Bandera led the militant arm of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) during the beginning of World War II, and following Germany's capture of the formerly Polish city of Lviv, penned a declaration of Ukrainian statehood. Later, he was arrested and spent years in a concentration camp.
OUN cooperated with the Nazis, urging the Ukrainian people to aid the invading forces in destroying the Soviet Union.
After being released by the Nazis, Bandera became the leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) which mostly fought against the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) of Poland and the Soviet Red Army in Western Ukraine.
It is widely believed that UPA was created in October of 1942 and 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of its creation.
Sputnik Polska sat down with Krakow-based historian and independent journalist Bohdan Pietka, who explained why this "false anniversary" is as dubious as the fighters' purported heroism.
"I would like to point out from the very beginning that this is a false anniversary as the UPA was created not in October of 1942 but at the beginning of 1943," he noted to Sputnik.
"It is already a lie, however there is even more unashamed deceit in it: Viatrovych and other campaigners of the celebrations are attempting to present UPA as the main force of an anti-Nazi resistance movement. It is an incredible deception! Historians of various countries know only too well that the leaders of UPA and its fighters viewed Nazi Germany as their closest ally while their major enemy was the Soviet Union. The UPA was fighting against Soviet partisans and the Red Army, as well as against Polish civilians, against whom it committed genocide," he further explained.
Bohdan Pietka also commented on the reaction of the Polish politicians to the attempts of the Ukrainian nationalists. Earlier in February, he said, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party warned Ukraine that the glorification of Stepan Bandera and other Nazi collaborators would prevent Ukraine’s integration with the European Union.
However in the follow-up to the above remarks, Polish Ambassador to Ukraine Jan Pieklo said that praising Bandera and related Ukrainian nationalism won't be an obstacle for the development of good relationship between Warsaw and Kiev, as the main purpose of the two countries is to look forward and not backwards. This remark does not need any comments, Pietka said.
Bohdan Pietka also commented on the upcoming symposium "The Holocaust in Ukraine. New Perspectives on the Evils of the 20th Century" which is set to take place in Paris at the beginning of March. Viatrovych is set to participate in the conference.
The Polish historian said that Viatrovych will most likely attempt to present UPA as a force which maintained a friendly attitude towards Jews in Ukraine, trying to help them out in difficult situations and saving them from death.
This is also a lie, Pietka said, as barefaced as the presentation of the UPA as an anti-Nazi force. The historic truth, he said, is absolutely different. The Ukrainian nationalists, on the contrary, actively participated in the Holocaust.
He cited as an example the invasion of the Wehrmacht Nachtigall and Roland Battalions in the city of Lvov (Lviv) in 1941. The battalions included Ukrainian nationalists, who actively participated in pogroms aimed at the active persecution of Ukrainian Jews.
Many historians are aware of the fact that all the Jews who came into the hands of the UPA fighters have fallen victims. However, Viatrovych, he said, will sharply deny the truth and will fiercely claim that the UPA was trying to help the Jews.
Before becoming the figurehead of the short-lived independent Ukrainian state which was proclaimed in the weeks following the June 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, Bandera had been imprisoned in Poland for a terrorist plot to assassinate Poland's Interior Minister. Once freed by the Nazis, he actively helped plot the creation of a puppet state in what would become western Ukraine.
Bandera's Act of Proclamation of Ukrainian Statehood declared "the newly formed Ukrainian state will work closely with the National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler, which is forming a new order in Europe and the world."
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