(for more on the Holodomor, see also: http://rightinniagara.blogspot.com/2007/12/perspectives-on-famine-terror-in-soviet.html)
Tara Deshpande wrote in "A very good PM", (National Post, Jun.19, 2009):
"Re: The Final Chapter, Guy Pratte, June 13
Three things stand out prominently for me about the prime minister-ship of Brian Mulroney. First, he displayed courage to confront British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in opposing apartheid in South Africa.
Two, he implemented free trade with the United States, thereby immensely helping our economy. And finally, he showed his humane nature by granting convicted killer David Milgaard a review of his case, leading to his exoneration and subsequent release from jail.
Mr. Mulroney has already acknowledged his error in judgment in his dealing with Karlheinz Schreiber. I don't think he should be subjected to further indignity."
About two weeks after I read Deshpande's above letter, I read “Cross of the Sickle”, (National Post, July 4, 2009) and found the theme (regarding communism) relevant to Deshpande's earlier thoughts of Mr. Mulroney.
As I read (in Cross of the Sickle) about Canada's proposal to build a monument to the forgotten victims of communism, and reading of how China accused Americans of “provoking confrontation between ideologies” over the Goddess of Democracy statue, I thought I'd add two more of Brian Mulroney’s notable accomplishments:
I recall Brian Mulroney’s principled speech at a Ukrainian World Congress memorial service held in 1983 at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, when Mr. Mulroney, then Conservative Opposition leader, admonished the Soviet communist regime for creating the famine that killed millions of people in Ukraine. The Soviet propaganda machine, not used to having its murderous ideology provoked, responded by filing an official protest with the Canadian government, calling Mr. Mulroney’s statements a "anti-Soviet", "provocative", and a “one hundred percent lie”!
Later, in 1991, under Prime Minister Mulroney, Canada became the first western nation to recognize Ukraine’s independence after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Mr. Mulroney’s unwavering determination to stand up to the brutal reality of communism is in itself monumental, and should not be forgotten.
I want to say to Mr. Mulroney: Thank-you, Sir, for seeking the truth and speaking out on behalf of Ukraine when it was most needed.
To see the news reports of this incident at the time, let's look back to this Dec.5, 1983 Globe and Mail report "Mulroney address sparks ire of Soviets":
"A Toronto speech by federal Conservative Leader Brian Mulroney has been branded "an anti-Soviet and provocative undertaking" by a Soviet official.
Alexander Podakin, a press attache at the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, said in an interview that his Government has filed an official protest with the Department of External Affairs about Mr. Mulroney's speech yesterday at the fourth World Congress of Free Ukrainians.
Mr. Podakin said Mr. Mulroney repeated "a 100 per cent lie" when he said between seven and eight million people died in 1933 in a deliberately created famine in the Ukraine, a republic within the Soviet Union.
Mr. Mulroney told about 7,000 delegates at Maple Leaf Gardens: "The famine that swept the Ukraine in 1933 was man-made, orchestrated and directed from Moscow, and enforced by a regime dedicated to creating a new Soviet order." Mr. Podakin called Mr. Mulroney's statement "a lie picked up by the Opposition party, for what purpose I do not know; a 100 per cent lie picked up by the Leader of the Opposition for his own purposes only, which is one of (the) anti-Soviet and provocative campaigns unleashed in the West under the slogan of 'The Campaign against Communism.' " Mr. Podakin said the Soviet Union regards Mr. Mulroney's speech as a breach of the agreements that were signed between the Eastern and Western powers in Helsinki eight years ago. Canada was one of the signatories. "The whole thing of giving support or taking part in a gathering like (the Ukrainian congress) by any official or by the Leader of the Opposition of (Canada) is a gross violation of the Helsinki agreement," he said. "The Helsinki agreement says that the countries would refrain from rendering direct or indirect support to terrorist or any other subversive activities aimed at overthrowing a legal and legitimate government of a member state." Mr. Podakin said the World Congress of Free Ukrainians "exactly aims at overthrowing the legal and legitimate Government of my own country, the Ukraine, and at my other country, the USSR." Mr. Podakin said not only the Ukraine but all of the Soviet Union had serious food shortages in 1933, as did Western countries such as Canada and the United States.
