Press release, 4 October 2013
Translation and editing provided by the League of Ukrainian Canadians
Members of the European Parliament Visit Lonsky Street Prison Museum Expect Effective Measures to Overcome the Totalitarian Legacy in Ukraine
Ukraine should take active steps to overcome totalitarianism, and not simply issue declarations, said members of the European Parliament during their fact-finding mission to Ukraine, including a visit to the Lonsky Street Prison National Museum and Memorial. As a country burdened by a colonial legacy of totalitarianism, what is Ukraine doing in order to join the European community?
Members of the European Parliament recently visited the Lonsky Street Museum, the site of a former prison used in turn by the NKVD and the Gestapo, in order to study the possibilities for Ukrainians to obtain information on political repressions of past totalitarian regimes.
A fourteen-person delegation from the European Parliament, all members of the Working Group on Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia of the EU Council (COEST), visited Ukraine in order to familiarize themselves with the state of reforms being implemented in Ukraine ahead of the third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius to be held on 28–29 November 2013. The program of the working trip included a visit to theLonskyStreetPrisonNationalMuseumand Memorial in Lviv, which is located in a building that once housed NKVD and Gestapo prisoners.
The delegation members, hailing from Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom, familiarized themselves with the exhibition, took an English-language tour of the museum, and talked with the museum directors. The visitors’ impressions of what they saw and heard at the museum surpassed their expectations. The museum exhibits were painfully familiar to the delegates from the three Baltic countries, where established memorials that recount the Nazi and Soviet occupations. In this regard, however, a delegate from the UKwas stunned by the Lonsky Street Prison. “The Soviet past is not very well known in the West,” noted the museum’s deputy director Viktoria Sadova.
The members of the delegation from the European Parliament and the Director of the Lonsky Street Prison, Ruslan Zabily, discussed the role of restoring and preserving national memory inUkraine’s efforts to overcome the consequences of totalitarianism, and to achieve de-communization. They were interested in the issue of access to archives, particularly information about past human rights violations, political repressions, and the punitive-repressive system. They were also curious to learn whatUkraine, a country burdened by its totalitarian past, is doing to join the European community.
“This visit proved that there is sincere interest in Ukraine becoming a member of the European family. The members of the European Parliament are positively disposed to and supportive of Ukraine’s chosen path. But this does not mean that we can ignore the policy of national memory. The world is expecting real steps that will serve as a firm guarantee of Ukraine’s aspirations and readiness to take part in the European Union,” noted Mr. Zabily.
The European Parliament resolution of 1 December 2011, which contains the European Parliament’s recommendations to the Council, the Commission, and the EEAS on the negotiations of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, calls for citizens to be guaranteed access to secret archives of the former Soviet Union. It states: “to ensure that the Ukrainian authorities make the archives of former communist secret services available to the public, since this is essential for successful national reconciliation, particularly with regard to atrocities having taken place during the 20th century.”
The members of the delegation from the European Parliament who visited the Lonsky Street Prison National Museum and Memorial in Lviv included: Meelis KORKA, Permanent Representation of Estonia; Siiri KONIGSBERG, Permanent Representation of Estonia; Andrej MICHALEC, Permanent Representation of Slovakia; Ineta CELMINA, Permanent Representation of Latvia; Karen ANDREASSEN, Permanent Representation of Denmark; Sarah RILEY, Permanent Representation of the United Kingdom; Franzisca SAUPE, Permanent Representation of Austria; Tomasz ORLOWSKI, Permanent Representation of Poland; Anna KILAN-LIPKA, Permanent Representation of Poland; Marie MRAZKOVA, Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic; Inga STANYTE-TOLOCKIENE, Permanent Representation of Lithuania; Agne PIPIRAITE, Permanent Representation of Lithuania; Tomas JAKIMAVIČIUS, Permanent Representation of Lithuania; and Simonas CEPKAUSKAS, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania.
During the twentieth century an immense number of Ukrainians were victims of politically-motivated repression and persecution, the subject of a permanent exhibition at the Lonsky Street Prison National Museum and Memorial. Information on these victims is stored in archival institutions, where it is accessible to relatives, researchers, and all other interested parties. In order to facilitate the search for this type of information, the Center for Research on the Liberation Movement, with support from the International Renaissance Foundation, published a reference work as part of a project called “Access to Archives as a Right to Collective Memory.” Entitled The Right to the Truth: A Practical Guide to Accessing Archives, the guide contains advice on how to gain access to and search archives for information about relatives, which includes relevant Ukrainian legislation on access to archives, procedures to follow, and contact information of archival institutions. This guide is downloadable at this link: http://cdvr.org.ua/node/1516