Among the major crimes committed against the Ukrainian people, the Holodomor of 1932-1933 (induced starvation-death for millions-genocide) stands apart and forms a category of its own.
It fits the criteria for genocide according to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The 75th commemoration of the Holodomor takes place in 2007-2008.
The deliberate starvation of millions of Ukrainian citizens and the horrible suffering endured by millions more is seen as the most destructive and costliest in terms of human lives in Ukraine`s history. Its main target was the peasantry, the mainstay of the Ukrainian nation.
A large portion of Ukrainian peasants died and the Kremlin engineered the execution of a large part of Ukrainian national elites (cultural, educational, religious, political).
Millions of these victims died from starvation, others were executed with a shot in the head, or sent to the gulag to die.
The genocide against the Ukrainian nation as a whole and included the Ukrainian minority living in the RSFSR, especially the Kuban region of the Northern Caucasus, where the Ukrainian peasantry was starved to death, and a large part of the Ukrainian elites physically exterminated. This Ukrainian ethnic minority should also be remembered.
Dr. James Mace, outstanding U.S. scholar on the Holodomor, called for the establishment of a Holodomor Commemoration, Educational, Research and Historical Complex in Kyiv. Sadly, Mace`s many calls fell on deaf ears.
Leaders in Ukraine and around the world have felt strongly it was important for the Ukrainian genocide to find its proper place in the collective memory of the Ukrainian nation and the world community after being covered up and denied by the Soviet Government for 55 years.
In 2002 the Ukrainian World Congress called for the building of a complex. I wrote an opinion piece in the Kyiv Post back on Nov. 28, 2002.
On Feb. 12, 2003, the humanitarian deputy prime minister at that time, Dmytro Tabachnyk, representing the government, called the famine a voluntary terrorist act that claimed the lives of up to 10 million people, and turned Ukrainian villages into "a horrible social reservation the size of which shocked the entire world," in a hearing before Parliament.
Minister Tabachnyk announced the government was planning to build a National Famine Memorial Complex to include a monument, museum and a historical research center.
President Yushchenko told the IV World Forum of Ukrainians recently that he would make sure a Holodomor complex is built by fall 2008. He said the complex would be appropriate to the level of the tragedy.
COMPLEX NEEDS TO BE BUILT NOW
The Holodomor Complex needs to be built now. It must be a separate, stand-alone institution, not combined with another facility, or organization that covers other repression events or periods in Ukrainian history. It must be wholly devoted to the Ukrainian genocide.
The historical complex should be a world-class structure with a research center, library, exhibition hall, museum, monument, chapel, archive center, bookstore and memorial gallery, as in the leading historical centers of the world.
There are precedents for this type of genocidal commemorative structures. One is the Vad Yashem in Israel and the Holocaust Museum in Washington are devoted exclusively to the Holocaust and not to other crimes the Jewish people have suffered.
Thus, the Holodomor Complex must be focused on the Ukrainian genocide, otherwise its role in the education of Ukrainian youth and its testimony to the world will be greatly diminished.
INSTITUTE OF MEMORY
The Institute of Memory, created recently by the Cabinet of Ministers, is said to be devoted to the crimes against the Ukrainian nation committed by various regimes in the 20th century. There are two main concerns about the Complex being included under this Institute.
Firstly, the 20th century is full of tragic moments for the Ukrainian nation. Crimes were committed by the Tsarist regime, the Polish regime in Western Ukraine between the two wars, the Soviet regime (three famines, mass deportations around WWII and at other times), and German atrocities during 1918 and WWII, including the Holocaust.
Secondly, an institute devoted to a whole century of Ukraine`s national history must not delve exclusively into the tragic moments of the country`s past.
This is certainly not a healthy or sound way to cultivate national consciousness, especially among the younger generation.
The Institute of Memory should also include heroic moments of the Ukrainian struggle for independence or such joyous moments as the proclamation of Ukrainian independence in 1918 and 1991.
The Holodomor Complex, representing the most destructive event in Ukraine`s history, under the Institute, could get lost and just become one more event in the long list of destructive and heroic moments in Ukraine`s history.
GROUND LEVEL MONUMENT
The Holodomor Complex design jury met last week in Kyiv to review the final designs and it will meet Sept. 8 to make the final decision. It will be built underground with a large monument on top.
It should make a major, dramatic and strong statement against communism and the people who were in charge, on behalf of the people, families and nation who suffered under this horrible tragedy and pay tribute to those who died.
The monument itself can become a world recognized symbol for the Holodomor. One that moves the human mind and heart to remember the evil systems of the past and also present governments that destroy millions of lives.
Most current Holodomor monument models focus mainly on the victims, look church structures, and do not make a strong enough statement about the crime.
When one looks at the Holodomor monument it is important it not be easily confused with or mistaken for a church monument It should clearly signify to the viewer that this is the Holodomor Monument and become a world recognized symbol of the Holodomor, about the crime and the victims.
Since the final decision will be made this week, it is far too late to begin the process once again. Officials should work with the winner to develop a design that focuses on the crime and the victims.
The President should issue the appropriate orders now, negotiate the necessary political deals and ensure the Complex is completed by the end of 2008.
Its construction would provide the momentum to the Holodomor 75th commemoration programs around the world and become a world center for the most tragic event in Ukraine`s history. No more speeches or promises, just actions that deliver results.
Morgan Williams is Director, Government Affairs, Washington Office,
SigmaBleyzer Private Equity Investment Group. He is a member of the
Organizational Committee, 75th Anniversary of the Holodomor appointed
by the Cabinet of Ministers; Trustee, Holodomor Exhibition Collection;
Chairman, Mace Holodomor Memorial Fund of the Ukrainian Federation