The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)

Memorial marks Famine of 1932-33. Survivors call it a genocide, deliberately started by Stalin's agricultural policy

By Kinda Jayoush
The Gazette, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Sunday, November 23, 2003

Vera Wusaty, 73, could not fight back her tears recalling the horrible way two of her cousins died in the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine.

"There was absolutely nothing to eat and hundreds of people were dying every day," said Wusaty at a memorial held yesterday to honour about 7 million Ukrainians who died of starvation.

"The family had three children, but did not have any food. So, the parents had to make a decision. They picked one of their children and they gave him the small bits of food they had and left the other two to die. They had no other choice," she added.

But the memories of seeing their children die of hunger, haunted the parents for the rest of their lives.

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"I never saw them smiling after the death of their children," she said at the memorial, which was held at the Ukrainian Youth Centre on Beaubien St. E. Members of the Ukrainian community lit candles and prayed for the victims.

The memorial was part of activities held in Montreal to commemorate what Ukrainians say was one of the worst genocides of the 20th century.

They say the famine was deliberately started by the then Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, whose agricultural policy stripped farmers of their produce. Details of the tragedy remained hidden until the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Another survivor of the famine, Michael Hayduk, 79, said villagers had nothing to eat but the grass.

"We used to go in the spring and dig for hours, hoping that we would find some frozen potatoes. The army left nothing in the villages, not even a handful of grain."

This month, a United Nation's declaration recognized the famine as Ukraine's national tragedy. Ukraine has announced November as a remembrance month. The Canadian Senate has agreed to designate every fourth Saturday in November as a day of remembrance.

Also, to commemorate the famine, Montreal's nine Ukrainian churches and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress collected food donations, which will be given to Sun Youth tomorrow.

Ihor Kutash, Montreal congress president, said Ukrainian churches here will ring bells today at noon to honour the victims.

"The lunchtime tolling is symbolic," Kutash said. "We wish to remind the people of the sad fact that millions had lost their lives because of the lack of food."

Present at the memorial yesterday was Andre Desroches, Episcopal Vicar for ethnic communities for the Diocese of Montreal and Rabbi Elina Bykova of Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom.