Turning the pages back...

April 27, 1986

The Ukrainian Weekly's issue of April 27 in 1986, carried an editorial marking a historic event. On April 23, on Capitol Hill, the U.S. government Commission on the Ukraine Famine had become reality, and on that day, in a stately hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building, members of the famine commission - representatives of the executive branch of the U.S. government, members of Congress and activists of the Ukrainian American community - assembled for the first time. Their goal at that organizational meeting was to establish guidelines for the significant tasks that lay ahead. Public Law 99-180 had created the U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine to conduct a study of the 1932-1933 Great Famine and, in so doing, to gather all available information about the famine, analyze its causes and effects on the Ukrainian nation and other countries; and study and analyze the reaction by the free countries of the world to the famine.

This was a day many in the Ukrainian American community had worked for, and a day that Ihor Olshaniwsky, the initiator and, literally, the moving force behind this bill, found personally gratifying (though he was unable to be present to witness the fruit of his labor). It was he, we recall, who refused to listen to the naysayers who cautioned "why bother, this bill will never pass anyway." Sadly, Mr. Olshaniwsky passed away just two weeks later, on May 8, 1986.

Well, the bill became law because, as Rep. Dan Mica put it in his opening statement at the famine commission's meeting: "The study of the Ukrainian Famine is not a matter of parochial interest to one people and one part of the world. ... it is precisely in understanding the specific events of the Ukrainian Famine that we may hope to gain valuable insights into issues of continued public policy concern." Those issues, he said are: the use of food as a weapon, genocide, disinformation and the true nature of the Soviet system.

The bill became law because, as Rep. Benjamin Gilman noted, through the study of this particular genocide we are taking a step to ensure "that this kind of genocide does not occur again."

Congressman Mica told his fellow commissioners: "We ... bear a large responsibility in our work as members of the Ukraine Famine Commission. We must establish the facts about what has long been concealed. We must work to restore to public consciousness that which has disappeared from it for far too long. And we must remember above all that our ultimate responsibility is not to any one community, not even to the victims of this heinous crime, but to the American public and the elusive ideal of truth."

Source: "Famine commission a reality" (Editorial), The Ukrainian Weekly, April 27, 1986, Vol. LIV, No. 17.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 27, 2003, No. 17, Vol. LXXI

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