Ukraine's neo-Nazis have no place in the land of my grandfather

(AP Photo/David Azia)
A man looks towards Kiev's Independence Square, Ukraine, Friday, March 7, 2014. At right is the Trade Unions Building, which was damaged in a fire in late February.

As someone with heritage from Ukraine, I am deeply troubled that fascist groups have grabbed significant power in the interim Ukraine government. About three years ago, I travelled to Ukraine to visit my cousins there. I was the first of my grandfather's descendants to return to the "old country" and visit his tiny village in the Carpathian mountain region in western Ukraine. It was a place seemingly lost in time. Probably the only thing different in his village of small farms that he emigrated from about 100 years ago, was electricity.

This is Ukraine - with kind, strong and very resilient people. Ukrainians have been vilified as "peasants" for centuries by invading leaders such as Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and the Austro-Hungarian royals. Ukrainians are the salt of the earth people with deep faith in God. I can still see my relative, babushka (grandmother) Mariya milking her cow. After she finished milking, she kissed the cow, blessed herself, and said a quiet prayer.

The centrepiece of my grandfather's village was a small church on a hill. The bell would be rung to call the faithful for service and prayers. This is the Ukraine that I know.

How can it be, in this beautiful land where my grandfather came from, that the far right fascist Svoboda Party, labelled as "neo-Nazi" by the World Jewish Congress in May 2013, has taken key positions in the interim Ukraine government?

At least eight key ministry positions are now being held by far right groups (seven by members of Svoboda). The list includes: the Defense Minister; the Chief of National Security; the Prosecutor General (Attorney General); the Deputy Prime Minister of Economic Affairs; the Minister of Education; the Minister of Ecology; and the Minister of Agriculture. Dmytro Yarosh, who is the Deputy Chief of National Security, is the founder and leader of Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), a fascist paramilitary group that took charge of "security" in the Maidan Square violent protests in Kiev.

Babushka (grandmother) Mariya would kiss her cow, bless herself and say a quiet prayer after milking

According to the BBC, the leader of Svoboda, Oleh Tyahnybok, "has never disowned an earlier open letter he signed, saying world Jewry was taking over Ukraine and would commit genocide against Ukrainians". Though he is not officially holding a position in the interim government, Tyahnybok is now a powerful political figure.

How can it be that in 2012, nearly 40 per cent of the vote in Lviv, a major city in western Ukraine, was cast for these far right fascists? In 2012, Svoboda became the fourth largest party in the Ukrainian Rada (parliament) with 10.45 percent of the vote and held 37 seats. (read more here)

The BBC said in December 2012, "Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn, a parliamentary deputy considered one of the [Svoboda] party's ideologues, liberally quotes from former Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels..." (see here)

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has recently said President Vladimir Putin is acting "delusional" about the Ukraine crisis. However, Putin has raised valid concerns about the fascists in the "new" government in Ukraine. Yet, America's media and leaders have been widely ignoring this significant far right fascist power grab in Ukraine. Svoboda, which means "Freedom", can join America's long list of wrongly allying itself with radical extremists that are somehow transformed into brave "Freedom Fighters".

Farm house in Andreevka, Ukraine, where my grandfather emigrated from.

All I know is these fascists seizing power in Ukraine have no place in the land of my grandfather. No place amongst the beautiful Ukrainian people whose simple blue over yellow flag colours represent "the blue sky over yellow wheat fields". There is no place at all for them in Ukraine, that is known as the "bread basket of Europe".

My mother told me my grandfather would speak Yiddish with Jews in a Pennsylvania marketplace in America when she was a young girl. I asked my Ukrainian cousins, where did my grandfather learn some Yiddish? They told me Jews had lived in peace with Christians in their village for years until the Nazis had come with their horror. Now there are no Jews there.

These Ukrainian fascists have no place to be in the land of my grandfather, a land like where in the Bible Scriptures (Matthew 5:5) it is said, "Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth."

These fascists have no place to be in Ukraine, no place to be there, or anywhere on earth.  May they be lead out of the darkness and, with God's help, find the brilliant light of love.

The scriptures tell us, "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD."(Leviticus 19:18)

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