By Jeremy Appel
(AJNews) – The University of Alberta is closing down and refunding a $30,000 endowment donated in the name of Yaroslav Hunka — the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS veteran who became the subject of international scrutiny after he was given a standing ovation in the Canadian Parliament.
The $30,097 endowment was donated by Hunka’s family in the names of Yaroslav and Margaret Hunka to the U of A’s Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) in 2019 for studying the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
The 14th Waffen, or Galicia Division as it’s otherwise known, was a volunteer division armed and trained by the Nazis whose members pledged an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler.
Despite this fact, some Ukrainian nationalists view the division as patriotic fighters for Ukrainian independence against the Soviet Union.
“After careful consideration of the complexities, experiences, and circumstances of those impacted by the situation, we have made the decision to close the endowment and return the funds to the donor,” reads a Sept. 27 statement from Verna Yiu, the university’s interim provost and vice-president (academic).
“The university recognizes and regrets the unintended harm caused.”
Yiu added that the university is committed “to address anti-Semitism in any of its manifestations, including the ways in which the Holocaust continues to resonate in the present.”
“The university’s core values include a commitment to academic integrity and to inclusivity in its research, teaching, and community-building efforts,” she added.
“As part of this commitment, the university is in the process of reviewing its general naming policies and procedures, including those for endowments, to ensure alignment with our values.”
CIUS co-founder Peter Savaryn who served as U of A’s chancellor from 1982 to 1986, was himself a Galicia Division veteran. Savaryn received the Order of Canada in 1987.
In 2011, the CIUS established endowments in the names of three Waffen-SS veterans — Roman Kolisnyk, Levko Babij and Edward Brodacky — according to a September 2012 article in the Journal of Slavic Military Studies by Lund University historian Per Anders Rudling.
The Jewish Federation of Edmonton applauded U of A’s “unequivocal and swift action” to shut the Hunka endowment down, but said there’s more to be done to combat the veneration of Nazi collaborators locally.
“Edmonton has a sordid past and present when it comes to the glorification of this division as well as other Ukrainians who fought with the Nazis and murdered Jews and Poles,” reads a Sept. 28 statement from federation community relations committee co-chairs Steve Shafir and Adam Zepp.
There’s a monument to the Galicia Division at Edmonton’s St. Michael’s Cemetery, as well as a bust of Roman Shukhevych, commander of the Organization of Ukraine Nationalists Nachtigall Battalion, which committed the 1941 Lviv Pogrom, outside of the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex.
“In the strongest possible terms, we urge that these monuments be taken down, or placed in a museum or elsewhere so that they can be used for educational purposes with the appropriate context setting out the crimes that the individuals portrayed or mentioned have committed,” Shafir and Zepp wrote.
“The presence of these statues as currently situated is offensive to members of our community, to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and their families and to the victims of the atrocities committed.”
They called the existence of these monuments an “affront to Canadian values,” which “proves that there remains a great deal to learn about the Holocaust and World War II.”
The federation concluded its statement with a call to make Holocaust education a mandatory part of Alberta’s core curriculum.
“This way, we can ensure that the Holocaust will not happen again and we can make sure that we are honouring those who stood on the right side of history,” wrote Shafir and Zepp.
Jeremy Appel is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.