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Interned Without Cause, by Peter Krawchuk

13. THE ANTIFASCISTS

At the end of 1940 our group of antifascists comprised 39 men. Besides us in Kananaskis Internment Camp there were yet another 70 interned antifascists in Petawawa Internment Camp in Ontario, and a score or so antifascists sentenced to definite terms in various Canadian prisons.

In Kananaskis there were antifascists from Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. The absolute majority consisted of Ukrainians -- the leaders of the Ukrainian labour-farmer organizations and the editors of "The People's Gazette" and "Farmer's Life". Our group was genuinely international. It included Ukrainians John Naviziwsky, William Kolisnyk, Bill Repka, Andrew Bileski, Tony Bilecki, Myron Kostaniuk, Peter Prokop, Mathew Shatulsky, Philip Lysets, Nick Bidulka, John Stefanitsky, Nick Krechmarowsky, Tony Woytyshyn, John Dubno, John Protsak, Mike Biniowsky, Dmitri Nykyforiak, Jim Petrash, John Boychuk, *Nick Kashchak, Dennis Moysiuk, Tony Bayliuk, Mike Sawiak, John Weir, Peter Krawchuk; English-Canadians William Taylor, Pat Lenihan, Alex Miller, Fergus McKean, Robert Kerr, Archibald Gunn; Germans Jacob Penner and Ben Swankey; Jews Bill Rigby and Max Boitler; a Finn Bill Tuomi; a Swede Orton Wade; a Pole John Perozhak; a Hungarian George Balint.

Of course we were not all interned at the same time. The greatest number of antifascists were brought to camp on July 8 from Winnipeg. At that time antifascists Fergus McKean, Robert Kerr, Bill Rigby from Vancouver, Pat Lenihan from Calgary, John Naviziwsky and Jacob Penner from Winnipeg were already there. Almost every week from then on the police brought one or two antifascists to the camp. Consequently, our group continuously in-creased in size.

While the Germans were divided into many groupings (Catholics, Protestants, Nazis and "wildmen") which quarrelled amongst themselves, we were solidly united in a small, but nevertheless strong, collective.

As has already been mentioned the camp commandant ordered us antifascists placed in the same barracks as the Germans. However, a part of our group (12 men) almost violently occupied one barrack No. 57. It served as our headquarters where we gathered for our meetings, lectures and celebrations.

We had our own committee and funds. When our friends who were free sent money to one of us, the recipient turned it over to the treasurer who then divided it up equally in accordance with the committee's decision. The committee also apportioned equally foodstuffs and other items that were received. Money and foodstuffs which arrived from the organization in various localities were sent by private individuals, supposedly sisters, brothers, and nieces and nephews. Wives, children and brothers also sent money and parcels.

At general meetings various questions were discussed: the struggle for our rights, the recognition of our spokesman who would be distinct from that of the Germans, the separation of the antifascists from the Nazis into different barracks, our relationship with the Nazis and Italians, the planning of our political and cultural activities, the settlement of various disputes (should they occur) between individual antifascists. On Sundays our group's committee held meetings at which activities for all the antifascists were planned. The affairs of the choir, our illegal newspaper and contacts with people at liberty were discussed.

In camp we were a well organized group which was powerful enough to stand up for its rights and opinions in such a hostile mass of people as surrounded us on all sides. From the very first the German Nazis perceived that we would not yield to their pressure. True, they attempted several times to incite quarrels, but they always received an appropriate and firm rebuff. They saw that they were not dealing with the Italians, whom they could treat as their menials; we would never become their servants and toadies.

When deliberate provocation did not help them, the Nazis turned to other artifices. They would come up to us and say that a treaty of non-aggression existed between Germany and the USSR and so "we should be friends in camp". But all they got from us in return was a firm rebuke. We stated categorically that between Communism and Nazism there could never be ideological reconciliation. Communism would always be hostile to Nazism. The Soviet Union was a peaceful country. It was ready to sign a treaty of non-aggression with every country. But if someone dared to infringe upon the independence of the Soviet peoples he would receive such a thrashing that he scarcely would want to shove his swinish snout in a second time. With every opportunity we underlined our hatred of fascism and therefore decisively kept our distance from the Nazis. As an example of the irreconcilability of Communism and Nazism we would point out the fact that Ernst Thaelman, leader of the Communist Party of Germany, and tens of thousands of its members were suffering in the concentration camps of Hitler's Germany.

True we decided not to enter into arguments with the Nazis and were on guard against provocations since that could lead to unnecessary difficulties, considering that the Germans had too great a numerical advantage in camp. We decided to conduct ourselves properly in our daily affairs and at work with the Germans and Italians. This was, however, no easy matter. Even so, in the barracks, on the parade grounds during roll call and at work, arguments occasionally became heated. Relations became particularly sharp when the Hitlerite hordes attacked the Soviet Union. One tactless move on our part might have led to bloodshed.

A few Germans who considered themselves intellectuals approached us and, as if to excuse themselves, expressed "regret" that such a thing had happened. As they did so their Nazi colours showed through when they stated, "Russia has no chance, since no one has the power to hold back the Wehrmacht. It can not be defeated and will cut through Russian territory like a knife through butter," and in zwei Woche (two years). Then it would be all over.

In answer to their boasts we said that Nazism would not conquer the heroic Soviet people even in zwei Jahre (two years).

Continued...

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