When asked at a press conference on March 6 about the allegations that her maternal grandfather was a Nazi collaborator, Chrystia Freeland, newly appointed Foreign Minister of Canada, former journalist and a writer, a master of words, found only clumsy sentences to deliver what would have earned no more than a ‘C’ in a high school debate class.
“It’s no secret that Russians do not like you and banned you from the country,” began the question. “Recently, there has been a series of articles in pro-Russian websites about you and your maternal grandparents, making accusations that [your grandfather] was a Nazi collaborator. I’d like to get your view—is this a disinformation campaign by the Russians to try to smear you and discredit you, which they have a tendency to do?”
With a poorly-camouflaged expression of pain on her face, Freeland replied:
“It’s public knowledge that there have been efforts—as U.S. intelligence sources have said—by Russia to destabilize the U.S. political system. I think that Canadians and indeed other Western countries should be prepared for similar efforts to be directed at us. I am confident in our country’s democracy and I am confident that we can stand up to and see through those efforts.”
“I don’t think it’s a secret,” she continued, “American officials have publicly said—and even [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel has publicly said—that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilize Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada. I think that Canadians and indeed other Western countries should be prepared for similar efforts to be directed at them.”
What? Angela Merkel? Was her grandfather a Nazi collaborator or wasn’t he? Freeland dodged the question.
As The Globe and Mail reported, when asked to refute the allegation, her office responded: “People should be questioning where this information comes from, and the motivations behind it.”
While the story created a storm of Canadian press, apart from The Washington Post and Bloomberg, U.S. media shied away.
Freeland, a former Canadian journalist of Ukrainian descent, has authored two books on corrupt Russian oligarchs—surely, her books on the Ukrainian oligarchs who flushed her beloved Ukraine down the toilet are on the way. She speaks Russian fluently, and understands Russian culture—including Russian politics. So, she certainly could have mustered a better answer to shrug off the uncomfortable questions about rumors of her grandfather’s collaboration with the Nazi regime in WWII Poland.
This meme, shorter and better seasoned than her actual response, would have worked: “You are Sourkovskaya propaganda!”
The term, overwhelmingly popular in Russian political newspeak, has origins in the name of Mr. Vladislav Sourkov, Vladimir Putin’s personal advisor and at one point a major Kremlin ideologist. It means “Sourkov’s propaganda,” of course, and first surfaced in 2011, when journalists from a pro-Kremlin television network tried to break into the office of opposition NGOs, demanding an interview from its representative.
Fighting off the aggressive guests armed with microphones and cameras, the opposition employee gave only one explanation for his refusal to be interviewed.
“You are Sourkovskaya propaganda!” he said more than 80 times in a five-minutes span.
“You are Sourkovskaya propaganda” is the pathetic last line of defense for righteous politicians against the evil reality of stubborn questions that will not evaporate.
But first: Is it such big news that politicians of the Canadian Foreign Minister’s level have relatives that collaborated with Nazis during WWII?
Recent history is replete with examples of world leaders with similar skeletons from their relatives’ Nazi or Soviet past.
Former Estonian Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand, despite strong electoral support, dropped out of last year’s presidential race when it was revealed that her father, during the WWII, fought on the side of Nazis in the 19th Latvian SS Division. He had a rank of SS Untersturmfuhrer and received two Iron Crosses from Nazi military authorities.
Kaljurand said she never knew her father—and never said she was proud of him.
Russian media revealed that the father of Olexandr Turchynov—former Prime Minister of Ukraine, former Acting President of Ukraine and current head of the Council of National Security of Ukraine—was a member of the Nazi punitive auxiliary police battalion, responsible for annihilating a number of villages in Russia. After the war, Turchinov’s father was sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in Siberia, but in 1955, just five years later, was released during Khrushchev’s thaw.
Ukraine ignored the news and Turchynov never responded to this example of Sourkovskaya propaganda.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė had insisted her father, Polikarpas Grybauskaitė, was a firefighter after the war when, in fact, he served Stalin’s dreaded NKVD—which is nothing to be proud about in Lithuania.
