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

James Mace: remember and study

February 18 is the birthday of the Great Ukrainian, a native of Oklahoma who devoted his life to the study of the Holodomor and other crimes of the Bolshevik regime
20 February, 2018 - 11:15
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

“James Mace and the Concept of a Post-Genocidal Society” is the title of a roundtable which will be held in Chernihiv on February 21, bringing together scholars and educators, teachers, employees of government and local self-government bodies and cultural institutions, public figures, journalists and students. The total number of the participants is set at 80.

They will include Volodymyr Boiko, Ukrainian writer and public figure from Kyiv Natalia Dziubenko-Mace, doctor of historical sciences Professor Yurii Shapoval, and candidate of historical sciences Tamara Demchenko. A Skype-enabled conversation with the Montreal-based Ukrainian Canadian historian Roman Serbyn is scheduled to be held during the roundtable.

The participants will attend a screening of the TV movie James Mace. The Trajectory of Fate.

The event is being organized by the Siver Center for Postgraduate Education, the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, the Siver Institute for Regional Studies, the Charitable Foundation in Support of the Newspaper Den’s Initiatives, and Slovo Prosvity newspaper with support of the Chernihiv Oblast State Administration and the oblast council.

Let us recall that the famous American historian James Mace, who devoted his work to the Holodomor of 1932-33, was born on February 18, 1952 and died in Kyiv. He kind of continued the work started by another foreigner, UK journalist Gareth Jones, who, while fighting Soviet propaganda, conveyed to the world the truth about the Holodomor in Ukraine.

Let us recall also that in 2008, Den’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna founded the James Mace Prize for Active Stand in Political Journalism. Winners of this award are remote participants of the readings and discussions devoted to the historian and journalist Mace, who worked for Den for a long time.

Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day


Ihor SIUNDIUKOV, historian, Den’s contributor, winner of the James Mace Award 2010:

“Let us recall the Bible, where there is that impressive, unforgettable image: a candle that shines in darkness (and there is an overabundance of darkness in our reality), and the darkness did not overtake it... The light extinguishes darkness best when its source is not an external fire, but a spiritual flame inside a human being. And when James Ernest Mace called in a classic article in Den, entitled “A Candle in the Window” (February 18, 2003), on every citizen of our land, where almost every family had lost some member to the Holodomor, to lit a candle in memory of the dead in the window on the last Saturday of November – it was a deeply symbolic, inexhaustibly meaningful act. After all, that was a metaphor of the whole life of Mace, who served Memory, Truth, and Freedom until his dying day.

“Who is for us moderns, those who took part or witnessed two Maidans which Mace did not live to see, who is for us this unique person, this Oklahoma-born American of American Indian ancestry who became a greater Ukrainian in spirit than many of us are, who looked into the abyss of what was committed by Joseph Stalin and his henchmen – the crime that was unprecedented, incomprehensible for limited human consciousness, the crime called the Terror Famine – and immolated himself on this fire? Was he an outstanding historian and journalist who left us with an accurate and thorough explanation of the motives of the tyrant’s actions: ‘In order to centralize complete power in the hands of Stalin, it was necessary to destroy the Ukrainian peasantry, the Ukrainian intelligentsia, the Ukrainian language, the history of the people, to destroy Ukraine as such. The calculation was very simple and extremely primitive: there is no people, therefore, there is no separate country, there is no problem at all’? Yes, definitely! And, by carefully studying Mace’s creative achievements, we will understand one very important thing: there is a direct causal link between the Stalinist Holodomor Genocide of 1932-33 and the genocide of Ukrainians in the Donbas in 2014-18. This is constantly emphasized by Valentyn Torba, one of Den’s leading journalists. Was he an analyst able to see far, through the present (and his warning that Russia will never reconcile with Ukraine’s independence is the best example of this)? Undoubtedly. Was he the author of the concept of a ‘post-genocidal society’ (and three mainstays of such an ugly creature are alive to this very day: a) our rulers have already stolen as much as they want, maybe they will calm down now, but if we vote in others, they will start stealing again, so let us not do it; b) keep silent lest things get worse; c) things have always worked out in some way. It was this ‘folk wisdom’ that brought war to Ukraine)? Yes, and the development of this concept is Mace’s great historic achievement.

