The news conference on Monday by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was interesting not for the announcement that Canada was extending its training mission to the Ukraine but for the questions and answers about the minister’s grandfather. There have been a number of articles circulating about Freeland’s Ukrainian grandfather Michael Chomiak and his ties to the Nazis. Some of those articles have appeared on pro-Russian websites. Freeland, who strongly supports the Ukraine and is a major critic of Russia’s seizure of the Crimea, suggested to journalists that the articles about her grandfather were part of a Russian disinformation campaign (The Russian government sees Freeland as virulently anti-Russian and placed her on their travel ban). Freeland told reporters after they raised questions about the articles about her grandfather:
American officials have publicly said, and even Angela Merkel has publicly said, that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilise Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada.
The Globe and Mail also reported that an official in Freeland’s office denied the minister’s grandfather was a Nazi collaborator. In addition, those in the Canadian-Ukrainian community dismissed the claims were outright. Paul Grod, president of the Canadian Ukrainian Congress told the Globe and Mail:
It’s the continued Russian modus operandi that they have. Fake news, disinformation, and targeting different individuals. It’s just so outlandish when you hear some of these allegations… whether they are directed at Minister Freeland or others.
Well, it actually isn’t so outlandish. Michael Chomiak WAS a Nazi collaborator. What are the sources for the information that Freeland’s grandfather worked for the Nazis? For starters, The Ukraine Archival Records held by the Province of Alberta. It has a whole file on Chomiak, including his own details about his days editing the newspaper Krakivski Visti. Chomiak noted he edited the paper first in Kraków in Poland and then in Vienna. The reason he edited the paper in Vienna was because he had to flee with his Nazi colleagues as the Russians advanced into Poland (the Russians tended to execute collaborators well as SS members).
So what was the Krakivski Visti? The Nazis seized it, like a number of other publications, from their Jewish owners and then operated them as propaganda outlets. Here is what the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum has to say about Krakivski Visti and a similar newspaper, Lvivski Visti, both publications associated with the Nazi régime:
The editorial boards carried out a policy of soliciting Ukrainian support for the German cause. It was typical, within these publications, to not to give any accounts of the German genocidal policy, and largely, the editions resorted to silencing the mass killing of Jews in Galicia. Ukrainian newspapers presented the Jewish Question in light of the official Nazi propaganda, corollary to the Jewish world conspiracy. In 1943 and 1944, both Lvivski Visti and Krakivski Visti hailed the German-approved formation of the 14th Waffen SS Division Galichina, composed of Ukrainian volunteers.
So much for Russian disinformation. On Wednesday the Globe and Mail reported:
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland knew for more than two decades that her maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the chief editor of a Nazi newspaper.
8 March 2017
The Galician Uniates are the diehard nationalists in the Ukraine. Firstly, the fact that they were under Habsburg and Polish rule cut them off for centuries from their fellows in Malorossiya. Secondly, the semi-Polish creole spoken in Galicia isn’t common… most “Ukrainians” speak Russian or Surzhik (a dialect more biased towards Russian than “Ukrainian”). Thirdly, Galicia is the Dogpatch of the Ukraine… it’s the poorest and most backwards region (the abject poverty of the region is what led so many to emigrate). It has NOTHING in common with Cossacks, yet Uniates prance about in Cossack costume… there’s only one problem… ALL Cossacks are anti-Uniate to the bone. If the Cossacks caught Poles or Muslims… they’d let them live and go home. If they caught Uniates, they killed them on the spot as traitors to Holy Rus and its faith.
The notional Ukraine is sinking and all of Freeland’s soldiers and all of Freeland’s money won’t put Humpty back together again.
Here’s another interesting take on l’Affaire Freeland from the Jewish POV