• Sunday , 19 November 2017

Ukrainian Jewish Encounter and World Jewish Congress hold memorial dinner devoted to the 75th anniversary of the tragedy of Babyn Yar, Kiev, Sept 28, 2016

On behalf of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter and the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Medal was presented to the Ukrainian scholar, dissident, social activist Ivan Dzyuba.

Speech of James C. Temerty, Chairman of the Board of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter upon presenting the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Award for 2016 to Ivan Dzyuba

Fifty years ago, a small group of men and women, mainly Jewish, gathered at Babyn Yar to bear witness. They did so without permission of a state that had long chosen to ignore the truth of the horror that had occurred there.

These men and women dared to face the fearsome power of the Soviet state in order to remember the lives of nearly 34,000 Jewish men, women, and children who had been massacred in the ravines of Babyn Yar 25 years before.

At that informal gathering, a 35-year-old Ukrainian writer and scholar of literature, stepped forward to address the several hundred who had gathered. He spoke out against hatred and against the racism that was at the heart of fascism.

He said: “I turn to you as to my brothers in humanity. I want to address you, Jews, as a Ukrainian, as a member of the Ukrainian nation. Babyn Yar, this is a tragedy of all humanity, but it happened on Ukrainian soil. And that is why a Ukrainian does not have the right to forget about it. Babyn Yar, this is our common tragedy, a tragedy first of all of the Jewish and Ukrainian people. “

He spoke against silence, even though he acknowledged that words were powerless against the enormity of the tragedy of Babyn Yar. He said, “Silence become the accomplice of lies and non-freedom.”

He denounced the persistence of anti-Semitism that was all too prevalent in the USSR and among his fellow Ukrainians.

He bore witness to the thousands who had perished in that place and in doing so defended the honor of the Ukrainian people.

In the following days and years, following their extra-legal commemoration, our honoree and many in that small band of honorable men and women would fall victim to persecution for that act and for their belief in the truth and for their willingness to speak truth to absolute power.

Our honoree would eventually be arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison and 5 years exile for his democratic views and defense of human rights.

Today, 50 years later, now age 85, he is with us again to honor the memory of the dead at Babyn Yar.

It gives me great pleasure to greet that great man, Ivan Dzyuba, and to invite him and the leaders of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter to come forward so that we may confer on him the 2016 Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Medal.

The award for this year reads: “The Third Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Medal is conferred upon Ivan Dzyuba, who fifty years ago spoke before a group of brave Jews and Ukrainians courageously gathered at Babyn Yar to remember the 34,000 Jewish victims of the 1941 mass murders, risking persecution of the Soviet state. Through his heroism, humanism, and moral clarity, he exemplified the spirit of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky.”

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