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Atitude Toward Genocides: Ukraine and Russia

By       Message Ludwik Kowalski       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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An article “Confronting Soviet and Nazi Histories” click here was posted nearly a month we ago. In that article I wrote: “. . . According to a Harvard University historian (5), ‘the task of confronting unpleasant historical episodes is difficult for any country, even the long-established democracies.  . . . ‘  “ I also wrote that most Germans and most Austrians were no less victims of Nazism than most Russians and most Poles were victims of Communism.

The article prompted by the 75th anniversary of Holodomor (artificial famine in Ukraine, induced by Bolsheviks)  click here  produced two interesting comments. According to the Sashine’s second comment: “. . .  The Ukrainian govt.  after 1992-  associates everything Communist with Russia and Russians. The UPA- OUN- nationalist group which collaborated with the Nazis are called heroes now and there are monuments to them.  . . .  “

Hmm, this fact is significant and deserves to be discussed. Holodomor was one of several 20th century genocides in Ukraine. And Babi Yar, near Kiev, is a well known reminder of the Holocaust. Another genocide (indiscriminate killing of members of a targeted population) was organized by Ukrainian nationalists. The targeted population consisted of Poles. A university colleague, with whom I often argue, sent me an interesting reminder. He wrote:

“. . . The OUN -- the same forces that fought on the Nazi side and slaughtered the Jews of Ukraine, are the same ones who killed tens of thousands of Polish peasants to "ethnically cleanse" Western Ukraine of Poles, and all with Nazi help, of course. So these events completely dismantle -- disprove -- the story of Ukrainian Nationalists as ‘fighting against Stalin and Hitler’ for an ‘independent and free Ukraine.’ So, this story is extremely embarrassing to the Ukrainian nationalists, who are now naming streets and building monuments to exactly these same OUN forces. . . “

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Tadeusz Piotrkowski wrote a book entitled “Genocide and Rescue in Wolyn: Recollections of the Ukrainian Nationalist Ethnic Cleansing Campaign Against the Poles During World War II.” I have not read it. Perhaps those who are familiar with the topic  will share what they know and think. I still believe that majority of Ukrainians did not participate in genocidal atrocities. But I know that many of them participated in Nazi atrocities in Poland, and in the occupied parts of the Soviet Union. Please read what was written about preconditions to genocides in  click here.   At the end of his comment, Mr. Sashine wrote that “the event did happen and it was what it was. The tragedy though is that instead of the justice we see a twist and that twist (like in some other cases) does not do a good service to the victims of that event. Our world is not  fair.” How can one disagree with this?

But the issue remains. Should we blame Ukrainians for attempts to de-emphasize unpleasant historical episodes? Are young Ukrainians responsible for the sins of their grandfathers? Such questions could be asked about any other country, such as China, France, Germany, Israel, Poland, Russia, and US. Some episodes are relatively minor; others are more extensive. And some are more recent than others. This is part of reality. Moral dilemmas, however, are also part of reality. Children of victims and children of perpetuators must decide what to do. The “forgive but do not forget” attitude, on the part of grandchildren of victims, is understandable.

But what about grandchildren of perpetuators? What should their attitude be? I am thinking of young people whose grandparents actively participated in genocides, or collaborated with those whose hands were bloody. My advice to them is to avoid the natural tendency for denial, and to try to promote understanding. They should not feel guilty for horrors perpetuated several generations ago. The period of healing should not last longer than two or three generations. Great-grandchildren of victims and perpetuators should be united in their attitude toward what took place in the past, and in their desire to live in a better world. They should not think in terms of “service to the victims;” they should think in terms of “service to future generations.”

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Understanding the past will help us to avoid repetitions. What else can I say? I am the author of a recently published book on Stalinism; for me it is still the period of healing. But the attitude of my daughter, and her generation, will be less emotional and more objective. That is normal, that is desirable.


Today’s New York Times article entitled “Nationalism of Putin’s Era Veils Sins of Stalin’s.”  has a lot to do with the dilemma of unpleasant historical episodes. click here


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Ludwik Kowalski is a retired physics teacher (Professor emeritus, Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA). He is the author of two recently-published FREE books:

1) "Hell on Earth: Brutality and violence under the Stalinist regime" (more...)

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