Hitler, Stalin, And Hunka: What Would I Have Done?

A Question Posed by Current Events

PATRICIA REMY – What I am missing in the entire discussion around the issue of greeting a so-called Ukrainian war hero-cum-Nazi in Parliament, is an assessment of the context. Jaroslav Hunka was born in 1925. This was around the time when Stalin became the dictator (you could also say the Communist czar) of the USSR.

This means that in 1932-33, during the Holodomor, Hunka was 8 years old. He saw, heard of, and experienced things to which no child (he and several million others) should ever be exposed. Ten million Ukrainians died of starvation resulting from Stalin’s agricultural policies. In some places desperation led to cannibalism.

So when Hitler’s army invaded Russia, guess what? There were many Ukrainians who saw them as a kind of liberator. Anything had to be better than Stalin, right?

This in no way justifies or excuses the war crimes committed by the “Galicia” division, which Hunka joined at the age of what, 17 ??

However, I have to ask myself what I would have done. Would I have hidden away? Where? Stayed still and kept my mouth shut, and in so doing become complicit with the atrocities committed on both sides? Or would I have resisted? Which of the two devils, Stalin or Hitler, would I have chosen?

I enjoy the luxury of never having had to make that kind of moral choice. Or maybe I do.

At another level and on a completely different scale, climate journalists, even teeny tiny ones like those of us at the Greenzine are confronted by a similar moral dilemma. How dire should our language become in describing the dimensions of the climate crisis, a.k.a. the sixth mass extinction?

If our formulations are too tepid, we do not do justice to the seriousness of the damage being perpetrated on the biosphere. No mitigating action will occur; we will have contributed to widespread biocide.

If our speech is too threatening, we fear that people will seize up. They will cloak themselves in yet another layer of denial or fall into paralyzing depression. Again, creative, positive action will not take place.

In 70 years, when others than ourselves look back, how will they evaluate what we have attempted?

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