Two tragedies, and justice is required for both
My grandfather is Jewish, my grandmother is Ukrainian. I never thought it was necessary to rank tragedies. No atrocity from the past should be repeated, and each should be understood and named for what it was. Hitler officially called to eliminate the Jewish people; although Stalin didn’t put his plan down in words, he declared his goal of crushing Ukraine as he unleashed a genocidal famine against its inhabitants.
Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish lawyer from western Ukraine who coined the term genocide, called “the destruction of the Ukrainian nation” the “classic example of Soviet genocide, its longest and broadest experiment in Russification.”
Calling for the recognition of the Holodomor is a matter of justice, an act of remembering the four to five million Ukrainians who died. Stalin and his associates starved to death one in six people living in rural Ukraine in 1932-33.
Those who suffered and died in the Holodomor were our grandparents, great-grandparents, great-aunts and -uncles. The Holodomor was a calamity for the Ukrainian people that Ukrainians have a responsibility to study, understand and commemorate. It isn’t about comparisons to other genocides. Acknowledgment of the horrible crime against these victims – that is all that Ukrainians want.
On the state level, we commemorate the victims of both crimes on the appropriate dates, and I would like to express my gratitude to my colleague from the Knesset for raising the matter of commemorating the Holodomor in Israel. We are restoring our state as the Jewish people have restored Israel. Unfortunately, Ukraine has a powerful neighbor to the east that is intent on preventing us from living in peace and prosperity.
Ukrainians and Jews have much in common. Of course, Hitler’s racist policies destroyed millions of Ukrainians and Ukrainian Jews died in large numbers in the Holodomor. And many Ukrainians risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, and many Jews helped their Ukrainian neighbors during the Holodomor.
It is my sincere hope that the Israeli people will recognize the Holodomor for what it was as we in Ukraine recognize the Holocaust. Mutual recognition deepens our humanity. It is as natural for me as the Ukrainian and Jewish blood that harmoniously flows in my veins.
The author is a member of the Ukrainian Parliament and of vice president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
A MONUMENT for the victims of the Holodomor famine in Kiev, Ukraine.