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Ukraine: Holodomor


Last year's Holodomor memorial at Sofiyivska Sq. in Kyiv (Nov. 25, 2006) – by Veronica Khokhlova

This year, Nov. 24 was the day to remember the victims of the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine – Holodomor – and here is a selection of posts by Ukrainian bloggers.

LJ user diana-ledi (UKR):

[…] Shall I tell you about my grandfather, the first one in the village to join [Komsomol] – and the first head of the first [collective farm]? When it became clear that the famine was inevitable, here is what he did! One evening, he locked himself in with the agronomist and spent a long time calculating something. They discovered that sowing winter crop grain not as thickly could be the way out. No one would notice, and the grain that remained would help people survive winter. And that was what they did. But they did not distribute what remained among the houses, the way people were expecting. Because my grandfather knew that not every mother would tear a piece of bread from herself and give it to her children. Some [mothers] would hide [bread] even from their kids – my wise grandfather knew this.

And he came up with a dining hall, where every villager could get just one plate of that [soup] a day, with a few drops of oil floating in it and, sometimes, a few tiny bits of fried lard. And one piece of bread made of [seed coverings and small pieces of stem or leaves that have been separated from the seeds] – black bread of the hungry year. But thanks to that dining hall not a single person in the village died that winter. Think of it – not a single person! While whole villages were dying out all around, no one did in ours! They were swelling from hunger, yes, but they weren't dying. And every day, my grandfather would ride around the village […], entering each house, checking whether they were alive, whether they were strong enough to survive – or perhaps they needed to be rescued by then. The weakest ones were given a little bag with “additional food allowance.” Others were saying: “Move on, Anriyovych. We are holding on.” When I was listening to this stories, I couldn't believe people were saying that. “They were,” my grandmother would reply. “Because they knew that the family of the head [of the collective farm] was the hungriest of all at that time. My children and I swelled the most then.”

And when spring came, someone from the rescued villagers reported my grandfather [to the regime] – for the thinned out winter crops. This is how my grandfather ended up in Siberia for the first time. Had he known that this would be how it would all end? Of course.

Or, perhaps, shall I tell you about my other grandfather? That one was a [kulak], the rich one. He escaped the purges miraculously, giving away his wealth to the [collective farm] in time and promptly joining the ranks of the Communist Party. And when the most horrible winter of the 1930s began, he left his family and went to his relatives at the rich farmsteads. My grandmother, surrounded by a crowd of hungry children, was sentenced “for a wheat spike,” as they used to say then. For some grains in her pocket that she had collected from the road. Five kids were left on their own. One was 14, the oldest – 16. The aunts didn't desert them, came over and took them in … the oldest two. Because these ones had grown up already and would be able to work around the household. “What about the younger ones?” I'd ask, horrified. “The younger ones were left behind – because the aunts had small kids of their own,” they'd explain to me calmly. […]

My father (aged 12) spent that whole winter feeding his little brother and sister (aged 4 and 6). What was he giving them? Here, listen: frozen vegetables found miraculously in other people's gardens; cats who were so trusting at first that they would jump into your arms; crusts of bread that he earned or asked people to give him. And as spring grew closer and there was no more of that “food” left, he discovered a hiding place inside the house. My grandfather was wild and ruthless – but in love with agronomy, and he had hidden some [high quality grains]. They were cooking it and eating – and survived thanks to that. When they were almost done with it, grandfather showed up at the house. He beat the children to near death, especially the oldest one, my father. Battered, my father ran to the train station, jumped into the freight train – and off he was to Tashkent. […]

[…]

In 500 days (from April 1932 to November 1933), nearly 10 million people died of starvation in Ukraine. In spring 1933, 17 people were dying every minute, and 25,000 were dying every day…

… The regions that were hit the hardest are today's Poltava, Sumy, Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr and Kyiv oblasts. Here, death rates were 8-9 times the average… […]

LJ user otets-lisiy (UKR):

What do I know about Holodomor? I myself am from Cherkasy region, and it was my grandmother and grandfather who told me about this horror.

My grandmother told me how from her family of nine children only five survived. She told me how they ate [ocheretreed] and rotten potatoes. How the Commies were taking away all wheat and farm animals, and how at night they gathered wheat spikes at the field and some of them survived thanks to that. She told me about the village cannibals and one person who ate her own child. She told me about the man who had lost his mind and was chasing them around with an ax, and how she had barely managed to escape…

It's a sad date today. Eternal memory…

LJ user alenka14 (RUS):

I talked to my grandmother about Holodomor today. She was 7 in 1932-33. She remembers a lot from that time. Even 75 years later she can't think about that time without tears. When I was little and refused to behave, refused to eat, she would tell me stories from that time, when there was no food and it was called ‘holodomor.’ I thought of her stories as some kind of a fairy tale then. My grandmother has also survived the war, was captured, but she can't talk about Holodomor without tears in her eyes. […]

LJ user fantasma_ (UKR):

My great-grandmother used to call the famine of 1933 “holodovka” [starvation, hunger strike], when I was still 4 or 5 years old. I only remember bits from those stories, as I didn't really undestand what she was tlling me about… “the man lying just off the road was dead” … “the post-war holodovka wasn't as terrible as the one in the 1930s.” I only understood what she meant by this when I accidentally recalled these story bits in the 11th grade when we were studying the 20th century… […]

LJ user essy-aka-tigra (RUS):

I've written about Holodomor before, more than once. I'm okay with having opposing views on politics with [the people I know online and offline] – it's not something that would keep me from staying in touch with them. But I can never remain calm when I think of Holodomor.

