The Snake from his Lair: The Bloody Legacy of Stepan Bandera

* Nazi “hero” of Ukrainian nationalists murdered 100,000 Poles
* The Banderites’ unspeakable torture and mass murder of civilians
* US supports neo-Nazis resurrecting Bandera’s reign of terror

Deborah L. Armstrong
12 min readJul 1, 2022
“The Snake From His Lair.” Ukrainian poem. Photo credit: Public domain

“The Snake from his Lair”

Do you recognize this snake?
The bloody devouring beast is crawling.
His protection is a spidery sign,
His name is Stepan Bandera.

His name is Judas, Cain.
These are the deeds of his snaky hands:
Fires and blazes over our land,
The spilled blood of innocent children.

And the people stood up to defend.
The country gave its verdict:
To crush the serpent in his lair
And pull out his sting and fangs.

The above poem, written in Ukrainian on a poster in the years following World War Two, provides only dark glimpses of a time many in this age appear to have forgotten.

Generations after the end of that bloody war, which claimed an estimated 27 million Soviet lives, the fangs of the murderous Nazi, Stepan (or Stefan, or Stephan) Bandera maintain their venomous grip on Ukraine.

Even Bandera’s Wikipedia page, at the time of this writing, still notes that Bandera, a leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), was a mass murderer, though his devotees, the Banderites, seem to be doing all they can to scrub information about his pogroms from the internet.

Screen-print of Stepan Bandera’s Wikipedia page.

Indeed, today Bandera is practically worshipped by Ukrainian nationalists, who have named streets after him and erected statues in his honor, in some cases on the very pedestals where statues once memorialized the Soviets who gave their lives driving the Nazis back to Berlin. Bandera’s cold eyes even gaze out from Ukrainian postage stamps, a fact not missed by purveyors of internet memes.

Ukrainian postage stamp featuring Bandera, used in a meme.
Statue of Bandera in Ukraine. Photo Credit: The Times of Israel

This may not mean much to you if you are American or even western European. But to those in many former Soviet republics whose grandparents and great-grandparents sacrificed everything to rid the land of Bandera’s ilk, and to Jewish descendants of Holocaust survivors, the honoring of this Nazi collaborator said to be responsible for the mass murder of 100,000 people in Poland is offensive beyond words.

The poorly-reasoned argument that “Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is a Jew, so how can he be a Nazi,” is a figurative slap in the face of Jews outraged about the resurrection of Nazi heroes in Ukraine. A simple cursory search on Google reveals reams of horrified headlines in Israeli media concerning the rise of nationalism in Ukraine and the honoring of Bandera and other Nazi leaders.

In 1941, Bandera mobilized Ukrainian troops, outfitted them in standard Wehrmacht infantry uniforms with the blue and yellow ribbon of Ukraine on their shoulders, and followed them as they rolled into Poland on June 22, 1941, launching Operation Barbarossa.

And that was only the beginning of Bandera’s reign of terror.

Polish victims of a massacre committed by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the village of Lipniki, Wołyń, 1943. Photo credit: Public domain

Between 1943 and 1945, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (abbreviated UPA in Ukrainian) slaughtered thousands of Poles in towns and villages throughout Wołyń, a region in Nazi-occupied Poland that is now part of present-day Ukraine.

It’s estimated that during this period, more than 100,000 Poles died at the hands of radical Ukrainian separatists, members of Bandera’s OUN and its military arm, the UPA. Their goal was simple: Eradicate all non-Ukrainians from future Ukrainian lands.

On June 16th, 1944, the UPA attacked a train carrying women and children. Few survived. Photo credit: IPN
Victims of the train attack taken away to be buried. Photo credit: KARTA Center

The most horrific genocidal massacre, known as “Bloody Sunday,” was carried out on July 11, 1943 when right at dawn, Ukrainian insurgent detachments, aided by local Ukrainians, simultaneously surrounded and attacked 99 Polish villages in the Kowel, Włodzimierz Wołyński, Horochów and Łuck districts. They brutally slaughtered Polish civilians and destroyed their homes.

Whole villages were burned to the ground and property was looted. Investigators estimate that as many as 8,000 people — mostly women, children, and elderly — were killed on that day alone.

Their remains are still being found today.

The remains of an estimated 300 people were found by archaeologists in 2011 at a mass grave in the village of Ostówek in Ukraine where they were massacred in 1943 by the UPA. Photo credit: Darek Delmanowicz/PAP

And it didn’t end there.

It didn’t even end when Hitler’s armies withdrew in 1944.

The mass murders continued. Between 1943 and 1945, Poles were murdered in 1,865 different places in the Wołyń region. Hundreds of Poles were murdered in each of the communities of Wola Ostrowiecka, Gaj, Ostrówki and Kolodno.

