Buffalo, Where the Banderites Roam

The OUN-B in "The City of Good Neighbors"

Ukrainian Home Dnipro, Buffalo, New York. On the bottom left is a portrait of Roman Shukhevych, a Nazi collaborator, ethnic cleanser, and OUN-B leader who commanded the Ukrainian Insurgent Army

Long story short: what remains of Stepan Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B) in the United States owns the “Dnipro” Ukrainian Cultural Center—a.k.a. Ukrainian Home Dnipro—in Buffalo, New York, a cornerstone of its Ukrainian community. To be more precise, the three-story building pictured above belongs to the Ukrainian American Freedom Foundation (UAFF), an OUN-B “facade structure” ostensibly headquartered in Manhattan but rooted in Buffalo. The UAFF is also a co-owner of the OUN-B’s Ukrainian headquarters building.

To get some substantiated rumors and informed speculation out of the way: I strongly suspect that the UAFF building in Buffalo, formerly known as “Orioles Hall,” was the birthplace of the Nazi German American Bund. Walter Zaryckyj, the UAFF president, is allegedly the U.S. leader of the OUN-B. Paul Bandriwsky, a Chicago banker, appears to be the most important OUN-B member in the Midwestern United States. Bandriwsky, however, hails from Buffalo, where his brother Emil seems to be the OUN-B’s point man as the treasurer of the Dnipro Ukrainian Center. That all being said, let’s stick to the facts, and start at the beginning.

Buffalo is the second largest city in New York State and sits on the Canadian border, roughly a two hours drive from Toronto, which years ago eclipsed the much more distant New York City as an international coordinating center for the OUN-B. Buffalo’s first Ukrainian community center, the Narodnij Dim (People’s House), was built in the early 20th century, well before the founding of the fascistic Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in 1929. Today it’s called the Ukrainian American Civic Center (UACC).

The UACC was eventually eclipsed by Ukrainian Home Dnipro, established in 1955 following the arrival of nationalist emigres to Buffalo from western Ukraine, many of whom undoubtedly supported or sympathized with the Nazis, if only until it became impossible to entertain fantasies about Hitler liberating Ukraine. Dmytro Bandriwsky (1912-1998) was a founding member of the Dnipro Ukrainian Center and possibly the OUN. In any case, he swore allegiance to the OUN-B and was just two years older than the building itself.

The “Orioles Hall,” built in 1914, reportedly at the behest of “prominent German business leaders” in Buffalo, originally served as the national headquarters of the Fraternal Order of Orioles, which was apparently a German American organization. The building functioned as a German social hall until, according to Dmytro Bandriwsky’s son Emil, “It was seized by the U.S. government during WWII, changed hands and we bought it from the City of Buffalo foreclosure auction in 1955.” He didn’t offer an explanation why the building was seized.

The German American Bund, like its predecessor the Friends of New Germany, is most well known for the Nazi rally it held in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in the 1930s. The Bund was founded in March 1936 at a secretive two-day conclave held somewhere in Buffalo. It’s evidently an open secret that “Orioles Hall,” located at 526 Genesee Street, was the site of pro-Nazi rallies in the lead-up to World War II. In 1977, a newsletter by the Buffalo Workers’ Movement referenced the “mass rallies in support of Hitler and Fascism” staged by the “German American Bund on Genesee Street.” In 2011, when a Buffalo-based company held at least its third ghost-hunting event in the Dnipro Ukrainian Center, it advertised the building’s history of “Nazi Germany rallies” on the flyer.

Buffalo also has a history of summertime OUN-B rallies, attended by thousands of Ukrainians from both sides of the Canadian border in 1950-72. The annual tradition, sponsored by the “Organizations of the Ukrainian Liberation Front” (i.e. OUN-B front groups), subsequently moved south to Ellenville, a small town roughly ninety miles north of New York City that is home to the main summer camp of the OUN-B affiliated Ukrainian American Youth Association. The Buffalo branch of the Banderite youth group is based out of Ukrainian Home Dnipro.

Stepan Bandera’s OUN-B, which collaborated with Nazi Germany and officially employed the fascist salute in 1941-42, spearheaded the Cold War-era Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN)—for my go-to description, I defer to Scott and Jon Lee Anderson: “the largest and most important umbrella for former Nazi collaborators in the world.” The multi-ethnic ABN, headquartered in Munich and led for life by Bandera’s deputy Yaroslav Stetsko, made its presence felt in Buffalo by the early 1950s. Stetsko, a fascist ideologue, Nazi collaborator, war criminal, and vicious antisemite, first visited the United States in 1958. That June he spoke to a packed audience of Buffalonians in the new Dnipro Ukrainian Center about the impossibility of peaceful coexistence with—and political evolution within—Soviet Russia.

