Commemoration of Heroes in Ukraine

Last Sunday the Ukrainians in Ukraine commemorated all fallen heroes and the victims of the Russian Communist totalitarian regime.

The "Day of Heroes" has been observed traditionally during the later part of May since the 1926 assassination of Symon Petlura. Petlura, a Ukrainian Central Rada deputy, chief military commander of the Ukrainian People's Republic in 1917-1918, led the Ukrainian government in exile after the occupation of Ukraine by Communist Russia. He was assassinated 80 years ago in Paris, France, on May 25, 1926, by a Ukrainian-born Jewish anarchist, Sholom Schwartzbard. On May 23, 1938, another legendary Ukrainian hero, Col. Yevhen Konovaletz, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Military Organization and leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalist, was assassinated by a KGB agent in Rotterdam, Holland.

Last Sunday's commemoration included parades of veterans, cadets and military units, and laying of flowers at the cemetery where the former soldiers of Ukrainian Riflemen, Ukrainian "Halytska" Army, and Ukrainian Insurgent Army UPA are laid to rest. Bouquets of flowers were laid also at the graves of Petlura in Paris, Konovaletz in Rotterdam, Col. Andriy Melnyk in Luxembourg, and Stefan Bandera in Munich.

Victims of totalitarian regime

President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko and his wife, Kateryna, led the entourage of government officials in commemoration of 100,000 victims of the Russian Communist totalitarian regime in Bykivnya, near Kyiv. The President placed flowers on the Bykivnya Monument and then attended a service for the dead. In his speech he compared the tragedy in Bykivnya to the atrocities committed at Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau.

"It is impossible to imagine how one could slaughter 100,000 people in Bykivnya. What is really terrible is that nobody will tell us why these people were killed. What was their fault?" he said.

The "red terror" in 1930, which followed the genocide famine of 1932-1933, "decapitated" the military and intellectual elite of the former Soviet Union, but it hit hardest on the Ukrainian nation. Over 150 Ukrainian poets and writers (including more than a dozen Jewish nationals who preferred to write in Ukrainian language), not to mention other professionals, government officials, educators, etc., were executed during that period. Most of them were secretly buried at Bykivnya. Approximately 80 percent of the high ranking staff officers and generals, including one Marshall of the Red Army, were also liquidated, which led to the disastrous results in the war with Finland in 1940 and, initially in 1941, with Nazi Germany.

The truth about the Bykivnya mass graves became known after the restoration of Ukraine's independence in 1991, but the officials, most of them former high Communist functionaries, preferred to keep quiet about it, because some of them, or perhaps some of their relatives, could have been the accessories to these atrocities.