The murders were carried out with shocking brutality. People were burned alive or thrown into wells. Axes, pitchforks, scythes, knives and other farming tools were used instead of guns to make the massacres look like spontaneous peasant uprisings.

The Ukrainians tortured their victims with a cruelty scarcely imaginable. People were scalped. Their noses, lips and ears were chopped off. Their eyes were gouged out, hands cut off, heads squashed in vices. Women’s breasts were sliced off and pregnant women were bayonetted in the belly. Men’s genitals were cruelly hacked off with sickles.

The Polish “Association of Memory of Victims of Crimes of Ukrainian Nationalists” (SUOZUN) is putting together a forensic reconstruction of the events surrounding the Wołyń Massacre. The evidence they have collected is shocking, revealing children that were run through with stakes, people’s throats sliced open, their tongues pulled out through their necks. People sawn in half with a carpenter’s saw. A child nailed to a door.

One woman, in an advanced stage of pregnancy, had her abdomen cut open, the fetus removed and replaced with a live cat, which was sewn inside of her. Another pregnant woman’s uterus was cut open and filled with broken glass.

According to some Polish historians, even the German butchers were shocked by these atrocities and began to protect the Poles from the Ukrainian “axe.”

The bloody frenzy of torture and murder continued well after the Nazis had left the region, only now the Ukrainian militants attacked citizens of Soviet Ukraine, specialists such as agronomists, engineers, doctors, and teachers sent in by the government to restore the republic after the war. Though the majority of these people were ethnic Ukrainians, the nationalists killed them and any villagers who cooperated with them.

These atrocities were ordered by the head of the UPA, a former Wehrmacht captain named Roman Shukhevich, who is now idolized by many Ukrainians. “The OUN should act so that all those who recognized the Soviet government are destroyed. Not intimidated, but physically destroyed! Do not be afraid that people will curse us for cruelty. Let half of the 40 million Ukrainian population remain — there is nothing terrible in this,” he wrote.

Wołyń is a region that was once part of Nazi-occupied Poland and is now part of present-day Ukraine. Photo credit: Public domain
Stepan Bandera. Photo Credit: Public domain
Polish President Andrzej Duda lays a wreath at the Wołyń Massacre memorial in Warsaw, 2019. Photo credit: Tomasz Gzell/PAP

In July of 2019, Polish President Andrzej Duda laid a wreath at the Wołyń Massacre memorial in Warsaw and gave a speech about the future of Polish-Ukrainian relations:

“If we are talking today about the building of relations between our nations, between the Polish and Ukrainian people, between our states — and let me stress here, that we want […] these to be the best possible relations — there is one thing known for sure. We need remembrance so that what happened then, will never repeat itself between our nations and our people.”

He added: “The Ukrainian side should permit the exhumations, which are necessary to mark the graves, so that the descendants [of victims] can know the places, where they can go to light a candle. And this is the condition under which the massacre could be commemorated in Wołyń.”

Bandera’s Vile Legacy Continues

Ukrainian nationalists today are not exhuming the victims of Bandera, they are resurrecting Bandera himself, perpetuating his sadistic crimes upon the blood-stained fields and communities of Eastern Ukraine.

Russian media and independent journalists have reported a wide range of atrocities committed against Russian-speaking civilians and Roma people as well as the tortures inflicted upon Russian prisoners of war.

There is video evidence of Russian captives screaming in pain as they are shot in the legs and left to bleed out and die with no medical assistance. One Russian soldier was crucified and then burned alive. The luckier ones have returned to Russian-controlled lands bearing the scars of their torture, like swastikas carved or burned into their flesh, and nightmarish memories which will never fully fade away.

The footage of these atrocities is only shocking to those unfamiliar with the brutal and inhumane tactics of the Banderites, who are picking up from where they left off in the 1950’s after the Soviet occupation of Ukraine forced their movement underground.

Civilians in the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk have been struggling for independence from their Banderite overlords since 2014, when the coup known as Maidan tore Ukraine apart. The Russian-speaking population which makes up the majority in the region known as the Donbas, in Eastern Ukraine, have been under attack for eight years by the neo-Nazis in Western Ukraine, who spread the ideology of Bandera and the Nazis, with support from the United States and other NATO countries.

If you want evidence of US involvement, there is no lack of that to be found. You can begin with the leaked conversation, intercepted by Russian intelligence, of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, where they plan the Maidan coup as casually as you might plan a dinner party.

Western media reacted to Victoria’s explosive comment, “Fuck the EU,” but ignored the real meat of the conversation, which was the naming of the puppet leaders subsequently installed in Kiev.

And there was certainly nothing casual about the bloodletting inflicted on minorities of Ukraine once the Banderites seized power.

Anti-government protesters clash with police at Independence Square on February 19, 2014 in Kiev. Photo credit: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

The initial Maidan protests were violent and terrifying. Video footage and photographs from the so-called “Revolution of Dignity” show police bullied and attacked, in some cases shielded by medics who were trying to prevent the mob from massacring them. A TV channel captured another medic, a supporter of the revolutionaries, refusing to allow people to call an ambulance for a police officer who had lost an eye in the fighting.

Kiev journalist Sergey Rulev described his brutal torture at the hands of the Banderites:

“Four people beat me. There was a woman in a headscarf with them, who kicked me in the groin without saying a word. Then they dragged me to the occupied Ministry of Agriculture, where they searched me, took away my documents, a press pass, accreditation to the Verkhovna Rada, business cards, two phones, and two cameras. When they dragged me back to Khreshchatyk, I started screaming and calling for help. I fell to the ground and was kicked again, but no one reacted. At about noon, I was dragged into the burned-out House of Trade Unions. In the lobby, I was immediately beaten up. In the courtyard, unknown people in camouflage fatigues bound my hands, stripped me to my underwear, and continued to beat me… After that, the four of them pinned me to the floor, injected something into my arm again, and said, ‘Now you’re going to talk to us, bitch! Which special services do you work for?’”

While he was tied up, a woman began ripping out Sergey’s nails with pliers. He later identified her as Amina Okuyeva, a medic in the “Eighth Hundred” who was later awarded the title “People’s Hero of Ukraine,” after she joined what Ukrainian nationalists refer to as the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” and fought for the neo-Nazi Kiev-2 and Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalions.

Young people take part in a nationalist march on Stepan Bandera’s 109th birthday, in Lvov. Photo Credit: Sputnik/Stringer

From the first days of its existence, horror stories emerged about the so-called “Anti-Terrorist Operation” and atrocities committed by the Banderites in Donbas. Though authorities and media ignored these stories at first, eventually the cries of international human rights organizations could no longer be silenced and some of the most egregious cases had reached the courts.

Though there were some convictions in those days, a lot of people got away with serious crimes on the grounds that they were “Patriots of Ukraine.” For example, a “Right Sector” nationalist named Sergey Sternenko who was convicted of abducting one man and killing another, had his seven-year sentence reduced to one year probation on the merits of his “patriotism.”

Given this climate, it’s not surprising that 48 people were burned alive in the Trade Union Building in Odessa in May of 2014. And those responsible still await justice.

Perhaps the most horrifying crime committed by the Banderites was the creation of a “prison” in the refrigerator of the airport in Mariupol in June of 2014, which jailers referred to as “the library.” Inside, residents of Mariupol were raped, beaten or tortured to death if they were suspected of harboring any sympathies for Russia or the unrecognized republics in Donbas. The “library” was run by members of “Right Sector” and “Svoboda” (Freedom) party. One of them named Yuri Mikhalchishin, a nationalist who goes by the pseudonym “Nahtigal88” (referring to the letters “HH,” denoting Heil Hitler), openly asserts that he has followed the teachings of Mein Kampf since he was 16.

The United States’ decades-long support of the Banderites

The US political agenda in Ukraine is no secret. You can read all about it in a study produced by RAND Corporation, a DC think-tank which explored how NATO could over-extend Russia by applying economic sanctions and using Ukraine, Syria and other countries to stage proxy wars. You can download the extensive 354-page study for free, directly from RAND Corp’s site, or you can download the 12-page briefing here.

Cover of the RAND Corporation briefing “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia.” Photo credit: RAND Corp.
An excerpt from the RAND Corporation briefing “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia.” Photo credit: RAND Corp.

Bear in mind that this study was published in 2019, well before Russia began its “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine in February of this year, and yet it explores the possibilities of providing lethal aid to Ukraine.

But US support of neo-Nazis in Ukraine goes back much further, to the years following World War Two. And you can find the evidence of that on the CIA’s own website.

Secret documents declassified in 2007 tell of the Banderites’ association with the CIA in the years following the war, of the CIA’s early interest in retaining Bandera as an asset followed by their eventual discard. His followers’ blatant loyalty to the recently-defeated Nazis of the Third Reich was a political millstone around the CIA’s neck, which in those days was not as robust and muscular as it is now, to brazenly support neo-Nazis in Ukraine.

The entire sordid story of the CIA’s affair with Bandera is encapsulated in a thirty-three-page “draft working paper,” which is great late-night reading if you enjoy having nightmares about Nazis.

I leave you with the following screen prints taken from that document, and I will continue this investigative report on Stepan Bandera in my next article.

To be continued…

About the author:
Deborah Armstrong currently writes about geopolitics with an emphasis on Russia. She previously worked in local TV news in the United States where she won two regional Emmy Awards. In the early 1990’s, Deborah lived in the Soviet Union during its final days and worked as a television consultant at Leningrad Television.