American Leaders Join Dozens of Nations in Remembering the Victims of Communism
Record Number of Embassies and Human Rights Groups Join VOC to Commemorate the more than 100 Million Victims of Communism
On June 11-12, a record number of twenty-three embassies, and twenty-six ethnic and human rights organizations joined 10 Members of Congress and over 300 participants for the annual Victims of Communism Commemoration on Capitol Hill, which this year revolved around human rights in Cuba and the legacy of communism in the post-Soviet sphere.
Triumph of Liberty Luncheon Awards Cuban Dissident Guillermo Fariñas
The two-day long commemoration began with VOC’s Triumph of Liberty Luncheon at the Florida House on Capitol Hill, highlighting Cuba’s ongoing fight against communist tyranny and recognizing the many years Guillermo Fariñas Hernández has spent resisting the Castro regime.
Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart said that “VOC’s recognition of Mr. Fariñas could not come at a more important time.” The Congressman reminded those present that in Cuba “There have been over a hundred arrests in just the past two weekends. For the ninth consecutive Sunday, over seventy Cuban activists have been violently arrested.” He made it clear that “the US Congress stands in firm solidarity with the Cuban people not the brutal oppresors” in the Cuban government.The highlight of the luncheon was Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas receiving the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, whereby VOC honored his courage and long commitment to liberty. Through his actions, Mr. Fariñas has helped expose the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Castro regime, particularly through more than 23 hunger strikes against the Castro government. Mr. Fariñas dedicated the award to “the political prisoners who had been arrested during the 1960s and 1970s and have suffered much more than [I have], as well as to those Cuban’s who have not given up hope to one day see a free Cuba.” Fariñas remains a living reminder of the Cuban regime’s utter brutality, and a prophetic voice speaking on behalf of all victims of communism.Read the comments of Mr. Fariñas on the Dissident blogTexas Senator Ted Cruz, whose father fled from Cuba, helped to introduce Mr. Fariñas with a special video message to those present. “The Castros have an active, modern, and comprehensive apparatus of oppression,” said Senator Cruz. He also announced that in his forthcoming book, The Time for Truth, he dedicated the first chapter to Mr. Fariñas, as a testimony to the enormous power of the simple act of telling the truth about the Castro regime’s brutality. Watch the video of the Senator’s special message
In his remarks at the Florida House, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said that “the free world faces new and evolving challenges that borrow from communism’s legacy, and echo the same disdain for human dignity that cast a shadow over half the world at the height of the Cold War.” He also added that “Vladimir Putin does not hide his nostalgia for the Soviet Empire, and he has adopted many of the tactics of his Communist predecessors” while in Asia “it is no secret that Communist China seeks a dominant position in the region, one achieved not through persuasion and good will, but through coercion.” Read the rest of Senator Cotton’s remarks here
Following the luncheon, VOC hosted an academic panel discussion in the Members’ Room of the Library of Congress to discuss “The Soviet Sphere in Reality and Memory.” The panel discussion began with featured remarks by Florida Congressman Dennis Ross who drew attention to the need for an institution like VOC that reminds the world of the crimes committed by communist regimes; such a mission is especially important for those who did not live during the Cold War and have no memory of the brutalities of the communist system, the Congressman said. “We have to let the next generation know,” Ross said, about “those who have suffered under the worst regimes of modern man.”Illinois Congressman John Shimkus recounted the tragic fate of the Baltic states, which suffered immeasurably under communism and now provide leadership in Europe to counter Russian aggression and propaganda in the region. Shimkus recalled the three years he served “on the border between totalitarianism and freedom” as an infantry officer along the West German border and he mentioned his efforts more recently to co-sponsor the Black Ribbon Day resolution in the House, which would make August 23 a national day of remembrance in memory of the tragic Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, “We must continue to tell the story of the past so that we dare not repeat that in the future,” Rep. Shimkus warned.The panel, chaired by VOC chairman Dr. Lee Edwards with human rights experts and Russia scholars David Kramer, Alonzo Hamby, Paul Goble and Alexander Podrabinek explored the ways in which history has been used and abused in the years since the collapse of the Soviet Union—a conversation as relevant as ever in these days of a resurgent Russia re-assembling the pieces of the former Soviet space.
Read a summary of the panel discussion on the Dissident blogDuring the event, a special collection of Cold War era anti-communist editorial cartoon drawings and posters from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division were on display. Highlights include artists’ responses to issues of censorship featuring political caricatures of Joseph Stalin and commentaries on totalitarianism, international resistance, and the importance of voting as a weapon against Communism.
Screening of Witness Project with Daniel Magay and Nal Oum
The event proceeded with a special screening of two videos of VOC’s Witness Project, an oral history resource, through which survivors tell their stories to help keep an accurate memory of communist crimes. The story of Hungarian Olympian who escaped to America after the 1956 Olympic Games Daniel Magay and Cambodian medical doctor Nal Oum, who was among the only “intellectuals” to escaped the Khmer Rouge killing fields told stories of courage and sacrifice that political refugees who fled communism know all too well.Watch VOC’s witness videos with Daniel Magay and Nal OumThe events of the day concluded with a commemoration reception featuring remarks by Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur who shared compelling stories of life behind the Iron Curtain and explained her motivation to support Ukraine. She also singled out VOC for praise, saying that, “Recalling the legacy of communism, fulfilling your mission to memorialize the victims, to educate our public and to document the evidence [of communist crimes] is as important now as it has ever been,” the Congresswoman said.
Roll Call of Nations and Awarding of Russian Dissident Podrabinek
The next day, on the anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s Berlin Wall speech, June 12, foreign dignitaries, ambassadors, members of the diplomatic corps, ethnic and human rights organizations and more than three hundred guests braved the heat to participate at VOC’s 8th Annual Roll Call of Nations at the Victims of Communism Memorial.The commemoration ceremony featured remarks by VOC Chairman Dr. Lee Edwards who reminded guests of the moral duty never to forget the victims of communism for the sake of survivors and future generations as well.Russian dissident Alexander Podrabinek, who received the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom at the ceremony, said that “the Soviet Union may have collapsed, representing the failure of the global communist quest, but the Russian people and many others around the world still live under repression today.” He said that “dictatorships sell peace in the world for recognition and acceptance by civilized democratic countries.” He also remarked that Western leaders shaking hands with dictators is “a low blow” for those few who fight for human rights in those countries.
Read the remarks of Mr. Podrabinek on the Dissident blogFormer Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs János Martonyi, who led Hungary into NATO, reminded the audience of the toxic legacy of communism which forces people to live in a corrupted moral environment. Communism, he said, was not a good idea badly implemented, but an aggressive and an utterly wrong idea to begin with. Mr. Martonyi said that moral clarity about totalitarianism must be part of a non-negotiable minimum in America, which has sacrificed more than any other nation to roll back communism. “In the face of aggression, lies, and revisionism, our responsibility is nothing less than to protect, preserve, and promote the best parts of the West,” the former minister remarked. Read the remarks of former Foreign Minister Martonyi on the Dissident blog
Wreath Laying Ceremony
The ceremony concluded with the 8th annual Roll Call of Nations, during which twenty-three embassies and twenty-six ethnic organizations, including the American Cold War Veterans Association, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, Students for a Free Tibet, and Cuba Democracy Advocates, participated in the event, commemorating the more than 100 million victims of communism around the world. Surrounded by people from dozens of nationalities and ethnic backgrounds, the events were attended by over three hundred visitors and supporters.
For more information or to schedule a press interview please contact Ayla Ybarra at [email protected] or (202) 629-9500.