Mr. Mulroney's staff would not allow a reporter to interview the Tory leader yesterday about the Soviet protest.
An External Affairs Department official said he was aware from past experience "that the Soviet Union and other countries keep a close eye on these things and they have, on occasion, complained if Government officials participate in such events." As Opposition Leader, Mr. Mulroney is not a Government official. "They might consider Mr. Mulroney, as leader of the Opposition, somehow a Government official, or a Government official-to-be, perhaps," the spokesman said."
The Globe and Mail also ran this editorial, "A 100 per cent truth", (Dec 16, 1983):
"Between three million and 10 million Ukrainians are believed to have died in the great Ukrainian famine of 1933. The famine is reported by historians, newspaper accounts and survivors to have occurred and to have been deliberately created by Stalin to impose collective farming upon the Ukraine and to defeat Ukrainian nationalism.
As people starved, Stalin requisitioned all grain for export. Or, as Conservative Leader Brian Mulroney told the World Congress of Free Ukrainians marking the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy, "The famine that swept the Ukraine in 1933 was man-made, orchestrated and directed from Moscow, and enforced by a regime dedicated to creating a new Soviet order." Alexander Podakin, a press attache at the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, has said that Mr. Mulroney was repeating "a 100 per cent lie." He said that an official protest has been filed with the Department of External Affairs charging that Mr. Mulroney is guilty of a breach of the agreements signed between the Eastern and Western powers in Helsinki eight years ago, with Canada as a signatory. Mr. Mulroney's speech, said Mr. Podakin, "exactly aims at overthrowing the legal and legitimate Government of my own country, the Ukraine, and my other country, the USSR." Curiously, Mr. Podakin provided some supporting evidence for Mr. Mulroney's statement. He told an interviewer that other countries, including Canada, had experienced famine at the same time the Ukraine did. But his country, the USSR, denied from the beginning that any Ukraine famine occurred in 1933 and rejected offers of aid from international relief organizations. Western reporters were conducted on carefully controlled tours which exhibited nothing but plenty. But then, as now, some Western reporters avoided the official tours, walked the land of the Ukraine and came back with photographs and reports of the dead and dying.
Mr. Podakin does not understand the workings of a free press. Nor, apparently, the workings of a free parliament. He presumes that the Department of External Affairs can chastise the Leader of the Opposition for the statements he makes. It would be amusing, except that nothing about the deaths of three to 10 million people can be amusing.
The Soviet Union was so little concerned about the Ukraine famine that it did not even count the dead."
Y. R. Botiuk wrote in "Ukrainian famine", (Globe and Mail, Dec 16, 1983):
"In Mulroney Address Sparks Ire Of Soviets (Dec. 5) Alexander Podakin, the press attache of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, accused Tory Leader Brian Mulroney of having repeated "a hundred per cent lie" when he said that between seven million and eight million people died in 1933 in a deliberately created famine in Ukraine.
In fact, the Great Famine of 1933 is a historical reality that even Stalin and Khrushchev found impossible to deny.
It may be of some interest to Mr. Podakin that on Nov. 15, the United States Senate Agriculture Committee conducted a hearing on Soviet agriculture and focused its attentions on the artificial famine of 1933.
On that occasion, addressing a packed hearing room, Senator Jesse Helms said: "The Communist Government in Moscow adopted a deliberate and diabolical plan to starve the Ukraine into submission. Despite abundant harvest in 1932, the Soviets stripped the Ukraine of its food, removing more than four million metric tons of grain alone. In the winter of 1932- 1933, more than six million persons died in this holocaust."
John Antoniw wrote in "More than one holocaust", (Windsor Star, Sept.8, 1987):
"Most people seem to agree that the TV movies about the Holocaust were important to remind ourselves and kids of the events that led up to the Nazi genocide policies. "We must never let such a thing happen again," is a common response.
It is this observation that needs examination. We assume, by being horrified and angered at the Nazi atrocities that we are vaccinating ourselves against a repeat. The unfortunate, unfair and maybe even dangerous thing is that there have been other holocausts going on in the world today, yet it is neither fashionable nor profitable to examine them.
