The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)

UCCA Makes Presentation to the National Park Service About A Site

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 communist oppression.

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 1932-1933.

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 introduced.

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 border.

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 untold millions.

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 efforts.

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 Famine.

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 another group."

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 Ukraine's support.

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 community."

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 crimes.

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 erection 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 would 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 funds.]