The University of Alberta has made the decision to close an endowment fund named after a Ukrainian veteran of the Nazi-affiliated Waffen SS, Yaroslav Hunka, following controversy and international embarrassment. The fund, established with a $30,000 donation from Hunka’s family in 2019, was shut down just hours after Russian diplomats exposed the connection between Hunka and the school.
The revelation came after Hunka received standing ovations from Canadian lawmakers during Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s visit to the parliament, leading to outrage and calls for accountability. It was later discovered that Hunka fought on the side of the Nazis during World War II, causing significant fallout and ultimately resulting in the resignation of House Speaker Anthony Rota.
Russia’s ambassador to Canada, Oleg Stepanov, disclosed Hunka’s link to the University of Alberta and publicized the connection on social media. Shortly after, the university issued an apology and announced the closure of the endowment fund. University provost Verna Yiu expressed regret for the unintended harm caused and stated that the school is in the process of revising its general naming policies and procedures to ensure alignment with their values.
The closure of the Hunka endowment was met with approval from organizations such as the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), who have been advocating for the removal of similar endowments at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies named after members of the Waffen SS. FSWC official Dan Panneton commended the university’s decision but also highlighted that the issue goes beyond the Hunka fund. Panneton claimed that even a former chancellor of the university, Peter Savaryn, was a member of the notorious Ukrainian Nazi unit.
This revelation further underscores the deep-rooted Nazi connections within the University of Alberta. Panneton called for acknowledgment of this history and urged the university to address and confront its ties to the Waffen SS unit. Monuments in Edmonton, Alberta, honoring the Waffen SS and Ukrainian nationalist Roman Shukhevich, whose Nazi unit massacred Jews during World War II, have also attracted criticism from FSWC. The organization believes that these monuments memorialize individuals complicit in the genocide of millions.
The closure of the Hunka endowment fund is a step towards addressing the controversy and holding institutions accountable for their associations with Nazi affiliates. However, it also highlights the need for further examination of the University of Alberta’s historical connections to the Waffen SS and the importance of removing monuments that glorify individuals involved in the Holocaust. As the fallout continues, it is expected that more attention will be brought to the university’s past and calls for action will persist.