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Press Release

Speech by Prime Minister of Ukraine Viktor Yuschenko at the Stockholm International Forum on The Holocaust, January 27, 2000

January 31, 2000  #4

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen

First of all let me to express gratitude to the organizers of this international forum extremely important for clarification of the lessons of history.

Holocaust is a permanent pain of the world Jewish community. At the same time it is a tragedy of universal scale.

The hard fate of the Ukrainian nation scattered it throughout the world. Ukrainians have lived through wars and famines as well as Stalins purges. Various empires seized Ukrainian land. There were times when even the Ukrainian language and culture had been denied. That is why Ukrainians understand the ordeal of the Jews so well.

I am proud today that I would speak on behalf of one more person Andriy Yushchenko, my farther, prisoner of Auschwitz, who carried for the rest of his life the camp`s number 11367. He, as well as millions of Ukrainians, passed through all circles of the Holocaust hell.

The Babiy Yar in Kyiv where over 100 thousand of people of different nationalities were executed, more that half of them were Jews. The Babiy Yar tragedy remains a deep sorrow of not only Ukrainian Jews but also of the entire Ukrainian nation. It was one of the gloomiest events in the history of World War Two. That war took lives of more than five million Ukrainians and ruined over 700 cities and towns as well as thousands of villages. But even before, in 1932-1933, around 7 millions of Ukrainians died of the man-made famine and repressions carried out in the 1930s by the Stalins regime. Therefore we know too well what genocide means.

That is the reason why there are so many Ukrainians among the righteous who extended a helping hand to the Jews in the time of disaster. I am proud because of the fact that on the Righteous Alley in Jerusalem there are so many trees for the Ukrainians, who by risking their own lives and putting at stake the lives of their families rescued Jews their neigbours, friends and unknown people and their children from genocide.

I heard about this Alley for the first time from my Israeli guide who was speaking perfect Ukrainian, the language he learned from his Ukrainian cell-mate in the KGB prison.

Millions of Ukrainians and Jews from Ukraine were moved by force to Nazi Germany in the times of World War Two. Today more than 600 thousand people still living in Ukraine were prisoners of the concentration camps and ghettos or slave workers.

For that reason Ukraine is taking active part in the negotiations on fair compensation to the Nazi victims. We are grateful to the President of the World Jewish Congress Mr. Edgar Bronfman who believes that all those who survived Holocaust must be studied as victims irrespective of their nationalities.

The history of Holocaust must be learned and extensively explained so that a similar tragedy would never happen again. The inter-ethnic conflicts which unfortunately do take place in the world on the turn of the century show that mankind lacks tolerance. That is why the lessons of Holocaust remain highly relevant today.

We welcome and support the idea of annual forums, expressed by Mr. Wisel. Ukraine is ready to participate actively in realization of this idea as well as to become a member of the international Task Force.

Today`s forum inspired me of another important idea - analogical commemorative forum on the victims of mass artificial famines in Ukraine under Stalin`s era.

It was not until Ukraine gained its independence that serious and unbiased research and interpretation of the history of Holocaust began in our country. Today the Institute of Political, Ethnic and National studies of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences is dealing with Holocaust research.

We pay much attention to the teaching of the history of Holocaust in Ukraine. We are sticking to the provisions of relevant documents by the Council of Europe which require that the history of Holocaust must be taught in the educational establishments of the European countries as an event of the modern history which influenced the development of the continent and of the world in general.

The Government of Ukraine supports the initiative of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine on creation of an Ukrainian Museum of Holocaust in Kyiv. We hope for support of world Jewish organizations in this matter.

We are also ready to summarize and publish the results of our research on Holocaust in Ukraine, which to some extend could be considered as an Ukrainian version of Swedish project of `Vivid history`.

Ladies and gentlemen

The current transformations in today`s Ukrainian socio-political life, have radically changed the life of the 480 thousand Jewish community of our country which makes a worthy contribution to the strengthening of independent Ukraine.

Despite of economic hardships we are doing our best to create adequate conditions for revival and development of national minorities including the Jewish one. We proceed from understanding that the ethnic policy of the independent Ukrainian state should be based on inter-ethnic harmony and ethnic diversity. Such policy corresponds to the highest international standards in the area of human rights.

In recent years the Jewish movement has become an influential force in Ukrainian society. About 300 Jewish communities and organizations have been organized in 100 cities and towns of Ukraine. More than 70 synagogues are functioning. Only in independent Ukraine thousands of hasid pilgrims got the opportunity to visit freely holy places in Ukraine such as Uman, Medzhibozh, Vyzhnytsja.

The President and the Government of Ukraine help religious communities and organizations including the Judaic ones to repossess the cult premises and property previously requisited. In the uneasy process of restitution the majority of objects were returned to Jewish community as to that which suffered most of Holocaust.

We have done and will continue to do everything to prevent the ideology of totalitarism, dictatorship, xenophobia and anti-Semitism will never take root in Ukraine.

Ladies and gentlemen

Ukraine in the past had become the refuge for the one-third of the world Jewry. Everlasting values of Judaism originated in Ukraine. It was in our country that the unsurpassed works of Jewish philosophy, literature and art were created, and the political ideas of national liberation took their root. Just to name Zeev Zhabotinski, Sholom-Aleihem, Haim Bjalik, David Oistrakh and Vladimir Gorovitz. By the Lord`s providence two talented nations were brought together to live in peace and in good neigbourly relations. There is a lot in common in historical destinies of Ukrainian and Jewish peoples. And history as it is well known is the best teacher. We will always remember its lessons and do everything possible to promote the ideas of tolerance and mutual respect of nations.

Thank you for your attention.

For more information, please contact:
Taras Malyshevskyi, Press Secretary of the Embassy of Ukraine
310 Somerset Street West, Ottawa, ON K2P 0J9
Tel. (613) 230-2961, fax (613) 230-2400,