My starting point for today’s post is this short piece from PolitNavigator, penned by Semen Doroshenko in Kiev. The headline:
Klichko Unveiled in Babi Yar a Statue to the Nationalist Poet Who Worked for the Germans During the Occupation
Here is a translation of that piece, and then we will go on to discuss some of the backstory:
In Kiev, at the intersection of the streets named after Olena Teliha and Andrei Melnik, on the territory of Babi Yar, a statue of Ukrainian poet Olena Teliha was unveiled. This act was announced in the Kiev municipal newspaper.
Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klichko gave a speech: “Today we honor the memory and unveil a statue to a political figure, a participant of the Ukrainian Liberation Movement, the poet Olena Teliha. In her face we see all Ukrainian patriots who fought and gave their lives for an independent Ukraine.”
The Mayor added that the statue was paid for out of municipal funds, and that it cost around 8 million hryvnas.
The statue was put up also thanks to the Minister of Culture Evgeny Nishchuk. The official order to erect the statue came from the office of the President of the Ukraine, its purpose being to commemorate Teliha’s 100th birthday, and also the 75-year anniversay of the tragedy of Babi Yar.
Recall that Olena Teliha was a poet of the Ukrainian Nationalist persuasion, and a member of the Melnik wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Along with her husband, and with OUN party comrade, Oleg Olzhich, she collaborated with the German occupation administration in Kiev. They published pro-German pamphlets in the collaborationist Ukrainian press. In the end, though, Teliha was shot by her own masters at Babi Yar. Along with the Jews and Communists whom she had defamed in her nationalist newspaper.
END OF TRANSLATION
The Greatest Enemy Of the People – Is the Jew
And this is the part where the Ukrainian nationalists will scream bloody murder and insist that they never collaborated with the Germans; that they fought against Nazism with equal fervor as they fought against Bolshevism. Sort of taking pride in the notion that they can’t get along with anybody!
The proof of their pudding: That Stepan Bandera ended up in a German prison; and Olena Teliha ended up as a skeleton with a bullet in it at the bottom of Babi Yar.
In fact, if you read Olena’s wiki page, she was a pure soul who only tried to do good for her Ukrainian people. Well, actually, she wasn’t originally Ukrainian, she was Russian. But that’s okay, since Russians and Ukrainians are genetically identical, their only differences being cultural and political. In 1918, just like today, to be pro-Ukrainian means to be anti-Russian and anti-Communist! That was why Olena’s family emigrated to Kiev to escape the Russian Revolution. But the Revolution followed them like an evil plague, so they had to keep moving West. In 1939 Olena joined the OUN. In 1941 she and her husband moved back to Kiev where I reckon they thought they would be perfectly safe under Nazi occupation. This is the part where her wiki page elides over the anti-Jew propaganda and other unpleasantness, and just rushes straight to the part where the Gestapo arrested her and packed her off to Babi Yar.
But before we get to that, we must introduce the character of Ivan Andreevich Rogach. Ivan was Olena’s editor. He helped her craft the winged phrases inspired by the Muse Euterpe. In 1941 Rogach was ordered by his leader, Andrei Melnik, to return to Kiev, where he was to conduct propaganda activities under the director of Burgomeister Vladimir Bagazia. Bagazia was also a member of the OUN, it goes without saying, and the Nazis entrusted him with running Kiev. Not unlike Victoria Nuland entrusting that same job, 75 years later, to Vitaly Klichko! (I know, I know, that was a cheap shot…)
Anyhow, as part of their anti-Communist propaganda efforts, Rogach and Olena published the newspaper “Ukrainian Word” and the literature journal “Litavry”. In theory these publications were supposed to promote Ukrainian culture, but in reality most of the articles were about the victories and the successes of Nazi Germany. For example, a headline from 3 October, 1941 blared: “The Greatest Enemy Of the People – Is the Jew!”
And a week later, the headline du jour: “Our task is to rebuild Ukrainian national culture, which was destroyed by the Jew-Bolsheviks”.
Despite these politically-correct (from a Nazi POV) sentiments, the very few times that Rogach and his crew were able to slip in some Ukrainian nationalist ideas, or the notion that the Ukraine should be an independent nation, the Nazi bigwigs would get upset. Reichs Commissar Erich Koch would run into the office of Kiev Commandant Major-General Eberhardt, screaming: “Wot is up wiz zese Melnikites? Do zey not GET IT, zat zey are Untermenschen? You VILL restore order, or do I need to send you to ze Russian front???!!!!” And while Sergeant Schultz was cowering in the corner jibbering “I know NUSSINK!” Eberhardt would tremble and almost wet himself, but manage to bark out affirmatively: “Jawohl, Mein Kommendant! I vill take care of zis immediately!”
Which brings us back to Babi Yar where, as the PolitNavigator piece revels in the irony, the sweet-faced Slavic poetesse Olena was brutally murdered, along with the herd of Jews, Gypsies, Communists, and other undesirables. If it makes her feel any better, I am sure that the Germans despised her a tad less than they did the Jews/Gypsies/Communists. But still, the Melnik people had started to get on the nerves of the Nazis. The Nazis were, frankly, getting tired of the antics of the Ukrainian nationalists. The Nazis regarded the Ukrainians as beggars, always on the dole, always asking for a hand-out; vicious and unreliable people, just not good stock. Nazis never having any intention whatsoever to permit an independent state of Ukraine: For them, this whole area was to be just prime farmland for Aryan breeders. The only thing the Ukrainians were good for, was concentration camp guards and hired killers. If the Ukrainian nationalists were too stupid to get that, then what is a good German to do, except to pity the poor fools.
Whose Yar Is This, Anyhow?
I’m thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of “Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!”
My mother’s being beaten by a clerk.
(Yevgeny Yevtushenko, “Babi Yar”)
The broader meaning, of course, of this Kiev statue business, is the incessant propaganda of the Kiev government, in its attempt to rewrite history and to take things which don’t belong to it. Like Babi Yar.
While recognizing that many different types of people were murdered at Babi Yar, one fact remains clear: Babi Yar belongs first of all to the Jews; and secondarily to the Soviet people as a whole. There is not one molecule of Babi Yar which belongs to the Ukrainian nationalists. No matter which faux pas or accident of fate brought Olena Teliha to the mouth of that pit.