Statement by Michael Sawkiw, Jr, President
Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA)
To the National Capital Memorial Commission of the National Park Service
Washington, D.C., Thursday, May 22, 2003
Mr. Chairman and members of the National Capital Memorial Commission of the
National Park Service, thank you for the opportunity to address this
subcommittee on issues relating to the erection of a monument to the victims
of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide in Washington, D.C.
Speaking on behalf of the 1.5 million Americans of Ukrainian descent, the
subject of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide is of great importance to the
Ukrainian community as it is one of the most recent and tragic pages of our
nation's history. It acquires even more significance in the context of this
year's commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Famine-Genocide.
For years, the Ukrainian American community has been educating the general
public and speaking out about one of the most horrific cases of genocide of
the 20th century. Ukrainian Americans have found great support in local
communities throughout the United States and now would like to thank you for
allowing us to raise this issue at the federal level.
Purpose of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America
The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), over which I preside, is
the national umbrella organization representing the interests of the
Ukrainian community in the United States. Founded by the First Congress of
Ukrainians in 1940, the main purpose of the UCCA is to support cultural,
educational and humanitarian activities that emphasize the Ukrainian
American heritage and to effectively coordinate the work of the community.
These goals are achieved through a nationwide network of over 75 branches,
member organizations and a variety of internal UCCA committees and
commissions that are tasked with specific projects.
As a not-for-profit, educational and charitable institution, the UCCA has a
long history of actively pursuing issues that affect the Ukrainian American
community, particularly in the arena of U.S.-former Soviet and now
U.S.-Ukraine relations. Throughout its existence, the UCCA has adapted to
changes in world politics and modified its activities accordingly.
Initially, the purpose of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America was to
provide authoritative information regarding the Ukrainian nation's plight
for national independence and human rights.
In this regard, early initiatives included the UCCA's support for
legislation on displaced persons following World War II and ratification of
the Genocide Treaty. During the height of the Cold War, the UCCA spoke out
against Soviet human rights violations, initiated a U.S. Congressional
Resolution on the Soviet destruction of Ukrainian churches, supported a U.S.
Congressional resolution commemorating the victims of the 1932-1933
Ukrainian Famine-Genocide and was instrumental in promoting the Captive
Nations Week Resolution (Public Law 86-90).
The UCCA was also a founding organization of the National Captive Nations
Committee (NCNC) that united various ethnic organizations with the goal of
promoting democracy worldwide. The UCCA's activities have historically been
geared at creating awareness about Ukraine, Ukrainian Americans, and the
true nature of Soviet imperialism. By supporting such organizations as the
NCNC and individuals who stand for freedom of conscience and freedom of
speech, as well as by organizing campaigns to free imprisoned dissidents in
Ukraine, the UCCA took an active role in Ukraine's liberation struggle from
The hopes and dreams of Ukrainians worldwide came to fruition when Ukraine
restored its independence on August 24, 1991. With the collapse of the
Soviet Union, the UCCA redirected its efforts toward supporting Ukraine's
democratic development and economic rebirth while sustaining a vibrant
Ukrainian community in the United States. The UCCA also began instituting
programs to help restore national consciousness and pride in Ukrainians,
develop a national education system, and promote the use of the Ukrainian
language in all spheres of daily activities.
In addition to the UCCA's continued work in conducting charitable and
educational programs, the UCCA began implementing various comprehensive
civic education programs including "get-out-the-vote" pre-election
campaigns, U.S. study tours for Ukrainian NGOs and representatives of the
mass media, and "Rock-the-Vote" youth concerts, to name a few.
Most recently, the UCCA expanded upon a multi-media project that not only
entertains but also educates children and students about Ukraine's history
and culture by producing audiocassettes and CD-ROMs that are sent free of
charge to schools, libraries and orphanages throughout Ukraine. A project
to provide computers and Internet access to public libraries in small towns
and rural communities is also being developed.
However, the most important task of the UCCA was, and continues to be, the
promotion of knowledge to the American public about Ukraine, its history,
culture, and political development. Pursuant to this mission, the UCCA has
raised U.S. awareness of Ukraine as well as represented the interests of
Ukrainian Americans before the U.S. government by organizing various
conferences, seminars, commemorations, cultural events and the like.
