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65th Anniversary of Deportations from Crimea, Ukraine

Washington, DC — On May 18, a wreath-laying ceremony was held on the grounds of the Victims of Communism Memorial to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars and other nationalities from Crimea, Ukraine, in 1944. The event was organized by the International Committee for Crimea and Ukraina Citizens International Association, with the support of the US-Ukraine Foundation.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Inci Bowman of International Committee for Crimea described how the entire population of Crimean Tatars was rounded up at gun point in the early hours of May 18 and taken to train stations. It took three days to clear Crimea of its Tatar population, about 200,000 people, who ended up in the Urals and Central Asia, mostly Uzbekistan. Most of the Crimean Gypsies were deported with Crimean Tatars because many of them had Muslim names. The next group of Crimeans to be deported, Greeks, Bulgarians and Armenians, did not leave Crimea until the last week in June. This group also included individuals with foreign passports, citizens of Turkey, Greece and Iran. Altogether there were about 39,000 people.

O. Aleksandrovych and Y. Miroshnychenko

O. Aleksandrovych and Y. Miroshnychenko

Olexandr Aleksandrovych, Minister-Counselor from the Embassy of Ukraine, who spoke next, said what was done to Crimean Tatars, "deportation, exile, starvation and execution -- was yet another horrible crime of the inhuman Communist regime." It was, therefore, very symbolic and appropriate that the wreath-laying ceremony was taking place at the Victims of Communism Memorial. He laid an elegant basket of flowers from the Embassy of Ukraine, next to the wreath presented by the event organizers, at the pedestal of the Monument. The government of Ukraine has taken various measures to enable the Crimean Tatars to settle in their historic homeland, Mr. Aleksandrovych noted, and has been supportive of the development of their language and culture. In fact, the 65th anniversary of the deportations is an official commemorative day to be honored throughout Ukraine. (The text of Mr. Aleksandrovych's Remarks is available at this Web site.)

The letter received from the Mustafa Jemilev, Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis in Simferopol, was read by Mykhajlo Datsenko of Ukraina Citizens International Association. Also a member of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine, the Honorable Jemilev thanked the members of the Ukrainian community and the Embassy of Ukraine for remembering the Crimean Tatars on the anniversary of their tragic Surgun (Deportation) and expressed hope for a lasting friendship between Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian People.

Dr. Lee Edwards, Chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, announced that the Foundation would be launching the online Global Museum on Communism in June, coinciding with the 2nd anniversary of the opening the Memorial. He drew attention to the inscriptions on the stone pedestal of the Monument: To the more than one hundred million victims of communism and those who love liberty. Since the unveiling of the Monument, representatives of various nations and ethnic groups visited the Memorial to honor the memory of those victimized by Communist regimes.

Dr. Greta Uehling

Dr. Greta Uehling

The next speaker was Dr. Greta Uehling, an anthropologist, who lived with Crimean Tatars in Uzbekistan and Crimea while conducting research for her award winning dissertation at the University of Michigan. Author of a book, Beyond Memory: Crimean Tatars' Deportation and Return (2004), Dr. Uehling noted that Crimean Tatars' yearning for and "memory" of their homeland sustained them during a 50 year movement for repatriation and described their recent efforts to reestablish their lives in Crimea.

A member of the Parliament of Ukraine, the Honorable Yurii Miroshnychenko, who happened to be visiting in Washington, was also in the audience. He wanted to participate in the ceremony and spoke briefly. The Ukrainians had also suffered under the Soviet regime. The Famine of 1932-33, which claimed the lives of millions of people, he stated, was a crime of genocide committed against the Ukrainian people. The ceremony ended with a moment of silence, led by Inci Bowman, who summarized what the date May 18 or Black Day means to Crimean Tatars.

Participants at Wreath-Laying Ceremony

Participants at Wreath-Laying Ceremony at Victims of Communism Memorial

Attending the ceremony were Ms. Nadia McConnell, President of the US-Ukraine Foundation; Michael Sawkiw, President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America; members of the Ukrainian-American community and representatives from the Assembly of Turkish American Associations. The media representatives included reporters/cameramen from the Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) and the Voice of America.

Inci Bowman

For additional photos of the event, see our Photostream.

Posted: 24 May 2009
Updated: 5 June 2009

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