At The Heritage Foundation, Portman Commemorates the 85th Anniversary of the Holodomor Genocide in Ukraine

November 16, 2018 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered remarks yesterday at The Heritage Foundation at its “Forum in Commemoration of the 85th Anniversary of the Holodomor Genocide in Ukraine 1932-1933”. He honored the lives lost in the senseless killings of the Ukrainian people by the Soviet government.

Portman, who received the Order of Merit from President Poroshenko during his visit to Ukraine earlier this year and received the Ukrainian-American community’s highest honor in 2016, the Shevchenko Freedom Award, has long led the effort in the Senate to provide Ukraine the kind of assistance necessary to ward off Russian aggression and maintain its territorial integrity. Portman has visited Ukraine several times, including in April to see firsthand evidence of Russian aggression on the eastern border and leading a congressional election observation mission with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) during Ukraine's Presidential election in 2014. 

For the past three years, Portman has successfully introduced amendments to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that expanded U.S. military aid to Ukraine. These provisions helped build the primary statutory framework for U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. In addition, he has repeatedly written letters, delivered multiple floor speeches, and pressed senior administration officials on the importance of providing meaningful assistance to help Ukraine stand up to Russia’s military aggression, and has praised its recent decisions to provide lethal assistance to country. 

Portman was recognized for these efforts with the Order Of St. Volodymyr Medal from Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret. Portman also championed the bipartisan resolution marking the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor, passed by the Senate in October.

His remarks as delivered are below, and a video of the event can be found here:


“Michael, thank you so much, and it is wonderful to be back here at this beautiful room and I want to thank you all here for hosting this but also for allowing us to have this opportunity to remind the world about what happened 85 years ago—and the message is very simple that these horrors can never be repeated. I’m honored to be with a lot of friends here today, including friends from the Ukrainian government. Ambassador, it’s always good to see you. Ambassador Chaly and I spent a lot of time together. All of those legislative priorities you talked about, he can take a large measure of credit for since he is working hard on Capitol Hill, probably the most aggressive and peripatetic of the ambassadors, which is a positive thing. I just want to make a special note that I really enjoyed the discussion earlier, Minister Klimkin, about the history and for you to go into some of those stories is very very powerful. Having been in your country again only a few months ago in the spring and having traveled to the contact line and having flown very closely to the ground in a helicopter to get there and back and seeing some of the black earth that you and Wess Mitchell talked about and the incredible productivity of that land today and just thinking of the devastation that was reeked on the those people and that land. Part of this today obviously is us remembering the horrors—but also remembering the resilience of the Ukrainian people. The Ukrainian people have been through a lot, haven’t they? And yet they continue to rebound. So this is an opportunity for us today to both mourn the loss of life and discuss a very somber historical atrocity, but also to celebrate the strength and resiliency of the Ukrainian people.  

“I think we’re very lucky to have Wess Mitchell at the State Department. I don’t know if you agree with me, you just heard his remarks so I hope you do. He’s not only here today and he’s present, but he is very engaged on this issue. And if he didn’t want to be, he would probably have to be because one of my staff he stole is down there with him. No I’m just kidding, he would be there anyway. One reason, frankly, we love working with you so much is that you have, in your heart, a really concerned care about Ukraine. And the fact that Ukraine is a model, in many respects, for what can happen throughout Eastern and Central Europe. What happens in Ukraine, as you indicated, will be felt all over Europe, but really all over the world, so we must stand strong with Ukraine. 

“My friend Sandy Levin is here. Now Sandy is choosing to retire from Congress. He didn’t lose his election, instead, and I just found out, his son—who I have met—is actually his successor. So he’s starting an empire. Your legacy continues, my friend, and I have known Sandy and his family for a long time. We’re going to miss him here in Washington, but he will continue to be a voice for Ukraine and I look forward to continuing to work with him in his role on the outside. 

“The president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America is here with us, Andy Futey. I usually have an easier time finding Andy in Kiev than I do in Cleveland, Ohio, where he’s supposed to be from. He is a dear friend and has been—along with you, Ambassador—one of the great advocates for some of the legislative successes that we’ve had. And I think my friend Marcy Kaptur is on her way too. Who, again, she’s from Ohio as well and she’s been a leader on these issues for many many years. 

“We’re here, again, to mourn the senseless killing and it’s amazing that it could have gone on with so little recognition. 85 years ago millions of Ukrainians suffered under these policies, these Soviet policies of using starvation as a weapon. It’s interesting, Minister, you talk about this being, in a sense, the first hybrid war. It was kinetic, but it was beyond that wasn’t it? It was psychological. It was an attempt to really extinguish the flame. But we won’t forget. We can never forget. As co-chair of the Ukrainian Caucus in the Senate and someone who has the honor of representing, I think, about 50,000 Ukrainian Americans in Ohio. Andy says more, I like that.  We’ve got to continue doing everything we can to support policies in the United States Congress that support the aspirations of the Ukrainian people and ensure that Ukraine is able to protect those people and protect its borders, its sovereign borders. 

“As I indicated, I was on the contact line recently and I got to see very brave Ukrainian troops risking their lives on behalf of their country. Great patriots. But also, more broadly on behalf of all of us standing up once again to the aggression, this time coming from Russia. But we remember somberly those atrocities that took place 85 years ago and we stand together today—both to ensure that those horrors of the past remain in the history books and the ensure they are never repeated but also to hold up the resiliency and strength of the Ukrainian people. Again, I saw this firsthand during my visits recently and I know that many of you in this room have been committed to this cause for many years and sometimes wonder, are we making progress? We are. When I was there just a few months ago, Ambassador Yovanovitch who is with us today, hosted me at a time when literally the Stinger missiles were on their way across the ocean from the United States of America to be established in Ukraine as a means of protecting those borders and protecting those people. Not in an offensive capacity, but yes, serious weaponry that enables Ukraine to be able to stand on its own. I hope that we can continue in that spirit together. I thank you all for the honor of letting me come by today and look forward to continuing working closely with you.”