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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Irgun and OUN: One man's Shukhevych is another's Begin

Last month Vakhtang Kipiani – chief editor of the “Great Ukrainians” TV project – wrote an insightful piece for Korrespondent magazine (#10, March 15, 2008) with the provocative title “If Shukhevych was a Jew.”
“Roman Shukhevych was not particular in the methods he used battle. But other nations’ freedom fighters behaved in the same way,” he wrote and went on to compare the biographies of Shukhevych and Menachem Begin (Irgun commader and premier of Israel [1977-83]), both considered to be founding fathers by their respective countrymen. Here’s a fragment:

“Does the history of Israel not have its own Banderas and Shukhevyches, fanatical heroes who were ready sacrifice their own lives and the lives of others on the altar of statehood? Of course it does. In fact, the May 14 1948 Declaration of Independence is written with the blood of hundreds of British soldiers and officials, not to mention thousands of native Arab Palestinians. That’s no exaggeration. Yet Israel does not deny its founding fathers a place in the book of saints.”
“Compare two biographies. As a youth, UPA General Roman Shukhevych was a member of the paramilitary scouting association Plast, while Premier Menachem Begin was an activist of the Betar youth military union. The former dreamed of an independent Ukraine “from the Syan to the Kavkaz” as envisioned by Ukrainian nationalist writer Mykola Mikhnovsky. The latter dreamed of the Eretz Israel envisioned by his mentor Vladimir Zhabotynsky, the Zionist ideologue from Odesa who called upon his youth “to rule with fist and staff, march and forge ahead, be laborious, orderly and despise delinquency; respect women, the elderly, prayer and democracy.” Sounds like an order for Plast boyscouts!"
"For his membership in OUN, Shukhevych passed through Polish prisons, while “Betarite” Begin sat in the penal camps of the GULAG. Both were freed thanks to WW2. The Ukrainian went underground with the OUN, while the Jewish fellow enlisted in General Anders’ Polish Army that was being formed on the territory of the USSR. Fate gave him a gift: his unit was sent to Jordan in the Middle East. By 1942 he was in the Promised Land, as a commander of the militant Irgun (Etzel) whose goal was to free Palestine of the British colonial administration while “cleansing” it of the openly inimical Arab population. That same year Roman Shukhevych took command of the UPA Ukrainian Insurgent Army and also waged a war on two fronts: against Soviet and German invaders. Both heroes were hunted after, hid under false names and documents, changed their physical appearance."
"In his last years the UPA general: participated in the democratization of OUN and creation of a multi-party proto-parliament – the UHVR Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council. He continued to command a sustained armed resistance in his native Carpathian forest and died while trying to evade capture on March 5, 1950."
"After the proclamation of the State of Israel, “terrorist” and “killer of English soldiers” Begin became am influential Knesset politician. It took 17 years of Independence for the Ukrainian state to honor the memory of Shukhevych."

Translation mine. Russian language original:

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