In 2014, when a book on Grybauskaitė’s past came out—sealing her nickname Red Dalia—her subordinates called it an “informational attack against Lithuania by the people connected to Kremlin.”
The revelation of Grybauskaitė’s father’s work for NKVD, Stalin’s dreaded secret service, didn’t lead to impeachment because the notion of Sourkovskaya propaganda had been introduced by that time.
Parents and grandparents—not children—should be responsible for these crimes. But, more often than not, they get away with them.
Kurt Waldheim, oberleutnant of the Nazi Wehrmaht, bearer of the Iron Cross, became President of Austria and the fourth General Secretary of the UN. All of his life he lied about his role in WWII, later admitting he “made mistakes” and asking for forgiveness in his posthumous latter.
At 79, after hiding his secret for all of his life, German novelist and Nobel Prize Laureate Gunter Grass admitted that at the age of 17 he joined Waffen SS and was a member of the Nazi party during the war. This fact “oppressed” him, he said, the “disgrace” later became “a burden.” The revelation ended “Grass’s moral authority” in Germany and around the world.
Pope Benedict XVI had to resign—the first Pope to do so since 1415! A lot of people in his flock could not forget that, in his youth, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was a member of Hitler Jugend and wore a Wehrmaht uniform during the war.
Lech Wałęsa, ex-President of Poland and leader of the Solidarity movement—another Nobel Prize Laureate—vehemently denies he was a KGB agent with the operative nickname ‘Bolek,’ though recently-discovered documents state otherwise.
The list goes on.
Michael Chomiak, grandfather of Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, was no a Gunter Grass—though he had a direct relation to publishing.
Born Mykhailo Chomiak, he fled his Polish hometown of Lviv for another Polish town, Cracow, in 1939—right before Stalin’s annexation of this part of the country. His granddaughter claims he was smart enough to foresee what Stalin’s regime would do in his motherland Ukraine.
To make a long story short, Chomiak preferred Hitler’s regime to Stalin’s.
But does that make him a Nazi collaborator, or is this all a bunch of Sourkovskaya propaganda?
Here’s a fact: after Hitler ‘reunited’ Poland in the beginning of WWII, Chomiak chose not to return to his beloved Lviv which he missed so much, but to remain in Cracow. There, from 1940 to 1944, he served as editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian Nazi newspaper, under the command of Hans Frank (Governor-General of Poland, Nazi lawyer, executed at the Nuremberg Trials). Chomiak’s direct supervisor was none other than Emil Gassner, head of the press department in Nazi-occupied Poland.
During WWII, in occupied Poland, the Nazis entrusted Chomiak with this position, editing Krakivski Visti (Cracow News). His office and printing presses had been taken from the Jewish owners of the Nowy Dziennik newspaper, who were sent to the extermination camps.
It was a lot of work for Chomiak, but he didn’t have to start from scratch—thanks to the confiscated (Jewish) resources. In the beginning of 1940, the newspaper printed just two issues a week, increasing later to three, and then, after much organizational effort on Chomiak’s part, became a daily.
His Nazi bosses settled Chomiak comfortably in an apartment in Crakow that had been “freed” from its previous Jewish owners.
Krakivski Visti spread Nazi propaganda for five years, praising Adolf Hitler and Governor-General Hans Frank on behalf of the “Ukrainian people,” and spitting venom against Jews, Poles and Russians.
“With the great joy, the Ukrainian population welcomes the establishment of just German order, the representative of which they have found in you, dear Mr. General Governor,” wrote Krakivski Visti on November 1, 1940. “This happiness has been expressed by Ukrainian people not only with flowers that German soldiers that entered our region were covered with, but also with the sacrifices with blood that the fight against Polish usurpers demands.” Ukrainians were ready for a “happy cooperation” with the Nazis, the newspaper claimed—happy to help with the “establishment of plans of the new order in Europe,” Mykhailo Chomiak’s newspaper printed.