The UCCA also strives to educate the American public about the long, rich,
and sometimes tragic history of the Ukrainian people through various
publications including The Ukrainian Quarterly, the only English language
scholarly journal of Ukrainian and international affairs. In our efforts to
disseminate information, one of the most important projects of the UCCA is
the on-going educational campaign about Ukraine's Famine-Genocide of
History of Ukrainian Famine-Genocide
Due to the fact that the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide was carried out behind
the Iron Curtain, it is one of the least known crimes against humanity
committed by the Stalinist government of the former Soviet Union. Its
magnitude is comparable to the Jewish Holocaust, yet due to the isolation of
the Soviet Union from the world for over 70 years and the intricate web of
lies manufactured by Soviet historians, the memory of this tragedy was
suppressed and the evidence concealed. It is the Ukrainian American
community's duty to share this tragic page of history with the world and
ensure that the catastrophe that befell Ukraine never happen again.
The Famine-Genocide of the Ukrainian nation occurred as a result of a direct
Soviet policy to crush the nationally conscious Ukrainian people. By
introducing unrealistically large quotas on grain (accounting for 27% of the
Soviet Union harvest, Ukraine was responsible for 38% of the quotas) and
other agricultural products, the Soviet Government stripped the peasants of
their food supply - causing a famine that claimed the lives of between 7 to
10 million innocent victims.
In his book The Harvest of Sorrow, British historian Robert Conquest
provided a vivid picture of the devastating effects of the Famine-Genocide
in Ukraine: "A quarter of the rural population, men, women, and children,
lay dead or dying, the rest in various stages of debilitation with no
strength to bury their families or neighbors."
Moreover, having officially sealed the borders of Ukraine to prevent any
migration or relief efforts, the Soviet government could continue its
barbarism without criticism from the outside world. In August 1932, members
of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) received authorization to
officially confiscate grain from peasant households. Later that same month,
a law that carried the death penalty for the theft of "social property" was
Thousands of starving people caught taking even a handful of grain from a
collective silo or farm were executed on the spot. Under extenuating
circumstances these so called "crimes against the state" were punished by 10
years in Soviet labor camps.
I'd like to provide the Commission with a few facts to help put things into
perspective. At the height of the Famine:
· Ukrainian villages were dying at the rate of 25,000 per
day or 1,000 per hour or 17 per minute;
· The Soviet regime dumped 1.7 million tons of grain on
the Western markets - nearly a quarter of a ton of grain for every Ukrainian
who starved to death;
· Among the children, one in three perished as a result
of rapid collectivization and the forced famine-genocide; and,
· The 1933 Famine-Genocide was geographically focused for
political ends as it stopped precisely at the Ukrainian-Russian ethnographic
This Soviet policy of terror was a political move aimed at crushing the
peasants and landowners - those who most fervently resisted collectivization
and supported the independence of Ukraine from the Soviet Union. The
pre-meditated nature and the political motives of the Soviets are apparent
in the communist writings of the time. One of the leading communist papers
in Ukraine carried an article, which stated: "collectivization in Ukraine
has a special task . to destroy the social basis of Ukrainian nationalism -
individually owned peasant agriculture."
Stalin openly spoke of his plans to liquidate the individual farmers as a
class in a conversation with Winston Churchill stating, ". the Collective
Farm policy was a terrible struggle. Ten million. It was fearful. Four
years it lasted. It was absolutely necessary." Based on this, it is obvious
that the goal of collectivization and the unrealistic agricultural quotas
placed on farmers were a means of totally eliminating the Ukrainian
peasantry. Nearly a forth of Ukraine's rural population paid with their
lives because of their desire for freedom. This heinous Soviet crime left
a great wound in the psychological and social development of the Ukrainian
nation, which is still felt today.
International Intervention at the Time of Famine-Genocide
Regrettably, the world did not make any substantial efforts to assist or
relieve the Ukraine nation or dispute the genocidal policies of the Soviets.
The United States, in particular, did not interfere due to the fact that the
Great Depression fostered strong sympathies towards the Soviet Union. Many
Western intellectuals were not ready to hear the truth, and thus ignored
evidence of the Soviet government's implementation of sadistic policies.
