Senate debates

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Statements by Senators

Jameikis, Mr Stasys, Armenian Genocide

1:45 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Imagine slowly waking up, familiarising yourself with your frozen surroundings and realising you're on a heap of frozen bodies left for dead in a makeshift morgue. This is just part of Stasys Jameikis's gripping firsthand account of the many depravities that he suffered—like so many Lithuanians, Jews, Poles and, indeed, a Russian war hero—at the hands of the brutal communist regime in Russia. I recently had the sobering honour of launching his book in Parliament House. In his book, Only Eleven Came Back, the author's narrative of his life experiences tells us of the 1,504 fellow Lithuanians with whom he was forcefully removed from his beloved homeland in 1941. He was torn from his bride of only eight months, a good job and his family to face the hell of arctic Russia for only one reason: being Lithuanian. It was explained that Stasys's relocation was only to be temporary, as his sobbing wife fell to the floor, clasping the legs of the comrades, pleading that she be taken as well. Thankfully, they didn't accede to her distressed pleas.

The human toll was massive, the brutality and depravity unthinkable. Yet Stasys and 10 others survived to return home after 13 unbearably long years as slave labourers in the icy Russian Arctic, all in the name of the Marxist workers' revolution. Death shadowed their every step. By 1948 only 24 were still living. As early as the first year in exile:

… 30 to 40 bodies were removed from the barracks each morning … They would be carried out completely naked and stacked like firewood on carts … Then for good measure as they passed through the gates their skulls were smashed with axe handles.

This is but one of the many stark descriptions left for us by Stasys Jameikis.

Since 1990 those few determined survivors and their descendants again breathe the air of freedom and liberty in Lithuania after 50 long years of oppression, including three under Nazi Germany. It is thanks to the few like Stasys Jameikis that the fires of hope, freedom and liberty were kept alive when to have given up would have been so much easier.

It was the tenacity and strength of some Western leaders that finally saw the collapse of the evil communist empire—an empire, sadly, supported by many academics while I was still at university. Their excuses and fake explanations seeking to justify the evil of Marxism now lie fully exposed as a huge disservice to a generation of students. Yet Marxism is still peddled at universities. We even had to endure academics and others, allegedly well-educated people, eulogising Fidel Castro's reign of communist terror in Cuba, despite the well-documented evidence which was so studiously avoided by these same university elites. Totalitarianism subjugates the individual and his rights to the common good as determined by the totalitarian elite. Stasys's story not only needs to be on the record but needs to be told to remind us that the freedoms we enjoy should never be taken for granted.

Despite the harshness, the deprivations and the torture that Stasys suffered, he completes his account in a manner that would uplift anyone's spirit and ask, 'would I have survived and, if so, returned as balanced' as he did, to observe:

Perhaps it was His will that at least one man out of that 1500 be allowed to witness a Christian rebirth in Lithuania.

Poignantly, he concludes with this injunction:

He who does not defend his freedom is not worthy of it. AMEN.

Can I add my amen to his.

In the time remaining, I turn to another crime against humanity—that is, the Armenian genocide. The horror of the genocide by the Turks cannot and should not be swept aside or ignored. Arrests, imprisonment, rape, death marches, subjugation of children—you name it—were all part and parcel of the Armenian genocide. This documented brutality and the eyewitness accounts have been ignored for far too long. Eyewitness accounts were brought to us by our very own Australian servicemen who were there at that time, as were the war reporters, over 100 years ago. Potentially, sensitivities by authorities relating to the Gallipoli Peninsula may have quietened that which should have been a loud voice of condemnation of deliberate, orchestrated, official policy in 1915, which saw the removal of the Armenians from the Ottoman Empire. At the time, Winston Churchill referred to this as the 'Armenian holocaust'. Call it what you will, holocaust or genocide, it was an atrociously horrific chapter in world history and an exceptionally shameful one in Turkey's history.

The people of Australia, learning of the atrocities those 100 years ago through reports and our servicemen in the area, rallied together to support the Armenian relief fund way back in 1915. They made substantial contributions. We let these forefathers of ours down. We don't appreciate fully the sacrificial giving of so many of our forebears of yesteryear, who gave so generously, by no longer highlighting the atrocity and demanding justice through recognition and apology.

I'm a firm believer that justice ultimately prevails and I, therefore, believe that justice will ultimately come the way of the Armenian people. But I am also reminded that justice delayed is justice denied. After 103 years, the delay, the denial and the disingenuous excuses need to be expunged in favour of acceptance, acknowledgement and apology. It is my hope that Australia will be in the vanguard of this just endeavour to obtain recognition and reparation for the plight of the world's Armenian peoples, as our forebears were 100 years ago in providing food, support and practical assistance.