With these powerful words, Senator Charles Schumer, Senior United States Senator from the state of New York, described and defined the genocide committed against the Ukrainian Nation and her people 76 years ago in 1932-33. He declared that the communist regime of Russia was not simply attempting to force the Ukrainian people into collective farming, or to erase the small land owners – the kulaks, or to wipe out the “intelligentsia”. The real goal of the genocide was to “completely eradicate Ukraine as a nation”. Senator Shumer was participating in the annual Genocidal Famine Memorial, which takes place each year at St. Patrick Cathedral, New York City, during the month of November.
This was the 18th year in a row that Ukrainians-Americans and others from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and as far away as Washington, D. C. joined together in prayer, commemorating those ten million men, women and children lost in Josef Stalin’s horrifying effort to destroy a people – a nation – long proud of their rich land, which was known as the “bread basket of Europe”. The weather held down the attendance this year, which was only about one-half the normal size, but those present were sincere in their petition to God for the repose of the victims’ souls in that place where the “Light our Lord’s Countenance shines upon them” and their memory will be eternal.
The annual commemoration is hosted each year by the Eastern Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and the Stamford Eparchy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the USA in which the city of New York is located and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, centered in New York City. Archbishop Antony of our Church and Bishop Paul of the Stamford Eparchy are the host hierarchs. The Archbishop opened the commemoration this year declaring that “we have no right to forget those who perished senselessly” in spite of the attempts of the government of Russia today, along with those of some other nations to categorize the famine as a ‘natural phenomenon” for which the godless regime bore no responsibility.” The Archbishop continued: “We will continue to remind all mankind of the sanctity of life and the God-given rights of every individual human being. We will remind the world’s political leaders that they no longer have unlimited and unquestioned power to destroy life…in Ukraine or in any other nation of the world.”
Five hierarchs participated in the Memorial Service, which followed: His Beatitude Metropolitan Constantine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Eminence Metropolitan Stefan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, His Grace Bishop Emeritus Basil of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and His Grace Bishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. They were joined by over thirty priests and deacons of the two churches in beseeching God’s loving mercy for the victims of the famine. The Dumka Ukrainian Chorus, under the direction of Vasyl Hrechynsky beautifully sang the responses for the Panakhyda and the prayer for our Ukrainian nation, “Bozhe Velykyj”
Tamara Gallo Olexy, President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, offered opening remarks and served as Master of Ceremonies for the program that followed the memorial service. She spoke of the consequences of the famine for Ukraine and the effect it has had on all succeeding generations of the Ukrainian population. Mr. William Pope, of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, read the statement issued by President Barack Obama on the occasion of the Famine Commemoration.
Representatives of the government of Ukraine – His Excellency Oleh Shamshur, Ambassador to the USA and His Excellency Yuriy Sergeyev – Ambassador to the United Nations – also spoke. Mr. Shamshur announced that the Ukrainian government will provide funding for the establishing of a Famine Monument in the heart Washington, D.C. across from the United States Capitol building and Union Station. Mr. Sergeyev spoke of continued efforts at the United Nations aimed at educating the world about the darkest hour of our Ukrainian history. Metropolitan Stefan (Soroka) made concluding remarks about the history of the famine and its never ending effect upon Ukrainian history. The Metropolitan also expressed gratitude to all who participated in the memorial services and program, as well as to His Excellency Archbishop Dolan, the head of the Roman Catholic diocese of New York, for his kindness in providing the Cathedral for this ecumenical service.