The following year, the ABN-linked Captive Nations Week was born, thanks in no small part to a Buffalo native, Edward M. O’Connor, a former member of the U.S. government’s Displaced Persons Commission who rewrote the rules to make it easier for some Nazi collaborators to emigrate to the United States. It’s safe to say that O’Connor was a longtime friend of the OUN-B and ABN. For starters, he spoke at the 1958 congress of the American Friends of the ABN, which he became the honorary president of shortly before his death. In 1966, O’Connor spoke at an OUN-B banquet marking the 25th anniversary of its attempt to form a pro-Nazi government led by Yaroslav Stetsko in German-occupied western Ukraine. (I could go on but you get the idea.)

Nestor Procyk was a key member of the OUN-B and ABN in the United States. He and his wife Dasha moved to Buffalo in 1955, the year the Dnipro Ukrainian Center was established. When he died in 1973, the ABN Correspondence mourned him as “one of the most outstanding members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) from the time of its founding, a member of the OUN Executive, and a leader of OUN headquarters in various countries in different periods of its revolutionary activity.” Dasha Procyk, also an OUN-B member, stepped up after her husband’s death, chairing the Western New York Captive Nations Committee, the Buffalo chapter of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, and the UAFF, among other things.

“There has been no reform,” Nestor Procyk Jr. wrote to the Buffalo News in 1989 in a letter titled, “Soviet Union isn’t any better off under Gorbachev than it was before.” Two years later, the USSR broke up into 15 countries, including Ukraine. Nestor Jr. by comparison claimed the Soviet “Russian empire” comprised “over 100 nations.” In 1988, the Soviet Ambassador to the U.S. visited Buffalo. According to the Buffalo News, he “deflected sharp questions from Ukrainian nationalists and generally won over an audience with his diplomacy if not always his answers,” going “toe-to-toe” with Emil Bandriwsky and Nestor Procyk Jr. in particular.

It’s unclear to me whatever happened to the younger Nestor Procyk. It could be a coincidence, but the pastor of Buffalo’s St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church is also a Procyk who cooperates with the Banderites. Of the Banderite families in Buffalo, it’s perhaps ironic that the Bandriwskys seem to have come out on top. On Facebook, Emil’s surname is Banderivsky (Бандерівський). He has been the treasurer of the Ukrainian Home Dnipro for over twenty years, and his son manages their social media.

By 2000, when Emil Bandriwsky became the Dnipro treasurer, the UAFF had evolved to include within its purview the National Tribune, the OUN-B's Ukrainian American newspaper published in Manhattan. At the turn of the 21st century, the UAFF president was Evhen Hanovsky (1927-2013), who also edited the Tribune and at some point led the OUN-B in the United States.

The Banderites celebrated 50 years of ownership of the Dnipro Ukrainian Center in 2005. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s Ukrainian American Civic Center (UACC) neared extinction, to the point one could count its members on two hands. The Banderites initiated a campaign to refurbish the Dnipro building, and appear to have played a role in reviving the UACC “under new leadership.” The latter has since hosted events such as “Punks Against Putin” to raise money for the UAFF, ostensibly to send medical supplies to Ukraine.

Dnipro Ukrainian Center, 2016: “Help support Buffalo [UAFF]'s Medical Mission to Ukraine. Join us tonight for some caroling!” On the far left is an antisemitic character in “Jewface.”

The UACC financial secretary, Yuri Hreshchyshyn, is the president of the Buffalo chapter of the Banderite-dominated Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and the director of the Ukrainian Saturday School at Ukrainian Home Dnipro. When Sarah Maurer profiled the Dnipro Ukrainian Center for Buffalo Rising, Bandriwsly and Hreshchyshyn gave her a tour of the building. They “started pointing out portraits of Ukrainian historical figures on the walls and reciting names that I couldn’t even begin to spell,” she wrote.

The Dnipro building contains countless portraits of Ukrainian Nationalists, including Nazi collaborator war criminals such as Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevych, and Yaroslav Stetsko. In the auditorium is a painting of a strikingly blonde Shukhevych, placed under a big OUN-B emblem flanked by the letters U-P-A, for the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the ethnic cleansing military wing of the OUN-B that Shukhevych commanded from 1943-50. Previously he captained an auxiliary German police battalion of probable Holocaust perpetrators. There is another painting on the 3rd floor featuring a suspiciously blonde Shukhevych.

Pictured below, Buffalo youth pose in front of portraits of Bandera and Shukhevych on either side of a large UPA symbol in the library, which has admittedly been toned down in the last couple years following renovations. As seen in the next picture, an OUN-B symbol hanging over Bandera used to be the centerpiece of the “Taras Shevchenko Library,” named for a 19th century poet who obviously had nothing to do with the OUN-UPA. More portraits can be found at the conclusion of this report.

