The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation recently participated in the 11th Annual Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom and Roll Call of Nations Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington. The medal was awarded posthumously to slain Cuban dissident and democracy advocate Oswaldo Paya.
As described by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOCMF), the honor is bestowed upon “those individuals and institutions who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to freedom and democracy and opposition to communism and all other forms of tyranny.”
The VOCMF website notes: “From the famines, purges, and gulags of Soviet Russia to Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge—from the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre to the Castro regime’s 2012 murder of Cuban democracy activist Oswaldo Paya—Communists have killed more than 100 million people over the past century. Countless more suffered and suffer still. Shamefully, the free world never demanded a moral reckoning for the crimes of communist regimes.”
Ukraine is recognized as one of the countries that has suffered most under communist rule, with millions of Ukrainians having died as a result of Stalin’s Great Terror and man-made genocidal famine, and other brutal Soviet policies and actions.
Two former Ukrainian political prisoners from Soviet times who remain active champions of human rights today, Myroslav Marynovych and Mustafa Dzhemilev, were awarded the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom in 2014. Three prominent Ukrainian-Americans—Kateryna Yushchenko (former First Lady of Ukraine), Paula Dobriansky (former U.S. Undersecretary of State) and Ambassador Lev Dobriansky–were medal recipients. Amb. Dobriansky was the author in 1959 of the Captive Nations Week Resolution, which designated the third week of July as “Captive Nations Week” in support of the desire for liberty and independence of nations subjugated by Communist Russia.
Sixteen embassies and representatives from 61 ethnic and human rights organizations participated in this year’s wreath-laying and medal award ceremony.
Photo at top of page: Participants of the June 2018 Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the Victims of Communism Memorial. (Photo courtesy of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation).