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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

“I couldn’t help sharing the pain…”

22 February, 2011 - 00:00

What does one leave after oneself in our imperfect world? Thoughts, good deeds, high intentions, ripe and firm love to consciously chosen and fostered values. Then there is the example of one’s life (not everyone can do it), aimed at serving the timeless values which existed before us, exist now and will persist when our earthly existence will be no more.

James E. Mace gave Ukrainians all this and much more. Hundreds of thousands of readers of his articles in The Day, where the prominent Ukrainian historian, pub­licist, public activist (an American with Cherokee origins) worked in 1997-2004, as well as in other leading Ukrainian printed media, can prove this. There are also the dozens of students he prepared at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, as well as the many Ukrainians to whom he lent a helping hand, offering a new spiritual and intellectual way in life. Let’s add that our newspaper has reasons to be proud of the clear and distinct fact that James Mace published a considerable part of his heritage precisely with The Day (suffice it to mention such classical works of Ukrainian journalism as A Tale of Two Journalists, Your Dead Chose Me, A Land in Blood, Freedom of Libel or Libel of Freedom, and dozens of others). Two fundamental volumes of James’ works: Day and Eternity of James Mace (2005) and Your Dead Chose Me (2008) were published in the series of The Day’s Library.

However, one can state that a really profound adoption of the ideas to which James Mace adhered for dozens of years and dedicated his all life to discover and deepen — this is not only an uncompleted cause, it has just started. There is an exceptionally urgent need to come to the conclusions James Mace reached, intensely and painfully meditating for many years on the fate of the Ukrainian people.

Why is this need so urgent? First of all, James gives today’s youth (and not only them) an impressive example of noble ethical stance, of a person from another part of the globe, native of the far from Ukrainian state of Oklahoma (the sleeping, as James Mace described it himself, town of Stillwater), determined to become a historian. Having graduated from the University of Michigan, he dedicated his life to studying the horrible, almost biblical tragedy of the “fo­reign” and “distant” people of Ukrai­ne (there are no foreign and far peoples nowadays!), the tragedy of the Holodomor of 1932-33. And he devoted his life not as a composed academic scholar, aloof from the frightful Evil he studies and writes about — no, he did it as someone undertaking the unendurable and inhuman burden of Pain, undertaking it completely and consciously.

James Mace himself wrote about it as follows: “The hearings in the (US Congress for Ukrainian Holodomor. — Author) commission in Washington and outside it resembled a project of oral history in miniature. And evidence and stories within this project were painfully horrific and sometimes surreal. On the Zbruch river, which was the old Soviet-Polish border, exhausted cold villagers were taken to the bank at night and forced to dance to show their relatives on the other bank how good life in Soviet Ukraine was. Another witness re­­col­­lected a gathering that was supposed to condemn food aid offered from abroad. While an agitator was telling about the merits of Sta­­lin’s socialism, one person from the audience looked out of the win­dow and screamed out: ‘Look, they brought cannibals.’ And everyone came up to the window to see these miserable people who retained little likeness with human beings.”

And then, a fundamental conclusion which with exceptional accuracy outlined Mace’s stance: “Objection of everyday reality was a daily necessity if you wanted to survive (this is the formula of totalitarian consciousness! — Author). I couldn’t help understanding the pain of those who experienced not only physical but also psychological torture. The contact with such bare human suffering fills you with a feeling of responsibility one can hardly describe.”

Sharing the pain — this has been the principle of James Mace’s life since he grasped, learned and felt what the tragedy of the Holodomor was for Ukraine. This is an exceptional and impressive example, for those, of course, who are able to follow it (especially given the propaganda for aggressive individualism and “ambitions” presented as “high values,” in a democracy and capitalist society!). Sharing the pain means, in particular, trying to cure it. For according to James Mace’s accurate definition, “Curing is one of the main purposes of knowledge.”

However, we deal not only with a person possessing a keen moral sense, though this is extremely important for understanding James Mace. He was one of the deepest Ukrainian political analysts, precise and sharp like a scalpel in his analysis of our present, and grounded in perfect knowledge of all of Ukrai­ne’s tragedies of the 20th century. That is why, first of all, Mace gives an absolutely distinct answer to the question: Why did Stalin plan and commit the genocide of 1932-33? He writes: “Namely Ukrai­ne expe­rien­ced the brunt of Stalin’s terror. Because it had a larger population than all non-Russian republics ta­ken together. Because it had the experience of a national liberation struggle. For Ukraine the lessons of the Central Council and the Hetmanate were not in vain. By 1933 in Ukraine a developed state organization was created and existed, albeit with police restrictions; culture was highly developed; the sphere of the use of the Ukrainian language spread to the proletariat and state government bodies. To transform the USSR — a “complex unity” Mykhailo Volobuiev dreamt about — into Stalin’s empire required that Ukraine be broken. Stalin did it by means of organizing the Holodomor. Not only Ukrainian peasants or Ukrainian intellectuals were the enemy number one for Stalin, Ukraine as such was the ene­my. In 1932-33 Stalin waged an undeclared war against it, using all avai­lab­le military, police, political and economic resources.”

Second, James Mace fearlessly and implacably looked for (and found!) horrible cause-effect relations between the Stalin terror of the 1930s-1950s and the present, seemingly unsolvable, problems of Ukraine. The point is, in his opi­nion, that “Stalin’s politics of sociologically scorched land to some extent truly destroyed Ukraine as such, in the sense that it made a fundamental rupture in the process of normal development of the Ukrainian people, and this led to the unique situation; while the collapse of communism could lead to the restoration of lost independence of previously existing peoples in such countries as Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and so on, in Ukraine, except for the western regions, the Ukrainian nation in the sense of a human community with a consensus on understanding their identity, their history and cultural values, in some way remained merely a national minority in its own country. In other words, the people and the country were so cowed, so intimidated that when Ukraine gained independence people didn’t have a clearly defined common view of their own future. There were only structures of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic. In 1991 we all made a fundamental, albeit unconscious, mistake when we thought we created an independent state. Today it is clear that we dealt with previously existing state’s getting rid of dependence. Actually, the same people continued acting the same way and further development started from it.” And further: “The tragedy of independent Ukraine lies in the fact that not a national but a territorial elite became the dominating power, and its representatives retain all the habits of the traditional nomenclature, like think one thing, say another and do a third one.”

We face the concept of a “post-genocide society,” the deepest intellectual legacy of James Mace. The future (who know if it is far?) will show whether our society can shift to a qualitatively different level on the way of the so-called reforms (this word itself, not without a reason, provokes citizens’ disgust as in our context it means robbery and deceit), or we will finally manage to make profound systemic and pending transformations in all spheres of life without exceptions.

The earthly path of James Mace ended on May 3, 2004. At present we need his wisdom, his exploits and kindness so much. And his optimism — because he believed that “no state will ever be able to make Ukraine Ukrainian. Only self-organized Ukrainians outside state structures will be able to do it. And I am confident it will happen!”

By Ihor SIUNDIUKOV, James Mace Award Winner (2010), The Day