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From Nurseries To Nazis, Part 1

The shocking “education” of children in Ukraine

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
— Proverbs 22:6, New King James Version

The year is 2015.
The little Ukrainian girl is wearing a Hello Kitty t-shirt that says “love cat.”
She looks to be about four or five years old, maybe younger.
She is holding a knife in her tiny hands.
From off camera, her father says, “Marinochka, will you cut Russians?”
He uses a slur for “Russians.”
“Yes!” She shouts.
“What will you do to them?” He asks.
She shrieks: “I WILL CUT RUSSIANS!”
She repeats this phrase several times and makes little thrusting motions with the knife.
Then she gives a Nazi salute. “Sieg Heil!” She says, “Sieg Heil!”
Her father laughs.

The video of the little girl was posted seven years ago. Well before Russia crossed Ukraine’s borders in February of this year. On YouTube you can find hundreds of videos of Ukrainian children saying they will kill “Moskals,” singing songs about how they are ready to fight for Ukraine, waving knives, shouting slogans and giving Nazi salutes. Such videos are all over social media and they have been appearing for many years.

This may come as a shock to you. But it’s only shocking if you do not understand the history of Ukraine and what has been happening there since 1991, when the Soviet Union broke apart and all of its republics declared independence.

Independence has been important to Ukrainians since at least the 1920’s, when the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the OUN, was founded. I have previously written about the atrocities of the OUN and its leaders including Stepan Bandera, a Nazi who served alongside the Wehrmacht during Operation Barbarossa.

It is indisputable fact that the OUN, led by Bandera, murdered more than a hundred thousand people. In fact, the bodies of the victims are still being exhumed today.

Exhumed remains of OUN victims, Poland, 1990s. Photo credit: kresky.pl

The list of the OUN’s atrocities is long and well-documented despite the “amnesia” which seems to have swept over much of Europe. Here are the most famous ones:

1. The Lvov pogrom of July, 1941 in which several thousand civilians, mostly Jews, were brutally tortured and murdered.

2. The massacre of Babi Yar near Kiev between 1941 and 1943, in which Ukrainian nationalists were complicit in the murder of tens of thousands of people including Jews and Ukrainians loyal to the Soviet Union.

3. The liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in Rivne in July 1942, where over five thousand people were killed.

4. The razing of the Belarusian village of Khatyn in March, 1943.

5. The massacre at Wołyń, a region in Nazi-occupied Poland that is now part of present-day Ukraine. There, between 1943 and 1945, more than 100,000 Poles were slaughtered, along with several thousand Ukrainians who were thought to be “Soviet sympathizers.”

And that is only a partial list.

Feel free to check all of the links I included in the above list. Even The Smithsonian does not shy away from giving credit to the Nazis’ Ukrainian collaborators.

Screen shot of Smithsonian article about the massacre in Khatyn, Belarus.

The OUN behaved like bandits, raiding farms and villages and targeting civilians. They slaughtered Jews, Roma, Russians, communists and anyone they suspected might be loyal to the Soviet Union. The Banderites wanted a racially pure Ukrainian ethno-state and they believed that anyone who was not Ukrainian needed to be purged.

That is the story which history tells.

But it is not the story taught to Ukrainian children.

Video of Ukrainian children studying “The Rebel ABC’s”

The Rebel ABC’s

In2013, schools received the first edition of “The Rebel ABC’s,” a textbook which teaches elementary-school children the Ukrainian alphabet with a colorful cartoon story about the OUN.

Unlike the real OUN who roamed the back-country raping, murdering, looting and burning, the OUN in this textbook is portrayed as a merry band of friends who romp around the countryside doing good deeds. The author of the book, Oleg Vitvitsky, is proud that the textbook will teach children to be “real Banderites.” He designed it like a comic book and gave the characters cute names like Alyarmik, Adolfik, Liliputin and Medvedchukovich.

There are more pictures in the book than text, but let’s take a look at what the text says.

For example, here is the letter “M.”

A picture from “The Rebel ABC’s.” Photo credit: Livejournal

Here you can see little Alyarmik, the hero of the story, whose name means “alarm,” carrying his trumpet and leading his merry band of Banderites. In the background, the Russian Kremlin is ablaze.

“M” is for “Maskovia,” which means “Muscovy,” an archaic name for Moscow. The word is written with an “a” instead of an “o,” which mocks the Russian pronunciation of the word.

