Crypto-Fascist Cult Worship in the Ukrainian Borscht Belt

Ukes, Kooks & Spooks
17 min readJun 17, 2019

ULSTER COUNTY, NY — Just south of the Catskills, home of the historic “Borscht Belt” (or “Jewish Alps”), somewhat hidden on the Shawangunk Ridge in Kerhonkson is an inconspicuous Ukrainian Orthodox chapel built by Peter Voinovsky, a Nazi collaborator and war criminal, on what used to be his property. During World War II, he commanded the “Bukovinian Battalion” (Bukovyns’kyi Kurin’), set up in 1941 by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists led by Andriy Melnyk — the OUN-M. Voinovsky “organized a string of massacres of Jews” in Northern Bukovina when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. Voinovsky and other Bukovinian “Melnykites” pushed east with the Wehrmacht, and perpetrated more atrocities.

As told by Per Anders Rudling, “Most accounts assert that the Bukovyns’kyi Kurin’ arrived [to Kyiv] with the German front-line troops and took part in the September 29–30 shootings that constituted the single largest massacre of the Holocaust,” known as Babi Yar. A few years after Voinovsky arrived to the United States, in 1953, he spent two months making a painting for his boss, which he gifted him with a letter: “Help us, God, in the production for General Motors, to be always ready in the protection of our country and our allies, who need our help … to destroy and wipe out of the world for eternity, Communism.” In 1975, he built his Kerhonkson, New York “church-memorial” in honor of the fallen “fighters” of the OUN-M and the Bukovinian Battalion. Many of the latter “voluntarily joined the Schutzmannschaften,” or Nazi auxiliary police. To hear it from Dr. Rudling again:

The members of the Bukovyns’kyi Kurin’ … were organized first as Battalion 115; later, the third company of Battalion 115, consisting of about 100 men, became the first company of the 118th Battalion. These men were considered the elite of the battalion. They were “the harshest and most dedicated to the Germans…”

In July 1975, Bukovinian veterans held a ceremony on Voinovsky’s property “marking the death in battle of their comrades-in-arms.” The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States, Metropolitan Mstyslav, a nephew of Symon Petliura, led the dedication of the chapel. He did the same at the 1984 dedication of the UPA memorial in South Bound Brook, New Jersey. The following year, Voinovsky’s chapel “became the site of the Ukrainian Orthodox parish here in the environ of Soyuzivka,” the nearby Ukrainian National Association estate/resort, perhaps the most popular summer destination for Ukrainian Americans during the mid-to-late 20th century.

Less than twenty minutes away, in the foothills of The Gunks, is the principal Ukrainian American Youth Association (UAYA/SUMA) summer camp, home of the “Heroes’ Monument,” which veterans of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) built in 1962. Created in 1943 by a rival, cultish faction of the OUN led by Stepan Bandera — the OUN-B — the UPA’s relationship with the Germans was more complicated, but an overwhelming majority of its leadership collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. This “Banderite” partisan army hunted and terrorized Jews in the forests of western Ukraine, and conducted a massive, barbaric campaign against Poles, which Jared McBride described as “one of the most violent ethnic cleansing episodes in 20th century Europe.”

“Heroes’ Monument,” Ellenville

The Heroes’ Monument consists of a 42 foot tall structure with a Ukrainian trident at the top, flanked by the busts of OUN founder Yevhen Konovalets (1981–1938), WW1-era military leader Symon Petliura (1879–1926), UPA Supreme Commander Roman Shukhevych (1907–1950), and Stepan Bandera (1909–1959). Perhaps with the exception of Petliura — who is the odd one out having been born in the Russian empire, and then died before the OUN’s creation — these are most likely the first busts of these men to be permanently displayed outdoors in the western hemisphere, if not the world. On the base of the monument is an inscription of the second half of the fascist OUN-UPA greeting, which in recent years has become more popular than ever in Ukraine: “Glory to the Heroes.”