For example the holocaust in the Ukraine, where, in 1932 Stalin unleashed history's first and only man-made famine in order to bring Ukrainians to heel and to collectivize the farms. The world ignored this famine, which was denied by the Soviet government. Some seven million died from hunger and disease, plus those executed by Stalin, who later told Winston Churchill that collectivization cost 10 million lives.
Who recalls the holocaust of the Soviet Union's genocide of seven national groups, before and during the Second World War? It is virtually ignored, but people from these groups were imprisoned, deported or liquidated because their loyalty was suspect.
Those who say the showing of movies and pictures will help ensure that there will be no repeat of holocausts are deluding themselves and others. And that is dangerous and hypocritical for it increases complacency, encourages selective indignation against injustice and guarantees repetition and perpetuation of the Holocaust mentality."
Let's go forward twenty-one years after John Antoniw's above 1987 letter, when Lubomir Luciuk wrote in "Ukraine must pursue perpetrators of Holodomor", (Edmonton Journal, Jun.4, 2008):
"They lied to live.
They had to, just to survive.
Most were peasants. From antiquity, they husbanded Ukraine's rich black earth. Their land was known as "the breadbasket of Europe," coveted by more powerful neighbours. Ukrainians often found themselves in bondage, against which they rebelled. War ravaged their country, invaders coming to enslave or exterminate them, some denying the very existence of their nation. Yet they endured. Their national anthem heralds a deeply entrenched cussedness -- Ukraine Hasn't Perished.
In 1917, in the midst of the Great War, they tried to re-assert independence, and failed. Most of Ukraine came under Soviet rule. Soon their very earth was taken away as they were forced onto collective farms. Those resisting were branded "kulaks" and liquidated as a class.
Moscow imposed ever-increasing grain quotas in 1932-33, as roving gangs of Communist militants pillaged the countryside, searching for hidden stores of food, and Soviet Ukraine's borders were sealed. No one could escape or relieve the resulting man-made hunger.
Aid from abroad was rejected, as the Kremlin denied what was happening, well-served by fellow travellers, the most notorious of whom was Walter Duranty of The New York Times, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his supposedly objective reporting on Soviet affairs. Publicly, Duranty ridiculed famine reports. Privately, on Sept. 26, 1933, he informed British embassy officials that "as many as 10 million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year." That vital intelligence was suppressed. Molly-coddling Moscow was more important. For some it still is.
How many perished during the Great Famine, which Ukrainians call the Holodomor? No one knows, but, certainly, many millions. Not all were Ukrainians, just as Jews were not the only victims of the Holocaust. And those who survived still had to live through the Second World War, during which Ukraine lost more people than any other nation in Nazi-occupied Europe. In the 20th century Ukraine was truly made into a Golgotha, a "place of skulls."
Yet, even after the war, these witnesses to a Soviet crime against humanity -- arguably the greatest act of genocide to befoul modern European history -- did not speak out. Several million Ukrainians were in western European refugee camps in 1945. Many had been herded into the Third Reich as slave labourers or POWs. Lucky to be alive and far from the Soviets, they may have thought they were finally free. They would be disillusioned.
REPATRIATED, BUT NOT 'HOME'
According to the Yalta agreement, everyone who had been within the borders of the USSR on Sept. 1, 1939, was a "Soviet citizen" and must be repatriated. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children were forced to return whence they came, often at bayonet point.
Prof. Watson Kirkconnell, president of the Baptist Federation of Canada, protested to Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King that "to hand them over to the Red Army and NKVD is to murder them," pleading that we should play no role in this crime against humanity. Canadian troops did.
To avoid being sent "home" tens of thousands of these displaced persons pretended to be what they never were -- citizens of prewar Poland or Hungary, Czechoslovakia or Romania. Schooled in how to pull off this deceit by their countrymen, who coached "Eastern Ukrainians" about the day-to-day minutiae of life in western Ukraine, they sometimes fooled Allied and Soviet repatriation and immigration screening commissions. Again, the victims lied to live.
