UCCA’s Statement Honoring the Occasion of the 70th anniversary of Ukraine’s Declaration of Restored Independence – June 30, 1941
30 June 2011
June 30th marks the 70th Anniversary of the courageous restoration of an independent Ukrainian state. On this day in 1941, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), under the leadership of Stepan Bandera, proclaimed the formation of an independent Ukrainian state and elected Yaroslav Stetsko as the new Prime Minister.
In 1941 Ukraine found itself in the midst of the Second World War, caught between two bitter rivals and totalitarian states, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. As the Soviet forces fled Ukraine ahead of the German invasion, Ukrainian patriots hoped that the invading German forces would respect the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in which Germany formally recognized Ukrainian statehood. Thus, Stetsko entered Lviv with the Germans on June 30, and declared from the balcony of the Prosvita Building in Lviv, before thousands of people, that “By the will of the Ukrainian people OUN (B) under the direction of Stepan Bandera proclaims the formation of the Ukrainian State for which whole generations of the finest sons of Ukraine have laid down their lives…”
Hitler and the Nazis, however, reacted harshly to the declaration and on July 12, 1941, arrested Stetsko and demanded that Bandera immediately revoke the proclamation. When Bandera refused, he too was arrested and was sent to a concentration camp in Germany where he remained until 1944. Days after the Germans invaded the city of Lviv they disbanded the new government and within two years of the declaration, the Nazi had imprisoned or killed 80% of the OUN leadership. After the war, Soviet propaganda attempted to paint the leaders of OUN(B) as Nazi collaborators. The fact that most of the leadership was either imprisoned or executed by the very regime they were supposedly collaborating with was never explained by the Soviets.
The courageous Proclamation of June 30, 1941 continues to be a glorious testament to the unbending will of the Ukrainian nation in its epic struggle for independence, and its fight against Russian and Soviet tyranny. The proclamation, though short-lived, is an important link in a long chain of events that defines the essence of freedom as demonstrated by the Ukrainian national resistance and the heroic efforts of the Ukrainian people to live freely in their own land.
On this 70th anniversary of the June 30, 1941 Proclamation of restored Independence of Ukraine may we remember the struggles and sacrifices of our forefathers in the name of freedom and may we always honor this courageous deed as a solid foundation of our independence.