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07.03.2007

Kharkiv authorities against a memorial to the victims of Holodomor

   

The Regional Committee on organizing events around the seventy fifth anniversary of Holodomor [the Famine] of 1932-1933 wishes to erect a memorial plaque and to create a museum in honour of the Victims of Holodomor.  However the city architectural department asserts that it is not appropriate to erect a monument in the city.

A wooden Cross has stood in memory for fifteen years in the Kharkiv Youth Park. Those who support a memorial say that this was always a temporary memorial.

They approached the architectural and construction departments of the city authorities asking for a site on which to build a large memorial complex. The letter they received reads: “It would be more suitable to establish the monument on the territory of the Kharkiv region which suffered more from this tragedy”.

Human rights defender Yevhen Zakharov states that this is not correct. Kharkiv was the centre of Holodomor and thousands of villagers went there in search of any food and died of starvation having found nothing. He adds that attempts to measure where the amount of suffering was greatest are absurd. “In general this issue of whether Holodomor affected the region or the city more is, I believe, a matter of debate”.

Adviser to the Head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration Ivan Varchenko does not discount the possibility that the decision to turn down the application for a site is politically motivated. The initiative to build the memorial was supported by the Regional Administration which has long been at loggerheads with the Kharkiv city authorities. He says: “I would not exclude the possibility that it was precisely political hysteria and the wish for a political battle that temporarily blinded the officials involved and dulled their understanding of general ethics and moral values.

The Chief City Architect Serhiy Chechelnytsky rejects accusations that his decision was made on political grounds. He continues to insist that Holodomor was a tragedy of the Ukrainian countryside. He is also categorically against placing a memorial in the Youth Park where there was once a cemetery for the victims of the Famine. “If we agreed to have a Youth Park, then let’s have one. Here we have the situation where we removed the cemetery, called the place a Youth Park and are now again making it a cemetery”.

Vandalism as a mark of indifference to the past

Acts of vandalism have recently become more frequent in Kharkiv. At the end of December 2006, as reported here, the Memorial to UPA Soldiers in Kharkiv was wrenched from its foundation. The Eurasian Youth Union claimed responsibility for the act. The police have not found those responsible.

In January the Memorial to UPA Soldiers and the Cross in Memory of the Victims of Holodomor again suffered from vandals with black paint being daubed over the signs.

Ivan Varchenko says that one cannot exclude the chance that a new monument will further provoke protests, but this is no reason for not allowing them. “The value of the memorial is not in the stone which they can take away, break or daub in pain. The value is in the spirit and atmosphere. In the understanding that this is part of our history, it is that which must become the foundation for our future.

The last word is with the Prosecutor

The competition to design a Memorial to the Victims of Holodomor has not yet begun. First it needs to be established where it will be. Representatives of the organizing committee have turned to the city prosecutor’s office, asking the prosecutor to determine whether the officials of the Mayor’s office are acting in compliance with the Law on Holodomor.

 

As well as links below to the Law on Holodomor, which we hope the Prosecutor will read most attentively please see also http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1169674233 and follow the links there for information about the recent acts of vandalism

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