On November 24, Ukraine commemorated victims of Holodomor and political repressions. Traditionally, every forth Saturday of November we honor the memory of the fallen with a moment of silence and light. This tragedy of the Ukrainian people is the most complicated and controversial. Even the time has not cured this scar. ForUm has had an interview with Ukrainian historian, publicist, researcher of national liberation movement and former director of SBU archives Volodymyr Vyatrovych to learn how the modern youth of Ukraine should live with this tragedy and to build relations with neighbors.

- What was Holodomor for the Ukrainian people: a scar or a reminder?

- This is one of the biggest tragedies in Ukraine's history. This is one of the biggest tragedies of humanity in 20th century. It ranges with such horrible crimes as extermination of Armenians, extermination of Jews, events in Cambodia and others. It is frightful when the authorities use the power for mass extermination of people, who stand against them or on their way. We must know and remember these events and we must spread this knowledge worldwide to save it from possible repetition.

Genocide is the crime of the crimes. Remembering such crimes is one of the ways to prevent their repetition. To tell about these events is an international mission of Ukrainians.

In 1932-33 this crime was slurred over and nobody spoke about it. Such policy made other similar crimes possible, in particular brutality of Nazi army during the war.

- Such controversial attitude and half-recognition, is it the result of information campaign or difficulties with estimation of historical events?

- I believe both. Estimation of this historical event is a complicated process, especially for those who lived it. People do not want to think about Holodomor and reexamine it, because the memories hurt. On the other hand, you should understand that for USSR it was important to cover this crime.

Back in 1932-33, the authorities blocked any spread of information and created pseudo-image of satisfied Ukrainians. The information was concealed even after Holodomor, till the last days of USSR. In 80ies Ukrainian Diaspora, among which there were people who witnessed the famine and ended up abroad after the WWII, started to talk. Along with the cold war between USSR and US, there was an information war between soviet authorities and Ukrainians Diasporas all over the world.

The Soviet power lost this information war and in 1987 it recognized the very fact of famine. In 1987-89 there were published first essays and memoirs of Holodomor victims. Only in independent Ukraine historians started to study the problem of Holodomor deeply and thoroughly.

However, information wars continue. Among initiators if these campaigns, we can name current Russian authorities, which has been carrying out for years the policy of rehabilitation of Stalin's regime and creation of a certain myth about great and almighty Soviet Union. Any information, which contradicts this myth or stands on the way of political ambitions, causes overreaction by Russia's authorities, including their statements on the issue. However, I believe that recognizing Holodomor as genocide sis important not only for Ukrainians but for Russians as well. I am sure sooner or later Russia will separate itself from communist malicious past and will turn to democracy, and understanding of Holodomor is one of the ways to do so.

- Do you think Ukraine and Ukrainian people will ever forgive Russia for those events?

- The matter is not about blaming Russia for those events. Ukrainians have no intentions to blame Russia for creating famine. The point at issue is that Ukrainians have a right to remember about this tragedy and have a right to talk about its scale. I believe the Russians are the most interested in slamming this nightmare in order to separate themselves from the past crimes.

- And will Russia even forgive Ukraine for OUN-UPA?

- The same thing. I believe that there is an odor of political games in all these talks about mutual forgiveness for the pass. As for OUN-UPA activity in Russia, its manifesto never said that Ukrainian army was fighting against Russian people. OUN-UPA fought against Russian imperialism. Russia should understand that as empire it had to deal with numerous manifestations of national liberation movement. It's obvious that modern Russia does not have to justify its imperial past. It will impede country's development.

Great Britain is an example of overcoming imperial past. Elizabeth II once came to Ireland to commemorate fallen heroes of Irish national liberation movement. It was a brave and important step towards establishment of mutual understanding between two peoples. If Russian authorities ever reach this level, it will mean Russians are finally ready for normal dialogue between our peoples.

- Major part of your work is dedicated to OUN-UPA. This matter is very sensitive for Ukraine. Do you think any reminder of this splits Ukraine?

