Dear Mr. Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of Poland, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends!
This is not my first visit to Auschwitz, where the most dreadful tragedy in the history of mankind took place. I have been here with my children and I hope I will come here many times with my grandchildren as well. This is a sacred place for me and for my family. This is the place of torment of my father, Andriy Andriyovych Yushchenko, who was born in a small village, Khoruzhivka, in Eastern Ukraine, a wounded soldier, a prisoner in Auschwitz, who had the number 11367 tattooed on the left side of his chest. From my father’s stories, from the evidence revealed to the world 60 years ago, I learned about the appalling crimes against mankind committed here. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people were annihilated here just because they were Jews. Tens of thousands of prisoners of war, my father’s blood brothers, perished in this place. The pain caused by this knowledge still lives in me today.
I should state that this is a special pain; it is a pain that heals. I would like all my compatriots, all honest people in the world to share it with me. Only pain and memory can give us the strength and the wisdom to brick up forever the door through which the road to hell begins. The last time I was in Oswiecim, I took a handful of soil and symbolically handed it over to some highly-respected Rabbis during the Congress of Jews of Ukraine. I would like this long-suffering land to become a witness of my public promise that there will never be a so-called “Jewish question” in Ukraine. (Applause) Thank you.
I am a son of the Ukrainian land, a land where the most dreadful tragedies of the 20th century took place: the Holodomor [the great famine], which carried away 15 million citizens of my country, and the Holocaust. Ukrainians remember what menace is brought by intolerance, violence and aggression. My nation has gone into Maydan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square] in order to protect the supreme values of civilisation: respect for the individual, his/her rights and freedom. Ukrainians have made their choice. As the people have willed, I became the head of my state. As the President, I will stand guard to protect democracy, freedom and the rule of law. I do guarantee: anti-Semitism, xenophobia and national hostility will have no place in Ukraine. The tragedy of the past will never come back to the Land of Ukraine. Thank you very much.