January 1, a traditional torchlight procession, dedicated to the 111th anniversary of the birth of Nazi-linked nationalist Stepan Bandera, took place in Kyiv. Stepan Bandera is the wartime leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), an anti-Semitic organization that collaborated with the Nazis. Among Holocaust historians, the consensus is that the OUN and its military offshoot, known as the UPA, were responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews and up to 100,000 Poles during the war (estimates vary).
During a fairly large procession, its participants walked to the Kyiv city administration, where a huge banner with a portrait of Bandera was hung.
The week before, December 24, the Lviv Regional Council adopted a resolution aimed at allocating state funds in 2020 to honor the memory of Andriy Melnyk, as well as Ivan and Yuriy Lypa.
Let us clarify who they are.
Short biography of Melnyk
Andriy Melnyk was a colonel in the army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR), a well-known Ukrainian military and political figure, and commanded hundreds of Legions of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen on the Austro-Russian front during World War I.
He was also one of the organizers of the Ukrainian military organization.
Photo of 1941 shows greeting “Glory to Hitler - Glory to Melnyk”. Andriy Melnyk was Ukrainian nationalist, Nazi collaborator and war criminal, whose people heavily participated in Holocaust. The modern photo shows opening of monument to Melnyk in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/0xVcgCwMQi— Eduard Dolinsky (@edolinsky) April 18, 2019
After the assassination of Yevhen Konovalets in May 1938, he became head of the Ukrainian Nationalists.
In early 1940, due to internal conflict, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) split into two parts: the OUN (B - Banderites) and the OUN (M – Melnykites). The group that had chosen Melnyk as their leader admired aspects of Benito Mussolini's fascism but condemned Nazism. In 1940 a more radical faction of the OUN led by Stepan Bandera and based in Ukraine broke away from the OUN led by Melnyk in exile.
After 1938 Melnyk and Bandera were recruited into the Nazi Germany military intelligence Abwehr for espionage, counter-espionage, and sabotage. Their goal was to run diversion activities after Germany's attack on the Soviet Union. This information is part of the testimony that Abwehr Colonel Erwin Stolze gave on 25 December 1945 and submitted to the Nuremberg trials, with a request to be admitted as evidence.
In February 1944, Melnyk was imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After his release in 1945, he lived in Germany and Luxembourg.
Brief biographies of Ivan and Yuriy Lypa
Ivan Lypa was a writer and public figure.
In 1919 he became a member of the UPR Directory, the Minister of Cults and Religions, one of the authors of the draft of the first Constitution of the UNR, and also the Minister of Health of the Government of the UPR.
In 1921, he was chairman of the Presidium of the Council of the Ukrainian Republic in exile.
His son, Yuriy Lypa, was a public figure, writer and publicist. He is called one of the main ideologists of Ukrainian nationalism.
While working as a doctor, Yuriy Lypa also conducted training courses for medical staff from the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
The reaction of Israel and Poland
On January 2, a joint statement was published by the Ambassador of Poland to Ukraine, Bartosz Cichocki and Ambassador of Israel to Ukraine, Joel Lion. Diplomats considered it an offense to honor Stepan Bandera, Andriy Melnyk, Ivan and Yuriy Lypa at the level of Kyiv City and Lviv Regional Councils.
“Remembering our innocent brothers and sisters murdered in the occupied territories of Poland 1935-1945, which now constitute a part of Ukraine, we the Ambassadors of Poland and Israel believe, that celebrating these individuals is an insult,” Lion and Cichocki wrote.
“Glorification of those who promoted actively the ethnic cleansing is counterproductive in the fight against Antisemitism and the reconciliation of our People,” they continued.
“These very days our governments are spending their utmost efforts to respond to the further attacks on Jews in different countries and prevent attempts to falsify history of the Second World War,” they added in an apparent reference to recent Russian claims that Poland precipitated the global conflict.
Press secretary of Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs kateryna Zelenko answered to their criticism.
“The revival and preservation of the national memory of the Ukrainian people are one of the priorities of the state policy of Ukraine. Each people and each state independently determines and honors its heroes,” Zelenko said.
According to her, certain figures, institutions, and even countries are interested in discord between Ukrainians and other peoples because of the celebration of national heroes and important dates.
Zelenko emphasized that the friendship and partnership between Ukraine on the one hand, and Poland and Israel on the other, is the most important asset, and any attempts to provoke tension in bilateral relations should be prevented.
“Civilized nations should proceed from the principle of honoring all the dead, and discussions in this area should continue at the level of historians and experts, not politicians,” the Ukrainian MFA spokeswoman emphasized.
The Polish embassy was indignant and stressed that the comment Zelenko was not published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, therefore, it cannot be considered official.
“It is hard to believe that such words could come from the lips of a Ukrainian diplomat. They have not yet been posted on the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. If this were so, it would mean that Ukrainian diplomacy ranks ideologists of integral nationalism among national heroes, for which tens of thousands of Poles, Jews and thousands of representatives of other nations fell,” the Polish embassy said.