Ukrainians dressed in Nazi SS uniform trudge through trenches and fire model rifles in a reconstruction of a key battle against the Soviets during World War II. An Orthodox priest leads a ceremony for fallen soldiers of the Nazi unit, sprinkling his blessing over several men sporting swastikas who lower a coffin in a ritual reburial.
The scenes were part of commemorations recently of soldiers who many Ukrainian nationalists – along with a smattering of hardcore ultra-rightists – hail as heroes. The men they are honoring belonged to the SS Galician division, a Nazi military unit made up mostly of Ukrainians, which fought Soviet troops during World War II.
More than 20 years since gaining independence from the Soviet Union, Ukraine remains painfully divided over the legacy of World War II and the actions of Ukrainian nationalist fighters, who are honored as heroes by some and condemned as traitors by others. Some of those fighters served under or cooperated with the Nazis, seeing a chance to overthrow the Soviet regime, while others fought both the Red Army and the Nazis.
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