Polish Minister of Education, Przemyslaw Czarnek, has announced plans to seek the extradition of Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian-Canadian who fought for the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS during World War II. Hunka was recently honored in the Canadian Parliament, sparking controversy and international backlash.
The 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, also known as the 1st Galician Division, was formed by Nazi Germany and consisted mostly of Western Ukrainians. This division took part in numerous atrocities against Russian, Polish, and Jewish civilians during the war. Despite this dark history, Hunka received a standing ovation during the ceremony in the House of Commons after being introduced as a hero who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians.
In response to the scandalous events, Minister Czarnek took to social media to express his intention to pursue the extradition of Hunka to Poland. He also appealed to Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance to urgently examine whether Hunka is wanted for crimes against the Polish nation and Poles of Jewish origin.
However, Canadian Attorney General Arif Virani stated that he had not seen any extradition request from Poland. He emphasized that the extradition process is sensitive and that producing the document would jeopardize the ongoing investigation. Virani declined to comment further until the request was officially received.
The celebration of Hunka in the Canadian Parliament drew widespread criticism, particularly from the Jewish community. The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed their appallment, while The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs condemned the whitewashing of crimes committed by Ukrainians during the Holocaust.
The controversy also caught the attention of the Russian and Polish foreign ministries. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Ottawa of abusing the memory of Nazi victims and engaging in unbridled Russophobia. Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk called for charges against Hunka and urged then-Speaker Anthony Rota to step down due to a lack of diligence and historical knowledge.
In response to the backlash, Rota issued a public apology and later resigned from his position. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that the controversy was deeply embarrassing for Canada.
The extradition request by Poland has yet to materialize, and the matter remains a sensitive issue between the two countries. As the investigation continues, the international community will closely watch the developments surrounding the potential extradition of Yaroslav Hunka to Poland to face charges related to his involvement in the SS during World War II.