Even after being resettled few spoke out. To admit that you survived the Great Famine meant acknowledging you were once a "Soviet citizen." Obviously, you had not gone "home," as required, which meant you misrepresented who you were and secured your new citizenship falsely. The legal remedy for that crime is denaturalization and deportation. So if you denounced the Soviets for what they had done, you could end up being returned to them. Understandably, few were brave enough to risk that.
Only as the Soviet Empire exfoliated could the truth about the Holodomor be addressed openly. By 1991, however, many survivors had died. And, to this very day, some in post-Soviet Ukraine defend the Soviet past, so obfuscating their own complicity in the many crimes of Communism.
Nevertheless, efforts have been made to recover Ukraine's true historical memory. The fourth Saturday of every November is now a national day of mourning in Ukraine. And President Viktor Yushchenko's government has sought international support for the recognition of the Holodomor as genocide, a campaign furthered during his recent Canadian visit when our Parliament passed a bill doing just that.
This is all good but also off-point. For Kyiv is ignoring a far more pressing duty. Just as Holodomor victims remain alive, so do some of the perpetrators. If Ukraine allows those real liars to pass away unpunished, then all of the above is nothing but an unforgivable hoax, a falsehood that could never be forgiven. "
Lubomyr Luciuk also wrote in "A genocide long ignored", (Winnipeg Free Press, Nov.22, 2008):
" Ukraine's suffering gaining recognition
Those who survived knew that the famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine was a deliberate, politically engineered catastrophe whose victims numbered in the many millions, yet few dared even whisper about this devastation of their nation to others in the generations following.
It was not until the late 1980s, as the Soviet empire stumbled into the dustbin of history and an independent, internationally recognized Ukraine re-emerged in Europe, that restored freedom allowed for the truth to be set free. Until then, those who had endured the horror now known as the Holodomor remained trapped in the very place where it could not be spoken of.
Meanwhile, those in the Ukrainian diaspora who had grasped the terror-famine's mainsprings and weight found their admonitions largely ignored, completely unaware that intelligence reports about conditions in the USSR, compiled by several governments, often corroborated their understanding of the causes, course, and consequences of this man-made famine.
Yet knowing what they did, those very same Western governments sent no relief and lodged no formal protests with Moscow, even as millions starved. A British foreign office mandarin confided why: "The truth of the matter is, of course, that we have a certain amount of information about famine conditions... and that there is no obligation on us not to make it public [but we] do not want to make it public... because the Soviet government would resent it and our relations with them would be prejudiced."
Brave, and few, were the survivors who, just after the Second World War, tried to remind the West of this atrocity, expecting their witnessing to find fertile soil during the Cold War. They were mistaken. Ukraine's genocidal Great Famine was not accepted as a reality and remained mostly unknown as a subject of historical inquiry until quite recently.
Indeed, those attempting to till its memory were subjected to a barrage of defamation, denounced as embittered emigres -- either Nazi collaborators or apologists for such miscreants. Echoes of those prejudices persist.
Where testimony could be given about the famine, it was usually rejected or ridiculed.
A noticeable resurrection in the debate over the causes and impact of the famine was precipitated in 1984 by the film Harvest of Despair, followed in 1986 by the release of Robert Conquest's book Harvest of Sorrow, by the 1988 Report to Congress of the U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine and, in 1990, by the Final Report of the International Commission of Inquiry into the 1932-1933 Famine in Ukraine. Even so, for almost a decade after Ukraine's independence was secured in 1991, no more than token initiatives were made to commemorate the Great Famine.
Succeeding Ukrainian governments likewise demonstrated no interest in bringing the perpetrators and enablers of Communist war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice, a negligence sometimes excused by reference to the post-genocidal nature of post-Soviet Ukrainian society.
This indifference persisted until November 2004 when, as the world watched, democracy prevailed during Ukraine's Orange Revolution. But what also then became apparent was just how fragile the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity are.
Ukraine played no official role in the 2003 campaign to have Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize revoked because of his mendacious reporting on the famine -- an effort that unexpectedly harvested extensive and overwhelmingly positive coverage internationally.
