Minister Freeland's Grandfather,
"It takes a village to raise a Nazi" (old African proverb, slightly modified)
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This issue (#68) deals with the mass internment of Ukrainian Canadians, this community's left-right split and the mainstream racist, xenophobic anti-communism of progressive "Social Gospellers" (like the CCF's J.S. Woodsworth) who were so captivated by their false beliefs that they carried out the genocide of First Nations and turned a blind eye to government repression during the 20th-century "Red Scare."
Ever since those early beginnings, in the heady days before the Soviet Union was finally broken apart, Freeland has always remained a hardcore activist promoting her nationalist community's uncompromising political views. In 1989, at the age of 21, when Freeland was an exchange student in Lviv, she was deeply involved in "Rukh."
In the spring of 1989 Freeland had a full page article called "Popular Movement Radicalizing Ukraine" in Student. This was the paper in which Freeland had appeared ten years earlier, at age 11, when interviewed by Michael Chomiak's son, her uncle Bohdan Chomiak.[i] Freeland's 1989 article expressed her one-sided view in support of Rukh and explained why it posed a such a serious threat to the Soviet state. Speaking of this dissident movement's potential political impact, Freeland said "this battle promises to have a profound effect on the Soviet Union."[ii] While Freeland's article compares the Rukh movement to a "battle," she affects an unbiased and objective stance on Ukrainian nationalist aspirations. Freeland's article did not mention her personal involvement as a political activist who was then engaged in the "battle" for Ukrainian independence about which she was reporting. (This parallels her grandfather's conflict of interest as a reporter covering an OUN assassination trial while simultaneously working for a law firm defending the OUN in court.)
Freeland's activism with Rukh was more than just casual. She was a delegate at the inaugural meeting of the Shevchenko Ukrainian Language Society which played a pivotal role in creating Rukh, "her photograph appeared in Ukrainian newspapers," and she "acted as an editorial assistant to the weekly newspaper News from Ukraine" which promoted Rukh.[iii] That year in Ukraine, she addressed the 1,000 delegates who attended Rukh's founding congress. (See photo above.) She was one of only two foreign delegates who attended this pivotal Lviv event.
Just before this first Rukh convention, USSR authorities used a state-run newspaper, Pravda Ukrainy, to denounce Chrystia Freeland by name. So incensed were they about her meddling involvement in Ukrainian political groups, and her open efforts to influence upcoming Ukrainian elections, that they actually called her and a Ukrainian-American colleague "enemies of the Soviet state."[iv] At that time, the Soviet government also lodged a diplomatic complaint against Freeland with the Canadian embassy in Moscow. They apparently complained that Freeland had broken Soviet laws, presumably because as a foreigner she was not supposed to get actively involved in radicalized dissident groups that were working to split the country apart. Go figure.
When the KGB asked Freeland to come down to their office for questioning, she simply said no. They however did not insist and she was never questioned. But despite her defiant refusal to answer any police questions about her strident political activities in their country, Freeland was permitted to stay on in the USSR and to continue her defiant political activities.[v] This is all rather ironic now considering Freeland's recent aspersions in the Canadian corporate media accusing the Russian government of meddling in Canadian politics and undermining our democracy by working behind the scenes to reveal that her grandfather was a Nazi propagandist.
It is worth comparing this fake news story about Russian meddling in Canadian politics with the very real case of Freeland's meddling in Soviet politics since 1989. In that year there were several articles in the Canadian press about Freeland's involvement in Soviet politics. These articles show that Freeland, her family, the ultranationalist Ukrainian community and the corporate media, all turned from the same page in their response to Soviet concerns about Freeland's very real involvement in their internal political process. Not only did these Canadian communities all rally around Freeland to support her right to be deeply involved as a political activist in the affairs of another country, they all belittled the Soviet government's concerns about this meddling in their political process.
At the time of this 1989 incident, a colleague of Freeland, Ostap Skrypnyk,[vi] actually was questioned by Soviet police, for about one hour. Like Freeland, he was a Ukrainian student from Alberta who had worked for the CIUS on the Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Both Freeland and Skrypnyk, had permits to be in Lviv to study, but were deeply involved in antiSoviet Ukrainian politics. According to the government's Pravda Ukrainy newspaper, Skrypnyk was detained by police when found putting up posters around midnight on March 23-24, 1989. These posters called for "cells of the Ukrainian National Movement" to be established within the Soviet Army. They also encouraged militia workers to carry out acts of sabotage. The posters, which called on Ukrainians to completely boycott the upcoming elections, said: "Not a single registered candidate ought to win."
Furthermore, the Soviet government said
that Skrypnyk had travelled around the country without obtaining the necessary
permits. They also said he had met with "suppliers of misinformation to the American
Radio Liberty and foreign
(Emphasis added.) Soviet authorities suspected that Skrypnyk was not really
in Ukraine just to study, but that his primary purpose was to interfere in
Soviet electoral politics.
As it turned out, Skrypnyk never did
complete the university degree that he was said to be pursuing during his
period of political activism in Ukraine in 1989. His c.v. notes that
he did complete his BA, between 1979 and 1986, but mentions no further
degrees. After returning to Canada from Ukraine, Skrypnyk began a
17-year career as Executive Director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress
(1991-2008). In 2004, he and other executive officers of the Congress met
with Prime Minister, and congratulated the Canadian government for funding
500 "election observers" that Canada sent to Ukraine. The UCC was very
involved in selection of those "objective" observers. As
Skrypnyk states in his
Since then Skrypnyk has himself acted as an "election observer" in Ukraine 2012 and 2014.[viii]
One of the ultranationalist Ukrainian publications that covered the Skrypnyk incident was Student. It voiced rather strident praise for Skrypnyk's efforts saying:
"It is time to live the rights, and not just demonstrate about them. Anything else is just empty ideology and fucking around. We have to dance as free a dance as our muscles and minds can allow."[ix]
This was the same issue of Student which contained Freeland's article which equated the Rukh movement with a "battle" and said that it was "Radicalizing Ukraine."
The Soviet government also cited a meeting between Skrypnyk and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in Edmonton. A CSIS official confirmed that this meeting had taken place but called it a voluntary, ''protective security briefing" which they offered to all Canadians travelling to the USSR for extended visits. If this is the case, then Freeland too must also have been invited to these CSIS meetings. Would she have turned down such opportunities to work with Canadian authorities against their common enemies, the Soviet and later Russian governments? Her goals regarding Ukrainian relations with Moscow have certainly overlapped with those of the Canadian government for almost 30 years. Freeland may then have perceived it to be her civic duty to comply with Canada's secret police, just as she had correspondingly declined to meet their Soviet equivalents.
Now, as Canada's Foreign Affairs minister, Freeland's relationship with CSIS is more advanced than it was in 1989 when she was a 21-year-old student activist fighting in the "battle" for the Ukrainian nation's independence from the USSR. But over the decades, one key issue has remained consistent. The Canadian government and Ukrainian ultranationalists like Freeland are still in agreement that the Kremlin is the enemy. Another recurring theme is the fixation on foreigners, and/or foreign powers, which are said to be meddling in domestic politics. In Freeland's case, Ukrainian nationalist newspapers proudly reported that she was very involved in the Rukh movement, which eventually drove in the wedge that split Ukraine from the USSR.
In the case of exposing Michael Chomiak for the Nazi collaborator that he was, Canadian media have taken Freeland's lead in spinning the story to blame Russia for the scandal that is swirling around her having covered up her grandfather's fascist past. As usual, the ironies and hypocrisies are boundless.
Sources and Notes
[i] Bohdan Chomiak is a prominent businessman in Ukraine, where he has been living for more than two decades. Freeland wrote about visiting him and his new Ukrainian wife in their "high-ceiling apartment" in Kyiv during Ukraine's regime change in 2014.
Chrystia Freeland, "Popular Movement Radicalizing Ukraine," Student,
[iii] David Marples, "Canadian exchange students face difficulties in Ukrainian SSR, Ukrainian Weekly, May 7, 1989.
[iv] "Pravda Ukrainy published a slanderous article ... accusing [a US guest] Prof. Hunczak and Ms. Freeland of being enemies of the Soviet state. This maneuver backfired, however, as the [founding Rukh] congress invited the accused to the podium and enthusiastically greeted them." Jaroslaw Koshiw, "An Eyewitness Account: Triumphant founding congress of the Popular Movement of Ukraine for Perebudov [Perestroika, i.e., Restructuring]," Ukrainian Weekly, September 24, 1989, p.13. http://ukrweekly.com/archive/1989/The_Ukrainian_Weekly_1989-39.pdf
[v] David Marples, "Canadian exchange students face difficulties in Ukrainian SSR," Ukrainian Weekly, May 7, 1989, pp.1,4. http://ukrweekly.com/archive/1989/The_Ukrainian_Weekly_1989-19
Ostap Skrypnyk's paternal grandfather, Stepan Skrypnyk, was a veteran in Ukraine's first war against Soviet Russia, which was fought to gain Ukrainian independence (1918-1922). Stepan was the nephew of Symon Petliura, a controversial journalist, politician and leading nationalist "hero" of that war. His troops took part in the mass murder (pogroms) of Jews, which he only tried to stop after they were almost complete.
Lars Fischer, "Whither pogromshchina – historiographical synthesis or
deconstruction?" East European Jewish Affairs, Vol. 38, No. 3,
[vi] Stepan Skrypnyk became the first patriarch of the modern Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, 1991.
Roman Woronowycz, "Ukraine
commemorates centennial of Patriarch Mstyslav's birth," Ukrainian Weekly,
May 10, 1998, p.1.
Ostap Skrypnyk's father, Yaroslav Skrypnyk, was involved in various ultranationalist organisations. He was the national president of the Ukrainian Self-Reliance League, a VP of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee's national council, and ‑ at the time of Ostap's arrested ‑ was VP of the World Congress of Free Ukrainians (WCFU). The WCFU, now called the Ukrainian World Congress, still reveres Stepan Bandera as a "national hero of Ukraine" and "dispels the unsubstantiated allegation that under Bandera’s leadership the OUN collaborated with the Nazi regime."
President meets with the Chairperson of the European Parliament's Delegation
to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee," UWC press release,
December 21, 2010.
[vii] David Marples, "Canadian exchange students face difficulties in Ukrainian SSR," Ukrainian Weekly, May 7, 1989, pp.1,4. http://ukrweekly.com/archive/1989/The_Ukrainian_Weekly_1989-19
Marco Levytsky, "Canadian embassy protests harassment of exchange student in Lviv," Ukrainian Weekly, April 23, 1989, p.3. http://ukrweekly.com/archive/1989/The_Ukrainian_Weekly_1989-17.pdf
[ix] Andrij Kudelka, "Canadian Student held by Police," Student, March-April, 1989, p.1.
(Note: This issue of Student also contains a critical review of the way Ukrainians are portrayed in a book called Old Wounds: Jews, Ukrainians and the Hunt for Nazi War Criminals in Canada, 1988.)