Statement in Honor of the Famine-Genocide Memorial

Dec 14, 2011 Issues: Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chairman:

It has been an honor to work with the Ukrainian American community, my colleagues in Congress, and the Ukrainian Government to make this memorial a reality.  

I first introduced legislation to authorize a memorial in July 2002.  Four and a half years later, it became law.  With the commitment of the United States and Ukrainian Governments and the Ukrainian American community, the memorial is on its way to becoming a reality.  I deeply share in the community’s satisfaction that this hearing is taking place today.  I regret that I am not able to be with you in person.

We are all familiar with the terrible suffering caused by famines that are the result of natural forces.  But the famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine is all the more tragic because it resulted from criminal acts and deliberate decisions by political officials.  Yet, it is also one of the least known human tragedies, something that this memorial will help to change.

Despite efforts by the Soviet government at the time and afterward to hide the planned and systematic nature of this famine-genocide, it is clear that the Soviet Union used food as a weapon.  By introducing unrealistically high quotas on grain and other agricultural products, which were strictly enforced by Red Army troops, the Soviet government deliberately starved 7 to 10 million Ukrainians.  During the height of the famine, as many as 25,000 people a day were dying from hunger.   

This effort was systematic and premeditated.  Having sealed the borders of Ukraine to prevent any outward migration or outside relief efforts, the Soviet Union proceeded to confiscate grain and summarily execute anyone found taking even a handful of grain that was considered “social property.”  The result was devastating, and exactly what the Soviet government intended.  Materials found in KGB archives have shown the pre-meditated, political nature of the famine.  

We in the United States must persist in standing with those living under oppressive and tyrannical regimes as they struggle for their freedom.  Part of this struggle is to remember the brutal acts of these regimes and their victims.

Preventing the reoccurrence of crimes against humanity such as the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide begins with remembering the tragedies of the past and honoring those who suffered so greatly as a result.

Thanks to the persistence of the Ukrainian-American community and the Ukrainian Government, we will soon have a memorial right here in the center of Washington that does just that.  I am very proud to have been a part of that effort.  

Today, I urge the Commission to join the Ukrainian-American community in remembering the victims of this tragedy and renewing our commitment to ensure that it is never repeated.