Fifty years ago, on July 18, 1971, thousands of events commemorating the annual Captive Nations Week were held across the United States, with Ukrainians making up the largest contingent of ethnic groups that were represented at parades, rallies and other events throughout the weeklong observances.
In New York, the day’s program began with a divine liturgy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, followed by a march along Fifth Avenue to the Central Park Bandshell that featured a program of various speakers that was sponsored by the American Friends of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations. From there, several hundred participants staged an orderly demonstration at the United Nations Mission of the Soviet Union. Later that same day, a rally was organized by the Americans to Free Captive Nations at the Statue of Liberty. Local television and radio media reported on location.
In Buffalo, N.Y., Ukrainians were represented at a luncheon on July 14 that was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club. A Captive Nations Week proclamation was signed by Mayor Frank Sedita. The luncheon was co-sponsored by the Erie County Citizens Committee on Captive Nations, which presented the Eisenhower Captive Nations Medal to Dr. Walter Dushnyck, editor of The Ukrainian Quarterly of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.
The annual event in Miami for Captive Nations Week attracted participants representing Ukraine, Belarus, Cuba, Estonia, East Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
Dr. Lev E. Dobriansky, in his extensive evaluation of Captive Nations Week that was featured in The Ukrainian Weekly, stated: “…What is of crucial importance to the evolving captive nations analysis is America’s progressive loss of moral conscience toward one billion of humanity under Red tyranny and oppression. This dismal development goes hand-in-hand with our growing incapability to undertake the primary and essential tasks of Free World leadership and responsibility. Vacuous utterances about ‘policing the world’ and the like are nothing but expressions of insularity toward the realities of our world. Any translated objectification given to them would certainly produce vacuums that our enemies would rapidly occupy to our severe strategic disadvantage. Logically, no matter how you slice it, the interwoven pattern of national will, disused power, confusion as to the historical meaning of America, rationalized preoccupations with ostrich-like activities, and an appalling loss of moral conscience toward the billion of humanity reduces itself to a declining faith in world freedom, which can and will include our own in the end if redress and leadership along the line are found wanting.”
He added, “…advocates of ‘social justice,’ the instant ‘humanists,’ our ‘sociological’ preachers and the like tend to be long on moralistic exhortations […] and completely silent when it comes to the captive nations and their relevancy to our long-term freedom…” The “freedom-conscience gap” is a warning sign, Dr. Dobriansky underscored, adding, “It surely doesn’t require much common sense to perceive the simple truth that gained freedoms at home – and there have been many – will count for naught if total national freedom is perilously endangered and lost.”
Similarly, Rep. Edward J. Derwinski (R-Ill.) on July 21 delivered the Captive Nations Week address on the House floor: “A totalitarian structure that is built upon an atheistic contempt for God and an amoral disregard for man contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. When these seeds will germinate no one can foretell, but history teaches us to hope rather than despair.” Mr. Derwinski also urged President Richard Nixon to make his scheduled trip to Peking [Beijing] conditional until after a real ceasefire was in place in Indochina [Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia], all POWs were returned and all U.S. citizens held by China were released. Also mentioning the deteriorating situation in Poland, Mr. Derwinski noted the effects of the Brezhnev Doctrine on the Eastern European nations under the Soviet Union, and the increasing threat that the Soviet Union posed in the Middle East, including Israel, and the USSR’s growing influence among radical Arab governments.
Pennsylvania’s governor, Milton J. Shapp, made headlines when his office initially refused to issue a proclamation for the annual Captive Nations Week. Only after hundreds of protesters gathered outside of the governor’s office with complaints of “indifference and apathy to the millions of anguished people who have lost their freedom” did the governor relent and finally issue a proclamation.
Sources: “Thousands take part in CN week,” “Mark CN week in Buffalo,” “The Captive Nations scorecard, part 1” by Lev E. Dobriansky, The Ukrainian Weekly, July 23, 1971, “Mark CN week in Miami,” “Derwinski addresses House in CN week observance,” “Gov. Shapp criticized for ignoring CN week,” The Ukrainian Weekly, August 7, 1971.