About ten miles separate the OUN-M and OUN-B memorials in upstate New York. But whereas the one hosts a small Sunday service, attended by typically older members of the local Ukrainian community, many people of all ages have traveled long distances over the years to make it to annual events honoring war criminals and Nazi collaborators at the SUMA camp in Ellenville, New York. According to Bandera’s biographer Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe, “Ukrainian diaspora children have congregated for decades in front of the [SUMA] monument” for various camps and ceremonies, many times in the presence of Ukrainian nationalist leaders. Such activities continue today with the participation of the OUN-B.

Teenagers with toy guns dressed as UPA soldiers at the 2017 “Heroes’ Holiday” in Ellenville

SUMA opened its Ellenville “Oselia” (resort) in 1955, seven years before the Heroes’ Monument was built. The US-born longtime far-right leader of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) Lev Dobriansky was one of three people who “produced” the memorial. In 1958, according to declassified CIA documents, Dobriansky helped Stepan Bandera’s forever loyal deputy (and as of 1968, successor) Yaroslav Stetsko get his first visa to the United States, which he did in spite of the CIA’s opposition. The Agency supported a rival breakaway faction of the OUN-B led by Bandera’s wartime deputy turned postwar born-again “moderate” rival, Mykola Lebed, although he was arguably the biggest war criminal of the bunch. “The Ukrainians do not understand the basis of American attitudes,” his case officer relayed to superiors in 1952, the year Allen Dulles granted Lebed US citizenship and retroactively legalized his being smuggled into the country three years prior. “For an example, Stetsko is accused of all sorts of terrorism, killing Jews, etc., and because of this, was not allowed in the US…” Six years later, Stetsko made his first trip to the United States, and addressed a large Ukrainian Labor Day rally in Ellenville.

A year sooner, in mid-July 1957, the Ukrainian general Pavlo Shandruk spoke to a crowd of three thousand in Ellenville who gathered for a “patriotic demonstration,” which observed three anniversaries in Ukrainian history: the tricentennial of the death of the Cossack leader Bohdan Khmelnitsky, 40 years since “the resurrection of the Ukrainian Army” during World War I, and the sham 15th anniversary “of the rise into being of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army which to this day is conducting underground offensive action against the Reds…” The UPA was actually established in 1943, not 1942, and in fact, the CIA determined the UPA to have been virtually wiped out by 1954. The UPA memorial in Somerset County, New Jersey reads “1942–1952.”

The Germans tapped Shandruk in early 1945 to lead a nominal “Ukrainian National Army,” the First Division of which was formerly known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS. As told by the Ukrainian Weekly in 1957, “A thrilling moment in the program was the lighting of torches in the presence of Gen. Shandruk. A representative of each one of the twenty SUMA Branches lighted [sic] his torch, and then announced which part of Ukraine his torch of liberty represented.” Then the torches were “applied to touch off a huge bonfire, whose searing flames symbolized the flame of the coming of the Ukrainian revolution for national independence.”

Large commemorative bonfire at another SUMA camp in upstate New York

In 1959, President Eisenhower signed into law a Congressional resolution drafted by Lev Dobriansky that declared each third week of July, “Captive Nations Week.” In the following months the KGB assassinated Stepan Bandera, just after he got his first visa to the United States. His immediate successor wasn’t Stetsko but Stepan Lenkavsky, who made “his first public appearance on this continent” in 1960 during Captive Nations Week at the SUMA camp in Ellenville. The rally received written greetings from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Vice President Richard Nixon, among others. Also on the camp grounds in 1960, Yaroslav Stetsko lectured another OUN-B affiliated youth group, the Ukrainian Student Association of Mykola Mikhnovsky (TUSM), which relocated its headquarters from West Germany to the United States in 1955.