“But in the opinion of the author of these lines, it is quite possible that Mace became a prominent Ukrainian due to not so much the abovementioned meritorious services, but rather due to his crystal-clear understanding: there are, in fact, two ways open for journalists, politicians, and scholars: either fearlessly fighting for the right of society to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (like Jones, described in Mace’s unforgettable piece “A Tale of Two Journalists,” published in Den on July 16, 2003) – or being a scoundrel and betraying the ideals that you preach (like Walter Duranty from the same article). Mace chose the first path. And burned out at 52... Let us remember him!”


Serhii HRABOVSKYI, journalist, writer, philosopher, winner of the James Mace Award 2011:

“A respected humanities scholar did not mince words when cursing the Russian imperialism and its aggressive policy towards Ukraine at a roundtable in 2016, and at the same time repeatedly said: ‘We did not expect it... It was a great surprise for us... We could not imagine this...’ I could not stand it anymore and quoted several contributors of Den whose works I know by heart, among them the first winner of the Mace Award Ihor Losiev, who wrote about the aggressiveness of Russia as a phenomenon which is natural and based on the imperial tradition, and which will inevitably lead to annexation attempts targeting parts of Ukrainian territory or whole of Ukraine, possibly through puppet ‘rebels.’ Also, these texts were published long before the so-called Russian Spring of 2014 (and Losiev dealt with these topics even before the creation of the Den newspaper). In response, I heard that it was just an accidental coincidence, that history was not governed by any regular laws, and we could only state something post factum, for ‘the owl of Minerva takes flight only as dusk is falling.’

“In contrast to that Ukrainian intellectual (and many more like him who have listened too much to some of the fashionable Western theories created, I would note, by disappointed former Marxists and supporters of the USSR), Mace believed that the historical process had its own laws that could and had to be investigated, because if there were no such laws, if there was no way to predict future developments on their basis, then there was no humanities, including even philology, because there were laws of development applying to its subject matter as well. As for Russia, Mace never admired the ‘deep democratic changes’ that allegedly occurred in Russia in the 1990s; he saw reality as it was, and not only studied the past, but also warned of future dangers. In 2002, for example, Mace noted: ‘Russia, with its ancient imperial instinct to devour other nations, has never repented before the international community for crimes that it committed in the Caucasus, Siberia, Crimea, and Central Asia.’ Let alone the crimes committed in Ukraine, Mace said. And he emphasized: ‘...You have a neighbor to the north, who has seized all the assets of the former Soviet Union and does not accept responsibility for all the crimes committed by that Union. And this neighbor is constantly putting territorial and cultural claims against independent Ukraine. The pressure is contained to the information front so far, but Ukraine will definitely face serious trials someday.’ Pay attention to the words ‘so far’ and ‘definitely.’ Mace was right. And the first winner of the award named after him was also right. However, most Ukrainian politicians simply ignored these scientifically accurate forecasts. Moreover, we had more than enough well-known intellectuals who were talking about ‘basically humanist Russian culture’ to no end. Yes, there is the ‘Herzen-Sakharov line’ in that culture, but it has never dominated. Mace knew this perfectly, so he could predict the events, so would not it be worth our while to learn from him?”


Volodymyr BOIKO, public figure, Den’s contributor, winner of the James Mace Award 2013:

“Fifteen years ago, on his birthday, February 18, Mace published an article that reflected the meaning of his life, I mean ‘A Candle in the Window.’ It was as if he apologized to the people, among whom he lived and devoted his life to, for making a call that ought to be made by a citizen of Ukraine instead. Perhaps he had been waiting for such a step, but in the end he realized that there were barriers that a post-genocidal society finds too difficult to clear independently. It needs help and, at times, the formulation of value targets which it strives to attain, but is wary of admitting it even to itself, not to mention the outside world.

“Now, the lit candle has become an indispensable part of the mournful events held to commemorate the victims of the Holodomor, political repressions, the Holocaust, the Russo-Ukrainian War... That is, Mace’s idea has spread in what he would probably find a somewhat unexpected way, becoming a symbol even greater than he imagined. It has been a surprising change in view of the more than sluggish first reaction: then, in February 2003, few Ukrainians paid any attention to the public initiative of the American-Ukrainian eccentric truth seeker. The author was expecting a different reaction, not limited to republication of his landmark article in a regional newspaper. Apparently, vertical thinking was at work then: there are no orders from the top, so why should one make an effort and care about it? That was one of the reasons for Mace’s unspoken pain – he could not fail to see that what he said was not entirely accepted in the sense of understanding his proposal. It took time and new tragic events.

