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His Beatitude SVIATOSLAV SHEVCHUK: "The Holodomor certainly was the cheapest weapon of mass destruction"
27 November 2012, 15:45 | Interview | 0 | | Code for Blog | |
Іn November 24 in Ukraine the memory of victims of the 1932-33 Holodomor will be honored. Traditionally candles burn in the windows of Ukrainian homes. Ukrainians give tribute to the innocent victims. Also on this day each of us thinks about the millions of unborn lives. They say that time heals, but there are tragedies that can influence the fate of an entire nation, forever changing the way of thinking and way of life of the people. In the hardest times for Ukrainians, it was probably only faith in God that saved people. On questions relating to how the current generation should deal with the Holodomor and how to prevent the recurrence of similar tragedies, we turned to the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church His Beatitude SVIATOSLAV SHEVCHUK.
— His Beatitude, 80 years have passed since the Holodomor. Can it be said that during this time “wounds were healed” and “scars no longer hurt?”
— For many years of the fact of the Ukrainian Genocide was ignored. Obviously, when such a vast human tragedy is silenced, wounds do not have a chance to heal. On the other hand, I think that those wounds are so deep that they will heal for years. Here I would like to recall the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II:
“The events of the Ukrainian Holodomor touched the very foundations of humankind. Therefore it reached beyond the tragedy of only one people. It touched with its scope and its cynicism some of the deepest fibers of human nature in a universal dimension.”
So I think that it will take many years for this wound from the Holodomor to heal.
— In Ukraine there is the Law “On the Holodomor of 1932-33 in Ukraine.” In the document the killing by hunger of people is clearly identified as genocide and the attempts of any public denial of this fact is illegal. Despite this, we have many examples where even government officials question the Ukrainian genocide. Critics of the idea of recognizing the Holodomor of 1932-1933 as genocide against the Ukrainian people often argue that nationalists are trying to embroil “fraternal peoples.” Then, in fact, this tragedy, in their opinion, is an economic error or a setback of forced collectivization and industrialization. Indeed, what is the position of the UGCC on this?
— I think there is no accident here. And this we can see from the studies that are now being carried out. Every year when we remember the victims of the Holodomor, we learn something new. One of the indisputable proofs of the artificiality of the famine is the existence of so-called “black boards.” Honestly, when I first heard about the existence of these, I thought that they were some secret lists or orders that punitive Soviet bodies received. But these were not secret lists! These “black boards” were published in the press. I was struck by this fact! There is no doubt today that the famine was artificially induced, even by looking at the bountiful harvest that the Ukrainian land produced in the year when the Ukrainians were starving to death. So someone took these God-given products of the earth from the Ukrainians. Today, in fact, not all accept this idea and other facts as undeniable evidence that the famine was an artificially provoked genocide. Just as it was in the case of the Jewish Holocaust. Until now, there are people who deny the Holocaust, although they are considered criminals. I think we really need to mature to this, so that this type of ideological clichés will no longer disturb the minds of Ukrainians. So that everyone who denies the genocide in Ukraine is considered, both in our country and in the whole world, an accomplice or a person who justifies the crime. A crime, which has no excuse!
— Today in the academic community the fact of the crime causes less and less debate. Also, experts agree with the definition of its executers when the communist regime is named. However, opinions differ as to exactly who was the subject of the atrocities. Peasantry as a class, or Ukrainians as a people?
— When talking about the Holodomor of 1932-33, all died of starvation – no matter whether someone was a poor peasant or a dekulakized peasant. Everyone who was in an area, from which he was not released, died of starvation. To clearly answer these questions requires research. But based on the data that we have today, it certainly was the cheapest weapon of mass destruction, which was used against everyone, regardless of age, gender, class. But it was directed primarily against the Ukrainian people, who prevailed among the people in those lands.
— When we see the suffering of a particular person, or suffer ourselves, we look for an explanation: “Why did this happen?” And what can be done when entire nations endured suffering? Jews during the Holocaust died en masse in the gas chambers of the Nazi concentration camps, Ukrainians died in terrible agony from starvation. Why is the fate of some nations to carry such a heavy cross, while others have a much lighter burden?
— This is a very complex and deep issue. The Holodomor of 1932-33 was not the first and last famine, which Ukraine and the Ukrainian people endured. But it differentiates from other similar sad events in Ukraine and the whole world by the fact that it was cynically planned. That fact that this Holodomor was artificially created puts it alongside other examples of mass murder.
Why did this happen? Today we can name many different reasons. And one reason is the existence of misanthropic regimes and ideologies in the twentieth century.
Humanity today unequivocally condemned the crimes of the Nazi regime. Thus the victims of the Holocaust, to some extent, are honored by the fact of recognition of the crime of their killers. But when we talk about the Ukrainian Genocide during the Great Famine of 1932-33, this has not yet happened.
Not even the entire Ukrainian society today clearly perceives these events. As long as there is no unequivocal condemnation by the world community of the crimes of the communist regime, the victims of the Holodomor will not be adequately honored. But I think that in condemning or remembering these events, which we must preserve and study, there is no aim to get even with someone – as some might imagine. I think that the memory of the Holodomor could be one of the factors that will not allow similar crimes to be repeated in the future.