The general attitude of the democratic Western states was similar to that
expressed in a document compiled by the British Foreign Service: "The truth
of the matter is, of course, that we have a certain amount of information
about famine conditions in the south of Russia [sic], similar to that which
has appeared in the press . We do not want to make it public, however,
because the Soviet government would resent it and our relations with them
would be prejudiced."
Furthermore, some prominent journalists of the time, such as New York Times
correspondent Walter Duranty, aided the Soviets in concealing their crimes
by proliferating their propaganda in the West and slandering those who
reported on the Famine in Ukraine. Mr. Duranty was even awarded the
Pulitzer Prize for 'Excellence in Journalism' for his reports on the Soviet
Union and its "successful development," while in private admitting that up
to 10 million people might have starved to death.
The Ukrainian American community has initiated a campaign to revoke Walter
Duranty's prestigious Pulitzer Prize awarded for "excellence in journalism."
We consider it an outrage that a reporter who knowingly concealed an act of
genocide continues to be honored with journalism's highest honor. Moreover,
in a recently published book by Leonard Leshuk titled U.S. Intelligence
Perceptions of Soviet Power: 1926-1946 the author provides evidence that
Walter Duranty "admitted to Mr. A.W. Klieforth of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin
in June of 1931 that, "in agreement between The New York Times and the
Soviet authorities" his dispatches reflected the official opinion of the
Soviet regime and not his own." It is time that the true history is revealed
and the Pulitzer Prize be revoked from a person who compromised his own
moral principles and those of his profession and entered into a pact with an
evil and oppressive regime.
Unfortunately, the U.S. media heavily influenced the opinions of U.S.
intelligence, policy makers, and the public, regarding the Soviet Union.
Duranty's dispatches may have influenced the U.S. government's formal
recognition of the Soviet Union in 1933 -- at the height of the
Famine-Genocide. This official recognition sanctioned Stalin's repressive
regime, which led to decades of continued brutality and the slaughter of
Relief Efforts of the Ukrainian American Community
The Ukrainian American community, on the other hand, was very well aware of
the brutality of the Soviet regime and actively worked to inform the wider
public about the magnitude of the Famine and incomprehensible callousness
and disregard for human life with which the Moscow government implemented
its deadly policies. In November of 1933, the community organized a
commission for the "Immediate Relief of the Starving in Ukraine" tasked with
disseminating information about the famine-genocide and attempting relief
In this regard, the community began a letter writing campaign and lottery
aimed at collecting money for those affected by the tragedy. With funds
collected, the community was able to send many humanitarian assistance
packages to their homeland. Although many packages were confiscated at the
border, some did reach their destination as documented by letters of
gratitude the Ukrainian American community received, which now can be found
in Washington, D.C. archives.
In addition to humanitarian assistance, the Ukrainian American community
launched a wide-reaching informational campaign. Prepared articles were
sent to various mass media outlets, periodicals, and international and
national charitable organizations including the International Red Cross and
the American Red Cross.
The community also sent a letter to then U.S. President Roosevelt and was
disheartened when the State Department Chief of Eastern European Affairs
Division responded by stating that there appeared to be no reason for the
United States to intervene. Letters also went out to various Members of the
House of Representatives and Senate, influential religious organizations,
local papers, and other ethnic organizations. Regrettably, the majority of
the community's pleas fell on deaf ears.
In 1988, after decades of campaigning about Ukraine's Famine-Genocide, the
Ukrainian American community was instrumental in helping to persuade the
U.S. government to create the U.S. Congress Commission on the Ukraine
The Ukrainian community lauds the creation of this Commission, which was
created expressly for the purpose of conducting a study of the 1932-1933
Ukrainian Famine. In its "Investigation of the Ukraine Famine of
1932-1933", the Commission concluded "Joseph Stalin and those around him
committed genocide against Ukrainians in 1932-1933." The U.N. Genocide
Convention of 1948 defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed
with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or
religious group as such: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing
serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group; c) deliberately
inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its
physical destruction in whole or in part; d) imposing measures to prevent
births within the group; e) forcible transferring children of the group to
The Commission of the Ukrainian Famine, having conducted an extensive study
of this episode in Ukraine's history, concluded "One or more actions
specified in the Genocide Convention was taken against the Ukrainians in
order to destroy a substantial part of the Ukrainian people and thus to
neutralize them politically in the Soviet Union."
