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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

Perturbing truth in Cambridge

Rory Finnin: “Ukraine is a diamond of a country, not studied enough yet”
24 November, 2009 - 00:00

Recently the entire world heard about the notes of the “man who knew too much” about the Holodomor in Ukraine. Trinity College, Cambridge has opened an exhibit in its library of the diaries written by Gareth Jones (1905–1935), a British journalist who, unbeknown to the Soviet authorities and secret police, wrote reports and notes about the man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932–1933.

Recognized today as a British national hero, Jones reveals through his diaries the truth about Stalin’s atrocities against Ukrainian people and conveys it to the Western public and the entire world. Ukrainians learned about the courageous journalist for the first time from an article by James Mace, an American researcher of the Holodomor in Ukraine — “The Tale of Two Journalists. Walter Duranty, Gareth Jones and the Pulitzer Prize” was published in Den/The Day on July 16, 2003. Later it was republished in the newspaper as well as in the books of The Day’s Library series — Day and Eternity of James Mace and Extract 150.

The Day decided to find out about the atmosphere of the exhibition, the public interest it generates, the future of Jones’ notes, and the international recognition of the Holodomor in Ukraine by interviewing Rory FINNIN, Lecturer in Ukrainian Studies at Cambridge University, who was personally involved in organizing the exhibition of Jones’ diaries.

How is the Gareth Jones’ diaries exhibition going? Has it attracted public interest? Are the diaries going to be translated into Ukrainian? Is the exhibition going to be displayed in Ukraine?

“The exhibition of journalist Gareth Jones’ 1933 diaries is being held in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. It will be open until 2010. The exhibition was opened on November 13 and devoted to the premiere (all the tickets are already sold out) of Serhii Bukovsky’s documentary The Living, which is part of our second Annual Cambridge Festival of Ukrainian Cinema. In view of that, the public interest to the diaries is high. This exhibition has been reported by the world media: by The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Washington Times, The BBC World, and others, and there are quite a number of visitors at the library. Nigel Linsen Colley, Gareth Jones’ grand nephew, and I are just discussing the possibility of organizing the exhibition of the diaries in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world, as well as translating and publishing them.”

Do you think there is a need on the international level to know the truth about the Holodomor now that some countries are opposed to the idea of recognizing it, and prevent it from being recognized, for example, by the UN?

“I think that every year the world public becomes more aware of this tragedy. I hope that the exhibit and the screening of Bukovsky’s film The Living will help us tell the British public more about the Holodomor, and, to some extent, to commemorate the famine victims in Ukraine, the Northern Caucasus, and the Volga region.”

In your opinion, why does it happen that the journalists who deliver the truth to the world often become forgotten heroes?

“Gareth Jones was the only journalist who staked his name and reputation for the sake of telling the truth about the famine. He is a model of a journalist’s professionalism; he inspires our students at Cambridge University. As you know, he was a Cambridge graduate. We are very proud of him.”

How important are your studies for the image of Ukraine? Can you call your studies an islet of Ukrainian culture in Great Britain?

“Ukrainian Studies at Cambridge University are only one year old. During this short period of time we have laid a foundation for a very bright and unique program of studying the literature, language, and culture of Ukraine. Our program is one of a kind in Europe. In addition to our academic subjects I organize public lectures on Ukrainian culture and society, arrange art exhibits, various seminars, and the Annual Festival of Ukrainian Cinema.”

Is interest in Ukraine increasing among the university students?

“Interest in Ukraine is increasing, and here, in Cambridge, we are ready to facilitate its further growth. My students consider Ukraine to be fascinating and value its rich and diverse cultural tradition. It is very simple: they look at the map of Europe and see that the largest country of the continent remains mostly unexplored, underestimated, or understudied. When they start the Introduction to the Language, Literature, and Culture of Ukraine, they feel they are discovering something new and exciting: Kotliarevsky’s burlesque poetry, the Cossack novels by Kulish, pieces by Maksymovych, Bohomazov’s paintings, Tychyna’s early poetry, and contemporary works by Andrukhovych, Zabuzhko, Zhadan, Karpa, Kurkov, and Deresh. Our students read all this in the original and then produce wonderful essays. One of my students has recently written a poem devoted to Vasyl Stus.”

Why is Ukraine interesting to you? What has led you to take up this job?

“I am a teacher of literature, and Ukraine is a wonderful place, a diamond of a country, and not studied enough yet. This is very simple. I have always thought that Ukraine is an important country, which has to share itself with the world.

“I have Irish background. I first got acquainted with Ukraine in 1990, when I was a Peace Corps volunteer and taught at School No. 151 in Chapaievka [in Cherkasy oblast]. I was referred there by my dear friend Tetiana Kaplun. She and her husband, Ivan Kaplun, together with my Ukrainian students inspired me to study the Ukrainian language and culture in greater depth.”

By Alina POPKOVA, The Day