The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


By Prof. James Mace, Consultant to The Day
The Day Weekly Digest, Kyiv, Ukraine
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The US House of Representatives on October 20 adopted House Resolution 356 "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the man-made famine that occurred in Ukraine in 1932-1933" by a vote of 382-0.

On October 24 the New York Times made public a report by Prof. Mark van Hagen of Columbia University on Walter Duranty that will most probably in one way or another force the revocation of a 1932 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Soviet Union and immediately thereafter his denial of the Ukrainian Holodomor.

Mark is my colleague of many years, and colleagues always reserve the right to disagree with each other. I object to his dismissal of Sally J. Taylor's truly outstanding biography of the journalist in question. She did not rely on innuendo, as his report indicates, and was quite critical of journalists who did not like Walter Duranty for one reason or another such as, for example, Eugene Lyons.

Photo By Mykola LAZARENKO, The Day

Moreover, I find disturbing the fact that the president of the International Association of Ukrainian Studies would ignore the fact that Stalin did all sorts of things in 1933 concerning Ukrainians that did not have the least relevance to getting grain in order to finance industrialization - rewriting the alphabet, closing all schools for Ukrainians outside Ukraine's borders (while maintaining Russian press is Yakutiya or some such place), and soon thereafter killing Ukrainian writers in substantial numbers and airbrushing the nation's history.

After all, an association for studying some place implies a certain advocacy that studying that particular place is important. If it is not, why should we bother with it? And when little old Ukrainian men and women give their lives' savings for something like a chair in Ukrainian studies, there is an implicit moral obligation from those who are expected "to tell the world the truth" about what those donors wanted to see sprout from what they sowed.

The recognition of the famine as genocide and of Walter Duranty as an apologist for Stalin has a great deal of factual work behind it, but it is most of all the work of the Ukrainian communities in various countries. Old friends too numerous to mention and some of whom might find it awkward because of their official positions, have worked for recognition of the famine as genocide. Indeed, generations have passed in the struggle for what they see as the truth.

Professor Luciuk of Canada began the campaign to rescind the Pulitzer Prize from Walter Duranty, whose lack of journalistic ethics stands as an object lesson of what ethical borders can never be transgressed by journalists. He has been joined by many organizations.

(Click on image to enlarge it)

On July 14, 2003, our newspaper joined the campaign to revoke Walter Duranty's Pulitzer prize, publishing an article "The Tale of two Journalists," where we told the stories of Walter Duranty and Gareth Jones, the former being a journalist who lied to the world about what was happening in Ukraine, and the latter - his colleague who was not afraid of losing his accreditation, Soviet visa, and told people the truth.

We published a cutout insert, a copy of a postcard issued by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Ukrainian Congress [Committee] of America, suggesting our readers make their voices heard to revoke Duranty's unjustly awarded prize.

We believed and still believe that the Pulitzer Prize Board should know that not only the Ukrainian diaspora supports restoring historical justice but also Ukraine's citizens who have finally learned the truth about what happened to their people and their country in 1932-1933. At that time we also sent a letter to the Ukrainian mass media, calling our colleagues to support our initiative and join the campaign. Unfortunately, only UT-1 television responded to our call, telling of The Day's action in its morning press review.

The Day's editors also sent a letter to New York Times, saying, in part, "We highly appreciate the New York Times' glorious history and its unique role in the history of the American press. However, here in Ukraine, a newly independent state in the process of developing its own independent journalism, we believe that you should consider voluntarily giving up the Pulitzer Prize received by your correspondent Walter Duranty in 1932.

His denying the 1932-1933 Holodomor Manmade Famine in Ukraine and acting as Stalin's apologist during the period for which he received this prize are evidence that, of the numerous Pulitzer Prizes won by NYT journalists, this one only clouds the reputation of those honestly earning their award for the ideals championed by Joseph Pulitzer.

Alfred Ochs, who contributed to the ideals that made your newspaper what it currently is, and who, obviously, did not know about Duranty's actions (though Duranty did claim that his stand was coordinated with New York Times), would probably wanted something bigger and better for his newspaper, which he sought to make a model of responsible journalism. At that time standards really were different, but embroidering the truth to satisfy those consciously making people suffer has always been and still is beyond any such standards.

We are well aware of the ambiguous moments in our profession in this imperfect world, but there exist certain standards of integrity and decency which cannot be violated at any time under any circumstances. In this your newspaper was among our teachers...

This is important for both the people of Ukraine, whose sufferings your correspondent called "a big horror story," appearing on the wave of the British-Soviet diplomatic duel, and our newspaper, which looks at you as a model for bringing to the readers "all news that's fit to print." We all make mistakes, which are hard to correct, but this is something we should all try to do." However, we received no reply in this case either.

The most important thing is that New York Times has listened to the voices of the Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians who expressed their attitude about this disgraceful page in the history of this highly respected newspaper and ordered an independent inquiry.

We all toast Prof. Luciuk's labor and his devotion to the cause of helping the New York Times to do the right thing. This step serves not only the cause of Ukrainians but of journalism as such. The people's right to know must never be confused with the privilege of dictators to keep people from knowing what those who rule them prefer they not know. There will always be historians to argue about the meaning of things long after, but there are also journalists who have a professional obligation to help people learn and understand what is happening in the world around them as it happens. This writer, as a practitioner of both history and journalism, cannot say which is more important, but honesty is an obligation in both.

I recall over two decades ago how little old Ukrainian ladies in Canada showed me the scars on their legs, left from when the water flowed out while they were starving. They wanted me to have at least some inkling of what they themselves lacked the words to express and hoped that I could somehow find. As my colleagues who have studied the Holocaust know, there are times when there are no words. Words are only symbols, and some things simply exceed our ability to symbolize.

It serves no one to debate how many millions perished from one act of barbarism or another. We can serve their memory only by remembering them and by doing everything in our power to assist their posterity in trying to recover and restore to the common civilization shared by all what they were prevented from doing themselves. By building on it and adding to it, we can attempt to do even better.

After all, the greatest gift a child can give is to provide something his or her parents can be proud of. Those who have worked so hard for the memory of the millions who perished in Ukraine have given those who came before them something to be proud of. After all, the memory of what was is the key to creating what will be. May those who came before look down upon us with some reason for pride. May we look up to them in the hope that we have done something worthwhile. Lubomyr Luciuk, Sally Taylor, and so very many others have earned the gratitude of those, on whose fates the world's silence has at long last begun to end.

Evil makes its own allies. This does not at all mean that those forced by evil to resist it are good, but it does mean that they have something to tell, and sometimes this is impossible to tell adequately. There are those who have attempted to write about the Holodomor. I knew the late Vasyl Barka, and he was kind enough to send me a couple of pages about what he saw and tried to express in his novel, The Yellow Prince. He did the best he could, as do we all. Who can convey the horrors of Hitler's extermination of the Jews? Who can tell adequately of the infinitude of lives lost to the politics of destroying those who are different, inconvenient, or unwanted?

We can only try to pick up the pieces left to us and try to help the damaged components of our common human family to recover. There are times when words lose their sense and emotions their power. We can only do what little we can. Our Canadian professor has done something that we can all take pride in, for whenever anyone does something to right a wrong, it is itself a contribution to humanity, no matter how long justice may be delayed. Those who died deserve no less, and the living deserve to know that some things are never forgiven nor forgotten. This knowledge is perhaps the most essential guide to our behavior in this life.

The Day Weekly Digest, Kyiv, Ukraine, October 28, 2003