Standing Resolute in the Face of Evil: Reflections on the Great Famine
Remarks delivered at the solemn commemoration of the Great Famine of 1932-1933 at St. Andrew's Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Bloomingdale, Ill., on September 23, 2001
As America rises from the cataclysm of September 11 - truly a day of infamy that changed the lives of all of us here today - we are reminded of another time and place in world history, a time and place less known, a time and place when it seemed the world stood still, a time when terror ruled not just for one day, but for days without end, a place where seven million innocent men, women and children died the horrible, slow and lingering death visited upon them by starvation. The winter of 1932-1933 was such a time. Ukraine was such a place.
The year of infamy that brought famine to Ukraine was engineered by Stalinists, the most merciless terrorists in the history of the world. Moscow needed money to survive. Ukraine was a rich and bountiful land which produced wheat that could bring billions of dollars on the world market. The more wheat, the more money. So the Bolsheviks took all of it - every single grain, every seed, every morsel - leaving nothing behind. Famine descended upon Ukraine slowly and inexorably.
Human compassion, pity and tenderness were forbidden. Hatred as a way of life was promoted by the regime. One member of the Communist Party Central Committee urged party members to act "without whimpering, without any rotten liberalism.
"Act like Bolsheviks worthy of Comrade Stalin," he told them. "Don't be afraid to take extreme measures. The party stands foursquare behind you. Comrade Stalin expects it of you. This is a life and death struggle; better to do too much than not enough."
Such orders were obeyed without question by Stalin's enablers. A Soviet dissident who earlier in life had participated in the Ukrainian genocide, explained his involvement. Here is what he wrote: "We believed the end justified the means. Our great goal was the universal triumph of communism and for the sake of that goal everything was permissible - to lie, to steal, to destroy hundreds of thousands and even millions of people, all those who stood in the way. And to hesitate or doubt about all this was to give in to 'intellectual squeamishness' and 'stupid liberalism,' the attribute of people who 'could not see the forest for the trees' ... With others, I emptied out the old folks' storage chests, stopping my ears to the children's crying and the women's wails."
We ask ourselves: How is it possible for human beings to be so callous, so uncaring, so evil? In his novel "Forever Flowing," Vasily Grossman wrote that activists who assisted the Soviet secret police in their nefarious deeds were taught to believe that the so-called "kulaks" were cattle, swine, loathsome, repulsive; they had no souls; they stank, they all had venereal diseases; they were enemies of the people and exploited the labor of others ... It was openly proclaimed that the rage and wrath of the masses must be inflamed against them; they must be destroyed as a class, because they are accursed ."
During an interview with a leading member of British society, Stalin was reportedly asked about the death of so many people in the struggle to create a Marxist/Leninist state. "The death of one person," he replied, "is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic."
Seven million Ukrainians died during the artificial famine created by the Soviets. Ukrainians lost their lives because they opposed evil, because they wanted an independent nation, because they believed in life, liberty and the right to own their own land. For most people in the world today, however, their death remains a statistic at best, a non-event at worst.
Although it troubles me to say this, I can at least understand why most people in America know so little about Ukraine's forced famine. Reports of the famine were repudiated for decades by the Soviets. Western journalists like New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty knew about the horror but denied its existence. People in the United States were suffering an economic Depression in the 1930s and had little interest in events beyond their borders.
What troubles me very much, however, is the fact that while Ukraine is a free and independent nation, most people in Ukraine seem barely aware of what went on during that ghastly winter of 1932- 1933. While we in the West have commemorated the famine annually, published books, pamphlets, and countless articles reviewing the terror-famine and its consequences, Ukraine's leaders still prefer to look the other way.
Oh yes, there is a monument here and there, an article here and there, but nothing to compare to the works of Robert Conquest or the Commission of the U. S. Ukraine Famine. The indifference which surrounds this great tragedy in Ukraine is overwhelming. Think of it. Ukraine has been independent for 10 years and yet not one person over there has been indicted for crimes against humanity. No single group, no political party, no institution has been condemned and anathemized for the destruction visited upon the Ukrainian people during Soviet rule.
Today, as I reflect upon the artificial famine of 1932-1933, as I consider the reaction of Ukrainians to this genocide - this enormous evil perpetrated by Moscow and as I worry about Ukraine's future, I can't help but be reminded of what happened on September 11. There are certain similarities. A crazed group of terrorists attacked Americans on American soil in broad daylight. Why? Because they believed we are vermin, swine, loathsome, repulsive, enemies of humanity. They, too, were told to act without whimpering, without feeling - not for Stalin, but for Osama bin Laden.
A great nation was struck down that infamous day and we all experienced the pain, the sorrow, the anger. Like all great nations, however, the United States did not remain down very long. The American people rallied their resources, set aside their differences and stood as one to face evil firmly, forcibly and meaningfully. To do so is to obey God's true laws. In the words of' President George W. Bush, God is not neutral in such matters.
It is this American example that I would like to see Ukraine emulate. The time has come for Ukrainians to deal resolutely with the crimes of the past and to show the world that they, too, are a great people living in a great nation. God bless America. God bless Ukraine.
Reprinted with the permission of the author.