A Necessary and Solemn Commemoration

In August and October of 1932 and January of 1933, Joseph Stalin, ruler of the Soviet Union, ordered increased mandatory quotas of foodstuffs to be shipped out of Ukraine and to other states of the Soviet Union.  This was done until there was no food remaining in Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of Europe.  Though the number has been estimated to be anywhere from 2.6 million to 10 million, most scholars agree that approximately 7 million people died as a direct result of this forced famine.  

This Ukrainian tragedy was recognized by the Joint Statement of the 58th Plenary Session of the United Nations General Assembly.  Sixty-three countries supported this document.  In 1985, a United States Commission on the Ukraine Famine was established.  They interviewed survivors and published several volumes of eyewitness testimony.  The 1932-1933 famine was found, by this Commission, to be an act of genocide.  In April, 1988, Commission director and historian James E. Mace presented their findings to Congress.

In Ukraine, November 26 is the day set aside each year as The Day of Victims of Famine.  On Sunday, November 28, 2010, parishioners of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary were in communion with their brethren throughout the world as they prayed for those who perished in the famine.  Father Ivan Turyk, pastor, spoke to those in attendance of the need to remember the millions that died.  It was a stirring and touching eulogy.

A memorial wreath of predominantly yellow flowers with black ribbons was carried into church by Khrystyna Hrebeshenko and Taras Horbatyuk and placed before the iconostas.  Seven children each carried one votive candle; each candle represented one million deaths.  Father Ivan led the congregation in a memorial service called  “Panahyda” which ends with the words “veechnaya pamyat” meaning, eternal memory.

Immediately afterward, instead of the coffee and rolls that usually accompany the fellowship parishioners enjoy between liturgies in the church hall, everyone was offered only bread and water.  It was a symbolic and meaningful gesture that united  the congregation with those who have passed.

Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption, established in 1908, has been part of the Perth Amboy community for 102 years.  A church, rectory, school, and convent occupy a block between Alta Vista Place and Jacques Street.  For more information, please call 732-826-0767