“The subsequent developments changed the state of affairs, making the candle campaign so well known that few people think about its authorship. Mace’s proposal was even realized in one of the best museum facilities in modern Ukraine, namely the Holodomor Victims Memorial. All visitors who came at least close to it maintain that a candle that rises above the Dnieper makes a great impact. It was a simple approach, but someone had to feel, see, and propose it, and that someone had to be a person with a heightened sense of responsibility and knowledge and understanding much greater than that of us at the time. That was a mission fully understood by Mace and executed by him in his usual way: concisely, directly, and accurately. However, it is still questionable whether our contemporaries really understand the importance of Mace.

“Despite Mace’s obvious meritorious service to Ukraine, his name is still not properly honored: the general public in Ukraine knows little of Mace, as well as of his role in defining the Holodomor as genocide of the Ukrainian people. Only in August last year, the Cabinet of Ministers decided to erect a monument to the American-Ukrainian researcher and journalist in Kyiv in 2017-18. I really want to believe that this plan will be executed on schedule.

“Recently there have been reports that a feature film entitled Gareth Jones is being filmed, dedicated to the Welsh journalist who was the first to speak about the Holodomor under his own name. His name has become known in Ukraine to a large extent thanks to the famous article by Mace, ‘A Tale of Two Journalists,’ where the fate and civic stance of the Briton are compared with the reaction of Walter Duranty, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. The scriptwriters promise an unusual plot, in particular, the appearance of George Orwell (who probably knew about the fate of his fellow countryman) and his Animal Farm. But will they mention Mace, whose name is very closely associated with Jones, and precisely with the Ukrainian component of the Welshman’s biography, his struggle to make the truth accepted?

“It is about the moral duty of our society to a person who completely gave himself to the service of a people which was previously unknown to him, but had had a similar fate. The worthy commemoration of Mace would be an essential sign of the changes taking place in the Ukrainian society, its liberation from the post-genocidal syndrome, its recovery, and the restoration of its ability to develop independently.”


Valentyn TORBA, Den’s correspondent, winner of the James Mace Award 2014:

“The Holodomor was not something new to me. My grandmother and grandfather described in detail everything that happened then, in their Sloboda Ukraine village in the distant year 1933. It surprised me in the 1990s, though, when I was at school, that this tragedy was news for someone. Some Luhansk oblast residents even fiercely denied that this tragedy ever happened. And so I discovered the other side of this catastrophe of our people, this crime against the Ukrainians. This side is lie. The total, shameless lie which the Kremlin propaganda nailed into our heads, and which surrounded the Ukrainian people for at least 70 years. The virus of this lie easily infected the adherents of the empire, whether Russian or Soviet. Well, even now there are those who do not see the presence of a Russian armada in the Donbas. And I know why. There is a scientific term for it in psychiatry – the hypnotic blindness. Even when aware of obvious things, an individual displaces them from their consciousness, denies, strikes out, and tries to prove to everyone that the black is actually the white and vice versa. In everyday parlance, we call this phenomenon the blinkered consciousness.

“So, it is not surprising that it took... an American Indian for us, in particular, to open our eyes to our tragedy. After all, Mace was an American Indian from a distant country called the US. It turned out that it was easier for Mace to see from there how the executioner had destroyed a third of the Ukrainians, while the local Russian Communist Fascists pretended that the Holodomor was just an accident. Mace, as an American Indian, knew well what the genocide was. Journalist from the UK Jones had told the world about the Holodomor before. As a result, the NKVD killed him in his prime in China (Outer Mongolia). Jones was a true journalist – he was not afraid to speak the truth, not too lazy to immerse himself in the events, to become a witness to the realities. Jones described in detail the famine in Ukraine and effectively conveyed to his homeland, Europe, and the world the voice of dying Ukrainians, who were saying precisely that: ‘Tell them that we are dying.’

“It is noteworthy that the NYT correspondent Duranty worked in the Kremlin at the same time. He acknowledged in his articles that there were certain food problems in Ukraine, but at the same time he argued that there was no hunger. Such an outright lie did not prevent him from subsequently winning the Pulitzer Prize. Many years later, the NYT, despite obvious evidence of his bias and even mendacity, did not dare to deprive him of this distinction.

