Each year in early November, VOC honors the more than 100 million killed and 1.5 billion still enslaved by communist regimes around the world. On Tuesday, November 7, 2023, we marked Victims of Communism Memorial Day with our inaugural International Cultural & Food Fair at our museum in Washington, D.C.
In partnership with embassies and ethnic partner organizations, we showcased ethnic cuisine and drink from more than 20 countries that fell victim to or are still victims of communist regimes. Guests had the opportunity to try these cuisine items and learn from country representatives about each nation’s experience under communism as well as their unique history, culture, and traditions. Guests also toured the museum.
Our program included remarks by Rep. Ben Toma, Majority Leader in the Arizona House of Representatives who spoke about his experience living under the Ceaușescu regime in Romania, and Gary Powers Jr., son of Francis Gary Powers Sr., CIA U-2 pilot who was shot down in the midst of the Cold War while flying in Soviet airspace, along with video remarks from representatives of all seven states where VOC Day has been passed.
Watch the event recording below:
Event partners included:
Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria
Embassy of the Czech Republic
Embassy of Georgia
Embassy of Hungary
Embassy of the Republic of Latvia
Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania
Embassy of Moldova
Embassy of Romania
Albanian Community in the Catholic Diocese Arlington VA
Belarusian American Association and Belarusians of Washington DC
Campaign for Uyghurs
Capital Area Tibetan Association
Center for a Free Cuba
D Light Café & Bakery
Free Korean Association and One Korea Network
Initiative For Change, Justice, and Democracy
Keep Taiwan Free
Polish American Congress
United Help Ukraine
United Macedonian Diaspora
Vietnamese Americans for Freedom
The Wei Jingsheng Foundation
Rep. Ben Toma, Majority Leader in the Arizona House of Representatives, spoke about his experience living under the Ceaușescu regime in Romania. After communists took power in Romania, Ben Toma’s family land was confiscated by the regime and the secret police began surveilling their daily lives because of their religious faith. Growing up under the threat of the oppressive regime, the Toma home was routinely searched by the Securitate. Fearing for the safety of their children because of their beliefs, Toma’s parents escaped communism in 1986 — it would be a year before Ben and his three siblings would join them in the United States. VOC was honored to help produce Rep. Ben Toma’s witness story in partnership with the University of Arizona’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom as part of a three-film series for the Center’s Oral History Collection, which is available on our website here.
We were honored to have Francis Gary Powers, Jr.—son of Francis Gary Powers Sr., CIA U-2 pilot who was shot down in the midst of the Cold War while flying in Soviet airspace—offer remarks. Born June 5, 1965, Gary is the author Enemy Territory, Spy Pilot, and Letters from a Soviet Prison. He is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of The Cold War Museum located at Vint Hill, VA and was the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Cold War Theme Study which assisted the National Park Service to identify historic Cold War sites for preservation. Gary, as the President and CEO of the Vienna Regional Chamber of Commerce (2000-2005) helped to establish the Tysons Corner Chamber of Commerce during that time period. In 2015, he consulted for a Steven Spielberg thriller, Bridge of Spies, about the 1962 spy exchange between KGB spy Rudolph Abel and CIA U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, Sr. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and Master’s Degrees in Public Administration and U.S. History. Gary lectures internationally, appears regularly on C-SPAN, the History channel, and Discovery channel, and is married with one son.
Thank you to our bar sponsor!
Thank you to our co-hosts!
FIU in DC and the Václav Havel Program for Human Rights at Democracy at FIU’s Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs