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Remembering Ukraine’s Holodomor

12. November 2012 by Dasha 0 Comments

Between 1932 and 1933, millions of Ukrainians died as a result of a man-made famine known as Holodomor. Shockingly, few Westerners have heard of this unimaginable tragedy. Are you one of them?


A Brief Overview of the Holodomor Tragedy

Holodomor translates “to starve to death” or “kill by hunger.” Though scholars disagree on the final death toll, estimates range from 2.4 to 7.5 million, with some placing the number as high as 10 million. The cause of the famine is also a controversial topic. Some historians, including a few in Ukraine, place the blame on bad economic policies and a poor harvest. Other people claim the Holodomor was an act of premeditated genocide designed to stamp down the rise of Ukrainian nationalism. Regardless of cause, the immense amount of pain and suffering continues to haunt Ukraine to this day.


Remembering Holodomor

Each November, Ukraine commemorates the tragedy with a number of ceremonies and special events. In 2010, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russian Presdient Dmitry Medvedev visited Kiev’s Memorial to the Holodomor Victims (above) to remember those lost to the famine. Additional Holodomor monuments are scattered throughout Ukraine, including Kharkiv, Poltava, and Dnipropetrovsk.

Canada and the United States also recognize the Holodomor tragedy with memorials, monuments, and national days of awareness. Next week (November 19 – 25) is Canada’s National Holodomor Awareness Week. Last year, America observed Ukrainian Holodomor Remembrance Day on November 19th.


One Victim's Story

On Friday, a survivor of the Holodomor tragedy visited Reddit.com to answer questions and educate users about the horrific event. Here are a few of the highlights.

What was it that kept you alive, mentally and physically?
My mama. She would give her portions to me. They didn't want me to worry so they told me there was a famine, but they didn't tell me much more.

What alternatives to normal food did you eat to survive? Well, at that time they took gold for food. The food was was first class, like first class flour, but you got almost nothing. My mother sold her wedding ring for a handful of flour and made a tiny pita for us so we had some food in our mouth.

Did you resort to cannibalism?

No. I heard of other people eating their kids though. I don't know if it is true.

Several of your answers say that you were too young when it happened to remember the details. Have you not discussed this time period with your parents? If not, is it because you did not have the opportunity to do so, or because people who survived didn't talk about it?

No, they did not want to discuss. They were scared to talk about it, it would put us in danger. We had to pretend everything was good or we would get arrested. When I was older, they arrested my father and I still don't know why. I haven't seen him since. When I was 18, the Germans took me away and I never saw my mother or brother again. No one to discuss with.

Are you annoyed that there is almost no knowledge in the Western world of this event?
I want people to know about it. I can't be annoyed because nobody told them.

Do you think it should be discussed more so people are aware of the dangers of forced collectivization? I think so, so it will not happen again. People should know about it, to know what it is like to be hungry like that. I don't want it to happen again, not to any nation.

Read more of the Holodomor Q&A session here or check out a more in depth report on Ukraine's Holodomor.