A recent gathering in Utah commemorated the victims of two dictators who, together, killed more than 100 million people and dreamed of splitting the United States between China and Russia.
The second annual "Honoring the Victims of Mao and Stalin" event took place on Nov. 4 at the Utah State Capitol building rotunda. It was held in conjunction with Victims of Communism Memorial Day, observed in Utah on Nov. 7.
Voices for the VoicelessThe event was organized by Utah Voices for the Voiceless founder Lisa Fifield. Born in Idaho, Ms. Fifield was a small-town girl who dreamed of seeing the world as a ballerina. She achieved that dream, dancing with the Guangzhou Ballet Company as China's first American ballerina.
Living and working in communist China, she developed a deep love and respect for the Chinese people, as well as a deep empathy for the victims of communism and those still living under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Today, she teaches Mandarin and works to educate people about the evils of communism. She founded Utah Voices for the Voiceless to "bring awareness of the atrocities of Communism and honor its victims."
Ms. Fifield told The Epoch Times: “One of the things I want to do with this event is be the voice for the voiceless, for my wonderful friends in China that I miss. I will speak for them.”
Speaking at the event, Ms. Fifield asked, “Why should any of us care about the Chinese or Russian people?”
The answer, she said, is that history serves as a warning, as well as "a teacher to the living." She added, "Humanity is a common thread we share."
Victims of Communism Memorial Day
Victims of Communism Memorial Day is set aside to remember “those who have suffered and died at the hands of communist regimes in the past, and to stand for those who are fighting for freedom today,” according to The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC).
On Nov. 7, 2017, the 100th anniversary of the day the Bolshevik political party took control of the Russian capital, setting the stage for the Bolshevik Revolution and the founding of the Soviet Union, President Donald Trump established a National Day for the Victims of Communism.
The impetus for the proclamation came from the VOC, an education non-profit that was chartered in 1993, a time when "we thought all the victims of communism were in the past," VOC founder and former ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Bremberg told The Daily Signal in September.
Since that time, Mr. Bremberg said VOC has tried to educate Americans about the history and victims of communism, not only under the Soviet Union but under the "even more deadly Chinese Communist Party that is really becoming much more aggressive, not only in terms of human rights violations in its own country but its diplomatic approach in the region and around the world."
Nine states have adopted measures setting aside Nov. 7 as Victims of Communism Memorial Day: Virginia, Alabama, Idaho, Florida, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Georgia. Another seven states are moving to do the same.
'Freedom Is a Fragile Thing'Quoting former President Ronald Reagan’s words, “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation from extinction,” Ms. Fifield said that as a former public school teacher, she “can attest that the current school curriculum whitewashes recent Chinese history. There is no information taught about the evils of communism, current or past human rights abuses, or free speech violations.”
She said she wanted the afternoon to focus primarily on bringing awareness of communist atrocities to the young people of the community.
Utah Voices for the Voiceless sponsored a speech contest at the event, focused on the importance of the First Amendment.
Ms. Fifield told The Epoch Times it was rewarding to see children participate in the First Amendment speech contest because it confirmed that they are “hearing our voices … being taught ... being educated" about communism.
“If I wasn’t able to educate the adults, I was able to get through to the children, and the children were able to recognize and were able to push forward the truth,” she said.
She expressed that it’s important that people are able to hear “speeches being spoken without fear."
Party Influence in Utah
Although several states now commemorate Victims of Communism Memorial Day, the Utah event was particularly significant because the CCP has made notable efforts to secure allies on a local level in Utah.
China has launched a widespread charm offensive tailored to local communities nationwide, say security experts. However, the campaign has been particularly successful in Utah.
According to a March 2023 AP investigative report, "The world’s most powerful communist country and its U.S.-based advocates have spent years building relationships with Utah officials."
“We have also made it so that the Chinese Communist Party can no longer fund our K-12 language learning programs, they were funding 350k a year to Davis School District, so we shut that down,” said Ms. Pierucci.
America Divided at a Crucial Moment: AuthorEugene Yelchin, the award-winning author of “Breaking Stalin’s Nose,” painter and illustrator, was a guest speaker at the event.
Addressing the importance of the commemorative event, he said it is vitally important to study history.
“Now we have this thing in the Middle East [also, which is an] extraordinarily complicated issue, how are we going to deal with that? Unless we know the roots of all these things ... If you think about this, we are in the first quarter of the 21st century and we still fight in religious wars. I think it's important to know history in the first place,” Mr. Yelchin said.
The Precious First AmendmentThirteen-year-old Joy Moore won the speech contest for the middle school age group. She based her perspective on several years spent in China with her parents.
She pointed out how precious the First Amendment is to Americans. “I think that we are so used to living in a world where everyone gets to voice their opinions that we don't realize there are others out there that don't have that ability.”
Recalling her experience in China, she said, “For example, sometimes people asked questions and they didn't feel safe to answer them."
“People say whatever they would like [in America] and the contrast is crazy. I think everyone should understand that there is a difference,” Joy said.
Her mother, Christy, said she plans to bring her homeschool co-op students to next year's event.
She believes it’s important for young people “to see and understand the blessings of our rights here, and how it is different from other parts of the world."
The Nov. 4 event was very moving for her, she said. “There were even points where I was tearing up because I was reminded of how lucky we are. I definitely think that these kinds of events need to happen more often."