"Famine-Genocide Recalled At St. Patrick's Cathedral"
The Rev. Myroslav Medvid Addresses Annual Gathering
The Ukrainian Weekly
Sunday, November 26, 2000,
by Andrij Wowk,
Special To The Ukrainian Weekly
New York... Hierarchs, clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic
and the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches gathered at the landmark St.
Patrick's Cathedral here on Saturday, November 18, to solemnly recall
the victims of the Great Famine in Ukraine with an ecumenical memorial
service and addresses.
The event was organized by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America
(UCCA), in remembrance of the 7 million to 10 million Ukrainians
who died in 1932-1933 as a result of the Famine engineered by the
Soviet government. Among the attendees was Ukraine's ambassador
to the United Nations, Volodymry Yelchenko. Responses to the service
were sung by the Dumka Ukrainian Chorus of New York City.
After the service several notable speakers addresses the more than
1,500 people in attendance. Receiving perhaps the most attention
was the event's keynote speaker Myroslav Mykhajlo Medvid, who had
arrived a day earlier from Ukraine for a U.S. visit. Currently a
Ukrainian Catholic priest, the Rev. Medvid made international headlines
15 years ago when, as a young Soviet sailor, he jumped ship and
unsuccessfully sought political asylum in the United States.
Speaking through an interpreter, in a poignant and emotional tone,
the Rev. Medvid outlined the "200 year history of Russian domination"
of culture and religion in Ukraine, which, he said, began during
the rule of the Russian tsars and culminated in the Soviet oppression
- and the Great Famine of the 1930's. He also pointed to the destruction
of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church , headed by Metropolitan Vasyl
Lypkivsky, at the hands of Soviet Authorities.
The Soviet authorities were unable to accomplish their goals, the
Rev. Medvid noted, just as the Russian tsars had been unable to
beat the Ukrainian spirit in earlier centuries. He attributed this
to courageous political leaders throughout Ukrainian history, noting
that even after the deaths of these leaders, "their ideas did not
"Blessed sleep and eternal peace, oh Lord, give to your servants,
your unknown brothers and sisters of our Mother Ukraine. And great
them eternal rest," he intoned.
The Rev. Medvid was followed at the podium by Ambassador Yelchenko,
who noted that in 1999 Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma had proclaimed
the last Saturday of November as the "Day of Commemoration of the
Victims of the Great Famine of 1932-1933". On this day, he said,
memorial services are held all over Ukraine----in every city and
Ambassador Yelchenko commended the Ukrainian American community
for organizing the memorial event, "proving," he said, "that this
is not simply a tribute to the past---this is a reminder to the
future." He also discussed the Ukrainian government's efforts at
greater worldwide awareness of the Great Famine, through the United
Nations and other channels.
"The Famine in Ukraine was a man-made action, well-planned in advance,"
stated Ambassador Yelchenko. "The Famine (was) used as a political
weapon, to eliminate Ukrainian opposition to collectivization and,
most importantly, to destroy the striving for independence," He
also noted that the Great Famine was followed by Stalin's purges
of thousands of Ukrainian intellectuals.
"It is clear now, that Stalin's regime did its best to eliminate
Ukrainians as a nation, to erase them from the political map, from
history - even the people's memory," he underscored.
Focusing on the future, Ambassador Yelchenko stated that despite
the loss of 10 to 25 percent of its population during the Great
Famine, Ukraine has grasped its "historical chance" to become a
free and independent European country, and may one day again be
known as "the breadbasket of Europe."
He stated that although the new generations of Ukrainians may not
be as familiar with the events surrounding the Great Famine, "They
should know that our nation paid an extremely high price for its
freedom and independence. That is why we must remind them of the
years of the Famine, with deep pain in our hearts, and with a strong
determination to prevent such tragedies in the future."
Master of ceremonies for the event was Michael Sawkiw, newly elected
president of the UCCA. Mr. Sawkiw called the Great Famine a "tragic
episode of Ukrainian history" and noted that, while the Soviet government
and some Western journalists denied the very existence of the Famine,
"we are here to say otherwise."
"The lessons of the Ukrainian genocide must be taught to school
children nationwide, as part of world history," he stated. "Let
us recall the victims of this horrific holocaust and their sacrifice
to preserve their Ukrainian identity."
The prayer service was opened with remarks by Archbishop Anthony
of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A., while closing remarks
were made by Bishop Basil Losten of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
The memorial service marked the third time that a prayer service
for the victims of the Great Famine has been held in St. Patrick's
by the Ukrainian American community."