- I think that the truth about the past cannot split. It can only help to understand the past. If we are able to see what really happened, we are able to understand deeds and motives of those people. But if we look at the past through the prism of some propaganda (soviet or Nazi), it will lead to a split.

As I have always said, Ukraine is split not by historical truth, no matter how hard it is, but by historical myths. Unfortunately, such myths, especially those about OUN-UPA activity, are used even nowadays to manipulate the society. Current Russian authorities keep supporting the myths created back in 40ies. Despite a big number of documents proving the rebel army fighting against Nazis, OUN-UPA is kept being accused of collaboration. Despite the fact that rebel fight lasted more than ten years and was supported by the population, it is still considered by many as a fight against Ukrainian people.  This is the propaganda that splits Ukraine.

Moreover, Ukrainian Education Ministry, which keeps censoring history schoolbooks and cut any information about OUN-UPA, is used by Russian authorities as an instrument to continue this propaganda for the third year in a raw.

- Will debunking of these myths stop the conflict between East and West of Ukraine?

- I am absolutely positive about it. As one of the authors of the exhibition "Ukrainian rebel army: history" I travelled around eastern and southern Ukraine. I was in Odessa, Donetsk, Kharkiv. I saw how people took this exhibition there. Every presentation was accompanied by political show, but there were young boys and girls who showed true interest in the subject. Our youth does not need ready estimations, but pure information. They can draw conclusions themselves. I am sure that UPA issue will unite Ukrainians in the future. Fight for independence unites the history of dependent nations. Take the Irish, for example. Very existence of their nation is based on remembering those who fought for independence. Take the Polish, Jews and other nations. Ukraine is not an exception.
I believe that if we make the point about this fight and its scale and that this fight was not limited to western regions, this knowledge will unite Ukrainians. UPA activity was a continuation of resistance, which ended with Holodomor. In 20-30s, there were numerous anti-soviet revolts in eastern and southern regions as well. Soviet authorities tried to eliminate such movements with Holodomor. Moreover, the very name "Ukrainian rebel army" was invented not in 40ies, but in 1921. That is how the troops of Yuri Tutunnik, acting on the territory of modern Kyiv, Cherkassy and Poltava regions, called themselves.

- You've been working with SBU archives for a long time. Do you think these documents should be declassified?

- Absolutely. I've devoted two and a half years of my work to this. These documents must be declassified as they contain the truth about then events. And this truth will unite Ukrainians regardless of their place of living or political views. These archives will give people the knowledge and certain politicians will longer be able to manipulate them. The more people know the more possibility they will have to estimate the facts themselves.

Archives must be available for public, because they are the basis for normal rethinking of the past. Especially it concerns archives of communist special services, as these documents clearly depict soviet reality. Open documents of the regime provided information through rose-coloured spectacles, and according to this information, Ukraine was supposed to have communism in 80ies. KGB servicemen, on the other hand, reported everything what was happening in our country, then republic, so that the authorities could react with repressions. These archives contain full information about what exactly the soviet period was in the history of Ukraine.   
Moreover, we should not reinvent the wheel. We can follow the example of other countries, which declassified their archives. Despite post apocalyptic forecasts that declassifying of documents will lead to civil war and vendettas, none of these will happen. On the contrary, making classified documents public will help to rethink totalitarian past. Those countries, which opened their archives for public and condemned communist regime, have turned to democracy and become a part of the EU. Such countries as Ukraine, Belarus and Russia lag behind.

- What future do you see for Ukraine within the next 10-15 years?

- Historians do not like to make forecasts. We are more in the past. However, I am an optimist, and the very fact that opposition in Ukraine has not been eliminated, public movements have not been dismissed and freedom of speech has not suppressed proves that Ukrainians have reached a certain level of development. Soon Ukraine will become as good as than Baltic countries or Poland.   
- What future do you want for Ukraine?

- I want Ukraine to be a country of many opportunities for young people, a country where people are proud of their past and do not want to leave.

Tetyana Hryhorieva


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