Knowledge can prevent tragedy's recurrence

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, co-chair, Democratic Party's Council on Ethnic Americans.

Mr. Chairman, I greatly appreciate this opportunity to testify before your subcommittee in support of H.R. 4459, legislation to create a committee to study the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine. Mr. Chairman, I want to particularly acknowledge your considerable efforts to schedule and hold these hearings. Although Congress will shortly adjourn, I hope that every effort will be made to move this legislation. The Senate, to its credit, has already passed a companion bill, and a majority of members of this panel and the full House Foreign Affairs Committee are co-sponsors of H.R. 4459. I am confident that this hearing will provide the House with a persuasive record of testimony in support of this legislation.

I am testifying today not only as a co-sponsor of the legislation under consideration, but also in my role as co-chair of the Democratic Party's Council or Ethnic Americans and as a descendant of victims of the Ukrainian holocaust.

This legislation is necessary for all Americans, not merely a symbolic gesture to Ukrainian Americans. As the wise saying warns: "Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it." An estimated 7 million Ukrainians and other ethnic groups living in the Ukraine (including my own Polish great-grandmother who died trying to save orphan children) starved to death between 1932 and 1933 when the Soviet Union seized grain to suppress a nationally conscious peasantry who were struggling valiantly to maintain their national identity and resist the collectivization of their farms. This massive violation of human rights, however, is one of the world's best-kept secrets. The Soviet Union has effectively denied the occurrence and concealed all evidence. Moreover, the history of this holocaust has received little attention in the West; most Americans know nothing about it. It has been ignored, unreported and forgotten - a gap in the history books.

The legislation before us would remove this tragedy from obscurity. H.R. 4459 calls for the establishment of a Congressional commission to investigate and verify the causes and consequences of the unspeakable crimes committed against the Ukrainian people during this period. The study would not only document history, but also give us important insights into the Soviet system.

The commission is a long-overdue memorial to the victims of the Ukrainian famine - a working monument to their valiant sacrifice - a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

The commission would redress an injustice to all Ukrainian Americans who have waited so long to have the truth about the fate of their countrymen between 1932 and 1933 uncovered. The Democratic Party's Council on Ethnic Americans, which I co-chaired with Sen. Dennis DeConcini, held a series of hearings in cities with large ethnic populations across this country to listen to our people's concerns. During the course of hearings, a number of witnesses urged support for this legislation. Their testimony provided compelling reasons for passage of H.R. 4459.

The commission, however, would primarily provide important lessons for all Americans and all our fellow travelers on this planet. To know the story of this tragedy is to help us prevent its recurrence.

Mr. Chairman, I urge expeditious consideration of this meritorious legislation. Again, thank you and your subcommittee for holding this hearing.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, October 14, 1984, No. 42, Vol. LII

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