The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


Speech given by Peter Borisow at the Chicagoland
Ukrainians Commemoration Events for the 70th Anniversary
of the Ukrainian Genocide Famine of 1932-1933
Sponsored by the Ukrainian Genocide Famine Foundation
Chicago, Illinois, September 21, 2003 (USA)

When I came to Chicago last year to interview survivors of the Holodomor, I came with childhood memories of tears - the tears cried by my mother as she remembered how her brothers and sisters died of starvation, and the tears that streaked down the faces of battle scarred veterans of the Ukrainian Partisan Army as they stood in St. Georges Church in New York and sang "Bozhe znime iz nas kaydane". The walls of the old church shook as they prayed, "Lord, free us of these chains".

(Click on image to enlarge it)


At the time, last year, I already believed it was genocide. But, I didn't understand why. I felt we needed to know more, much more, if we were to understand what happened to us as a nation and as a people and why. The last year has proven to be one of revelation.


It began with an understanding of Holodomor. The word itself is important. Holodomor is a uniquely Ukrainian word that combines "holod", meaning "hunger", with "mor", meaning a "plague". Most important, "mordovate" means "to torture".


Holodomor was a deliberate and relentless plague of torture and terror resulting in death by starvation. The torture element is a very important one.


Not everyone died in the Holodomor. But even those who survived were tortured by starvation and sadistic abuse. What greater torture can you inflict on human beings than to force them to watch helplessly as their children starve to death in a hopeless hell?


This torture was calculated to dehumanize the Ukrainian people. It was designed to make sure there would remain a collective memory of doubt and fear to stop future resistance. And, to a large extent, it worked. To this day, there are still many survivors who fear speaking of the torture they suffered, both physical and psychological.


Then came the realization that there was not just one Holodomor, but three. Before the 10 million Ukrainians killed in 1932-33, there were 3 million killed the same way in 1921-24. And, another million were killed in 1946. There were three cycles of Holodomor in Ukraine, killing a total of 14 million innocent men, women and children.


Recent research in Ukraine has demonstrated that in addition to the three cycles of Holodomor, Ukraine suffered at least three cycles of massive executions and deportations that killed no fewer than four million more Ukrainians -- the slaughter of the Ukrainian intelligentsia in the late 20's, the slaughter of the middle class (the kurkuls) in the early 30's and the purges of the late 30's.


Viewed together these events reveal an indisputable pattern of on-going genocide that in a period of 25 years killed 18 million people, fully half of the Ukrainian population. The pattern also reveals that it was clearly targeted against Ukrainians, inside Ukraine and outside Ukraine. The so-called Russians who died in the Kuban and Lower Volga were almost entirely Ukrainians. Entire regions of Ukraine were depopulated and Ukrainians were replaced by Russians.


Stepping further back to view the larger picture, we quickly realize that the pattern of genocide in Ukraine started long before communism appeared.


It began centuries earlier when Peter the First - I will not call him Great - decided to create an Empire by inventing the Myth of Russia. In order to turn his frozen back woods outposts into a credible empire, he needed a history, and a church to bless it.


Ukraine had all that -- so he conquered it. Ukrainian history became Russian history. The head of the Ukrainian Church was arrested, marched off to Moscow and declared to be to head of the Russian Church. Suddenly, Russia had an empire, a history and a church to bless it all.


The only problem was those pesky Ukrainians who just wouldn't cooperate and become Russian. That began a centuries long effort by Russia to destroy the Ukrainian nation and Ukrainian national identity.


The Holodomor was not a stand alone effort to collectivize farms in Ukraine. It was an especially brutal period in the long history of genocide by Russia in Ukraine.


Mr. Chernomyrdin says Russia has nothing for which to apologize, that there was suffering throughout Russia during collectivization. Mr. Chernomyrdin is a clever liar. Thanks to thousands of living witnesses who have come forth to tell the truth, Ukrainians now know what happened in the Holodomor.


We remember those places along the border where there was no food on the Ukrainian side, plenty of food on the Russian side and armed guards in between, with orders to shoot to kill.


We remember how travelers were searched for food and even a single loaf of bread was seized at the border and the "smugglers" punished.


We remember what it was like to be trapped in a place where the mere possession of tiny bits of food by "enemies of the people" was against the law and punishable by exile or death.


We remember how they turned the entire country of Ukraine into a huge, mind boggling, indescribable concentration camp, policed by soldiers from Moscow, as cold blooded and sadistic as the worst of the Nazis.


We remember the minions, the Kaganoviches and the Molotovs, who ran this hell on earth for their masters in Moscow. We remember how they too sneered and lied to cover their master's treachery.


To Mr. Chorna Morda, I say, do not be so proud of your arrogance. You may not apologize today, but I promise you - you will apologize soon enough. For denying the evil of the Holodomor, you will apologize for an Eternity in Hell.


