Down follow the highlights of key speakers’ reports at the May 4 conference “WW2 in the Historical Memory of Ukraine” called by Academician Ihor Yukhnovsky.
One of the conclusions made by scholars was that there cannot be a monolithic and unified historical memory in Ukraine. As Ukrainians fought in the Polish, German, UPA and Soviet armies, this made an imprint on their mindsets and on their vision of WW2.
One cannot reproach Western Ukrainians for serving in the German army or UPA [Ukrainian Insurgent Army]. Now Ukrainians should respect all WW2 combatants, Soviet, UPA and German.
As Ukraine was occupied by several states in WW2, these states mobilized them to fight in their armies. Soldiers were killed, and the memories about them stayed in their families. That is why these Ukrainian families have different family memories about WW2. They believe that the army their great fathers fought was a good army, and that is why their evaluation and style in which they mark WW2 is different.
For in 300-year long history after the decline of Volyn and Galician kings, Western Ukraine had been under the Polish and Austrian-Hungarian rule – and merely 2 years under the Soviet rule in 1939-1941. These 2 years were the years of horrendous arrests and deportation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Siberia. So, how could Galicians have the love for the Soviet Union?
In what army could Galicians be found if Galicia was part of the German Reich? They could be found only in the German army. This should be clear to all.
When in 1944 the Soviet army was advancing in Western Ukraine the Soviets mobilized 800,000 Western Ukrainians who had a significant role in defeating Germany.
The third group of WW2 combatants included Ukrainians who served in the UPA. They fought both against the Germans and the Soviets for the creation of independent Ukraine.
Had there been no fight by UPA, there would have been no memory of the liberation movement and no modern independent Ukraine.
Very often people go to war on their own will, like it was in the case of UPA, as well as due to mobilization by warring countries, like it was in the case of Germany and Soviet Union.
Professor Leonid Zashkilnyak, Lviv:
One cannot alter the historical memory of those generations which had a direct war experience. It takes three or four generations for the memory to dim, and that’s when a stable and identifiable vision of the past can emerge.
Doctor Ivan Patryliak, Kyiv:
Ukrainians have specific historical memory based on the final stages of WW2 and created by Soviet myths. Ukrainians should be exposed more to the initial stages of WW2 and occupation by several countries.
Due to occupation by several countries, Ukrainians had differing experiences of the war. Therefore, it is impossible to create a uniform vision of the past. The goal is to create such a vision which would accommodate these differing experiences.
Vasyl Rasevych, Kyiv:
Ukrainians should not endorse Soviet interpretation of victory in WW2.
As part of the anti-Hitler coalition, Ukraine has the right to celebrate the victory over Fascism.
On the other hand, Ukrainians cannot accept the Soviet interpretation of victory. It was utterly inhuman, merely aimed at glorifying the Stalin regime regardless of the millions of unnecessary victims.