«Jewish Observer»
November 2001
5762 Kislev

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The celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Ukrainian Helsinki group was part of the two-day conference "Human rights of yesterday and today". It was held in Kiev, in the Teacher's House. There were portraits of the perished members of the group on the stage. Those who survived were sitting in the stalls.

The history of this movement began from the Moscow Helsinki group, one of the founder of which was academician Andrey Sakharov. The aim of the movement was very simple - observance of Helsinki agreements by the USSR.

Needless to say, this "crime" in the country of double moral was punished either by sending to the camp, mental hospital or, the best variant, to exile.

The Moscow Helsinki group consisted of honorable people, many of whom became later on the prominent public leaders - Vyacheslav Chernovil, Mykola Gorbal, Miroslav Marinovich and Yosif Zisels. They did understand what they were doing. They did their best to make the world public know about the violations of human rights in Ukraine, abuses in psychiatry, arbitrariness of administration. Having learned about the arrest of his comrade, every member of the group knew that he might be the next. Nevertheless, they continued their struggle.

Today, 25 years afterwards, our duty is to preserve the memory about the martyrdom of these people, about their deed for the sake of goodness and justice. At the conference, the radio "Freedom" and "Amnesty International" awarded the former dissidents with memorable bronze medals. In its turn, the Kharkov human rights protection bureau headed by Evgeniy Zakharov shall publish a four-volume edition dedicated to the 25 the anniversary of the Ukrainian Helsinki group (UNG), a tribute to the men of honor.

Leaders of this movement did much to promote the Judaic-Christian dialogue and the struggle against anti-Semitism.

It is worth mentioning that the leadership of the UHG always listened to the opinion of Yosif Zisels - one of the group's members. Today he is the leader of the Vaad of Ukraine, executive vice-president of the Jewish Confederation. It is very important that both Ukrainian and Jewish national movements were fighting for the same values, for the same ideas. We live now in another epoch. The epoch which has its own problems and which calls us to comprehensively assess the events of those years. This is what Evgeniy Sverstyuk, president of the pen-club, spoke about and whether the dissidents could risk the life of the genius poet Vasil Stus and other prominent artists. Miroslav Marinovich, pro-rector of the Lvov spiritual academy, also spoke about this, stressing that the former dissidents should every day corroborate their high moral authority needed by our society.


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© 2001 Jewish Confederation of Ukraine - www.jewukr.org