EDITORIAL, The Kyiv Post
Kyiv, Ukraine, October 9, 2003
The preparation of a Ukrainian postage stamp (see story, page 1[shown
below]) to honor the victims of the 1932-1933 famine and other famines
in Ukrainian 20th century history went through an interesting process that
shows that effective lobbying has a place in citizen-government interaction
The issuance of the stamp has been a long-time project of many Ukrainians
and Diasporans, who feel that there has been a largely successful effort to
sweep some events, particularly the 1932-33 famine, into the dustbin of
history, to be forgotten.
Ukraine. Holodomor. In Memory of Victims of Holodomor 1932-1933. 45 kopiykas
(Click on image to enlarge it)
When the stamp's design was finally put forward, many who had lobbied for
its issuance were chagrined when research proved that the people depicted
on the stamp could be documented to actually be Russian.
In spite of considerable reluctance on the part of the authorities, the
scheduled issuance of the stamp has been postponed, while an appropriate
design using a Ukrainian photograph or scene may be arranged.
For some, it may seem like a small thing. However, for those who lost
families during 1932 and 1933, use of the stamp depicting a Russian family
would have been a sacrilege.
Expeditious action on the part of ArtUkraine.com and scholars in Ukraine
and North America effectively petitioned the authorities and got the relief
All parties deserve praise for their reasonable and effective action in this
EDITORIAL, The Kyiv Post, Thursday, October 9, 2003
FOR PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC USE ONLY
MARKA UKRAINY PULLS STAMP WITH ERRONEOUS PHOTO
By Roman Zakaluzny, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
The Kyiv Post, Front Page
Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, October 9, 2003
Ukrposhta, the state postal service, has decided to withdraw the design for
a postage stamp commemorating Eastern Ukraine's artificial famine of 1932
and 1933, citing pressure from Ukrainian Diaspora groups in the U.S. and
Marka Ukrainy, Ukrposhta's printing house, cancelled plans to issue the
stamp because it erroneously depicted victims of an earlier famine in
The stamp was intended to commemorate the genocidal famine known as the
Holodomor (an untranslatable word that evokes the Ukrainian words for
"hunger," "plague" and "torture"). During the famine, millions of peasants
starved to death while Western markets were flooded with Ukrainian grain -
sold, historians have argued, to fund the Stalin-era industrialization of
the Soviet Union.
The stamp's introduction was originally planned for Nov. 22. Though postal
officials are attempting to redesign the stamp in time for the planned
rollout, they expressed uncertainty as to whether a revised stamp could be
prepared by that date.
ArtUkraine President E. Morgan Williams said that he obtained a copy of the
stamp from an undisclosed source. What caught Williams' eye was the
depiction of starving peasants on the left side of the stamp. He recognized
the image of three women, a baby, and a girl with a swollen belly as having
come from a 1921 photograph.
"I immediately knew [that the image] was from 1921," said Williams.
Williams said that he asked two scholars, James Mace at Kyiv Mohyla
Academy and Roman Serbyn of Montreal, to confirm the origin of the
photograph. Both men have researched the famines in the former Soviet
Union. Not only did they agree that the photo was taken more than 10 years
before the 1930s famine, but they also said it pictured Russian peasants
from Soviet Russia, not Ukraine.
Serbyn, a retired history professor, has studied Soviet famines extensively.
He said that he had seen the photo before.
"I have seen both the little girl by herself, and with the adults, in
photographs labeled as being from Buzuluk, Russia, from the famine of 1921
to 1923," said Serbyn. "I have a photocopy of a brochure published by Le
Comite Francais de Secours aux Enfants entitled, 'La Famine en Russie.'
Inside, there is a map of the 1921 to 1923 famine. One of the photos
reproduced there is of the little girl."
Williams sent emails to thousands of people, alerting them to the error, and
he organized a Sept. 30 meeting with Marka Ukrainy director Valentyna
During the meeting, Khudoliy said that it was too late to change the stamp's
design, that the stamp already had received government approval, and that
Ukrinform, the state information agency, had been commissioned to provide
a historically accurate photo.
Khudoliy also said that the photo had recently been published in a book on
20th century Ukraine, where it had been labeled as being from Ukraine,
albeit from 1921.
Mistakes like that occur too often, Williams said.
"Ninety-five percent of the photos that are represented as being of the
Ukrainian famine are from Russia," he said. "That's a sore point with me."
"[The gaffes] are then used by people who say we exaggerate the extent of
the famine. Or even worse, by people who deny [that the famine ever
occurred]," he said.
Yuri Shcherbak, Ukraine's former ambassador to both Canada and the United
States, called the error "frightening."
"It's a scandal," the former diplomat said from his home in Kyiv. "How could
Ukraine, which lost 10 million people in the famine, use a photo from he
wrong decade and from the wrong country? The Russian-language press
would say 'There go the Ukrainians again, lying about the famine.'"
Shcherbak said that "anti-Ukrainian propaganda" resulted after the release
of a 1986 documentary, "Harvest of Sorrow." In it, the filmmakers
erroneously used photos from a Russian famine to illustrate the Holodomor,
giving some a pretext to deny that the Holodomor ever occurred. He said
that he feared that similar allegations would arise again if that stamp were
Recipients of Williams' email campaign responded. Khudoliy said that Marka
Ukrainy started receiving emails at about the time that residents of North
America's East Coast were waking up.
By 4 p.m., just hours after her meeting with Williams, Khudoliy called
Williams to tell him that the stamp would be withheld and that Marka Ukraina
would try to find a new photo.
Khudoliy said that pressure from "our Ukrainian Diaspora" was a primary
reason for the decision to hold production and sale of the stamp.
Khudoliy said that Ukrposhta was "surprised and unimpressed" that the
stamp's design had been leaked before its scheduled release date, an action
she called a gross violation of the designer's rights.
"The Americans were very worried about [the stamp]," Khudoliy said. "But
we're going to try to have a different stamp ready for the Nov. 22
unveiling, as planned."
She said that, while she does not know how much the new design will differ
from the original version, the starving Russian peasants from 1921 will not
Marka Ukrainy planned to print 200,000 copies of the stamp, which carries a
face value of 45 kopecks. Ukrainian commemorative issues are popular with
The Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, October 9, 2003
FOR PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC USE ONLY