SOUTH BOUND BROOK, N.J. – Nearly 13,000 persons, according to police estimates, gathered here at the Ukrainian Orthodox Center of St. Andrew the First-Called Apostle on May 15, St. Thomas Sunday according to the Julian calendar, to pay their respects and mourn the 7 million men, women and children, who died 50 years ago in the Great Famine of 1932-33 – Stalin’s planned genocide of the Ukrainian nation. St. Thomas Sunday, known as “Providna Nedilia” (Seeing-Off Sunday) to Ukrainians, is traditionally set aside as a day to honor the dead.
The memorial services at the Ukrainian Orthodox Center, which this year were specially dedicated to the famine victims, began with a 9 a.m. archpastoral divine liturgy celebrated by Metropolitan Mstyslav of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the assistance of Archbishop Mark of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Bishop Iziaslav of the Byelorussian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. The responses at the liturgy, as well as at the subsequent requiem service, were sung by the Memorial Church Choir directed by Taras Pavlovsky.
Immediately following the liturgy, thousands congregated before the steps of St. Andrew’s Memorial Church for the outdoor ecumenical requiem service that was conducted by clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant faiths. The concelebrants were Metropolitan Mstyslav, Metropolitan Stephen Sulyk of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Mark, Bishop Iziaslav and Pastor Wladimir Borowsky, executive secretary of the Ukrainian Evangelical Alliance of North America.
Ukrainian veterans and uniformed members of the Plast and ODUM Ukrainian youth organizations, with the organizations’ banners, formed an honor guard around the steps of the church.
Metropolitan Mslyslav, who spoke in Ukrainian, delivered the sermon. (The full text of the sermon, in English translation, was published in The Weekly, May 15, page 1.)
He said: “This year’s Pascha in the life of the Ukrainian nation and the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is marked with the inexpressible painful remembrance of that which occurred only 50 years ago. In 1932 and 1933, Moscow, crimson with the human blood which it shed through the ages and totally brutal in its treatment of the nations which it enslaved, guided only by designs of plunder, resolved to erase from the face of the earth the Ukrainian nation as a separate, independent nation-state. Guided by this goal, Moscow confiscated by force from the Ukrainian farmer his ancestral land, a land made holy by his bitter sweat, a land which through the ages was the strongest fortress of the Ukrainian nation and, at the end of the year 1932, robbed from him everything which the generous Ukrainian earth had borne him during that very abundant year of harvest.”
“As a consequence of this,” he noted, during the Easter of 1933 “black banners already flew over Ukrainian villages, announcing that the ‘village had died out.’ In the torments of death by starvation, that winter almost 7 million Ukrainians perished. The remembrance of this heart-rending event covers this year’s feast of Christ’s Resurrection with a black veil.”
In conclusion, the metropolitan called on all Ukrainians: “Let us unite in fervent prayer and let us reverently bow our heads in respect before the known and unknown graves of the children of the Ukrainian nation whose lives ended in the torments of death by starvation and in the struggle for freedom and for the land of Ukraine.”
A prayer was then read by Pastor Borowsky. Next to speak was Metropolitan Stephen, who focused his remarks on the meaning of suffering, such as that endured by the Ukrainian nation. (The full text of Metropolitan Stephen’s remarks appears on page 7, in English translation prepared by The Weekly staff.)
“Suffering is not always a punishment for sins,… often, suffering is an indication of special divine providence, of a special mission,” the Catholic hierarch noted.
He went on to say: “In the years 1932-33, over 7 million of our dear brothers and sisters died in Ukraine. And they died only because they were Ukrainians, because they loved our Ukraine. They died of starvation because the enemy considered them opponents of the godless invader.
“In our Ukraine no candles burn before tabernacles, because there are none. The roads of our Zion are overgrown. But, within our hearts burns the inextinguishable flame of love for our national Jerusalem. We are left with the most powerful weapon – prayer. It sustains our nation and is a companion in prisons and in exile that no one can take away.”
In concluding his address, Metropolitan Sulyk, too, called for unity. He said: “Let us direct our efforts at bringing brotherly love into our midst so that it may unite us in Christ and His Church, so that the testament of our fathers – so clearly expressed in the acts of January 22 of 1918 and 1919 – are realized. Let us ponder well these important matters which determine whether we become the masters of our Ukrainian nation’s God-given homeland.”
He then assured the crowd that God “will hear the sound of the prayers of our faithful of the Church in the Catacombs of Ukraine” and he urged: “Let us add our prayers.”
Finally, the chairman of the National Committee to Commemorate Genocide Victims in Ukraine, Prof. Petro Stercho, spoke. In his Ukrainian-language remarks he noted: “In the spirit of national solidarity and in the spirit of Ukrainian Christian ecumenism, we, thousands of Ukrainian Americans, are gathered here at the foot of St. Andrew’s Memorial Church to pray for the repose of the souls of over 7 million victims of the Great Famine.”
“All Ukrainians in the free world,” he continued, “join with us in prayer also for the souls of all those who died in the fight for the freedom of Ukraine,” as well as to ask God for a better fate for the Ukrainian nation.
Prof. Stercho stressed: “We have a sacred duty to remember and to make others aware of the past and present sacrifice of the Ukrainian nation in the battle for freedom, truth and justice. We have a sacred duty to learn the true reasons and motives of the Bolshevik Moscow-directed famine that occurred in Ukraine 50 years ago, at a time of good harvest. We have a sacred duty to make our Ukrainian youth and the nations of the free world aware of these tragic historic facts.”
The requiem service concluded with the singing of the Ukrainian national anthem as the veterans and youth groups saluted. The service was broadcast live by the Voice of America.
The outdoor program continued with remarks by George Pappas, chairman of the New Jersey Governor’s Ethnic Advisory Council, who read Gov. Thomas Kean’s proclamation designating May 15 as the Official Commemoration Day of the Great Famine in Ukraine.
Also present at the outdoor memorial program were: T. Robert Zochowski, director of New Jersey’s Office of Ethnic Affairs, and John T. Jacobson, assistant to the secretary of state, who were accompanied by Andrew Keybida and Zenon Onufryk, members of the Ethnic Advisory Council.
Mr. Zochowski told The Weekly that Gov. Kean had announced that he will form a “governor’s study commission” to look into the public school curriculum for “historical inaccuracies concerning the peoples of Eastern Europe and the nationalities of the USSR.”
Mr. Zochowski said that the group “would probably be composed of both private individuals and public officials” and would include representatives of the ethnic groups involved. Details, he said, would be released in several weeks by the governor’s office.
Mr. Onufryk noted that the creation of a governor’s study commission is a “precedent-setting move,” since it is the first such commission, not only in New Jersey, but in the entire United States, and that the Ukrainian community would be extremely grateful to the governor for this act.
Mr. Keybida, addressing Messrs. Zochowski, Jacobson and Pappas, the latter accompanied by his wife Katherina, said: “We are grateful that you came to join with us in prayer” and we are grateful to the governor for his proclamation.
Meanwhile, the thousands who had attended the requiem service dispersed throughout the grounds of the Ukrainian Orthodox Center, and many went to offer their prayers at the graves of family members and friends.
Later that afternoon, a memorial concert was held at the Home of Ukrainian Culture (see story on page 4).
The Ukrainian Weekly, May 22, 1983, No. 21, Vol. LI