There is a short poem:

“Muscovy is the Khanate of Fear,
Massacres and mausoleum masks,
There, Liliputin is the emperor,
Medvedchukovich is a lackey there,
Alyarmik will put on his mazepinka
He’ll load his machine gun and his finka
Because he knows the day will come
When Medvedchukovich and Liliputin
Just like Vatutin of old
Will fall into rebel hands.”

Liliputin is, of course, a reference to Vladimir Putin, and Medvedchukovich is a reference to Dmitri Medvedev and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, who was ousted during the 2014 Maidan coup.

Mazepinka is the type of cap worn by the OUN and finka is a dagger.

Vatutin was a Red Army general who liberated Kiev from the Germans and was later killed by Bandera.

The word used for “machine gun” (mashingver) is derived from a German word, “Sturmgever,”which was a type of assault rifle produced by the Third Reich in 1944.

“Sturmgever” assault rifle used by German Nazis in WW2. Photo credit: Alexander Zavaly
Ukrainian children at a nationalist march. Note the Wolfsangel symbol on their hats. This symbol was used by Hitler’s SS. Photo credit: LiveJournal

A Comic Book History of Ukraine

You might feel that it’s understandable for Ukrainians to bear such hatred for Russians, in view of the current war. But the Banderites have been teaching children to hate the “Moskals” (a slur meaning “Russians”) for decades. They have long cared about the “education” of future “warriors of Ukraine.”

In 1996, a comic book was produced portraying Stepan Bandera as a hero, and then in 2007, it was reprinted with the title “Ukraine in its Struggle.”

The “Ukraine in its Struggle” comic of 2007. Photo credit: LiveJournal

The comic tells of brave insurgents who selflessly fight the “Moskal murderers” The artist, Leonid Perfetsky, depicts the OUN soldiers, compatriots of Hitler’s Wehrmacht, as daring heroes fighting against the Soviet allied forces in World War Two. The Soviets, of course, are depicted as ugly and bloodthirsty.

Perfetsky himself was a member of the SS division Galicia, and he originally created the drawings for leaflets and newspapers produced by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. In 1953, the drawings were collected and printed by a daily newspaper run by Ukrainian diaspora in Philadelphia, United States. In the 1970’s, the drawings appeared in the magazine of the Union of Ukrainian Youth, “Krylati.” In 2013, the comics were published in a book and 2,000 copies were distributed among libraries and public organizations, according to Yaroslav Lipovetsky of the Department of Family and Youth Affairs of Ternopil, a major city in western Ukraine.

According to Lipovetsky, at first they wanted to publish the comic as a coloring book, however this idea was abandoned and the text was carefully edited to bring it closer to the modern Ukrainian language. The first edition was distributed to school and college libraries. Later, 12,000 copies were published in Ukrainian, and then 10,000 more were published in the Russian language and distributed in southeastern Ukraine, which is primarily inhabited by Russian-speakers.

In 2008, the comic “Murders by Order of KGB” was published for children, about how the KGB killed Stepan Bandera.

“Murders by Order of KGB” comic. Photo credit: Livejournal

This comic, really more of a graphic novel, was published by the Union of Ukrainian Youth. According to the developers, there is nothing humorous in it and it’s intended for children 13 and older — “those who are in search of a political ideal.”

A girl at a school contest in Lvov famously said, “You need Bandera to come to you, to your world as a relative, as a father, as a brother, as something native and inalienable.” Her call was heeded by the Kapranov brothers, fervent nationalists and members of an organization called “Trident,” which was named after Stepan Bandera. And in 2011, they published a book called “Bandera and I,” which was included in an educational series for children called “Twelve Points,” about prominent Ukrainian figures.

In this book, two schoolboy brothers hear someone on TV calling the Banderites “fascists.” They set about investigating Bandera for themselves, to find out if he is a hero or a mass-murderer. And in their history classroom, they find a portrait of Bandera wrapped in a towel. Then members of Svoboda (“Freedom,” a nationalist political party) proceed to educate the young lads. The conclusion of the book is predictable: The brothers determine that Bandera is a hero.

Ukrainian girl holding a painting of the Kremlin in flames. Photo Credit: Vesti

In 2021, the Russian publication Vesti published an article titled “Hate Education: Why Ukrainian Children Are Being Set Against Russia.”

The article is about the above photo of a Ukrainian preschooler holding a painting of the Russian Kremlin, which is burning and belching smoke. Flames are blazing from Spasskaya Tower, the Kremlin’s historic clock. The photo was a big hit on the internet and was reposted hundreds of times with thousands of enthusiastic comments about the “beautiful” new generation growing up in Ukraine.

In a video (which may require a VPN to view) the little girl says “Hi, I’m not Katrusya, but Darusya, and this was not drawn by me, but a girl from Kharkov. I am very pleased that you call me popular, because Putin’s castle is on fire in the picture!” She cheers, “Hooray!”

To the preschooler, the Kremlin is a fairy tale castle, and Putin is an evil character like the wicked Queen in Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.

Children are given military training. Photo credit: Rodina moya

From comics to camps

But the “education” doesn’t end with fairy tales and comic books. Ukrainian children are also taught how to fight, how to fire an assault rifle, and how to kill.

The following video, produced by a Russian TV show called “Current Time,” was uploaded to YouTube in 2015. It shows children of all ages wearing military fatigues, running obstacle courses and firing automatic weapons at a training camp run by Ukrainian nationalists.

Forty seconds into the video, the correspondent talks to the instructor who downplays her questions about the Nazi symbols the children are wearing and the Nazi salutes they perform.

“The fact is that they took this gesture here ‘from the heart to the sun,’ and they said ‘Sieg Heil,’” which Hitler came up with,” he explains awkwardly.

The Nazi Party slogan was actually the brainchild of Rudolf Hess, who began shouting it after feeling inspired by one of Hitler’s speeches. The phrase was then picked up by the mob of adoring fans listening to their Führer.

After talking to the instructor, the narrator introduces a boy, age nine, who she says already knows how to fire an assault weapon.

“Who will you fight?” She asks the boy.
“Enemies,” the boy replies.
“What enemies?” She asks.
“Any.”
“Do you realize you can go to war from here? Aren’t you afraid?”
“No.”

Top: Ukraine in 2015. Bottom: Germany in 1937. Photo credit: Komsomolskaya Pravda

In 2015, the Russian publication Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote several articles about the camps where youths are taught the “right spirit of Ukrainian Aryans.” Nationalists set up a network of camps for children, teenagers and young adults in western Ukraine where they are taught weapons handling, shooting, hand-to-hand combat and even how to fight with knives.

The camps were formed after the Maidan coup in 2014 in seven regions of Ukraine: Kiev, Kharkov, Chernigov, Cherkasy, Zaporozhye, Dnepropetrovsk, and Transcarpathia.

Azov Battalion, the notorious neo-Nazi group, even have a camp called “Azovets,” for children and teenagers, on the outskirts of Kiev. In Odessa, you can find “Camp Chota,” where Pravi Sektor (Right Sector) runs things. Children ages four and up can join the “Carpathian Legion,” and there are several camps run by Svoboda Party. The network of camps welcomes boys and girls of all ages.

At the Azovets camp outside Kiev, anywhere from 400 to 500 children are given Nazi paramilitary training during the summer. These camps have been run every summer, and even during the spring, fall and winter, in every year since Maidan. The camps are free to the children and are financed by western grants and state funding from the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine.

The focus of the training is to kill “Moskals” and “Separatists.” Kids are taught to kill with assault rifles, carbines, pistols, knives and fists. Then they learn tactics, hand-to-hand combat, assembly and disassembly of submachine guns.

In 2014, the children learned to shoot at targets.

Later on, their training complete, they joined the ranks of Azov Battalion and other nationalist militias and shot at the Russian-speaking people of Donbas.

Where did their childhood go…?

I leave you with some photos which I found while searching Yandex.

With special thanks to Lilya Takumbetova, Lara Demidova, Alexander Zavaly, Dmitry Kuznetsov and Irina Strakhova for assistance with translation.

This concludes part one of the three-part investigative report, “From Nurseries to Nazis; The shocking education of children in Ukraine.”
You can find part two here, and part three here.

About the author:
Deborah Armstrong currently writes about geopolitics with an emphasis on Russia. She previously worked in local TV news in the United States where she won two regional Emmy Awards. In the early 1990’s, Deborah lived in the Soviet Union during its final days and worked as a television consultant at Leningrad Television.

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Copyright © 2018 Regis Tremblay.