Montreal Gazette | 11Nov2010 | Peter O'Neil

Ex-director defends Lviv museum visited by PM

Historians who say Prime Minister Stephen Harper got a one-sided perspective on Second World War atrocities when he visited a museum in Ukraine last month jumped the gun, according to the museum's former director.

Volodymyr Viatrovych, a historian popular with Ukrainian nationalists in both his own country and in Canada, was ousted from his job at the Prison at Lonsky museum after Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's pro-Moscow president, took office this year.

Viatrovych was responding, at the request of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, to historians' complaints that Harper was shown only exhibits focusing on atrocities committed in June 1941 by Soviet secret police against Ukrainians, Poles and Jews.

They complained that the museum -- once a prison where more than 1,000 political prisoners were murdered -- doesn't mention the anti-Jewish pogrom that immediately followed in Lviv after the Nazis routed Soviet forces.

[W.Z. Is that all that Peter O'Neil can say about Lonsky prison?

"It's premature at this time to assess this museum because it is a work in progress," Viatrovych said. "The plans are to work at developing a full picture of all the tragedies that took place in this prison, including tragedies against Jews."

He said he hoped Harper's visit will put pressure on the Yanukovych regime to allow the museum to execute those plans.

A number of historians, most recently Yale University professor Timothy Snyder, have asserted that Ukrainians linked to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists took part in anti-Jewish programs and later helped the Nazis round up and kill Jewish civilians from 1941 to 1943.

"Individual members of the population did take (part) in the German initiated repressions," Viatrovych contended.

But "no Ukrainian political movement advocated the participation in these repressions or anti-Jewish pogroms."