— Can we talk about a peculiarity of Ukrainians in light of the tragedy? Why did our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have to go through the trials of genocide?
— We cannot entirely answer the question: “Why? Why do some events befall some people, while others are saved from them?” These are questions we must ask God's providence. Why did the Lord God let it happen? And what mission do other people have in the history of salvation that the Lord God does?
The same was asked by the Jews. We know that there was a process in which Israelites appealed to the God of Israel. They asked: “Why was God silent when it happened?”
Obviously, we Christians react differently to these things. We will pose the question to our God, who is the Savior and never a source of evil.
The issue of studying these events is very important. Today, there are various attempts, particularly in Europe, to investigate the cause of genocides. To answer the question when they started and what ideological, economic, political reasons could lead one people to destroy another. I think that these studies have yet to be finished.
Today we, especially on the part of the UGCC, have given an unambiguous assessment of the events that occurred. Thank God that it has already become tradition to commemorate the Holodomor victims. Thank God that we have a memorial to victims of the Holodomor in Ukraine, where the descendants of those families who have suffered from the famine may come and commemorate their dead ancestors. But I think that today we should take a step further.
Today it is not enough only to remember the departed and assert the fact that the famine occurred. The next step we need to take is in the study of this tragedy. Collect new facts about it.
This year in April, members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations visited Canada and the United States. We were participants of an interesting event when the Canadian Parliament recognized the heroic virtues of the servant of God Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who resisted the Holocaust, risking his own life, and thus risking the entire church community, which he represented. In the context of this event, we visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington. This is actually a museum of human pain. The museum houses many materials that one can see, hear, and even touch. We saw that this museum is not only a room for exhibits – it is an extremely powerful research center, which operates on a voluntary basis. And we all came to the conclusion that Ukrainians need not only a similar museum, but also a research center for the study of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide. So our community adopted a separate declaration, where we called to collect memory and explore the Holodomor along with the Holocaust, which was held on the territory of Ukraine.
— It is clear that the church has its achievements in the study of the Holodomor of 1932-1933. Could you share with the readers of our publication what has been done in this field?
— Perhaps the Ukrainian public is not yet fully familiar with a unique book, which was presented in Canada this year: “The Holy See and the Holodomor.”
The book includes secret documents from the Vatican Secret Archives relating to the Great Famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine, which are published for the first time. These are unique documents that have only recently been released.
The documents include information about how the Apostolic Capital learned about these terrible events, how Pope Pius XI was moved to tears when he heard about the millions of victims, when he realized the unfair international policy for these people. Western states at that time bought wheat from the USSR, which the Soviets took from Ukrainian peasants and thus doomed them to starvation. These documents also talk about how the Holy Father initiated the collection of money to help the starving. However, at the official level the Soviet Embassy refused to accept this collection, denying the famine in Ukraine. There is also a very interesting testimony about the reaction of the UGCC in Galicia to these events. In particular, in the weekly Meta the Ukrainian Catholic Episcopate made a separate appeal to all people of good will. And the first words of this appeal are:
UKRAINE IS EXPERIENCING PRE-DEATH CONVULSIONS! ... before the whole world again we protest against the persecution of the small, poor, weak and innocent, and we accuse the persecutors before the court of God. The blood of workers who in hunger plowed the black earth of Ukraine calls for vengeance to heaven, and the voice of the hungry reapers reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts
These are very deep and touching words. This appeal was signed by Andrey Sheptytsky and all our bishops of Galicia. So I think that this publication will help us explore all the events that we call the Great Holodomor.
The book “The Holy See and the Holodomor” is published in English, so for many Ukrainian readers it is not accessible. But I hope that we translate it into Ukrainian and thus make another step in the study of the history of the Holodomor. We are now looking for people to help us do it.
— His Beatitude, what sort of formula can you offer for people in Ukraine so that they are better able to get along with each other, and eventually find a consensus in relation to the Holodomor of 1932-33?
— We need to understand the reality better. Today we are often divided not so much by a separate history as by different ideologies that have continued to live in the minds of many people. These ideologies are often artificially reanimated. I would simply invite all to come on the Holodomor Remembrance Day to the memorial in Kyiv. And just be there. And I think that the joint experience which will take place there will debunk all sorts of myths. Every year when I am at the Memorial to Victims of the Holodomor in Ukraine, I learn something new, something one cannot learn from new research or books. Last year I remember such an episode: there was an organized procession of children with candles which symbolized that the first to die from the famine were children. However, with the children also walked a grown man. One of the journalists asked him: “Why do you participate in this day of memory?” And he replied: “Most of my family died in the famine, but today I do not even know where their graves are. And before there was this memorial, we did not even have a place where people could commemorate and pray for them.” I was shocked! And this person said something that really is an ancestral memory of this family. Finally, now that there is a place to honor those innocent victims, this person has the opportunity to go and light a candle for them. And how many more of these nameless mass graves are scattered across the Ukrainian land...
Interview for the periodical of the UGCC Kyiv Archeparchy Nash Sobor
Interview by Myroslav Otkovych
Protecting the human right to freedom of religion is not a common business. It requires constant attention and activity due to various challenges and threats. For 15 consecutive years, the Institute for Religious Freedom has performed an important mission of protecting freedom of conscience and religion in Ukraine and internationally.
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