Canada’s entire Parliament rose and applauded an elderly man they said was a Ukrainian “refugee” who had fought the Russians. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau applauded. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy applauded.
That was before critics pointed out that the man was probably a former Nazi, who changed his identity and fled to Canada to avoid prosecution after World War II.
Yaroslav Hunka, now 98, was honored for serving in the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army before he immigrated to Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Speaker of the House Anthony Rota had asked him to join them as their guest during Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Canada last week.
“We have with us in the Chamber today a Ukrainian-Canadian veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian Independence against the Russians and continues to support the troops today,” Rota announced to the chamber. “He’s a Ukrainian hero — a Canadian hero — and we thank him for all his service.”
But in 2020, a Canadian researcher wrote in the military journal esprit de corps that there was never a First Division during World War II. It was a division made up after the war to cover the atrocities by these soldiers.
Writer David Pugliese reported that members of that division had actually served in Adolf Hitler’s 14th Waffen SS Division Galicia — later known as a criminal organization by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal. He wrote that these Ukrainian men had volunteered to serve under the Nazis, and were not conscripted or coerced.
About 2,000 of the Waffen SS soldiers from Ukrainian heritage changed their identities and sought refugee status in Canada to avoid capture and trial for their war crimes. Hunka is believed to be one of them. He was one of the more than 30,000 Ukrainians fled Europe and settled in Canada as the war ended. But before the members of the Waffen unit surrendered, they hid their SS affiliation by renaming the unit, “First Division Ukrainian National Army.”
Rota over the weekend apologized after word spread that Hunka served under Nazi command.