“Unfortunately, I came to work for Den as late as 10 years after Mace’s death. In this case, I can communicate with him only through his books now. Strangely enough, his historical works contain a prophetic forecast of what would happen in Ukraine decades later, in particular, in my native Donbas which has been squeezed out since the 1930s. The Russians will continue to kill Ukrainians on our soil. And while doing so, they will wash hands of responsibility and say that they have nothing to do with it. It was not they who burned down Baturyn, and they did not enserf Ukrainians, and St. Petersburg was not built on the bones of the Cossacks, and nobody forbade the Ukrainian language (‘Ukrainian language never existed, does not exist, and could not exist,’ as said in the Valuev Circular), and they were not involved in the Holodomor, and finally, it was not Russian tanks and missile launchers that took the lives of more than 10,000 Ukrainians in the east of Ukraine recently, in our plain view.

“If we do not learn to defibrillate our memory and let our enemies to further turn us into an easily manipulated mass, then we may well fail to see a new Mace in a hundred years. Then our history will be written by Duranty-like figures.”


Ivan KAPSAMUN, editor of Den’s politics section, winner of the James Mace Award 2015:

“When preparing a recent article about the philosopher Myroslav Popovych, who died on February 10, I had a conversation with several people who knew the deceased well. For instance, doctor of philosophy, researcher of the Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy Serhii Yosypenko told Den: ‘Popovych said in a film when explaining his interest in philosophy, that he was interested in three things: what happened in 1933, 1937, and 1941. Why were Ukrainian peasants destroyed, why did the Great Red Terror happen, and why did the Soviet army leave them in 1941? These were the three catastrophes of his generation, which he tried to understand.’

“I recalled it now because the events of 1933 tormented not only the outstanding academician. The famous researcher Mace devoted his life to the study of the Ukrainian Holodomor Genocide of 1932-33 as well. It was he who revealed to Ukraine and the whole world a crime committed in the form of organizing a manmade famine, through which the Soviet government tried to break the backbone of the Ukrainian nation. It did not work. But the national code was severely hit. This is exactly what Mace meant when he said that the Ukrainians were a post-genocidal nation with all the relevant consequences. It was primarily a blow to the peasantry, which the regime needed to drive into collective farms and destroy its desire to own private properties.

“Mace also addressed the fact that the 1991 independence was obtained not by Ukraine, but by the Ukrainian SSR. Therefore, it needed to become truly independent, that is, to overcome the post-genocide and post-Soviet trauma. Unfortunately, few politicians have listened to this. They have cared about their own interests, and the national ones have been far from the top priority, which has brought about the clan-oligarchic system, Maidan protests, the war... And despite all these tragic disasters, we still live in this system. Treating society’s post-genocidal condition has never been undertaken by a government equipped with high-quality tools.”


Natalia ISHCHENKO, Den’s contributor, winner of the James Mace Award 2017:

“For me, the Holodomor researcher Mace is, first of all, an example of how one person can do much for humanity. Yes, for the whole of humanity, and not just for a specific people, because the truth about the Holodomor must be known not only by the Ukrainians, but by the whole world.

“Only the knowledge of the true history of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ can protect other countries and peoples from repeating the cannibalistic scenario of building a ‘bright future.’ Just like supporters of the right-wing ideas must always remember Auschwitz, so adherents of the left-wing ideology should know that the fanatical realization of communist ideals in practice can lead to Holodomor-level crimes against humanity.

“The history of an attempt to destroy with hunger a whole people which the regime had not succeeded in subduing through violence must pound at the heart of every inhabitant of this planet. And here, we all still have a lot of work to do.

“American scholar Mace and British journalist Jones, about whom Mace wrote in his articles in Den, were preachers of the truth to the worlds of false political expediency. They were the most powerful voices of the dead who could no longer tell the truth themselves. But Mace and Jones, and their legacy, should not be a frozen historical monument. Ukrainian historians must continue to study the causes, consequences and details of the Great Famine. Ukrainian journalists should untiringly tell the terrible truth about the Holodomor. Ukrainian diplomats must argue historical truth to other nations around the world. Ukrainian writers must write books, and directors must make films about the fate of a nation which its enemies initially tried to destroy physically, and then to erase its memory.

“We cannot allow ourselves and the world to forget the Holodomor. So that such a tragedy never happens anywhere again, we must remember how the real evil looks, and untiringly pass that knowledge on to the next generations.”

By Valentyn TORBA, The Day