Born in 1873, Mikhonvsky died before the OUN was founded, but he coined the slogan, “Ukraine for Ukrainians,” and was a big inspiration for the Organization otherwise. Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe tells us, Mikhnovsky’s “main aim was a biological and racial marking of the Ukrainian territories.” One of his “Ten Commandments” began, “Do not marry a foreign woman because your children will be your enemies…” In 1929, thirty years before he visited Ellenville, “Bandera’s lifelong friend” and founding member of the OUN, Stepan Lenkavsky, wrote “The Ten Commandments of a Ukrainian Nationalist.” According to Rossoliński-Liebe, the first commandment, “Attain a Ukrainian state or die in the struggle for it,” was lifted from Mikhnovsky when he said, “either we will win the fight or we will die.” Lenkavsky joined Bandera, Stetsko, and Shukhevych in proclaiming a new “Revolutionary Leadership” of the OUN led by Stepan Bandera in 1940. Later during World War II, Lenkavsky said, “regarding the Jews, we will adopt any methods that lead to their destruction.”

No later than 1960, the TUSM began to sponsor an annual summer conference at the Ellenville Oselia that in 1963 paid tribute to Dmytro Dontsov’s 80th birthday. Dontsov, like Mikhnovsky, was born in the Russian empire, but made his way to western Ukraine, ruled by Austria-Hungary during the long 19th century and Poland in the interwar period. It was from here that the OUN sprung in 1929. Dontsov didn’t join the Organization but might as well have been its chief ideologist as a leading progenitor of Ukrainian fascism. The year of his 90th birthday, six months after he died, TUSM organized a panel discussion in New York City “in honor of the late Dmytro Dontsov, regarded as the ‘father of Ukrainian nationalism.’” One of the speakers was Anatoliy Bedriy, editor of the OUN-B‘s “Way to Victory” (Shlyakh Peremohy) newspaper. Associated with TUSM for years, he became its “ideological director” in 1961.

Come 1975, Bedriy was elected the chairman of the American Friends of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (AFABN), another OUN-B tied group. SUMA, TUSM, AFABN, and many more were united under the umbrella of the “Organizations of the Ukrainian Liberation Front,” led in the United States by the so-called Organization for the Defense of Four Freedoms of Ukraine (ODFFU). Like the Ukrainian Youth Association (SUM), the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN), and Bandera’s “Foreign Units of the OUN” (ZChOUN), the ODFFU was founded in 1946.

Busts of Roman Shukhevych (left) and Stepan Bandera (right) in Ellenville, New York

The ABN, with Yaroslav Stetsko as its leader for life, was a fascist coalition created by the OUN-B of likeminded anti-Soviet “national committees” (some of them formed under Alfred Rosenberg’s Ministry of the Occupied Eastern Territories) that clamored for World War III. Rather, the ABN leadership believed war with Soviet Russia was “inevitable,” but survivable. “Moscow’s despotic rule would be eliminated more quickly than one has ever dared to hope,” Stetsko wrote in 1953, insisting, “There Is Still Time … for Russia to experience its Pearl Harbor … The time demands that western commanders of the stature of General Patton place themselves protectingly before the revolutionaries with a few lightning panzer-divisions…” In 1960, in fascist Spain, he declared, “We shall either be victorious together, or else we shall perish one after another!”

I am well aware that the objection is raised that there might be an atomic war. In this respect I should, in the first place, like to touch on a counter-argument connected with mysticism … Fear of atomic war as a means of universal destruction is unjustified in so far as we — provided that we fulfill our ethical duties to God and our fatherland — cannot possibly become the object of destruction!

