On November 15, 2008 the hierarchs and clergy of the local Orthodox and Catholic communities, along with Ukrainian Diplomats stationed in Chicago and well over 2000 people marched through the main streets of Chicago drawing the attention of the world to the deaths of 10 million of innocent victims of the 1932-1933 Genocidal Famine in Ukraine. It was a horror of unimaginable dimensions created by Josef Stalin, which continues to affect the Ukrainian nation to this day.
Very cold winter greeted the participants in the march along with strong winds, which opened up the Church banners, flags and specially designed banners to the fullest, behind a specially made cross – ensuring that those who witnessed the march along Chicago streets understood what the commemoration was about – the 75th anniversary of that Genocide against the Ukrainian nation and her people because they refused to enter into the Soviet collective farming system, because their land meant everything to them for the sustenance of life and the role the Church has always played in Ukrainian history as the moral conscience of the nation.
His Grace Bishop Daniel accompanied by the clergy of Chicago Metropolitan area, Very Rev. Bohdam Kalyniuk – Dean of the Chicago Deanery and Pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Bloomingdale, IL; Archimandrite Pankratij – Pastor of St. Volodymyr Cathedral, Chicago, IL; Very Rev. Fr. Taras Naumenko – Pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Palos Park, IL, Rev. Fr. Andrew Pokotylo – Pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, Goshen, IN; Rev. Fr. Walter Hvostik – Pastor St. Mary Protectress Parish, Milwaukee, WI; Fr. Volodymyr Shelvakh, Fr. Taras Maximtsev, Protodeacon Mykola Dilendorf, Deacon Andriy Fronchak, Deacon James Stickel, Deacon Silouan Rolando, seminarians Ivan Kostyshyn and John Charest, along with the local clergy of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy, participated in the solemn march from Washington Park to Holy Name Roman Catholic Cathedral, the site of a Memorial service – Panakhyda for the victims of the Famine.
In the opening remarks prior to the beginning of the Memorial service, His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, welcomed the Ukrainian-American community to the cathedral offering his words and prayers of solidarity as the world marks the anniversary of the horror committed against Ukrainians.
Following the Cardinal’s remarks, His Grace Bishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA addressed those gathered in the Cathedral, stating that:
“We have gathered here today in this beautiful cathedral to bow our heads in prayer with grief and sorrow in memory of almost 10 million men, women and children who died from starvation as human sacrifices during 1932 and 1933, in great pain and suffering, on the rich black earth of our ancestral homeland, land, which provided an bumper harvest that year. There exists no language in this world, which could describe the horrible, inhumane, unnatural sufferings of starving people. There are no shades of colors that could depict the picture of the suffering Ukraine who has drunk the cup of world sorrow to the last drop.”
His Grace called upon the gathered to hear the ringing of human voices of those who starved to death. The Bishop prayerfully, yet powerfully, exclaimed that the world needs to hear the number – 10 million human lives destroyed! Moreover, the bishop continued: “…we cannot force the memory of those millions who died out of our minds. We must seriously take our responsibility to correct the history books and educational materials in order to keep the flame of memory alive about our brothers and sisters in Christ who perished only because they were willing to stand up for their rights to own their own small part of God’s green Earth, rather than to submit to the collective farm policy of Josef Stalin... We must continue to work tirelessly in order to make sure that finally there is a proper memorial built in Kyiv and the capitol of our nation - United States in America, a memorial worthy of the sacrifice of so many millions… I call upon you to continue your work, regardless of what some might say. Remember - if we force the memory of those millions who died out of our minds because it makes us, or perhaps someone else, uncomfortable, then we fail them.
Bishop Daniel concluded: “Someone once said that - A nation who forgets its past shall have no future. This is most true today, as we look at our ancestral motherland. We apprehensively look at the constant political struggles there, we see how our neighbors constantly undermine our authority and threaten our independence.
It is for these reasons that we in the Diaspora, being loyal to our Mother-land, should strengthen the relations between ourselves. We should become an effective welding factor for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine who continue the fight for the future of our nation and its independence. Our daily efforts here should be geared toward positive steps for our people in Ukraine to move ahead, but also never forget their tragic past, especially that Famine of 1932-33, which has gathered us here today along with our brothers and sisters – Orthodox and Catholics – who have gathered at St. Patrick Cathedral in New York City at about the same hour for the same memorial commemoration.
As we complete this yearlong commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Genocidal Famine, a horror unequaled in our nation or the world, let us not be indifferent. Let those horrible years be both a reminder to us all and a warning as we look toward building a future for our nation. WE MUST NEVER FORGET!
A beautiful choir comprised of cantors and members of various Orthodox and Catholic parishes in the Chicago area and under the skillful direction of Dr. Vasyl Truchly, sang the responses to the memorial service led by His Grace Bishop Richard (Seminack) of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Chicago and His Grace Bishop Daniel of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
Following the prayer service, His Grace Bishop Richard of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Chicago offered his remarks on the Famine in Ukraine recalling the personal experience of witnessing of baking of bread and the meaning of bread for the hungry starving people of 1932-1933. The Bishop reflected upon the tragic history of Ukrainians in early 1930s and called upon the Ukrainian-American community to remember their history and to share it with next the generations of young men and women of Ukrainian descent. Moreover, His Grace pointed out that in order to prevent another Holodomor of our time, we should create opportunities for wide access to the truthful history of Ukraine, for uplifting national consciousness, self-respect and patriotism. As one of the most devastating yet least understood tragedies of the 20th century, it largely remains unknown to the general public. The victims deserve a place in history and in our memory.
In conclusion, Bishop Richard offered his gratitude to His Eminence Francis Cardinal George for his participation in the Ecumenical Memorial Prayer Service and most especially for permission to utilize Holy Name Cathedral, which certainly brought much significant attention to the commemoration. In addition, on the behalf of the hierarchs he expressed gratitude to the local Ukrainian clergy and the entire Ukrainian community for such a strong and positive witness in commemorating the 10 innocents – modern day martyrs – who died without reason.