History is messy, horrible, complicated. All we can do is face it.
First intelligent piece I’ve read about this affair
Best piece I've read so far about this affair. Thank you for taking the time to write it.
Thank you, some very useful context to inform the current conversation and a useful reminder about the pitfalls of taking a too-simplistic approach in support of political theatre.
Thank you for this wonderfully researched article. I'm Latvian. As a brash know it all teen, I asked my Father why didn't the people do more, he said it's complicated, war is complicated, unless you've lived it you won't understand why people made those choices.
Thank you Justin...the context is helpful . I don’t know how or who took the time to “out” Mr Hunka but there were any number of politicians and others eager to use him for their “Gotcha”20 second sound bites. I had assumed that there would have been some screening of the man when he came here after the war and that to all intents and purposes he had left it all behind . Perhaps a little naive of me but he must have been doing something right in order to be noticed and then invited.
The depth of your research never fails to impress and it reminds me every time why it is that I am a subscriber. BTW..I just finished listening to The Flamethrowers podcast...a masterful exploration of right wing radio. Keep it coming
I was a university student at the time of the Deschenes commission. As a Ukrainian-Canadian who knew some former members of the Galician division, I was upset at the accusations levelled at the formation. However, over the course of the commission hearings and through later reading, I learned one important thing I didn't know before. When the Germans formed the division, they incorporated Ukrainian auxiliary police. These police units had participated in the killing of Jews. This means some members of the division were already guilty of war crimes when they joined. Some, however, doesn't mean all or most.
I once met Sol Littman, whose activism was largely responsible for the Mulroney's government to create the Deschenes commission. I told him I knew some members of the division. He said he would have to know when they joined before he could say whether he thought they were war criminals.
Myroslav Shkandrij mentions anti-Nazi Ukrainian partisans. He's referring to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army whose Ukrainian initials are UPA. The UPA was created by a Nazi-aligned fascist organization called the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. The UPA conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Poles living in the Volhynia region. Tens of thousands were murdered. Unfortunately, Ukrainian-Canadian organizations such as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress have defended UPA.
None of this ugly history should deflect us from the fact that as we speak the Russians are committing atrocities in Ukraine. Ukrainians alive today aren't responsible for what some of their ancestors did during World War II. Also, if we focus on history we should remember that many more Ukrainians fought in the Red Army than collaborated with the Nazis.
One final point. Some Russians also collaborated. Anyone interested can search the internet for Vlasov's army.
You really nailed it here Mr Ling.
I have been trying to explain this to others on social media but to no avail.
Here is a blog post I wrote about my grandfather who was caught in a similar situation to Hunka’s:
Thank you for a thoughtful article. There's a lot to think about.
My paternal grandfather was a Holodomor survivor from the Ukraine. As you say, Eastern European history is a maelstrom of shifting borders, loyalties and ethnic hatred going back centuries. Mr Ling I'm grateful for this perspective regarding the Hunka fiasco. My grandfather was a fierce supporter of Ukraine but is his background pristine? And if not, would it disqualify him from the recognition he achieved in his lifetime for his pro-democracy and anti-communist activities after emigrating to Canada? I don't know.
Thank you. This is what needed to be said.
...And there seems to be a link to Fela Kuti's Water Get No Enemy at the bottom. Good choice. Great song. (I actually bought his 30 disk boxed set. Brilliant stuff.)
Thank you for the detailed research and the thoughtful context of the situation. Although the failure to vet the person being recognised is inexcusable, your have reminded us, as we should know, the history that people have lived is complex and nuanced and was lived in a time and a place that we can not possible know other than through the eyes and words of those that lived it. Again thank you.
Oops, my bad, not "James" - JUSTIN! Yes Justin Ling!
Thanks for this, James. It explains a lot - like why Putin is pushing the accusation of de-nazificating Ukraine. That idea must be so disgusting for the Ukranians - never mind the actual war. I wonder if any of this analysis will be appear in the general media.
Thanks for the article it puts everything in context. This old man and his family have just had their lives blown apart by politicians pandering to their egos. Politics has become a cult of popularity and less about governing the country for all citizens. Life is not black and white but shades of grey.
Thank you for adding some depth and nuance to what would other just be breathless scandal.
Great insight Justin.. 👏👏 my grandfather was from west Galicia, then the German Austrian territory His father had passed when he was three years old , with his mother remarrying and that union bringing three more children to the family. The relationship with the stepfather had never been good, resulting in the stepfather eventually leaving the family. This made my grandfather the provider for his mother and step siblings. In search of a new life, his mother arranges to send her oldest son to Canada, so he could secure land and send money home for his family. This is also compounded by the rumours of a “pending” war and tensions within the country, as his mother feared he would be “recruited” to fight.. In 1910 my grandfather landed in Canada at the tender age of 14 years old. In reading your story I thought of our own family history.. to truly understand the context of the turmoil and landscape of those years one must look at it through a different lens, other than ours, as this was complicated.. thank you for dissecting this for us.. great article 😊