Family Ties: How a Ukrainian Nazi and a living Jewish witness link Canada to Ukraine today

by Peter McFarlane

Award winning author Peter McFarlane exposes the ignored and little known history of Ukrainian Nazis settling in Canada.

The standing ovation accorded in 2023 to a Second World War Ukrainian Nazi unit veteran in Canada’s House of Commons shocked Canadians – and the world. Author Peter McFarlane was not surprised. He had already spent three years learning about two people, Mikael Chomiak and Ann Charney, whose parallel lives during and after that war highlight the complex and disturbing story of Ukraine and Canada’s  post-war Ukrainian Canadian community. 

Ann Charney was two years old when she and her Jewish mother evaded their certain death by hiding out in a hayloft in the Ukrainian countryside. Ann spent two long years in that attic. She and her mother survived the war, and ultimately made their way to Montreal. There, Ann has had a brilliant career as a novelist and journalist. 

Mikael Chomiak spent the war working for the German SS as the editor of an influential Ukrainian newspaper celebrating Hitler and promoting antisemitism. He and his family were easily accepted as postwar immigrants to Canada, settling in Alberta. There he continued his work as a writer and editor, avoiding public expressions of his antisemitic views or his wartime record.

In this book Peter McFarlane tells the stories of these two during the war, and afterwards. He brings their stories up to date through research in Ukraine today.  When he visits Chomiak’s relatives in Ukraine, he finds the themes of ethnic hatred and antisemitism strongly in play today in public support for the war with Russia. Canadian descendants of pro-Nazi Ukrainians often do not acknowledge this connection of past to present. Mikael Chomiak’s granddaughter Chrystia Freeland has a lead role in government as a senior federal cabinet minister. Like many others, she remains in denial about her grandfather’s role promoting the Nazis’ policies and the Holocaust in Ukraine. 

Visiting Ann Charney’s home town of Brody, Peter McFarlane finds that the local history museum celebrating Ukrainian Nazi soldiers while saying nothing about their Holocaust role, executing the town’s 10,000 Jewish residents, including all of Ann’s family and relatives. 

This book provides context and background for understanding the complex dynamics behind the war between Ukraine and Russia, and Canada’s role in that conflict.

About the Author

PETER MCFARLANE is a Canadian author, journalist, editor and arts administrator.  His first book was Northern Shadows: Canadians and Central America. He has since published numerous articles and edited countless books including award winning titles such as: Unsettling Canada, Reconciliation Manifesto, In the Black and Fight and Submit. He served as Chair of the Writers Union of Canada in 1998-99 and has worked as a manager for arts organizations. He lives in the Laurentians north of Montreal.

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