"Spring has come but a black cloud is hanging over a village. Children do not run; they do not play but sit on the roads. Their feet are so skinny, drawn up, and a big belly between them. The head is large and bowed face to the ground. And there is almost no face, only teeth on top. A child is sitting and swinging all over ... An infinite moaning song... And it demands – neither from the mother nor father, pleading into the empty space and the world – only one thing: "Eat, eat, eat."
"At the market in a village of Verbivka, a woman was carrying a bottle of oil. The bottle slipped out of her hands and broke. Women came running from everywhere; they fell on the place where oil was spilled and started to chew the earth."
"Every day the dead were taken to the cemetery by dozens ... Some of those in carts were still alive, moaning on their way to the grave..."
My dear Ukrainians, these are not the worst memories of witnesses like Mykola, the survivors of the Holodomor. They are from the very first Memorial Book published in 1991 when Ukraine gained independence. After sixty years of taboo imposed by Soviet authorities on this tragic subject, the family of Ukrainian journalists, Lidia Kovalenko and Volodymyr Maniak, collected and arranged testimonies from all over Ukraine.
According to the authors of the book, the survivors were reached their final stages in life and they "hastened to tell the terrible truth that haunted them for all their lives ... In the villages old people took them to the outskirts, to the wormwood-covered wasteland, and said: “Here.” The men took off their hats, women held white handkerchiefs to their eyes "... You could hardly see a memorial cross or even a burial anywhere. The totalitarian regime tried to trample down the very memory of the terrible famine into the ground!
There are still graves in yards and gardens in some villages even today. The living had no strength to take the dead to the cemetery, burying them where they lived.
Fear and persecution failed to erase the memory.
In the multi-volume History of the Ukrainian SSR published in 1984, they wrote unabashedly about 1933 – a year of carefully planned mass murder of Ukrainians by famine – as a joyful period when the welfare of farmers increased.
But in the mid-1980s, the famous work of historian Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow, was presented to the public. Since we have gathered on this place a year ago, Robert Conquest passed away in his 99th year of life. We, as grateful Ukrainians, shall never forget his unique contribution to spreading the truth about the Holodomor. Neither shall we forget the invaluable contribution of the American-Ukrainian publicist and historian James Mace, who worked with the US Commission on the Ukraine Famine.
We call Robert Conquest and James Mace, Lydia Kovalenko and Volodymyr Maniak, as well as dozens of others renowned individuals, the people of the truth. They broke through a tight blockade of deception and disinformation, which Moscow held Ukraine and the whole world for decades.
The truth pierced its way to the people. See how Ukraine has changed over the last two-three-four years. According to today's sociological research, 80 percent of Ukrainians consider the Holodomor as an act of genocide. Such an assessment prevails throughout Ukraine without any exception – in the East and in the West.
But for those who are still undecided, I shall refer to the world-famous lawyer Raphael Lemkin. He coined and explained what the term “genocide” means both de facto and de jure. In 1953, Lemkin proved that Ukrainians were subjected to nothing but genocide. First, there was a mass elimination of the Ukrainian peasantry that preserved Ukrainian culture, language and traditions. Secondly, there was annihilation of the Ukrainian intelligentsia as the brain and the mind of the nation.
This week, Lemkin’s works were officially declared extremist in Moscow. His article, which I have just mentioned, is included in the list of banned literature. Nothing hurts like the truth... How else could you comment on this?
Lemkin was absolutely right! Social and national motives of hatred crossed in Stalin’s mind. The social hatred was for the Ukrainian peasantry and the national one – for rural Ukrainians who constituted the vast majority of the Soviet Ukraine. According to Yevhen Sverstyuk, a great dissident of the sixties, the whole nation was "selected for dismantlement" under the banners of internationalism.
Special units, regular troops and militia turned Ukraine into a huge concentration camp and a testing ground for weapons of mass destruction – the slaughter of Ukrainians by famine. Today it would be called ethnic cleansing!
Ukrainian peasants were banned to leave their hometowns and villages for those regions of the USSR where famine was not as encompassing or did not happen at all. The Soviet troops detained hundreds of thousands of farmers, 90 percent of which were forcibly returned back to their hungry villages – to die. The ways to rescue were intentionally blocked.
A lot of countries and international organizations officially recognized the Holodomor as genocide. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the Government and I, as President, will persist in expanding the geography of such recognition. Russia has not only denied the Holodomor as a deliberate act of man-made famine, but has been exerting pressure on foreign governments.
It had been a long time before some of us understood why the modern Russia persistently protects Kremlin’s old crimes allegedly committed by a different regime. Why do they take other people’s sins on their souls?! Now, when Ukraine is fighting against Russia's aggression for twenty-one months, the answer is clear.
Let us give some thought to it. Only over the last hundred years, the Russian Empire twice collapsed or its size decreased. It existed under five names. At least seven different flags fluttered over it. Its subjects are singing the seventh national anthem. Four different political regimes ruled it from two capitals. One of it was renamed three times.
Only hatred of Ukraine and uncontrollable desire to destroy us, Ukrainians, as a separate nation, has remained unchanged. This obsession united the Whites, the Reds, and even the Red-Browns. In this historical continuity, the Holodomor is nothing but a manifestation of centuries-old hybrid war against Ukraine waged by Russia!
Whether they take our grain or fire Grad rockets at our land, their goal remains the same and clear. It hurts the same way when all children died of hunger in Starobilsk orphanage, Luhansk region, in 1933… And when children died from shelling of Mariupol by Russia-backed militants last winter.
The role of the Communist Party is also terrible and criminal. However, history puts everything in place. The Communist Party did not win a single seat in the Verkhovna Rada during the parliamentary elections last year. It was a true verdict of the Ukrainian people!
This party did not participate in local elections last month at all because of the Law On De-Communization. As President, I require full and unconditional adherence to this law as well as further disclosure of the KGB archives!
Today we traditionally light candles in memory of the Holodomor victims.
We pray for a million-strong heavenly legion of the Ukrainian people.
Pure souls of innocent Ukrainian victims are invisibly here among us.
History knows no “ifs”, but it is my strong belief that the Holodomor would not have happened if we had not lost our statehood in the early 1920s. The Moscow Bolsheviks would not have gained victory in Ukraine if independence supporters united their forces rather than killed each other to the pleasure of Moscow.
We must remember our past and draw conclusions from it. As a great thinker Ortega y Gasset put it, nations are born and live until they have a program for tomorrow. That is why we should finally get rid of the nation-victim sentiment and be proud that we have defended our place on a political map of Europe and the world in such a fierce struggle!
The dream of our enemies was stated back in the Valuev Circular: "did not exist, does not exist, and cannot exist." In response to it we say: "Existed, lives, and will exist!"
It is just the time for us to say the world and ourselves: we will not forget the Holodomor-Genocide crimes and their perpetrators. We will not betray the ideals of the Revolution of Dignity. We will do everything for a national, political and economic revival of Ukraine, and for its entry into the European family of free nations!
The key to our victory can be, according to the Holodomor survivor Mykola, only unshakable unity of the Ukrainian people. These words are not pathos of books, but an objective necessity. This is the imperative without which we cannot survive.
Ukrainian revival continues. It is the irrepressible process of reinvigorating, purifying our lives, building a renewed country and placing new people at the forefront – the patriots and heroes who stopped the empire’s advance.
Glory to our new heroes!
Glory to Ukraine!