UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
SITE BLESSED FOR NATIONAL HOLODOMOR MEMORIAL
Tuesday, December 2 was a cold windy day in Washington DC, but the bright sunshine and clear blue skies welcomed a crowd of Ukrainian-Americans and dignitaries from the Federal government and Ukraine for the blessing of the site of the National Holodomor Memorial, located at a prime location – the intersection of North Capitol Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, and F Street, just a few blocks away from the Capitol Building and Union Station, a high-visibility location granted by the National Park Service.
The blessing service was opened by Mr. Oleksander Oleksandrovych, of the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, DC, and then the Ukrainian and American national anthems were sung. The Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orhtodox Chrch of the USA, Metropolitan Constantine gave opening remarks on the fitting nature of this monument, to serve the purpose of reminding the world of the millions of unmarked graves of the victims of the Holodomor – the Famine Genocide of 1932-33, orchestrated by the regime of Joseph Stalin to destroy the spirit and identity of the Ukrainian nation.
Together with Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia, and Bishop Paul Chomycky of Stamford, Bishop John Bura, Very Rev. Fathers Hryhory Podhurec, Michael Kochis and Volodymyr Steliac and local Ukrainian Catholic clergy, Metropolitan Constantine conducted the blessing service, which was then followed by a Litiya for the repose of the souls of the ten million victims of this crime against the Ukrainian people. Responses were sung by and ensemble of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus.
Following the Services, His Excellency Dr. Oleh Shamshur, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States spoke to thank all those involved in the project, and to announce that a design competition will be held in Ukraine, with the winning design concept to be selected in the summer of 2009.
Ukraine’s First Lady Kateryna Yuschenko then spoke, relating not only the experiences of the family of President Viktor Yuschenko and of her own family during the famine, but also of the work being done now in Ukraine to document the testimony of Famine survivors. She highlighted the evolution of awareness of the Famine in Ukraine, beginning with the initial official denials, through a recognition based on incidental weather-related causes, to a final recognition of the intentional and planned targeting of the Ukrainian people.
Senator Sander Levin, D-Michigan, a long-time supporter of Ukrainian causes in Congress, spoke next, expressing his great satisfaction at seeing the achievement of this monument, as well as the need for all nations of the world to remain vigilant against the use of food as a weapon of political control.
Michael Sawkiw, Chairman of the National Committee to Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Famine, offered remarks quoting from Dante’s Inferno on the agony of death by starvation. Representatives of the Department of State and of the National Park Service also offered fitting remarks, and this portion of the program concluded with the words of a local survivor of the Holodomor, who ended his personal reflections with “God bless America!” and “Слава Україні!”
The ceremony concluded with remarks and a benediction from Metropolitan Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.