The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


Many members of Congress spoke out regarding the Ukrainian Famine and submitted their remarks to the Congressional Record


By Michael Sawkiw Jr.
Ukrainian National Information Service
The Ukrainian Weekly
Ukrainian National Association
Parsippany, NJ 07054
October 25, 1998


WASHINGTON - Members of both houses of Congress have passed a concurrent resolution commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933 in which 7 million perished as a direct result of Soviet policy.

The resolution was passed by the Senate on October 21 and by the House of Representatives on October 10 (1998).

During the Columbus Day weekend, members of Congress were in legislative session to deliberate and negotiate the federal budget for Fiscal Year 1999.

The legislators cleared a few moments from their busy schedule, however, as Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, introduced the commemorative resolution on Saturday, October 10, thanked the co-sponsors of the resolution, and commented on the brutality of the former Soviet regime toward the Ukrainian people. The resolution was passed that same day.

House Concurrent Resolution 295 (H.Con.Res. 295) was sponsored by Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus. Supported by the other co-chairs and members of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, the Ukrainian Famine Resolution attracted 71 co-sponsors.

The resolution expresses "the sense of Congress that the 65th anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933 should serve as a reminder of the brutality of the government of the former Soviet Union's repressive policies toward the Ukrainian people."

Copies of the resolution will be transmitted to the president of the United States, the secretary of state, and the co-chairs of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus. The secretary of state is further instructed to transmit a copy of the resolution to the government of Ukraine.

Prior to the official passage of the resolution, during a private luncheon for Prime Minister Valerii Pustovoytenko with members of the Ukrainian American community, UNIS Director Michael Sawkiw Jr. informed the head of the Ukrainian government about the work of the U.S. Congress regarding anniversary commemorations of the Great Famine.

The Ukrainian government will officially recognize the tragedy of the Ukrainian famine with a special day of observances on Sunday, November 8, the same day as has been designated by the Ukrainian American community for commemoration of the famine in the United States.

During deliberations on the House floor, several members of Congress expressed their support for the Famine resolution. In his introduction of the resolution, Rep. Gilman stated: "Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and other Communist leaders knew people were starving to death as a result of their policies. The Soviet regime and its leaders did nothing to help the famine's victims, instead using it as a means to better subdue Ukrainian resistance to the Communist regime and the rule of Moscow."

The chairman of the International Relations Committee, a long-time supporter of Ukrainian issues, expressed his opinion that, "it [the resolution] serves as an important reminder, not just of the innocent victims of the Famine, but of the reasons why the United States and its democratic allies engaged in a Cold War."

Democrats and Republicans were given 20 minutes each on the House floor to provide their comments on the resolution. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), a member of the International Relations Committee, also expressed his views on the message the resolution sends: "Congress condemns the former Soviet government's disregard for human life, human liberty and self-determination during the Famine, ... Congress sees today's Ukraine moving toward democracy, a free-market economy and full respect for human rights and supports the United States assistance to Ukraine as it proceeds down this path."

The main sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Levin expressed his appreciation to the chairman and ranking member of the International Relations Committee for scheduling the resolution on the floor. "At least 7 million Ukrainians died," stated Rep. Levin, "not by natural causes of drought or flood or a poor harvest - rather 7 million died because the leaders of the former Soviet Union chose to use food as a weapon ... It is important that we remember the Ukrainian Famine and its victims. We must remember and do everything we can to prevent similar tragedies from happening again."

Rep. Jon D. Fox (R-Pa.), co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, also spoke: "The Ukrainian Famine was a tragic period of history in which the Soviet Union inflicted a brutal repressive policy upon the Ukrainian people. This policy was designed to punish the people of Ukraine for its aversion to the oppressive and imperialistic government of the former Soviet Union."

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Helsinki Commission, expressed his strong view about the Famine: "The Famine indeed constituted genocide, with Stalin using food as a political weapon to achieve his aim of suppressing any Ukrainian expression of political and cultural identity and self-assertion. The Ukrainian Famine is a glaring illustration of the brutality of a totalitarian, imperialistic regime in which respect for human rights is a mockery and the rule of law is a sham."

Many members of Congress also submitted their remarks to the Congressional Record. The following is a small sample of the remarks offered by many members of Congress in recognition of the Ukrainian Famine: Rep. Steven Rothman (D-N.J.): "By passing H.Con.Res. 295 today, Congress will be bringing the world's attention to this tragedy and will help the emotional scars of those who endured the Ukrainian Famine ... This resolution offers a small measure of justice to the thousands of Ukrainian Americans who still suffer from the cruelty exacted upon them by Soviet authorities earlier this century."

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.): "As a co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, I am pleased that the House leadership has chosen to bring this resolution to the floor. I would also like to thank my friends at the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America for working so hard on this issue. Today Ukraine stands out as a fledgling, young democracy. Its people and its government [are] working to build a system of fair competition and free markets."

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.): "As a Ukrainian American I wish to call attention of the House and the American people to the crimes against my family's people ... The Ukrainian Famine did not end until Stalin had gotten his way and subjugated the Ukrainian people. They still suffer today from the consequences of his actions: they have never been able to fully rebuild the agricultural economy that had once made Ukraine the envy of the region. I believe they will rebuild it, hopefully with our help."

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.): "Sixty-five years ago the Ukrainian people were suffering from a horrific man-made catastrophe. It is a testament to their strength as a people that today's Ukraine is progressing with democratic and economic reforms, and is one of the strongest allies in the region."

Rep. David E. Bonior (D-Mich.): "We should never forget this tragedy. We should honor the memory of the millions of victims. And we should support the efforts of the people of Ukraine, who were subjected to the Famine and to decades of oppressive Soviet rule, as they continue on their path to democracy, respect for human rights and economic progress."

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.): "It is most appropriate that we commemorate - in sorrow and regret - this tragic episode in the history of Ukraine ... This is also an occasion for us to rejoice that the people of Ukraine are now in the position to determine their own destiny. It is important for the people of Ukraine to know that we in the United States welcome their independence and that we are committed to their success."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio): "The victims of the Ukrainian Famine should be solemnly remembered, Congress should condemn the systematic disregard for human life, and material to assist in the dissemination of information about the Ukrainian Famine should be compiled and made available worldwide for the study of this devastation."

In a similar manner, on October 21 the United States Senate passed its version of the Famine resolution, which had been introduced by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on October 1. The senator gave a brief overview of the devastation of the Great Famine and its effects on the Ukrainian people. Sen. Levin underlined the assault on the Ukrainian intelligentsia as a means of subduing the Ukrainian nation. "When children in the United States study the dark periods of human history," remarked Sen. Levin, "it is important that the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933 be included."

Sen. Levin added that, "despite the tragedy the people of Ukraine endured at the hands of Stalin's government and many years of Soviet domination, Ukraine has re-emerged with its vibrant cultural and religious traditions intact."

The chair of the Helsinki Commission, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.) remarked on the work of the Ukraine Famine Commission, which was established in 1985 to examine the causes and effects of the famine. "Clearly the Ukrainian Famine occurred within the context of a Soviet system which denied and vigorously opposed democratic values, the rule of law, and any respect for elementary human rights," stated Sen. D'Amato.

Sen. D'Amato said he "strongly agrees with the resolution's assertion that it is essential that the United States continue to assist Ukraine as it proceeds towards democracy, a free-market economy and full respect of human rights. It is imperative for America and for the West to support independence and democracy in Ukraine."

All senators and representatives urged their colleagues to join them in supporting the resolution. Members of Congress have five legislative days to revise and extend their remarks regarding the famine resolution.

The Ukrainian Weekly, October 25, 1998, No. 43, Vol. LXVI, Roma Hadzewycz, Editor-in-chief, P.O. Box 280, Parsippany, NJ 07054; Published by the Ukrainian National Association.
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