The former “Orioles Hall” turned 100 in 2014—the year that “Euromaidan” protesters chased President Viktor Yanukovych from Ukraine, Russia annexed Crimea, and war broke out in eastern Ukraine. The massacre of “anti-Maidan” protesters in Odessa on May 2 was arguably the point of no return. That evening in Buffalo, the Dnipro Ukrainian Center hosted a “Euro Block Party,” where attendees posed for pictures in front of miscellaneous portraits (including amateur paintings of Bandera, Shukhevych, and OUN founder Yevhen Konovalets) while symbolically “casting our votes for a united, independent and democratic Ukraine!” The event raised money to send election observers to Ukraine for the country’s presidential election later that month. “The beating heart of Ukraine’s freedom movement fills the building on Genesee Street,” raved Buffalo News, ignorant of the OUN-B’s role behind the scenes.

Also attending the event was Stefan Mychajliw, the Republican comptroller of Erie County, whose Ukrainian father-in-law appears to be a hardcore Banderite. (More about him later.) Mychajliw was originally elected to the position in 2012 to serve out a vacated term, and re-elected in 2013 and 2017. On January 1, 2014—Stepan Bandera’s birthday—Mychajliw was sworn in for the second time, opting to take the oath of office at the Dnipro Ukrainian Center in front of a portrait of Bandera. Mychajliw, a Trump supporter vying to be the next Town Supervisor of nearby Hamburg after a failed Congressional run in 2017, has some explaining to do. I will probably write a Twitter thread about him soon.

Later in January 2014, as Kyiv increasingly resembled a war zone, a leading member of the OUN-B and ally of the far-right in Ukraine visited Buffalo as part of a tour of North America, likely to raise funds for the ongoing Euromaidan protest movement. Oleh Medunytsia, the deputy leader of the OUN-B as well as the Euromaidan militia force, told his audience in the Ukrainian Home Dnipro library that “support services and expenses on the Maidan [i.e. Kyiv’s Independence Square] are about $80k a day.”

The Euromaidan unsurprisingly united the Ukrainian American community in solidarity, but in the years to follow, a power struggle developed within the OUN-B network in the United States. In September 2018, there was a purge in the UAFF. Almost exactly a year later, the OUN-B tried to do something similar with another closely-linked, historic Banderite front, the Organization for the Defense of the Four Freedoms for Ukraine (ODFFU). The OUN-B organized a legally dubious “extraordinary convention” in September 2019 to re-establish total control over this group. The “extraordinary convention,” backfiring, triggered a lawsuit and motivated somebody to send a sensational complaint to the New York Attorney General’s office about the UAFF and OUN-B.

The complaint named four Buffalo residents. Joseph Grega is the president of the Dnipro Ukrainian Center. Emil Bandriwsky, Roman (“Ray”) Kowalyk, and Helen Turyk are the president, vice-president, and treasurer, respectively, of the apparently inactive Buffalo branch of ODFFU. Bandriwsky joined the OUN-B aligned faction of the ODFFU, appointed to its leadership by the “extraordinary convention,” which claimed to have the support of the Buffalo branch. Turyk denied this in an affidavit, insisting that the Buffalo branch had not met in over three years and therefore couldn’t have approved the takeover. Turyk, however, survived the previous UAFF purge, suggesting that her allegiances could be more complicated.

As for Ray Kowalyk, vice president of the Buffalo branch, his loyalties are unclear. Kowalyk is the father-in-law of Erie County comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. He often wears hats with OUN-UPA symbols associated with the far-right extremist groups Tryzub and Right Sector. His Facebook cover photo is the Tryzub flag. Kowalyk is also evidently fond of a t-shirt that says, “Death to Enemies!” He is wearing it in the image below along with one of his Right Sector(?) hats—behind him is the super-blonde Shukhevych portrait.

Lynne Dixon, a former Erie County Legislator, is currently running to replace Stefan Mychajliw as comptroller. In 2019, he congratulated her for “nailing” Slava Ukraini! at a Ukrainian Independence Day event held at the Dnipro Ukrainian Center. Presumably she hopes that by pandering to the Banderites, the Ukrainian community will help put her over the finish line.

It is incredible that the Ukrainian Home Dnipro has flown under the radar for so many years. It is both a community center and an event space that hosts all kinds of parties and performances by non-members, and yet it seems there is little to no concern that outsiders will ask questions about, let alone recognize, the OUN-B portraits and flags scattered around the building. In 2012, “avant-garde theater pioneer” Richard Foreman shot an experimental film in the Dnipro Ukrainian Center. He wound up incorporating some of their portraits of OUN leaders into the film and even the first frame of the trailer.

The New York Times, just as clueless, said that Foreman’s film “takes you into another world that is consistently energizing, largely pleasurable, occasionally baffling and altogether unexpected.” (Click here for behind-the-scenes shots featuring OUN portraits.)