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Bandera in the Big Apple

Kayla Popuchet

Dec 27, 2022

Originally published in Midwestern Marx.

When the far right-dominated Euromaidan protests broke out in Ukraine in 2014, Ukrainian-Americans did more than just participate in the protests: they fully seized the moment. Finally, their decades-long efforts to influence Ukrainian politics would fully pay off.

Razom for Ukraine was born out of the frustration of Ukrainian-Americans. Physically detached from their homelands, they sought out other tech-savvy Ukrainians to organize under the banner of regime change. Razom for Ukraine (also known as Razom, Inc.) attracted young Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American intellectuals, differing from older Ukrainian civil society groups in that the organization worked to influence Euromaidan through social media.

Razom lost momentum in the years following Maidan, but after the Russian invasion of Ukrainian-controlled territory in Donbass, the organization regained support almost overnight. According to metrics on SocialBlade, Razom’s Instagram account grew by 50 thousand followers between February 24th and February 28th. The organization's account is filled with calls for donations to support various aid funds, including their own, as well as images from pro-Ukrainian protests in New York City calling for a NATO no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace; a call which many have understood as an incitement to potential nuclear war.

Razom boasts of their prolific fundraising efforts: the nonprofit has amassed over $57 million in donations to aid the Ukrainian war effort, receiving $100,000 from the New York Jets and $1 million from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings alone. Their projects include their Emergency Response Fund, Ukrainian policy initiatives in the U.S. government, and their Veteran IT programming training, funded by George Soros’ International Renaissance Fund and the European Union in Ukraine, as Razom has vowed to build a Ukraine modeled after “European values.”

Despite claiming to have raised $57 million and distributed $30 million in aid to Ukraine to date, in 2020 Razom reported receiving only $238,448 in contributions. As we await updated their tax records (Razom hasn’t filed a report in three years), the non-profit has likewise given no further reports indicating all of the Ukrainian organizations they are working with and how much funding they’ve provided in detail. This is alarming, given Ukraine’s recent history as a hub for foreign embezzlement and rampant corruption, with even Ukrainian President Zelensky’s own appearance in the Pandora Papers for having profited from offshore companies.

Who is Theodora Chomiak?

From St. George Ukrainian Church Facebook

In an interview with Forbes, Theodora Chomiak, Razom’s founder and current president, describes her first visit to Soviet Ukraine in 1989 as a “cultural shock” citing a sense of “sameness”, a classic anti-communist trope. She then returned to her native New York City all the more passionate to influence regime change efforts against the Soviet government, or, “committed herself to its cause”, the struggle for the nationalist Independent Ukraine.

After the dissolution of the USSR, the Princeton graduate received a $7 million grant from George Soros’ Renaissance Foundation to open the Ukrainian Independent Information Agency (UNIAN), which later joined infamous oligarch Igor Kolomoisky’s 1+1 Media Group.

Source: Chomiak’s LinkedIn

Chomiak, raised outside of Washington D.C., was one more torch-carrier in the struggle for an independent Ukraine: as Forbes Editorial Director Katya Soldak writes, “fighting for Ukraine has been, in a sense, like coming home for Chomiak.” Chomiak follows in the footsteps of her grandfather, Danil Bohachevsky, who fought in the ranks of the nationalist Ukrainian National Army during the 1918 Ukrainian Civil War, and she would later take his struggle into the world of civil society.

Family of Spooks

But of course Theodora is not the only Ukrainian-American engaged in influencing U.S. policy on Ukraine. She isn’t even the only Chomiak doing so: Theodora is one of two daughters to Ukrainian immigrants Rostyslav Chomiak and Martha Bohachevsky-Chomiak who each have played their own role in nationalist organizing. 

Rostyslav “Ross” Chomiak was born in Austro-Hungarian controlled Lviv, Ukraine, immigrating to Canada from the Bad Wörishofen Displaced Persons Camp in the 1950s. From Canada, Rostyslav moved to New York City, where he began working for the US-funded networks Voice of America and Radio Free Europe (now Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). From these platforms, the elder Chomiak broadcasted media into the Ukrainian SSR which instigated dissent against the Soviet government. He later transitioned to working for The Ukrainian Weekly, a newspaper agency headed by the nationalist Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), also based in New York City, and wrote fondly of the activities of former OUN leaders like Mykola Lebed and Yaroslav Stetsko, nationalist leaders who the U.S. would have gone on trial for genocide in the USSR had the US not saved them.