Despite our best efforts to date, the history of Holodomor and of the Ukrainian genocide has failed to take root in the world's conscience. Most people still do not know about it and many still do not believe it.


Many of us are pained by the realization that everyone on the planet knows about the Holocaust, but few have even heard about the Holodomor. There are two important reasons for this.


First, Hitler lost the war. Russia won the war. If, God forbid, Hitler had won the war, do you really think anyone would know about the Holocaust?


Second, Russia - and let's not kid ourselves, the Soviet Union was just a passing phase for the same old monster - has spent tons of money and decades of effort to slander and discredit anything and everything Ukrainian.


Ukrainians, even those who still wear Nazi concentration camp tattoos on their arms, are routinely branded as Nazi sympathizers or collaborators simply to discredit their message. If you can't defeat the message, destroy the messenger. If there are no more messengers, perhaps the message will stop.


Although the pattern of Russian efforts to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainians has changed, it has not stopped. Patriotic Ukrainians, men like Vyacheslav Chernovil, Olexandr Yemets and just last week, Ivan Havdyda, are routinely and blatantly assassinated - not by other Ukrainian factions but by Russian agents continuing their work to bring Ukraine back into the fold of the Russian Empire.


Scandals like Demjanyuk, Gongadze and most recently the Kolchuga radars, are manufactured by Russian agents, Russian hires and Russian sympathizers to portray Ukrainians as barbarians and Ukraine as a country better ruled by Russia than left to its own devices.


Here in the United States, in our diaspora we have to deal with serious problems created by a fifth column of Russian agents and sympathizers who are working very hard to sow dissent and division in the Ukrainian community. It is the old pattern of divide and conquer.


Put the Orthodox against the Catholics, the Galicians against the Easterners, the Jews against the Christians, the old immigrants against the new arrivals - as long as they keep fighting each other, they can not focus their energies on what Russia is doing.


Russia's hope is that, consumed in our little squabbles, we won't even notice that Russia is taking over everything in Ukraine and soon there will be nothing left to fight for. We see this every day in our own communities as well as in Ukraine.


It is imperative that we stop feeding this malignant beast. We must put aside our differences and unite to defend the prize we all seek to win - Ukraine itself. This is a battle for our history.


The price for denying history is very high. When, in 1931, the New York Times agreed with Moscow that its star reporter in Russia, Walter Duranty would report only the party line, Duranty's lies about the Holodomor did not just stop world wide efforts to intervene with famine relief as well as efforts to force Russia to stop the genocide.


The result was far more reaching. Although Hitler and Stalin hated each other, they also studied each other's methods. When it was clear that Russia had gotten away with such massive genocide in Ukraine, Hitler felt free to proceed with the Holocaust.


The blood that runs on Walter Duranty's and the New York Times' Pulitzer Prize is not just the blood of the 10 million Ukrainians killed in the Holodomor. It is joined by the blood of 6 million Jews, two million Ukrainians and countless others killed in the Holocaust.


Mr. Sulzberger, in the name of everything decent in humanity, you must wash that blood off your hands, return that cursed award and apologize to all who suffered from your newspaper's treachery.


As to today's deniers of the Holodomor, they are part and parcel of Russia's master plan to bring Ukraine back into the Russian Empire. Mr. Chernomyrdin 's mission in Ukraine is to take control of key elements of the Ukrainian economy and media for Russian interests.


The recent signing of an agreement to form a "United Economic Space" is a very big step in guaranteeing Russian control of the Ukrainian economy. The attempts to reverse the direction of the Odessa pipeline, to make it a terminal to export Russian oil instead of a terminal to import Middle Eastern oil into Ukraine, are designed to guarantee perpetual Ukrainian dependence on Russia for energy supply.


Ukraine is at a crossroads. If Ukraine casts its fate with Europe, in ten years, Ukraine will be have an economy as strong as Germany. If Ukraine casts its fate with Russia, in ten years it will be Belarus.


As Ukrainians in America, we must take the lessons learned from the Holodomor to Washington. We must do this now. We must make sure Ukraine does not become a bargaining chip on the table as President Bush negotiates Iraq with Putin.


I call on all Ukrainians in America, be they Orthodox, Catholic or Jewish, be they Galicians or Easterners, be they old immigrants or new arrivals - I call on all of you to unite in a single loud voice.


I call on you to raise a voice that will shake the halls of Washington like those old soldiers shook the walls of the church in New York.


I call on you to raise a voice calling on President Bush - a voice that says,

"Mr. President, tell your friend Mr. Putin - Keep Your Hands Off Ukraine!"

President Bush, tell the world, "Ukraine Must Remain Free!"

NOTE: Peter Borisow is President of the Hollywood Trident Foundation, a group of professionals in the entertainment and media industries who are either Ukrainian or have a special interest in Ukrainian film and media, past, present and future. Borisow is also President of the Genocide Awareness Foundation, a newly formed multi-ethnic group with broad interests in genocide, including genocide recognition, education, rehabilitation and prevention.