(JTA) — A senior lecturer at Ukraine’s oldest and most prestigious state university called on the government to rename the city of Uman for a Nazi collaborator in response to Israel’s complaints about honoring such individuals.
Bohdan Bilinsky, associate professor of Building Structures and Bridges at the 205-year-old Lviv Polytechnic National University, proposed the honor for Stepan Bandera in a Facebook post on Friday, the Focus news site reported. Uman, a major site for Jewish pilgrims, should be called “Bandera City,” he said.
Bilinsky said every Ukrainian city should “name stations, ports and planes after Stepan Bandera,” a nationalist who for a time collaborated with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union. His troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.
“Maybe this evil spirit will stop coming to us,” Bilinsky wrote about criticism of honors to Bandera and other Nazi collaborators.
His proposal follows controversy over the naming this month of a stadium in Ternopil for Roman Shukhevych, another Nazi-allied militia leader.
Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion, protested the stadium naming on Twitter. But a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Twitter defended the country “preserving the national memory.” Oleg Nikolenko added this “remains one of the priorities of Ukraine’s state policy.”
It is “fully understandable” that Ternopil seeks to “honor those who fought against Soviet Communism,” wrote Efraim Zuroff, the Eastern Europe Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, but not those behind “the mass murder of innocent fellow citizens.”