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Morley Safer   Letter 5   9Apr99   Who blew the hands off Maksym Tsarenko?
The sort of powerful story that neither you nor Rabbi Bleich were able to find is one of a Russian summer-camp councillor who had his hands blown off by Ukrainian nationalists for using the Russian language within Ukraine; or one of a Jewish summer-camp councillor having his hands blown off by Ukrainian nationalists for using Hebrew or Yiddish within Ukraine.  Such things do not happen within Ukraine to either Russians or to Jews they happen only to Ukrainians.

April 9, 1999

Morley Safer
60 Minutes, CBS Television
51 W 52nd Street
New York, NY
USA       10019


Morley Safer:

Who Blew The Hands Off
Maksym Tsarenko?



The photograph above shows Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma bestowing the Order of Yaroslaw the Wise on Maksym Tsarenko.  My free translation of the text which explains the photograph is as follows:

Among the first recipients of the Order, awarded on the fourth anniversary of the national independence of Ukraine, were leading Ukrainian workers in the fields of culture, art, and law: O. Basystiuk, A. Mokrenko, and F. Burchak.

On this same day, the president of Ukraine also bestowed this mark of distinction, "for valor" upon twenty-year-old student at the Vynnytsia Pedagogical Institute, Maksym Tsarenko.

During the summer holidays, Maksym was working as a councillor at a summer camp for young girls near Yevpatoria, Crimea.

Haters of Ukraine, who rush to propose the view that Crimea is not a peninsula attached to Ukraine, but rather is an island unconnected to Ukraine, reacted with hostility to this summer camp, especially provoked by the Ukrainian language spoken by the Ukrainian children, which dared to resound even within Ukrainian Crimea.  The hatred mounted to such an irrepressible degree that it provoked the bandits to the most egregious crime: they constructed an explosive and threw it into the window of the children's dormitory.  Ten or so children could have been killed by the explosion.  But the young Ukrainian councillor showed no confusion as to his duty.  He picked up the bomb, shielding it with his own body, and jumped out of the building.  Unfortunately, the bomb went off, seriously wounding Maksym.

The best local surgeons fought for several days to save the boy's life.  Thanks to them, the youth's life was spared.  Unfortunately, it was not possible to save his hands.

No one can accuse the recipient of not having earned his award.  Ukrainian awards, in contrast to Soviet, are fully deserved.  (Ukrainian-language newspaper, Novyi Shliakh (New Pathway) of 7Oct95, based on the earlier report in Ukrains'ke Slovo, (Ukrainian Word), Kyiv, No. 37, 14Sep95)

The above story of Maksym Tsarenko compels me to ask not for the first time who is in danger in Ukraine?  The Western media urge us to accept that it is Jews and Russians who are in danger, threatened by Ukrainian nationalists.  That, for example, is the conclusion of your infamous 60 Minutes broadcast The Ugly Face of Freedom of 23Oct94.  However, you came back from your brief visit to Ukraine with no data to substantiate such a claim.  Almost a year ago, the Ukrainian Archive has requested both of you and of Rabbi Bleich the evidence backing your report of violence against Jews, and neither of you has as yet condescended to reply, strengthening the suspicion that your story was fabricated.

The sort of powerful story that neither you nor Rabbi Bleich were able to find is one of a Russian summer-camp councillor who had his hands blown off by Ukrainian nationalists for using the Russian language within Ukraine; or one of a Jewish summer-camp councillor having his hands blown off by Ukrainian nationalists for using Hebrew or Yiddish within Ukraine.  Such things do not happen within Ukraine to either Russians or to Jews they happen only to Ukrainians.  It is the story of Ukrainians being persecuted within Ukraine that you could have richly documented and broadcast to the world.  The story of Maksym Tsarenko can be found multiplied many times over the torture-murders of Ukrainian activist Volodymyr Katelnytsky and his mother in their Kyiv apartment providing a recent example.  The contrasting story of Jewish or Russian victimization within Ukraine is bogus and yet that is the story that you unscrupulously chose to broadcast.


Lubomyr Prytulak



cc: Rabbi Bleich, Ed Bradley, Jeffrey Fager, Don Hewitt, Steve Kroft, Andy Rooney, Lesley Stahl, Mike Wallace.

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