The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


Letter to the Editors of The Day
by Tamara DEMCHENKO, Docent, Department of History and Archeology,
Chernihiv Shevchenko State Pedagogical University
Published in The Day WEEKLY DIGEST of Ukrainian News in English
Kyiv, Ukraine, December 2, 2003


Dear Editors,

One can gain an impression that Ukrainian Communists decided to mark our people's tragedy sad anniversary with yet another attack on your newspaper and its constant contributor, American and Ukrainian historian James Mace. The article in question is Prof. Ivan Hrushchenko's " The Day on 'Genocide' and the National Rebirth of the Ukrainian Society" (Komunist, November 19, 2003), which is notable for its excessively free treatment of events, painful for many our compatriots, and insults the dignity of decent persons.


I would like to say that your newspaper is one of the best printed media outlets in contemporary Ukraine, and perhaps you are not afraid of being accused of anti-Communism. Its readers are representatives of intelligentsia, in part historians, who can find in it interesting and well-balanced information. Though this year's issues contain many acute critical materials, it is no accident that professor Hrushchenko chose precisely Prof. Mace's articles as an aim for his invectives.


We found 31 of them from the beginning of the year to November 18. They are dedicated to various topical issues of our days, written with ease and talent, are immensely indulgent toward the dramatic personae of the Ukrainian political theater and full of understanding of our country's problems. For instance, we were genuinely touched by his reminiscences about his only meeting with Oles Honchar.


One can understand why Prof. Mace dislikes the giants of Stalin's industry, objects of pious devotion of the then and today's Communists. But the American historian loves things Ukrainian; he cares about Ukraine's history and complicated problems. A number of his articles concern the Holodomor in one way or another. This is what our Leftists cannot forgive him, making no secret of the fact that they are irritated by his mercilessly accurate analysis of the reasons and consequences of the great national tragedy.


In one of his articles, Prof. Mace says that he was only executive director of the US Senate Commission. In fact, his role in its activity is much broader than that: he not only substantiated the Commission's conclusions, but also was first to apply the oral history method to researching the Famine. The materials of the 1990 Washington collection became model for Ukrainian researchers. Thus, we owe Mr. Mace tens of thousands already collected and published evidences.


The people itself, from the lips of injured old ladies and gentlemen, tells us about the bitter piece of ersatz bread, goosefoot soup, pancakes made from clover flowers, unburied bodies, swollen legs of the old, and distended stomachs of the children. It seems that this information, in addition to the newly discovered archive documents should finally destroy the myth of "unfavorable weather conditions" and "defects in conducting collectivization."


James Mace is absolutely right in his warning that we live in a country crippled by its own history. This list of this outstanding person's services to our country is far from complete. He was the first to prove that political reasons of the famine were no less important than economic and to point out to the connection between all three famines of the Soviet times. Finally, one can dare forecast that James Mace will become part of Ukraine's spiritual life history with his sincere, emotionally tinged, highly moral Candle in the Window project.


Even half of those "crimes" would be enough, from a Communist's viewpoint, to proclaim Prof. Mace an enemy. The television cameras reflected the fact that his attitude toward the Communists' constant attacks is quite tolerant. However, they make a more and more disgusting impression upon the readers and TV audience.


Without resorting to the level of discussion chosen by the author of the article mentioned above or encroaching upon the Communists' right to have their own views, I would like to advise them to behave more politely with people having a different scale of values. Civilized peoples have always esteemed those giving them support in hard times. It would be at least strange if Greeks began to lash out at Lord Byron for giving his life for their freedom, or if the Spanish cursed Hemingway for intruding into their business by writing For Whom the Bell Tolls, or Paris Communards deported from Paris Jaroslaw Dombrowski, who fought on the barricades together with them under the slogan, For your and freedom and ours.


One can say that for Prof. Mace Ukraine has become his Hellas, his Republican Spain. We have enough people able to appreciate his attitude to contemporary Ukrainian society's sore points. One of them is the consequences of the horrible disaster we still have not realized and overcome in full. Prof. Hrushchenko's article is a graphic illustration to this sad fact. His treatment of even the key issue, the number of Holodomor victims, is excessively superficial. It seems that the author have never heard of Stanislav Kulchytsky's calculations made over a decade ago.


Anyway, even those "around 1,500,000 people" he refers to were also human and wanted to live. Statistics about 13 million experts with high education in the Ukrainian SSR are in no way explanation for mass mortality in 1932-1933. These figures cannot be compared, nor can the present hard situation in the economy justify past crimes. What can we say about that society, which allegedly was "confident in its future?"


It is hard to believe that people who had piles of "UNBURIED, UNPRAYED, UNWEPT" dead bodies towering behind them, were so confident in their future. Again, Prof. Mace's approach is closer and more understandable for us. When he writes, "Who knows how many Shakespeares, Goethes, Tolstoys, Dostoyevskys, Dvoraks, or Mickiewiczes could have sprung from the Ukrainian bosom had there not been the crimes of the Stalin period?... Every soul is precious, and every soul unjustly deprived untimely of life deserves remembrance," this looks like the stand of a humanist, not doctrinaire for whom people were nothing but building material to construct the radiant past.


All of us, who lit candles that Saturday, who care about our compatriots' losses and sufferings, are grateful to your newspaper for this year's interesting articles researching various aspects of this most complicated issue. We hope that you will publish it in your next Ukraine Incognita collection, thereby reaching a broader audience.



"In 1932-1933 Soviet Ukraine, along with many USSR regions, was affected by terrible famine, caused by unfavorable weather conditions and also defects in conducting collectivization..."

"The socialist regime not only never undermined the basics of the nation's viability, but, to the contrary, favored its consolidation."

"In socialist society, fraternal social layers were collective owner of colossal means of production." "Our socialistic society was confident in its future."

"After the 1991 counter-revolutionary coup d'etat, and USSR collapse, Mace immediately came to Ukraine, gathering together a supporting group of corrupt academicians, corresponding members, and writers... to launch an anti-Communist campaign on 'genocide'."

"With obtuse persistency they cast slurs upon our people's history..."

"The cowboy professor has no idea that sheep, as biological species, don't exist in out post-Socialist republic any more, as it happened with American Indians due to their genocide and manmade famine..."

"The fact that contemporary Ukrainian society has turned, according to the pseudo-scientific term coined by Mace's brother in anti-Communism Anatoly Halchynsky, into a 'broken nation' is a result of not "Stalinist totalitarianism" but destructive anti-national reforms..."

"We are tired enough of you, false friend of Ukraine. Go home, Mr. Mace!" (Excerpts from Ivan Hrushchenko's article in Komunist, November 19, 2003).