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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Tragicomedy in Lutsk

Vladimir Lenin monument demolished, Joseph Stalin monument erected
11 February, 2014 - 12:09

Monument to “the leader of all peoples,” as Joseph Stalin is still called by his supporters, has been erected at the office of the Volyn Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Since local Communist branch is no more in occupation of luxury rooms, but has to rent a small office in a workers’ dormitory, its hallway has turned to be the only place to put the monument. The Lutsk Stalin is made of concrete and weighs 100 kilograms. The city’s residents still remember a red tent featuring… Stalin’s portrait which suddenly appeared in downtown in the spring of 2011. It turned out that the tent was the center of the local Komsomol fundraiser aimed to finance the future monument to this notorious person.

In Volyn, where thousands of families were taken to Siberia after the so-called liberation of the region by the Red Army, Stalin is, of course, unpopular. The situation caused day-long debates and quarrels near the red tent which ended with local members of far-right Svoboda party pulling down the tent. The local Komsomol leader said at the time that they still aimed to erect the Stalin monument, but would do so on private land. As we have seen, the local office of the Communist party proved to be that private land... Head of youth department of the Communists’ regional committee Oleksandr Kononovych said that the monument to Stalin was agreed to by the party’s national leadership and dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Lutsk’s liberation from the Nazis. He believes it happening precisely in western Ukraine makes it especially remarkable. Still, many people simply do not understand the need for such misplaced ‘heroism’ and what point the local communists are trying to make with Volhnians.

On the day when some Lutsk residents honored Stalin, citizens of the district center of Manevychi were once again debating demolition of the monument to Lenin. Nearly 50 activists signed an appeal to the town’s mayor demanding the monument’s removal. Town council supported this appeal by majority vote, but decided to put the issue to a local referendum, so that it would be decided by the entire community, and not a few dozen people. Manevychi held a referendum on the Lenin monument’s fate a few years ago, but then most residents voted to keep it in place... Now the local Lenin, covered in inscriptions and drawings, has lost quite a bit of its former standing with the locals. However, holding a referendum takes time, so Lenin will stay in place meanwhile.

COMMENTARY

Mykola ONUFRIICHUK, chairperson of the Kholm Land Volyn Regional Veteran Social and Cultural Society:

“Stalin cannot be our hero or deserve a monument, if only because on his watch, with his consent and on his orders, millions of ethnic Ukrainians were expelled from their ancestral lands, which were Ukrainian from time immemorial, but are part of Poland now. Our grandparents and parents suffered greatly under Stalin, because they were thrown out of their homes more or less as they were. Only imagine, how many woes were created by these actions, how many children were orphaned... Moreover, Stalin was responsible not only for deportations and extermination of Ukrainians, but also for repressions aimed at other nations and for the Great Ukrainian Famine, which is still a painful wound for Ukraine. Of course, we often hear claims that he won the war... It was really won by our fighting soldiers, by the common people who fed army even when lacking enough food for themselves, produced weapons and so on. For any thinking person, Stalin cannot be a hero.

“But we must recognize that there are still living people who actually went into battle with the cry ‘For Stalin and Motherland!’ and they still think so. Let them live out their lives with their beliefs intact, but let them also understand that their Stalin’s only place is now in a hallway of history, hallway of the party office, on the margins of human souls.”

By Natalia MALIMON, The Day, Volyn oblast
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