Four years later, Yaroslav Stetsko returned at least twice to Ellenville to speak at TUSM events. General Shandruk reappeared at the Labor Day rally in 1965, which honored the 15th anniversary of UPA Supreme Commander Roman Shukhevych’s death. SUMA president Lev Futala, a UPA veteran, delivered the keynote address. In 1966, the Labor Day rally marked 40 years since Symon Petliura’s assassination by a Jewish anarchist, and 25 years since the OUN-B’s attempt to declare a de facto Nazi client state on the eve of carrying out a German-led pogrom in Lviv. As in other years when the “Liberation Front” celebrated that day in history, a presumably whitewashed version of Stetsko’s June 30, 1941 speech (“Adolf Hitler…is forming a new order in Europe and the world and…[we] will continue to fight with the Allied German Army…”) was likely read at the base of the Heroes’ Monument. That year, it was reported “most [TUSM] students were of the opinion that a large majority of campus demonstrations, draft-card burnings, sit-ins, teach-ins, and anti-war protests [in the United States] were instigated and encouraged by Communists and Communist sympathizers…”

Shandruk returned once again for the 1967 Labor Day rally, which honored the fake “25th anniversary” of the UPA’s founding. The 1969 Labor Day rally was dedicated to the 10th anniversary of Stepan Bandera’s assassination. In 1970, they commemorated 20 years since the death of Roman Shukhevych, and in 1971, the 30th anniversary of the bloody, short-lived “restoration of Ukrainian statehood” on June 30, 1941. It seems that 1972 might have been the year of the first real “Heroes’ Holiday,” an ongoing tradition held every first weekend of July at the SUMA camp in Ellenville. “The program began Saturday afternoon after lunch with a panel discussion led by members of TUSM…” and on Sunday, representatives of the Organizations of the Ukrainian Liberation Front in the United States led a wreath-laying ceremony at the Heroes’ Monument.

In 1973, the OUN-B Front honored the 30th anniversary of the creation of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (the “Galician Division”) and a 1943 conference behind the ABN’s founding three years later. In 1974, the Governor of New York Malcolm Wilson “and other political leaders” attended the 25th annual SUM rally of Ukrainian youth in the United States and Canada, which appears to have been folded into the Heroes’ Holiday. At that year’s Labor Day rally, Ukrainian youth commemorated the 50th anniversary of Mykola Mikhnovsky’s death.

The US-born former Justice Minister of Ukraine Roman Zvarych’s Wikipedia page notes that at age fifteen, he swore an oath to “achieve Ukrainian statehood or… die fighting for it,” but doesn’t explain further. Zvarych and his older brother Ihor were committed members of SUMA and TUSM. In 1974, at the age of 20, Roman was elected the president of the Yonkers branch of TUSM, and the Zvarych brothers attended the annual youth conference of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL). The ABN represented the “Captive Nations” of the Soviet Union in the World League, so perhaps it should come as little surprise that Yaroslav Stetsko was a major architect of the WACL, Lev Dobriansky vigorously supported this Fascist International project, and “Captive Nations Week” proved to be a beachhead for the ABN in Washington.

“Captive Nations Week,” 1983

The US capital hosted the annual WACL conference for the first time in 1974. Dobriansky introduced Stetsko at the plenary session, who followed a speech by Admiral John McCain Jr, father of the late Senator McCain III. Also that year, “In view of the recent articles in the press listing the names of World War II war criminals, among whom was a former officer of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, Lev Futala, and other Ukrainians,” a Ukrainian Anti-Defamation Committee was formed by “representatives of several Ukrainian organizations.” Roman Zvarych, the new secretary of TUSM, joined the committee explicitly tasked to defend “those Ukrainians accused of war crimes,” and UPA veterans in particular.

The following year Roman joined the executive board of the World Youth Anti-Communist League (WYACL). Also in 1975, the Zvarych brothers got summer jobs working in Ellenville, just in time for the “official opening of the SUMA counselor camp.” During the first weekend of July, the Organizations of the Ukrainian Liberation Front commemorated the 25th anniversary of Roman Shukhevych’s death. Several Ulster County officials attended the Heroes’ Holiday. An “all-male bandurist capella from the Irvington, N.J. branch of the veterans of the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army” — the Galician SS — provided entertainment.

In 1976, the American Friends of the ABN began a new tradition at Ellenville that lives on today: “a six-day political science workshop” during the last week of December. The next year it became a TUSM affair. Roman Zvarych was an instructor at the second annual TUSM-led workshop. “The participants heard lectures on various topics related to Ukrainian nationalism. Much discussion was devoted to the current situation in Ukraine… The workshop ended with a bonfire dedicated to two young members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, Dmytro Danylyshyn and Vasyl Bilas, who gave up their lives for their country.” (They assassinated a Polish politician in 1931 and were sentenced to death.) Earlier in 1978, Zvarych was elected the “ideological instructor” of TUSM and made a speech at the Ellenville summer camp on the “ideological education” of Ukrainian American youth. The year after that, he opened the Labor Day program, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Bandera’s assassination, and read aloud Yaroslav Stetsko’s greetings. By 1980, the winter workshop was referred to as a “SUMA-sponsored political-ideological camp,” instructed by Roman and Ihor Zvarych, as well as the Ukrainian historian Taras Hunczak.

2016 “Heroes’ Holiday” in Ellenville

“TUSM reorganizes after 20-year hiatus,” read a 2012 headline in the Ukrainian Weekly, which went on to report that the group “announced its reorganization in the United States … at a commemorative event in New York [City] that marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Yaroslav Stetsko.”

The event was attended by Stefan Romaniw, president of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists — Banderite wing (OUN-B), Askold Lozynskyj, president of the International Conference in Support of Ukraine, and Stepan Kaczurak, president of the Organization for the Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine, as well as representatives from the Ukrainian American Youth Association, veterans of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), and members of the Women’s Association for the Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine… TUSM recognizes Stetsko as a national hero of Ukraine and a role model for Ukrainian students globally.

The new president of TUSM participated in a workshop at that year’s annual UCCA conference. At some point, the organization joined the UCCA “National Council,” although it appears to have ceased activity by 2015. Its secretary, Dmitri Lenczuk, became the “chief educator” of the SUMA counselor (“educational-leadership”) camp in Ellenville. His grandfather, Theodore Oleschuk, was an early member of the ABN, and a longtime devotee of the OUN-B.

Yaroslav Stetsko died in 1986, but his wife Yaroslava Stetsko lived to return to post-Soviet Ukraine and co-found the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (CUN) with Roman Zvarych in 1992. The Youth Congress of Ukrainian Nationalist was founded in 1998, and formed a nominally independent Youth Nationalist Congress (MNK) in 2001. Almost a dozen years later “near New York [City],” a member of the MNK leadership, Vitaliy Vovk, participated in an “ideological seminar” commemorating the UPA’s fraudulent 70th anniversary and Stetsko’s belated 100th birthday — likely in Ellenville in December 2012. Vovk founded the “Ukrainian Open League of MMA Real Fight Promotion,” and later joined up with an MNK-affiliated “Maidan Self Defense” militia company during the 2013–2014 Euromaidan protests.

Also participating in the seminar with Vovk was Walter Zaryckyj, the longtime executive director of the Center for US-Ukrainian Relations (CUSUR), and Askold Lozynskyj, the chairman of the aforementioned “International Conference in Support of Ukraine.” Both were deeply involved in the original TUSM. Zaryckyj became a member by 1975, and lectured the SUMA winter ideological camp in 1989–1991. Lozynskyj joined the TUSM world executive board in 1972, became the head of TUSM in 1973, and represented the ABN at the 1974 WYACL conference. According to Per Anders Rudling, “Lozynskyj has described convicted Sobibor camp guard John Demjanjuk as a ‘martyr,’ alleged special Jewish influence in the Canadian media… [and] has moreover dismissed emerging scholarship on the Holocaust in Ukraine…” Students of the seminar also heard from the Secretary-General of the World Congress of Ukrainians, the Australian leader of the OUN-B, Stefan Romaniw.