In 1943 and 1944, Krakivski Visti hailed the formation of the 14th Waffen SS Division Halychyna, composed of Ukrainian volunteers, fighting against partisans and annihilating civilians.
Krakivski Visti welcomed the “German bombs falling on London that created a lot of heavy house fires.” The “bombing of industrial plants in Birmingham, Coventry, the port of Liverpool was good,” it reported with enthusiasm.
Editor-in-chief Chomiak undoubtably approved of the Nazi’s campaign to exterminate the Jews. According to The Globe and Mail, Prof. Himka, a relative of Freeland, “acknowledged that Mr. Chomiak was a Nazi collaborator,” although he pointed out that “the Germans made the editorial decisions to run anti-Semitic articles and other Nazi propaganda.”
After a mass shooting of Jews in Kiev at Babi Yar, Krakivski Vesti wrote that the city was better without the Jews. “There is not a single one left in Kiev today, while there were 350,000 under the Bolsheviks,” the newspaper reported with satisfaction. The Jews “got their comeuppance.” Without Jews, Kiev became “beautiful, glorious.”
Editorials described Poland as “infected by the Jews.” All in, about 25 percent of the newspaper’s content was devoted to Nazi propaganda—anti-Semitic, but also anti-Polish and anti-Russian.
In Canadian newspapers, some supporters of Freeland and her grandfather—especially those of Ukrainian descent—paid attention to the fact that Mykhailo Chomiak never personally signed any story published by the Krakivski Visti. But if he was smart enough to foresee the consequences of Stalin’s occupation of Lviv when he ran to Nazi-occupied Cracow, he was smart enough not to sign any story in his paper. Foreseeing his next possible run—out of Cracow—Chomiak wouldn’t have wanted to risk, one day, being held accountable for them.
There is no doubt Chomiak was very good at what he did for the Nazis in Krakivski Visti—otherwise, why would he be taken to Vienna, together with his family, in 1944 with the retreating Nazi army? German recourses were scarce—and they spent them on Chomiak.
He did not stay in Cracow to join Polish resistance.
In Vienna, he continued to publish the newspaper.
From Vienna, with the help of his retreating Nazi bosses, he resettled in Bavaria.
For the third time, he chose Hitler over Stalin.
And, by that point, wasn’t Stalin an ally of the United States?
It was in Bavaria that Chomiak surrendered to Americans and, three years later, immigrated to Canada to reunite with his sister. The “quiet Canadian” never told his relatives about his work for Nazis. The truth came out only after his death in 1984, when his private papers were found in the attic of his house.
“Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland knew for more than two decades that her maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the chief editor of a Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland that vilified Jews during the Second World War,” The Globe and Mail reported.
Some say Chomiak’s past has nothing to do with Freeland and the whole thing was blood libel orchestrated by Russians.
But, having known for more than 20 years about her grandfather’s past, why has Freeland been portraying him as a victim of both Stalin and Hitler?
On 24 of August, 2016, a day after Black Ribbon Day, commemorating victims of both Stalinism and Nazism, Freeland Tweeted the following: “Thinking of my grandparents Mykhailo & Aleksandra Chomiak on Black Ribbon Day. They were forever grateful to Canada for giving them refuge and they worked hard to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine. I am proud to honour their memory today.”
Unlike Gunter Grass, Mykhailo Chomiak never apologized for his collaboration with the Nazis.
And his granddaughter, the Canadian Foreign Minister, should not be doing it for him. Rather, she must make two things clear: On what grounds does she consider him to be a victim of Nazis and Stalin? And what part of his past is she so proud to honor?
As far as Kremlin Sourkovskaya propaganda is concerned, yes—a number of Russian media outlets republished The Washington Post story following Freeland’s ill-fated press-conference. Otherwise, there has been deafening silence…
This is most likely because Russians are now busy digging into their NKVD-KGB archives, hoping to find a dusty Nazi party card inscribed with the name Mykhailo Chomiak.