Rostyslav’s wife, Martha Bohachevsky-Chomiak, was likewise highly active in New York Ukrainian society. Ideologically in line with the Ukrainian nationalist feminist group FEMEN, Bohachevsky is best known for her extensive writing on Ukrainian women and patriarchy. In 2000, Bohachevsky-Chomiak served as the Director of the U.S. Fulbright Office in Ukraine, reinstituting the Ukrainian intelligentsia in power. In Defeating Authoritarian Leaders in Postcommunist Countries, she describes her efforts in destabilizing the Ukrainian SSR (despite immigrating to the U.S. at just 10 years old from a displaced persons camp in Germany). 

In her article “World War I – A Personal Story” Bohachevsky-Chomiak describes her father, a veteran of the first World War and soldier in the Ukrainian Galician (Halychnya) Army who filled her with “wonderful” stories of Symon Petliura and his dream of an independent Ukraine. Petliura, incidentally, was a nationalist politician who oversaw the Ukrainian People’s Republic's pogroms against Ukrainian Jews on the basis of their supposed Bolshevik sympathies.

In 1992, Bohachevsky-Chomiak presented the 1991 Antonovych Prize to prominent Cold warrior and Carter-administration National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, praising Brzezinksi for “identifying Ukraine as important, now an accepted thesis, when all others considered it to be irrelevant.” Author of The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski dedicated his career to destabilizing and overthrowing the Communist-led governments of Eastern Europe on behalf of the U.S. empire. Brzezinski later boasted of having lured the USSR into war in Afghanistan by heavily funding the mujahideen via the Central Intelligence Agency. Brzezinski is best known for developing the tactic of the color revolution, a method employed by the U.S. government during and after the Cold War to incite revolution in foreign countries.

Following in her parent’s footsteps, Theodora’s Chomiak’s sister Tania Chomiak-Salvi, a graduate of  the Fletcher School, went on to work first as a press attaché in Kazakhstan and later on NATO issues at the Bureau of European Affairs. Chomiak-Salvi finally wrapped up her 24-year career with the U.S. State Department in 2017.

In October 2014, Chomiak-Salvi also participated in CIA-funded agency Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s panel Promoting Free Media: Informing the 1989 Velvet Revolution and the Challenge Today to celebrate the anniversary of the anti-communist victory of the Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, a movement which was heavily funded by the U.S. government.

Razom is only a single facet of decades of Ukrainian nationalist civil society organizing, well funded and connected to the U.S. State Department behind the facade of a grassroots campaign of mass Ukrainian-American unity.

From the German displaced persons camps, thousands of Ukrainian collaborators and anti-communist nationalists fled to Western Europe and North America. It was here that they formed their civil society organizations with the ample support of the U.S. government. Ukrainian nationalist historian John Paul-Himka states that 80% of refugees from Western Ukraine in the Displaced Persons camps (like Chomiak and Bohachevsky-Chomiak) remained loyal to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the fascist OUN-b. Chomiak and Bohachevsky-Chomiak in practice remained true to the OUN-b’s mission, as their life’s work furthered nationalist’s agenda in attempting to destabilize the USSR and promote a reactionary Ukrainian national identity.

Often we hear the tale of Ukrainian-Americans “spontaneously” organizing together for democracy in their homeland, but underneath this mask lies decades of nationalist efforts to create organizations that promote the nationalist myth of the “independent Ukraine,” the idea of a national-socialist Ukrainian state, their own Valhalla.

Referring to what Razom calls “Maidan Energy,” Ukrainian civil society groups in the diaspora wield disproportionate influence over the Ukrainian government.

In “The Transnational Activism of Young Ukrainian Immigrants,” Serhiy Kovalchuk writes that Ukrainian-Americans were extremely influential– both politically and financially –in the success of anti-Russian pro-Western parties during the 2015 Maidan coup as Ukrainian-Americans lobbied U.S. politicians to support Maidan and even went so far as to participate in the protests themselves.

Within two months following the start of the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, Razom for Ukraine was incorporated as a nonprofit organization. All the while, Razom campaigned online for sanctions against Ukraine under the Yanukovych administration, a move intended to achieve regime change by economically suffocating Ukrainians.

While Razom is often praised as deriving from a grassroots movement of united Ukrainian-New Yorkers struggling for self-determination, Chomiak is not the only member of Razom’s Board of Directors of Razom who has connections to U.S.-based intelligence groups. Former Vice President and Operations Manager Natalia Shyrba has spent over a decade of research and management in private intelligence consulting firms such as Washington-based GlobalSource LLC and TD International LLC. Shyrba worked as a consultant with the Odessa Regional Administration on “democratization efforts” in post-Maidan Ukraine, later going on to create the Reformers Without Borders program with Razom.

