Series in honour of Simon Wiesenthal on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his passing in October 2015 in Israel. More: Rogatchi Films – www.rogatchifilms.org