But by 2006 Ukraine's parliament had, at President Viktor Yushchenko's urging, promulgated a law defining the Holodomor as an act of genocide.
Kyiv then undertook diplomatic efforts to build international recognition for this position. One modest success was achieved earlier this year when Canada formally recognized the famine's genocidal nature.
Yet as more archival evidence about the Holodomor and its authors began emerging from long-sealed repositories, voices of protest were heard from the Russian Federation.
While its advocates no longer deny that a famine occurred, they claim it had no particularly Ukrainian focus, that argument being as credible as insisting that because millions of non-Jews perished during the Holocaust the Shoah's Jewish dimension is somehow exaggerated.
Contemporary Ukrainian efforts aimed at enshrining the Holodomor as a foundational experience in Ukrainian history while gleaning international sympathy for Ukraine as a victim nation reflect Kyiv's gradual awakening to a critical geopolitical certainty: Ukraine may be in Europe but its place there and perhaps even its right to exist are far from secure.
Just how many perished during the Great Famine may never be calculated precisely but that millions were scythed down as Ukrainian resistance to Soviet rule was consummated is no longer in doubt. Even if the victim total was "only" 2.6 million -- and it was likely much higher -- the intensity of mortality in Soviet Ukraine over a duration of less than a year confers upon the Holodomor the unenviable status of being a crime against humanity arguably without parallel in European history.
That is not well understood, but someday it will be, everywhere."
The Winnipeg Free Press wrote this editorial, "Famine was genocide", on Nov.22, 2008:
" No one will ever know for certain how many people were killed by the deliberate starvation of Ukraine ordered by Stalin in the 1930s, but estimates run as high as 20 million, which was the figure used by the scholar Robert Conquest, who did more than anyone to expose to the world the horrors of the Holodomor, as Ukrainians refer to the Famine.
In his book about the Famine, Koba the Dread, British author Martin Amis quotes from Mr. Conquest's Harvest of Sorrow to emphasize the magnitude of the slaughter: "We may perhaps put (the Famine) in perspective in the present case by saying that in the actions here recorded about 20 human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter, in this book." Harvest of Sorrow is 411 pages long.
It has been said that the death of one person is a tragedy, the death of a million a statistic. And one can argue which 20th century legacy is the greater enormity, the Holocaust or the Holodomor, but while the individual horrors, the tragedies, that each accumulated can perhaps be counted, they can never be measured in any meaningful way.
They can, however, be remembered and those who refuse to remember them, or even acknowledge them, become accomplices in the original crime. The Holocaust that Nazi Germany waged against the Jews is well-documented and well-remembered. It is ingrained in the conscience and the consciousness of the world, or at least of the Western world, to the point that Holocaust denial is a crime in many countries. Deniers are regarded as accomplices. The world is a better and safer place for that memory.
It is a worse and more dangerous place, however, because of the continuing refusal of many people, many governments even, to acknowledge that the Ukrainian Famine occurred and that it was a deliberate act of genocide committed by Stalin and the Soviet government against the Ukrainian people.
Only in recent years has the Holodomor come to gain some acceptance in mainstream Western thought. Previous to that, Western intellectuals, leftists, writers, journalists and general public opinion subscribed to the Soviet propaganda that it was a natural famine of far smaller proportions.
So confused have these lies left the world that estimates of the victims of this genocide range from an absurdly low 2.5 million to Mr. Conquest's credible 20 million and far beyond, with the most accepted figure being a compromise of a still staggering 10 million victims.
There is, and never was, any rational reason for accepting the Stalin line on the Ukrainian Famine, yet the West eagerly bought into it, and many people still do. The time has past, however, when honest denial of the Holodomor is possible, just as honest denial of the Holocaust is no longer possible. The Famine, too, should be engrained in our conscience and our consciousness lest we remain its accomplices."
On May 29, 2008, Stephen Harper's Canadian Conservative federal government, with all-party support, received royal assent on Manitoba Conservative MP James Bezan's private member's bill, allowing Canada to officially recognize the Holodomor as a genocide.