Apologize for Nov. 10, 2001 article

Mr. Neil Reynolds
The Vancouver Sun
1-200 Granville St.
Vancouver, BC V6C 3N3

Dear Mr. Reynolds,

I am writing this letter to ask you to redress a disservice you have done to your readers.

In the Saturday Nov. 10, 2001 edition of The Vancouver Sun there appeared an article by Rick Ouston entitled "Out of war's torment, a heartfelt poem" along with a poem by Eglidio Meneghetti, a survivor of the WWII Bolzano transit camp in Northern Italy.

The poem depicts the brutality experienced at the hands of recently convicted Nazi war criminal, Michael Seifert (aka Misha), and his partner, Otto Sein, to whom the poet refers as "the Ukrainians." The article, unfortunately, rather than exploring and exposing the depths of Nazi depravity, serves only to dishonour the victims--and The Vancouver Sun.

Both the poem and the article perpetuate hateful racial myths formed under circumstances of abject misery and continual terror. The poet can be forgiven for being ignorant of the fact that "Misha and Otto" are not in fact Ukrainian. Rick Ousten and The Vancouver Sun, however, cannot.

It is a well known fact that only "Aryans" were inducted into the SS. It is well-documented that the Nazis considered Ukrainians and other Slavs untermenschen ... sub-humans ... who would serve as slave labour or, if they were not strong enough, exterminated. The Nazis in fact extermined 5 million Slavs. Ukrainians, obviously, didn't meet the SS entrance requirements.

It is well-documented that the Nazis (and the Soviets) inflamed old ethnic tensions between Jews and Ukrainians to "divide and conquer" and they did this by blaming their own atrocities on "the Ukrainians" or "the Jews," depending on who they were talking to.

It is also well-documented that Seifert, whom Ouston refers to in his article as "Misha, the Ukrainian" was neither an ethnic Ukrainian, nor ever even a citizen of Ukraine. Furthermore, no self-respecting Ukrainian would have taken on the Russian moniker of "Misha."

Nazi victims languishing in concentration camps did not have the opportunity to get these facts right. But Rick Ouston did. Meneghetti, while writing a poem to exorcise the horror he survived, would understandably not have been too concerned with accurately labelling his tormentors. But 50+ years later, The Vancouver Sun should be.

By publishing this inflammatory and inaccurate article, The Vancouver Sun has blackened the good name of Ukrainian Canadians who helped build this country. As a third-generation Canadian whose great-grandparents immigrated from Ukraine some 100 years ago, I was affronted by this gross misrepresentation of my ethnic heritage. A few sentences could have provided an accurate historical context, not to mention journalistic integrity. I demand an apology, both from Mr. Ouston and The Vancouver Sun, along with restitution in the form of a series of articles in both The Vancouver Sun and The Province describing - accurately - the horrors that Ukrainians have suffered at the hands of the Nazis, the Soviets, and their apologists. To be thorough, you could investigate the smear campaign being waged against Ukrainians in Canada and elsewhere, and expose those responsible for perpetuating the hostility between Ukrainians and Jews - two ethnic groups pitted against each other by malicious outside forces, and who both have suffered so horribly under a common enemy.

Today the world is again faced with an incomprehensible, diabolical enemy. Blithely bandying about old, inaccurate and emotionally-loaded labels at a time like this is not only irresponsible, it is dangerous. Because unless and until the record is set straight, the focus of many Canadians will be diverted away from the common enemy we all now face.

I implore Rick Ouston and The Vancouver Sun to do the honourable thing.

Apologize, and set the record straight.

Paulette MacQuarrie
Coquitlam, BC
[Nov. 20(?), 2001]