Thus, the erection of a monument to the victims of the Famine-Genocide is an
important vehicle in informing the world community of the atrocities
inflicted on Ukraine by the oppressive Soviet regime.
Importance of Constructing the Monument in Washington, D.C.
The Ukrainian American community is proud and fortunate to live in one of
the world's most developed democratic nations. We could not have wished for
a better home. The United States welcomed us and allowed us to preserve our
cultural heritage and identity, develop a strong community, and integrate
into the American society as equal members. Because of the freedoms
guaranteed by the United States, we have had the opportunity to voice our
opinions as well as those of the 50 million Ukrainians who were trapped
behind the Iron Curtain during the years of communist oppression.
It is because of this that the Ukrainian American community considers it
extremely important that a monument to the millions of innocent victims of
the Famine-Genocide be built in our nation's capital. Standing in
Washington, D.C., a symbol of democracy and liberty, the monument will serve
as a reminder to all who have, or continue to, suffer under oppressive
regimes. It is crucial that such chapters of world history be known and
remembered. Knowledge gives us the power to foresee future tragedies and
intervene before it is too late.
The United States is a bastion of freedom and democracy and it is our task
to continue fighting until freedom reigns supreme everywhere. In last year'
s statement on the occasion of the 69th anniversary of the Famine-Genocide,
President George W. Bush wrote: "Now better than ever, we recognize the
Ukrainian people's heroic struggle nearly 70 years ago, in which millions
died because they resisted Stalin's brutal regime.
We honor their memory and pledge to never forget their suffering. As we
remember their struggle, we also condemn all authoritarian governments who
have terrorized their people in the past and continue to do so, thus
continuing the fight for freedom and safety of all people."
Additionally, authorizing the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America to
erect such a monument in the capital of the United States would be a highly
symbolic gesture in the context of improving U.S.-Ukraine relations. In the
past several years, Ukraine has demonstrated its devotion to Euro-Atlantic
integration. Most recently, by joining the 'Coalition of the Willing' and
sending a battalion of nuclear, chemical and biological defense troops to
the Iraqi conflict zone, the Ukrainian political leadership clearly
supported U.S. objectives in our fight against terrorism. The authorization
of the erection of a monument would serve as a sign of appreciation for
In his proclamation on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the
Famine-Genocide, former President Clinton recognized that "while this
anniversary is an occasion for both sorrow and reflection, it also reminds
us of Ukraine's steadfast commitment to democracy and to continuing its
political, social, and economic evolution. Today is a time of extraordinary
opportunity for the nations of the world as old barriers fall and a new and
truly global community emerges. The people of Ukraine, with their rich
heritage and reverence for freedom, have much to offer this global
In conclusion, we consider it of great importance that the Ukrainian
Famine-Genocide be recognized as such. The magnitude and gravity of this
atrocity remain unknown to the world and a monument dedicated to the
innocent victims would serve as not only a memorial to those who perished
but also as a tool to help educate the global community of such heinous
The American public should remember that although the stronghold of
communism in the Soviet Union has been defeated, the struggle for universal
freedom continues. Many regimes continue to oppress their citizens and deny
them basic human rights in order to achieve political objectives. The people
of the United States must appreciate how fortunate they are to live in a
freedom-loving society and should continue to strive for the liberation of
all nations of the world. The Ukrainian American community feels that the
building of a monument dedicated to the victims of the Famine-Genocide would
instill in the hearts of all Americans the importance of our inherent right
to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
[The National Capital Memorial Commission of the National Park Service, will
review this request from the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA)
for an appropriate site on federal property in Washington, D.C. for tthe
of a monument to the victims of theUkrainian Famine-Genocide memorial.
After the Commission reviews the request they will send their report and
recommendations to the U.S. Congress.
A bill has been introduced in both houses of the Congress that if passed
approve the proposal than an appropriate site on federal land in Washington,
D.C. be made available for this memorial. The design and construction of the
memorial itself would be financed totally from private, non-governmental