Ihor Dlaboha

Nov 1, 2020

The Torn Curtain


Presidential elections come and go but Russia with its adventurism, aggression and subversion certainly remains the same.


Preparing the December 2020 edition of The Ukrainian Quarterly, I came across another salient article from the inaugural edition of 1944 about the detrimental absence of an understanding of the essential mutual relationship between global peace and security and Ukraine. That gap existed then and sadly it still does today.


The Ukrainian Quarterly was launched by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America toward the end of World War II, at a fateful time when the allies, confident in their victory over Nazi Germany, were wrestling over plans about a post-war global arrangement that would ensure peace.


Roman Olesnicki, a member of the executive committee of the Western Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance, in his article titled “The Problem of Ukraine in Recent American Peace-Planning Literature,” correctly opined that future peace would be assured if Ukraine and its national interests were taken into consideration by the Western allies.


“The real avalanche of peace-planning literature came only recently, as an apparent result of the Moscow and Teheran conferences. Each works on future peace endeavors, naturally to sell to the American public a plan for a better and more permanent peace. The approaches to the problem are manifold: some are motivated by a desire rather to achieve a social revolution than a lasting peace, some display a partiality for certain nations or forms of government, but all fail in one respect, and that is in overlooking or underestimating Ukraine, as a major factor in the problem of peace in Eastern Europe,” Olesnicki wrote.


Indeed, if the free world would have comprehended Russia’s aggressiveness as the singular reason for international conflagrations and the foolhardiness of ignoring Ukraine’s role in regional and global affairs, then future small and large, cold and hot wars could have been avoided. There is still time to earnestly admit this danger.


Olesnicki further said in his research for his article that he did not find one acknowledgement of the existence of a separate and distinct problem of Ukraine. However, he found that in many instances the problems of Soviet-Polish boundaries, of Poland, of Czechoslovakia and of other countries discussed by the respective authors were in reality, and unbeknownst to them, discussions of the Ukrainian problem.

“The denial of the existence of a Ukrainian problem, or at least its concealment, has been common practice for such a long time that it is not the least surprising to find as little direct discussion of and reference to Ukrainians and their country as possible, even in works, which purport to picture all problems of Europe with impartiality,” Olesnicki wrote.


In addition to battlefield achievements against the Nazis featured in American newspapers, Russia also cleverly used its “Ukrainian card” to demonstrate the existence of Ukraine with an army that contributed to its propaganda that gullible Western leaders swallowed hook, line and sinker. Consequently, as Olesnicki pointed out, Moscow has been ceaselessly pursuing its usurped freedom to willfully subjugate Ukraine.


“Russia’s everyday dispatches on the valor of her Ukrainian Armies, on the liberation of all Ukrainians to join one big happy family, appear too plausible for Americans to detect anything suspicious behind them,” he noted.


Olesnicki argued correctly that hidden beneath Moscow’s disinformation was a campaign to subjugate Ukraine and other nations by Russia and only Russia, which rules the Soviet Union as a cover through the Communist Party – yes, there has been and is only one Russia for centuries. And despite constitutional guarantees to the opposite, the brutal reality of the evil empire or prison of nations is that Ukraine and the others have been subjugated.


Olesnicki recounted Russia’s nefarious achievements and the West’s naïveté in this passage: “Immediately after the beginning of the liquidation of the hetmans of Ukraine (18th century – id.), Russia gave Ukraine the name of ‘Malorosseya’ or Little Russia, and the Russians began to assume the role of the elder brethren of the Ukrainians. Through the centuries the Anglo-Saxon world came to believe that this is as it should be, and started to regard the Ukrainians in Russia as they did the Bavarians in Germany. This attitude is clearly revealed when Dr. Shotwell (Dr. James T. Shotwell, author of “The Great Decision”) simplifies the whole problem of Ukraine by making his readers believe that Ukraine is a province of the vastly preponderating unity of Great Russia. This is precisely what the Russians have been trying to achieve through centuries of brutal extermination of Ukrainians, culminating in the greatest ruthlessness during the recent times of Stalin’s empire, when Ukraine was deliberately starved to death and untold millions were deported to Siberia; now there are probably as many Ukrainians in Siberia as there are in Ukraine proper.”


He bemoaned that certain American scholars advocate self-government and freedom from exploitation for some Asiatic peoples while denying that right to Ukrainians in the Russian empire.


Olesnicki emphasized that Ukrainians did not in the slightest degree contribute to starting World War II.


“It was their subjugation under four foreign yokes which made Hitler scheme to bring them under his fifth yoke. The Ukrainians wish to live their own free life, and will not start wars, as they have never in their history waged any, except their struggle for liberation. But as long as they remain enslaved, someone will covet them and their natural riches, and for that purpose will wage war,” he wrote.


To paraphrase Olesnicki’s conclusion, a subjugated Ukraine or one that is under constant threat of Russian aggression and war creates a regional and global political vacuum that will invite Moscow or others to fill it. The only guaranteed way to remove this vacuum is to permit Ukraine to develop along the lines of its national wish: away from Russia, and toward freedom, independence and respect deserving of a country among equals. And not only on paper.


Today Ukraine is again shedding its blood on a battlefield against Russian invaders in order to secure its freedom and sovereign independence. We, Ukrainians in the diaspora, also have a role in that campaign and outcome. Olesnicki mentioned it twice in his article: “It remains for us, who either came from Ukraine, or have strong ties with Ukraine, to point out to the various authors of peace plans when and where they have erred, so as to forestall in time, if at all possible, the creation of a new boiling cauldron in Eastern Europe, which would be incompatible with a durable peace. It is therefore a duty for all those of us, who through birth or descent have roots in Ukraine, to warn that no durable peace can come out of another injustice committed on Ukraine.”


The free world and the United States also share this responsibility, as eloquently stated by President Franklin Roosevelt after the bombing of Pearl Harbor: “There is no such thing as security for any nation—or any individual—in a world ruled by the principles of gangsterism. We are now in the midst of a war, not for conquest, not for vengeance, but for a world in which this nation, and all that this nation represents, will be safe for our children. We expect to eliminate the danger from Japan, but it would serve us ill if we accomplished that and found that the rest of the world was dominated by Hitler and Mussolini.”


It should be recalled that the United States and Great Britain mobilized the free world to fight and defeat Germany, Italy and Japan in World War II in hopes of a better future for their children.