There's such a thing as ethnographic expeditions. Ordinary stuff for history students. A gang of young students arrives in a village and walks around the houses with tape recorders.

Old men and women spoke calmly about [raskulachivaniye – persecution of kulaks, collectivization], about the war, about DneproGES [Dnipro Hydroelectric Station] construction. No big deal, they were saying, it was tough, but it was a long time ago, and tears and grief tend to get erased from memory.

But as soon as you asked them a question about the Holodomor of 1932-33, these ancient men and women, who had seen lots of horrors, began to cry. Just cry. Some refused to talk – they had no energy to tell anything about it.

I've seen it. I grew up in a village, my ancestors are village people, too. I've read and heard about it since childhood.

I don't give a damn about bills and resolutions. I just know what the truth is. […]

6 comments

  • Most modern historians agree that the famine was caused by the policies of the communist government of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, rather than by natural causes. There is no doubt in my mind that communists wanted to destroy Ukrainian people through policies of famine. I am glad that Ukrainian people finally have their independent state so they can celebrate their unique culture, language, and history without oppression and interference from Moscow. Thank you for letting the world know about this horrible event in human history.

    Respectfully,

    Daniel

  • Thank you so much, Veronica! Velychezne spasybi tobi!

    The stories you translated are a piece of history untaught for almost six decades.

    They were whispered and suppressed. They still haven’t come alive to millions of Ukrainians, many of them the sons and daughters of Holodomor survivors.

    My grandfather was on the verge of starving at Izyum, Kharkivska Oblast. Had his brother, who worked at the railroad station and received food rations, not saved him, I wouldn’t have been born.

    We owe it to the victims, we owe it to the survivors, we owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to our future generations to always remember this terrible tragedy and to never repeat it again.

  • GYTR

    The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)probably would recognize a famine under a collective farm. Thenew agreements between the UN and other countries should not be used as political by the US or Russia, but this seems to be the apper.

  • I have opened a topic @ Holodomor wiki discussion page. Since Russian wikipedian’s might delete my comment, I will copy and paste it here, so everybody can read it:

    Holodomor = Genocide : It is sick to learn that Russia attempted to commit genocide over Ukrainian people by blocking food and letting innocent Ukrainian children starve. This reminds me of Serbs blocking convoys of food reaching Srebrenica, while Bosniak Muslim children starved, which ultimately ended in Srebrenica genocide. Holodomor was horrible, and I am convinced Soviet government is to blame. Ukrainian people are nice people and I am sorry for their loss. Recently, Russian extremists vandalized Holodomor exhibit in Moscow… and everything was caught on tape. I wonder, what it will take for the two least civilized countries (Russia and Serbia) to decontaminate themselves from hatred, nationalism, and racism and start believing in universal human rights? Bosniak (talk) 03:29, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

    Retrieved from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Holodomor”

  • Not as a person of Ukrainian heritage but as a friend of Ukraine I have posted at the top of http://www.ukraineorphans.net an announcement about the documentary now being filmed about the Holodomor. You are invited to visit there. You can follow the link to the movie trailer to contact the producer and the producer/director.

    All the best, David

  • Olya

    I am a young student and I am Ukrainian. I have personally never had any ancestors that lived through this tragic horror. I know a lot about the Holodomor because of the awareness in my Ukrainian elementary school and the participation in the Ukrainian community.
    I am very glad that Ukrainian voices are finally being heard but then again tamed and muted by the present president of Ukraine, Yanukovich. It is obvious that he does not want to work for the people of Ukraine. By his attempt at reversing the recognition of the Holodomor as genocide, it shows his true colours.
    I am very disappointed that there are still many nations that do not recognize it as a genocide but as political brutality (they claim has been done in other countries in the USSR) or as a natural disaster (do people really believe that?)
    I still cannot believe that people do not believe this horrific tragedy in Ukraine with all the photos, documentation and survivors. It is time for the world to open its eyes and expose the truth. It is sickening that people believe that the evidence such as photos are fake and photo shopped and that Ukrainian people would want to be pitied and looked down upon on. All that we, meaning Ukrainians, want is to be recognised. This is part of our identity and culture. By the denial of others they are denying us and not accepting us. Everything that happened in the past is now part of the present and the future. The Holodomor formed our identity, cultures, values and who we are. It is a part of us, a part of history. It has to also become part of the world as a whole, part of humanity.
    I hope that Russia recognises their past leader’s mistake and brings it up front. I think that people are often mistaken by hating Russians. Ukrainians do not hate Russians but disagree and dislike the attitudes and beliefs that the Russians formed throughout the ages. By Russia recognizing the Holodomor as genocide it does not mean that it is Russia’s fault but the fault of their past leader. And I do not understand what the big problem is with recognizing the Holodomor as genocide. Everyone already knows the truth whether they believe it or not. Russia won’t lose anything or get punished well except maybe the compensation rates for the survivors and the pension. I believe that people have a right to be acknowledged and be recognized.
    I believe that by the more brave souls that make attempts to be heard, we will be recognized. We have to start taking action as a community and not wait for others to do it for us.
    Sincerely,
    Olya

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