Polish official criticises Canada for honouring Ukrainian with Nazi links

Pawel Jablonski said: "It is completely inappropriate to pay tribute to people who have links with Nazi German forces." Radek Pietruszka/PAP

A Polish deputy foreign minister has criticised the Canadian parliament for honouring a Ukrainian man living in Canada who fought for a Nazi military unit during World War Two.

Pawel Jablonski told PAP on Monday: "It is completely inappropriate to pay tribute to people who have links with Nazi German forces." 

The speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, Anthony Rota, paid tribute to Yaroslav Hunka after a speech delivered by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky before the Canadian Parliament on Friday.

"This really looks bad when such persons either receive high distinctions or are being received with honours," Jablonski said, referring to a situation in which Rota described the 98-year old Hunka, who served in a Nazi unit during World War Two, as a hero of Ukraine and Canada.

During the Second World War, Hunka served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a unit of the Waffen-SS, a Nazi military branch responsible for the murder of Jews and Poles, among other nationalities.

Rota on Sunday apologized for praising Hunka. 

Jablonski said that "such situations should never occur."

Asked whether the Polish Foreign Ministry planned to take steps regarding the incident, Jablonski said that "this is, above all, a matter between Ukraine and Canada."

"This incident took place during a visit of the Ukrainian president to Canada's parliament, and it is these two countries which should draw conclusions," the deputy minister answered.

"On Friday, Canadian and Ukrainian leaders honoured a member of the Waffen SS Galizien, a Ukrainian unit responsible for murdering thousands of Poles and Jews during WWII," Poland's Ambassador to Canada Witold Dzielski wrote on X.  

"Poland is the best ally Ukraine has. We will never allow a situation in which such villains are being whitewashed," the ambassador said, adding that he was awaiting an apology.

Welcome to The First News weekly newsletter

Every Friday catch up on our editor’s top pick of news about Poland, including politics, business, life and culture. To receive your free email subscription, sign up today.