Poland Could Try to Extradite the Ukrainian Nazi Veteran Who Was Praised in Canada

A tribute and standing ovation to 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka in Canada’s parliament has sparked global condemnation and led to the resignation of parliament’s speaker.
Yaroslav Hunka
Yaroslav Hunka was hailed as a hero in Canada's parliament last week, despite fighting with an SS division that served under Nazi command.

Poland is looking at extraditing a Ukrainian Nazi veteran who was hailed as a hero in Canada’s parliament, sparking widespread outrage and prompting the resignation of parliament’s speaker Anthony Rota.

The scandal ignited after a visit by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to a special session of Canada’s parliament on Friday. During the session, Rota hailed 98-year-old Canadian-Ukrainian Yaroslav Hunka – whom he had invited to attend as his guest – as a hero for his wartime acts fighting Russia, prompting a standing ovation from those present.


But it subsequently emerged Hunka had fought with the 14th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, a unit of mostly ethnic Ukrainian volunteers that served under Nazi command during World War II. 

The division has been accused of the mass murder of Polish and Jewish citizens.

Following widespread condemnation over the embarrassing incident, Rota resigned on Tuesday, having initially resisted calls to step down.

"I reiterate my profound regret,” he said in parliament, stressing that he had been unaware of Hunka’s Nazi ties and that inviting him had been a mistake.

Meanwhile, a Polish government minister said on Tuesday that he had initiated a bid to potentially extradite Hunka, by asking a Polish state body to investigate whether the 98-year-old was wanted for “crimes against the Polish nation or Poles of Jewish origin.”

Przemysław Czarnek, education minister in Poland’s right-wing populist government, published a letter on social media that he had sent to the head of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), a state historical body with prosecutorial powers, stating that such crimes would “constitute grounds for applying to Canada for his extradition.”

“In view of the scandalous events in the Canadian parliament, which involved honouring, in the presence of President Zelenskyy, a member of the criminal Nazi SS Galizien formation, I have taken steps towards the possible extradition of this man to Poland,” he wrote.


According to the IPN, Hunka’s division was responsible for the massacre of about 850 ethnic Poles in the village of Huta Pieniacka.

In 2017, prosecutors from the IPN requested the extradition from the United States of another member of Hunka’s SS division. But the former soldier died two years later, aged 100, before his extradition could occur.

The incident has sparked widespread condemnation, and prompted Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to say on Monday that it was "extremely upsetting that this happened."

"This is something that is deeply embarrassing to the parliament of Canada and by extension to all Canadians," he told reporters.

The Friends Of Simon Wiesenthal Center For Holocaust Studies, a Canadian non-profit focused on Holocaust education and combating antisemitism, said the unfortunate episode had also handed “a propaganda victory to Russia, distracting from what was a momentously significant display of unity between Canada and Ukraine.”