Teaching the Human Cost of Communism

Film Tour: Ashes in the Snow

In early 2019, at four of our professional development workshops for middle and high school teachers, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) piloted a new content module focused on the baltic deportations. The content was developed through our partnership with bestselling author Ruta Sepetys whose novel Ashes in the Snow, about Baltic deportations, has been made into a film by the same title.

The new workshop model included a private screening of the film, a discussion with the author, and custom materials to accompany our flagship curriculum, Communism: Its Ideology, Its History, and Its Legacy. The workshops reached more than 200 teachers in Nashville, Denver, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.

Case Western Reserve University

On October 29, VOC Director of Academic Programs Dr. Murray Bessette moderated a panel hosted by professor Dr. Laura Tartakoff at Case Western Reserve University. Around 40 students, faculty, and community members heard from Defense Forum Foundation President Suzanne Scholte and Freedom Society President Maria Werlau about the human cost of the communist regimes in North Korea and Cuba.

The next day, both speakers travelled to Bay High School in Bay Village, OH, where Elias Gorman (a 2018 VOC Teacher Fellow) arranged for them to speak to more than 400 students about the current human rights situation in both countries, after which they were interviewed by four students for a podcast.

Dissidents Condemn the Castro Legacy in Cuba

On December 10, VOC co-hosted an expert panel with Freedom House contrasting pre-revolutionary Cuba’s role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the Castro regime’s six decades of brutal human rights violations. Panelists included Frank Calzon, Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba; Sirley Ávila León, a Cuban dissident and laureate of VOC’s Human Rights Award; and John Suarez, Freedom House’s Program Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

University of Georgia

On February 23, Dr. Murray Bessette spoke to Young Americans for Liberty at their University of Georgia chapter in a talk called “So You Think You’re a Socialist?” explaining the gap between socialism’s false promises and its grim realities.

Merita McCormack at Oakcrest School

At the request of two alumni of our National Teacher Seminars, Cecilia Escobar and Kathleen Ouyang, VOC organized a talk by local ally and witness Merita McCormack to Oakcrest School for girls on March 25 in Vienna, VA, describing what life was like growing up in communist Albania.