Emulating efforts to build the Silicon Valley of Ukraine, former President and co-founder of Razom Lyuba Shipovich later worked for exiled Georgian ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili’s team on the digital agenda for the Odessa Region and Odessa Region Administration. In May 2015, fleeing persecution in Georgia, Saakashvili was appointed Governor of the Odessa Oblast by Maidan coup president Petro Poroshenko, a reward for Saakashvili’s support in the Euromaidan color revolution. Razom wasted no time in assisting the pro-Western oligarch Poroshenko’s “democratization” reforms in Ukraine.

On Razom’s page “Ukraine and the Maidan,” the organization massively downplays the role far right and neo-Nazi paramilitaries had in the Euromaidan color revolution. Yet in August of 2014, neo-Nazi paramilitary Right Sector USA, Razom for Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) coordinated to hold a Ukrainian Unity protest. Starting in Manhattan’s Ukrainian Village, protesters marched up to the Consulate-General of Russia. They were joined by an assortment of Eastern European nationalists brandishing far-right nationalist emblems, including the UPA’s black-and-red flag and the Pahonia flag, the symbol of the Nazi collaborators of Belarus. 

Most bewilderingly, in the report Razom praises the policy initiatives set forth by the Reanimation Package of Reform’s “fiscal decentralization” measures, highlighting the increase of household gas prices to market levels, stating that civil society organizations such as the RPR were responsible for nearly all of the neoliberal, hyper-privatization reforms passed since Maidan with support from Neo-Nazi parties such as Svoboda.

The Razom-endorsed RPR is a coalition of pro-neoliberal, pro-Western civil society organizations including nationalistic youth groups such as the Plast Scouting Organization, the Ukrainian Youth Association, and the Youth Nationalistic Congress. Among the RPR’s founding member organizations is the USAID-funded Center for Studies of the Liberation Movement headed by Ivan Patrilych, a member of the underground OUN-b, who spearheaded many of the controversial “decommunization” laws passed in 2015. The underground OUN-b and members of other nationalist organizations, through the RPR, have been able to completely transform the Ukrainian state’s ideology into one of ultra nationalism while privatizing the economy to be exploited by foreign investors, all of which Razom considers to be “democratization”.

Razom and other young, Ukrainian groups of their ilk dress their nationalist endeavors with liberal aesthetics, making a departure from older organizations in that they reject American conservatism, instead embracing European-style liberal values. But while Razom may try to distance itself from the Ukrainian nationalist movement for PR purposes, it’s evident that they have no qualms about working in conjunction with ultra nationalist organizations, so long as they are rebranded into credible, civic groups.

But these groups did not form in a vacuum: CIA-supported Ukrainian Nazi emigres from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists were crucial in establishing Ukrainian civil society groups, especially in New York.

Following World War II, the CIA helped Ukrainian fascists and German Nazi collaborators escape prosecution in the USSR under the cover of the UN Displaced Persons Act, nearly 100,000 Ukrainians alone (the majority of whom were pro-OUN) immigrated into the U.S. 

Among those Ukrainians were figures wanted in the USSR for crimes such as treason and genocide for their activities in the all-Ukrainian 14th SS Waffen Division, the UPA, and other nationalist groups. These individuals included people like Mykola Lebed, who was given asylum in the U.S. despite having ordered pogroms of Ukrainian Jews and Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia.

Lebed immigrated into the U.S. in 1949, obtaining U.S. citizenship in 1957. He had gotten work through the CIA Operation Project Aerodynamic in assisting members of the underground OUN-b to train and develop anti-Soviet agents to infiltrate the Ukrainian SSR and develop Ukrainian-American civil society for “cold war and hot war” purposes, as stated by CIA declassified documents. 

Using CIA funds, Lebed and other members of the OUN-B created the Prolog Research Corporation, a New York-based research and publishing house that produced anti-Soviet nationalist propaganda in English and Ukrainian. The organization ceased operations in 1988 when the Bush administration ordered the CIA to cease funding Project Aerodynamic. Lebed then spent the latter decades of his life on the board of the Ukrainian Society of Foreign Studies in Munich and Toronto, ultimately dying in Pittsburgh in 1998, never facing justice for his participation in the Holocaust.

The fact of the matter is that the OUN-b never went away: it simply remained underground. The OUN and CUN had tasked the underground members to create and infiltrate Ukrainian diaspora civil society groups, using these institutions to pass on their political legacy to their children, all in the effort of the “independent Ukraine.” The OUN-b adapted to changing political conditions and was offered extensive resources by the U.S. government, bringing individuals who the USSR alleged to be terrorists into the daily lives of Ukrainian-Americans. This was particularly dangerous, as in addition to being well funded, they developed a centralized and culture-centered organizational style, a method that enabled the growth and credibility of Ukrainian-American civil society.

But the bulwark of Ukrainian nationalists’ efforts lies with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA). Since its inception on May 24th, 1940, the UCCA has functioned as a national umbrella organization, uniting the struggle for the independent Ukraine. 

In its ranks stand the Society of Veterans of Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the Ukrainian American Youth Association (UAYA), the Brotherhood of Veterans of the 1st-Division of the Ukrainian National Army, the Ukrainian-American Freedom Foundation (UAFF), the Center for U.S.-Ukraine Relations (CUSUR) and the Ukrainian American Educational Council (UAEC), all of which blatantly glorify Ukrainian Nazis and Ukraine’s collaboration with the German fascists as a means to win “independence from the Soviets.” Many of these groups were created and continue to be led by members of the underground OUN-b.

From its inception, under its ranks included diaspora groups founded by western Ukrainian nationalists like the Association of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen (veterans of the UNR) and the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, of which Bohachevsky-Chomiak is a member of. As stated in the UCCA’s “Milestones in History”, the purpose of the unification was to allow the organizations to “act in concert” and to “raise a meaningful voice in defense of our [their] ancestral homelands,” solidifying their role as part of the vanguard of Ukrainian nationalism abroad. 

Later, the organization lobbied heavily for the Displaced Persons Act, which opened pathways for Ukrainian migration into North America as they greatly opposed Ukrainian repatriation to the USSR, allowing them to create a broad, committed base of nationalists in the West. 

But it would not be until 1949, under the leadership of Lev Dobriansky, that the UCCA began to make influential ultra-nationalist advances in US-Ukraine politics.

In 1953, the UCCA created the Educational Council of the UCCA, which developed a curriculum for Saturday Schools for Ukrainian-American children to attend. These schools were designed as a tool of indoctrination that would use revisionist Ukrainian history to build national identity. This was done under the direction of Lev Dobriansky, a Ukrainian-American diplomat who became the chair of the UCCA in 1949.

Born in New York City in 1918, Dobriansky lived a career of staunch anti-communism, serving on the National Captive Nations Committee, an umbrella organization of emigres from socialist countries.  Then in 1960, Dobriansky testified in the before the House Un-American Activities Committee in support of establishing Holodomor as a man-made genocide led against the Ukrainian people, ultimately leading to U.S. recognition of the Holodomor. 

Dobriansky soon joined the underground OUN-b, expanding the organization’s work through the Anti-Communist Bloc of Nations, led by OUN-b Deputy Yaroslav Stetsko (who Dobriansky also assisted in immigrating to the U.S.). 

As an OUN leader, it was Stetsko who declared Ukrainian independence following the German invasion of the USSR. The OUN at this time believed their ideological brothers, the Nazi Party, would endorse an independent, anti-Soviet state. Instead, Stetsko and Bandera were arrested by German authorities. In the OUN-b  “Struggles and Activities”  Stetsko had declared Jews and Russians the enemies of the Ukrainian people, ordering patriotic Ukrainians to take violence against them, thus making collaboration in the Holocaust a duty for the OUN-b. 

Instead of facing justice for ordering massacres of the OUN-b’s “enemies,” Stetsko became a soldier for the U.S. in the Cold War alongside his colleague Dobriansky. Their tireless work for the OUN-b through the UCCA and other allied organizations fueled Cold War antagonism between the USSR and the U.S. while increasing financial support to Ukrainian nationalist organizations. 

According to researcher and analyst Moss Robeson, who studies the Banderite movement, as the nationalists continued their underground activities infiltrating organizations and assuming positions of power, the Ukrainian Liberation Front (an extension of the OUN-B) staged a “coup” within the UCCA in the 1980s. They have led the organization ever since. Members of the Ukrainian Liberation Front managed to climb their way up the ladder through other UCCA membership organizations including the Ukrainian-American Freedom Foundation and have overrun organizations sympathetic to their cause: national-socialist control over Ukraine.

In 2019, Robeson writes, an anonymous Ukrainian-American whistleblower filed a complaint with the New York State Attorney General’s office on the illegal activity of the underground OUN-b faction within UCCA member organizations like the ULF. The whistleblower would go on to claim fraud, embezzlement, and support for and organization of terrorist activities related to Ukraine’s war on Donbass. The complaint states that the Center for U.S.-Ukraine Relations and Ukrainian-American Freedom Foundation are hotbeds of anti-semitic fascists, who recruit from Ukrainian-American civil society groups and among young people via the Ukrainian American Youth Association (UAYA).

Source: The Ukrainian Weekly on UAYA Camp in Ellenville, NY holding red and black UPA flag

While the Ukrainian-American nonprofit industry has accelerated the nationalist takeover in Ukraine, it works in tandem with Ukrainian youth organizations that carry out fascist indoctrination. Together, these sectors have integrated civil society to a crusade of ethnic nationalism.

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