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excerpt from the Interview with IGOR SHCHUPAK


Date of birth – 25 November, 1961

Place of birth – Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine

Interviewed - 31 October, 2016

Interviewer: Zoriana Kilyk

Video interview

Language - Ukrainian


· Doctor Igor Shchupak is a Jewish-Ukrainian born in Zaporizhia city, Ukraine on November 11, 1961 

· Dr. Shchupak's paternal grandparents worked on a Jewish collective farm during the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide, Holodomor, in the years 1932,1933; his grandfather Mykhailo also fought in the war for the Soviet army and later joined the partisan movement

· Dr. Shchupak attended the faculty of History at the National University in 1979, where he was the only Jewish student out of 110.

· Dr. Shchupak defended his PhD in Ukrainian History in the Zaporizhia National University in 1995. In 2002, he also received an equivalent PhD degree from the University of Toronto.

· From 1999, he took part in the creation of the "TKUMA" Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies.  In 2012 he was also involved in creating the museum MENORAH - the largest museum in all of Ukraine dedicated to Jewish history.

· Dr. Shchupak is currently working on his second PhD which is dedicated to Ukrainians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.

· He discusses the current outlooks of Ukrainian Jews and of the Ukrainian diaspora and the differences between Ukrainian Jews and Russian Jews and their respective mentalities.

· Dr. Shchupak's family moved to Canada when he and his brother were young boys,  but the family has maintained close ties to Ukraine. His mother, son, and brother's family currently live and works in Toronto. His son is a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design and collaborates on many projects with his father.

Excerpt from full interview:

It is very important, while learning about Jewish Ukrainian history of the Second World War, to think and make some conclusions with regard to general questions about human relationships, as well as, general conclusions of history lessons. Yes, history has not taught anyone anything, in the words of Santayana, but from another perspective, those who have not learned from history lessons, get punished by history. And for me it's very interesting to be working on the history of Ukraine, specifically, the history of the Jews of Ukraine.

At one point in Poland I saw a film, which was filmed there, about Poles who under the risk of death, saved Jews during the Holocaust. Terrifying pages of history, because in relation to Nazi racial politics, if a Dutchman saved a Jew, he would be arrested, sometimes even thrown into a prison camp, but he had a chance of surviving . If a Jew was saved by a Pole, Ukrainian, Russian or Belarusian – it's evident that the territories with the highest [German] occupancy were Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus - then, not only was the rescuer in danger, but also he created danger for his own children. When he was discovered, the Ukrainian was shot and destroyed, as well as, all of his children. Then what must be the motivation for a person to rescue others while creating risk for his own children and relatives?

I started working on this dilemma, the problem of world leaders, and the problem of rescuers, which is a larger issue, because not all Ukrainian Holocaust rescuers received honourary titles from Yad Vashem. And now I am writing another dissertation which is dedicated specifically to Ukrainian rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. This is my moral obligation, because after seeing the [Polish] film and the horrors of long ago, I asked myself if there exists a similar Ukrainian film?  No. Have Jews created a similar film with gratefulness to those heroes who risked their own lives in order to save others? No. And this is my duty. Of course, the most popular questions and obstacles have to do with collaboration. [Those individuals] begin with posing questions with respect to collaboration - “What about Ukrainian collaborators? What about Ukrainian killers of Jews? What about this and that?” There is a feeling that other topics don’t exist. The fact of the matter is that these topics do exist. It is very important to bring them up and I bring them up, but it's only one side of the story. It has come down to such [a level] that Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, a Jewish scholar, said: “Dear people, it looks like you are not interested in other topics, such as history of culture, history of art, history of human relations, only in the subject of who killed who. Do you not have any other concerns?”. I’ll say it again, all sensitive matters need to be discussed, but you must show the whole picture as it appeared in the past.

Were the killers and torturers of Jews amongst the Ukrainian nationalists? We must speak about it. Were there bystanders? We must speak about it. Were there Ukrainian nationalists who saved Jews? We must speak about it. Were there Jews amongst Ukrainian nationalist organizations? We must speak about it. Whether there was a higher number on one side [or the other] and what was the motivation, we must address it. But, up to this day on the world scale of historiography, there is no research and no dissertation with significant findings to  answer the important question: “What was the motivation of people who not only risked their lives, but the lives of close relatives in order to save others?”

I started to research the occurrences of rescue [of Jews] amongst territories. Eastern and southern territories [of Ukraine] had significantly less occurrences of rescue than central and western areas. And the west of Ukraine is presented as nationalistic, xenophobic and such. The next question is: “Who most likely rescued [Jews], the intellectuals?” No, for the most part it was average people from the village, workers, etc. And what about  the religious backgrounds of the rescuers, those who praised Lenin from the Communist Party, or Christians? It is evident that there was a large number of Christians. And how many of them were Protestant, and how many Greek-Catholics? And on the nationalist level, etc? It is unbelievably interesting material, and I am working in this field right now.

Z. What is the goal of your Institute ?

The main goal of the Ukrainian Institute of Learning about the Holocaust “TKUMA” is to keep the historical memory alive, upon which Jewish Ukrainian self identity is formed.


Website of the TKUMA Ukrainian Institute of Holocaust Studies in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine.

The interviews can be accessed at the UCRDC. Please contact us at: office@ucrdc.org