Holodomor Commemoration in Westminster Central Hall, London, 22.11.08.

Around 2000 people attended Saturday’s National Commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor at Westminster Central Hall and Westminster Abbey.  Among distinguished guests were representatives of HM Government, Embassies, Churches, various organisations,  MP’s and MEP’s, representatives of local governments, relatives of Malcolm Muggeridge and Gareth Jones...

In his address, the Ambassador of Ukraine, Dr Ihor Kharchenko, called on all present to proclaim the truth about the Holodomor to the world.  Highlighting the terrible losses suffered by Ukraine 75 years ago and recalling significant events of the past year that have helped to raise public awareness about the tragedy, Dr Kharchenko made particular reference to the agreement between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Yushchenko (15 May), the resolutions of the Town Council of Keighley (4 September) and of Rochdale Borough Council (10 October), and the Torch Relay.  Dr Kharchenko also read out a message from the President of Ukraine.

Tim Hitchens, representative of HM Government, said that the Holodomor was one of the largest catastrophes of the Ukrainian nation in modern times.  It is important that we remember not only the disaster itself, but the causes. It was not a natural disaster, but a man made one which makes the suffering endured by so many people so much more difficult to comprehend. “We must learn that democracy and respect for human rights is the best guarantee of the security of ordinary people. The Holodomor is a stark reminder of this.  It was a tragedy not just for Ukraine, but for the whole of Europe and Europe and the world has a collective responsibility to remember.” 

Mr Hitchens also reiterated that the Prime Minister had agreed that the United Kingdom would work closely with Ukraine to promote remembrance and increase British public awareness of the Great Famine. Gordon Brown’s message to the people of Ukraine was read out.  Mr Hitchens also added that representatives of the British government and the Royal Family have also commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor during their visits to Kyiv this year. The United Kingdom has supported Ukraine's efforts to raise awareness of the Holodomor at the UN and the OSCE. And in London, the exhibition "Holodomor: Through the Eyes of Ukrainian Artists" is currently being displayed in Parliament and was officially opened by the Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague earlier in the week.

Rev. Benjamin Lysykanycz read out a joint declaration of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in Great Britain to mark the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor.  In it, the faithful are called upon to ensure that future generations are made aware of the events of 1932-33.  "Christian Truth calls upon us to make efforts to spread the knowledge of this tragedy...   We all must be informed about this act of genocide, in order that history may never be repeated and that this horrific act may never again be committed against any member of the human race...   Although we cannot turn back the pages of history, we can still work towards a brighter future. Only faith, hope and overwhelming love will help to build a worthy future and prevent the errors of the past."

The AUGB’s Chief Executive, Fedir Kurlak, drew attention to the human toll of the Holodomor and the bravery of Malcolm Muggeridge and Gareth Jones who risked their lives to report truthfully on the systematic annihilation that they had witnessed in 1932-33. “How appropriate that governments of the world were now sustaining the writings of Jones and Muggeridge...” with the European Parliament, for example, adopting a resolution calling the Holodomor a crime against Ukrainian people and against humanity.  Paraphrasing the words of T. Shevchenko, Mr Kurlak called on each and every person to ensure that everyone “knows”, “mourns” and “recalls” the Holodomor and its victims.

During the programme special posthumous awards were presented by the Ambassador of Ukraine to the son of Malcolm Muggeridge, Leonard, and to the niece of Gareth Jones, Margaret Siriol Colley.

In his vote of thanks Mr Muggeridge said that he counted it a great privilege to be present at the commemoration and to share in the tragedy that Ukrainians endured.  He paid tribute to his father, calling him a brave journalist, like the Mr Valiant-for-Truth character in John Bunyan’s work, “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”  Mr Muggeridge also paid tribute to the “people of Ukraine, who against incredible odds, stood up against that brutal dictatorship, tried to defend themselves and suffered tremendously”.

Margaret Siriol Colley said that she was very honoured and privileged to receive the posthumous award on behalf of her uncle, Gareth Jones.  She remarked how proud Gareth Jones’ parents, Major and Mrs Edgar Jones, would have been to know that such a prestigious tribute of recognition had been granted.  His endeavours to tell the world about the devastating Great famine, the Holodomor, in Ukraine were not in vain.  Mrs Colley cited a very poignant extract from the writings of her uncle which very vividly captured the horrors of what he saw:  “Fear of death loomed over the cottage, for they had not enough potatoes to last until the next crop. When I shared my white bread and butter and cheese, one of the peasant women said, "Now I have eaten such wonderful things I can die happy." I set forth again further towards the south and heard the villagers say, "We are waiting for death."

A witness of the Holodomor, Rev Mychailo Hutornyj, movingly spoke of his personal experiences during the Holodomor and Maria Mikulin read out a written account of another survivor, that of Anastasia Ostapiuk.

A minute's silence was impeccably observed at 2.00 pm, coinciding with the minute’s silence being held in Ukraine and many other parts of the world.

During the 80 minute programme, the Bulava Chorus, conducted by Myroslav Buczok, performed the National Anthems of the United Kingdom and Ukraine, Psalm 102 (“Bless the Lord, O my soul”) and the Beatitudes.

Maria Kinash and Yarema Gaunt brought tears to many eyes with their joint recital of “A prayer” in Ukrainian.

Also taking part was the Manchester and Bradford Girls’ Chorus, conducted by Halyna Zamulinska, singing “How will we live?” and “Lord, have mercy on us”.

The commemoration at Westminster Central Hall ended with a "Prayer for Ukraine" led by the Bulava Chorus.

Photos by George Jaworskyj

Address by the representative of HM Government, Tim Hitchens

Ukrainian Ambassador, Dr Ihor Kharchenko, presents posthumous award to son of Malcolm Muggeridge, Leonard Muggeridge

Margaret Siriol Colley, neice of Gareth Jones, addresses the audience

From right to left: Helen Muggeridge (grandaughter of Malcolm Muggeridge), Margaret Siriol Colley, Leonard Muggeridge, Ambassador Ihor Kharchenko, Fedir Kurlak (AUGB CEO), Tim Hitchens

Minute's silence