League of Ukrainian Canadian Women – Edmonton Holodomor Essay contest: Thomas Blades

Thomas Blades.

Holodomor, also known as one of the most devastating events of the 20th century, transpired in central-eastern Soviet Ukraine. Holodomor was the fabricated starvation-Genocide of Ukrainians in 1932-33. According to New York Times reporter (Mendel L 2018), “The Ukrainian famine of 1933 killed more than three million people.” The Holodomor was purely a result of greed from the Soviet Communist Party, in relation to the suppression of the Ukrainian people. The exact figures with regards to fatalities due to the famine are hard to pin down, due in no small part to the Soviet Union’s suppression of censored documents.

The word Holodomor directly translates to ‘Death by Starvation’. It comes from two Ukrainian words: “holod,” meaning starvation or famine, and “moryty,” to inflict death. For generations, the very mention of the Famine was forbidden in Ukraine, and the Holodomor was often a bitter secret among survivors, hidden even from their own children. The survivors of Holodomor were not allowed to speak of the event for almost 70 years. In Ukraine, it was impossible to mention publicly, teach about or to discuss the Holodomor openly until the late 1980s. “It soon became, indeed, an offence carrying three to five-year sentence to use the word Famine,” (The Harvester of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivisation and the Terror-Famine by R. Conquest.) Information about the Famine was only accessible in the West, mostly from eyewitness testimonies of refugees who had survived the disaster and escaped from the Soviet Union after World War Two.

The Holodomor is commemorated each year on the fourth Saturday in November. Canada and numerous other countries have recognized the Holodomor as genocide. Across Canada, many school boards commemorate the Holodomor each year on the fourth Friday in November. Including our own school board. Many Ukrainians light candles on their tables or windowsills to commemorate the famine every year. In 2007, the 74th anniversary of the Holodomor was commemorated in Kyiv for three days on the Maidan Nezalezhnosti.

The Soviet party was afraid of Ukrainians increased Nationalism and honour. In Stalin’s own words “if we do not correct the situation … we could lose Ukraine.” “That explains the fact that the peasantry constitutes the main army of the national movement, that there is no powerful national movement without the peasant army, nor can there be. That is what is meant when it is said that, in essence, the national question is a peasant question.”(- Stalin, J. V. Concerning The National Question in Yugoslavia. Speech delivered in the Yugoslav Commission of the E.C.C.I., March 30, 1925, in Stalin, J. V. Works. Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1954, Vol. 7, 71-72.)

In conclusion, it is very important to educate people about the effects of the Holodomor and why this happened. There is no justification for the Famine, but education can prevent future events like this from ever happening again. Survivors of the Holodomor have many physical and mental repercussions to this day. Ukrainians still experience the effects of the famine today including many lost family members, farms and livestock. There is also many lasting effects in future generations including hoarding, overeating and overstocking.

Thomas Blades