During the summer of 2015, Dmitri Lenczuk’s campers spent at least one full day honoring Stepan Bandera. They were also introduced to Volodymyr Viatrovych, the OUN-B affiliated head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, who “spoke to the campers about the history of the Maidan and the importance of Bandera in the current war in eastern Ukraine.” Viatrovych, “The Historian Whitewashing Ukraine’s Past,” delivered the keynote address at that year’s Heroes’ Holiday.

Volodymyr Viatrovych (left) and Oles Striltschuk (right) at the 2015 “Heroes’ Holiday” in Ellenville.

The following year, a former leader of the MNK, Serhii Kuzan, did the honors. In 2016, the celebration was dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the “Act of June 30, 1941.” Among the guests at the 2016 Heroes’ Holiday was the “former chairman of the ODFFU and… long-time… educator of the SUM cell in Passaic, New Jersey, Theodor Oleschuk.” Oleschuk’s grandson was the chief educator of Ellenville’s SUMA counselor camp again in 2016, which hosted Serhii Kuzan and named itself “The Way of Free People.” The campers also raised $142 for Kuzan’s organization, “Free People,” which the MNK set up in 2013.

Kuzan returned to Ellenville in the last week of December 2016 to participate in a four day camp, at which he was the chief instructor. The winter session, organized by the ODFFU, was about “hybrid war, the ideology of Ukrainian nationalism and its modern interpretation.” During his stay, Kuzan also met with Theodor Oleschuk and Dmitri Lenczuk. An MNK traveling companion reflected on their trip (translated by Google): “While some… in Ukraine are walking with torches… world Banderites are modernizing and implementing the idea of the Anti-Bolshevik (now the Anti-Imperialist) bloc of peoples [ABN]… Volodymyr [Walter] Zaryckyj told us about it…”

Victor Rog (left) and Theodor Oleschuk (right) at the 2017 “Heroes’ Holiday” in Ellenville

The first leader of the MNK, Victor Rog, the chief editor of the OUN-B weekly “Way of Victory” since 2009, keynoted the 2017 Heroes’ Holiday in Ellenville, dedicated to the “75th” anniversary of the UPA. The leader of the ODFFU made a speech commemorating contemporary Ukrainian martyrs, and the US-born Markiyan Paslavsky in particular, who died that summer after he volunteered for the war in Donbas. In December, Serhii Kuzan returned again to Ellenville, this time with the “Free People” leader, Andriy Levus — a People’s Deputy (Member of Parliament) and former deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

Also joining them was Victor Rog, Walter Zaryckyj, and the far-right former Education Minister of Ukraine (2014–2016), Serhiy Kvit. The leader of the OUN-B Skyped in, presumably from Australia. Two young people, Dmitri Lenczuk and Andriy Shchyhelsky, helped prepare the camp program. When Andriy Parubiy, then the deputy chairman of the Verkhonva Rada, visited the ODFFU’s New York City headquarters in 2015, Shchyhelsky joined a meeting with the neo-Nazi politician under the gaze of framed pictures of Stepan Bandera and Yevhen Konovalets. Just last week, Romaniw, Levus, Zaryckyj, Shchyhelsky, and Lenczuk’s younger brother were all in Washington for the “7th annual US-Ukraine Report Card Summit,” co-sponsored by CUSUR, UCCA, and the American Foreign Policy Council.

In recent days, the Organization for the Defense of Four Freedoms of Ukraine deleted the leadership page of its website, which hadn’t been updated in over four years. According to tradition, this year’s commemoration of dead Ukrainian fascists will be on Sunday, July 7th, unless they choose to bump it up to Sunday, June 30th. I write “they,” because the “holiday” is spearheaded by the ODFFU, but traditionally organized by the “Festive Committee” of the “Ukrainian State Organizations in the United States,” the US Division of a worldwide OUN-B coordinating body formerly known as the Organizations of the Ukrainian Liberation Front. But it is known by neither of these names in English. Introducing, the so-called “International Council in Support of Ukraine,” led today by another former TUSM leader, Borys Potapenko.