Connecting Ukraine’s Past and Present: From Holodomor to the War in the Donbas

February 21, 2017 - 4:00 pm

Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW
Washington, DC

A conversation with:

Ambassador John Herbst
Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center
Atlantic Council

Ms. Nadia McConnell
US-Ukraine Foundation

Mr. Michael Sawkiw
Director, Ukrainian National Information Service
Ukrainian Congress Committee of America

Mr. Naphtali Rivkin
Research Fellow
Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Moderated by:

Mr. Timothy Fairbank
Senior Fellow, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center
Atlantic Council

Russia’s expansionist ambitions, including the annexation of Crimea and military actions in the Donbas, are the greatest threat to Ukraine’s future and national identity. In the 1930s, Ukraine faced a similar existential challenge due to the Soviet Union’s territorial ambitions. Stalin’s policies led to the deaths of millions of Ukrainians in the Holodomor, and while Ukraine survived, that came at a great cost. 

This panel discussion will bring together experts to discuss Ukraine’s experience with great challenges and will coincide with the release of the film Bitter Harvest – a feature film which tells the story of Holodomor.


On Twitter? Follow @ACEurasia and #FutureUkraine
Atlantic Council
1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor (West Tower Elevator) 
Washington, DC 

This event is open to press and on the record. 

VISITING THE COUNCIL: Metro and parking info 


John Herbst is the director of the Atlantic Council's Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center. Ambassador Herbst served for thirty-one years as a foreign service officer in the US Department of State, retiring at the rank of career-minister. He was the US ambassador to Ukraine from 2003 to 2006. Prior to his ambassadorship in Ukraine, he was the ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2000 to 2003. Ambassador Herbst previously served as US consul general in Jerusalem; principal deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for the Newly Independent States; director of the Office of Independent States and Commonwealth Affairs; director of Regional Affairs in the Near East Bureau; and at the embassies in Tel Aviv, Moscow, and Saudi Arabia. He most recently served as director of the Center for Complex Operations at National Defense University. He has received two Presidential Distinguished Service Awards, the Secretary of State’s Career Achievement Award, the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Distinguished Civilian Service Award. Ambassador Herbst’s writings on stability operations, Central Asia, Ukraine, and Russia are widely published.

Nadia McConnell is president and one of the founders of the US–Ukraine Foundation (USUF). USUF is the oldest US presence in Ukraine. A 'do tank' working on US-Ukraine relations, USUF has also managed over 40 million dollars in strategic technical assistance projects. Ms. McConnell’s previous positions include serving as president of NKM and Associates; deputy assistant administrator for Legislative Affairs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and as director of Congressional Relations at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Among Ukraine related community projects she has served as a member of the National Committee to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Holodomor and chairman of Government Relations for the National Committee to Celebrate the Millennium of Christianity of Ukraine.

Michael Sawkiw is the former president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the leading representative organization of the Ukrainian American community. Since 1996, he has served as director of the UCCA’s Washington, DC bureau – the Ukrainian National Information Service, and remains in this post presently. Prior to coming to Washington, Mr. Sawkiw served as a financial analyst at AIG Financial Projects, Inc. in Westport, CT. and as a financial operations analyst at the General Electric Co. in Schenectady, NY. Michael has a BS in mathematics from Union College in Schenectady, NY, as well as an MBA in corporate finance from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). He served as a correspondent for The Union Sentinel, an independent college-run newspaper, and was featured in the Union College Undergraduate Review. Michael is also chairman of the US Committee for Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide Awareness 1932-1933 and was instrumental in the establishment of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial in Washington, DC (unveiled in November 2015). Michael is fluent in Ukrainian and has proficient knowledge of the Russian, Spanish, and German languages.

Naphtali Rivkin is a research fellow with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC), where he focuses on the history and legacy of communism in the post-Soviet space. His forthcoming publication for VOC, entitled Putin’s State Collectivism: The Soviet Legacy in Russia Today, features research on the ways in which education, public symbols, and media in post-Soviet countries distort the legacy of communism. Naphtali graduated Washington and Lee University (Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) with a double major in English and Russian Area Studies. He was a 2015 Fulbright Researcher in Latvia, where he published a series of in-depth interviews with dissidents who participated in anti-Soviet resistance between 1985 and 1991. He is currently pursuing an M.Phil. in International Relations at the University of Cambridge (Clare College), and serves as an officer in the US Army Reserve with the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade in Germany.

Timothy Fairbank is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center and an adjunct at the RAND Corporation. From 2008 to 2016, Mr. Fairbank was the co-founder and managing director of Development Transformations (DT), where he oversaw and managed the organization’s governance, civil society, analytical research, and political transition programs throughout the Middle East, Eurasia, Asia, and Africa. Under his leadership, DT expanded from a two-person start-up to having eight offices around the world and winning major multi-year grants and contracts funded by the US Agency for International Development, US Department of State, US Department of Defense, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Fortune 500 companies, and private foundations.  Prior to co-founding DT, Mr. Fairbank spent nearly a decade at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) where he worked to support civil society development, capacity building, democratic elections, political parties, parliaments, and civil service training in countries in transition. In addition to holding various positions at NDI’s headquarters, he worked for several years in the field directing programs in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Georgia. He served as NDI's first country director in Moldova, director of civic programs in Ukraine, acting director in Kazakhstan, and as an adviser to programs throughout the Eurasia region. Mr. Fairbank has conducted more than a dozen political and election-related assessments as a member of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and NDI international delegations. His private sector background includes working for MPRI (Engility), where he was named their first director for democracy and rule of law. Mr. Fairbank was previously an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where he taught a graduate course on political transitions. He also spent two years as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland’s Department of Government and Politics. Mr. Fairbank earned his MA, with distinction, from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.