by Roman Woronowycz
Kyiv Press Bureau
The Ukrainian Weekly
Parsippany, New Jersey
December 6, 1998
KYIV - Ukraine officially commemorated the 65th anniversary of the Great
Famine of 1932-1933 on November 28, two days after President Leonid Kuchma
issued a presidential decree proclaiming the fourth Saturday of each
November as National Day of Remembrance of Famine Victims.
A program at the Kyiv National Philharmonic Hall honoring the millions who
perished as a result of an artificial famine imposed on the territories of
eastern Ukraine by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin beginning in 1932 featured a
musical program by Ukraine's National Symphony, preceded by an address by
Vice Prime Minister Valerii Smolii.
"That the famine was artificially induced is a historical fact," said Mr.
Smolii. He called the holocaust part of the "deliberate criminal policies of
the Communist regime."
He said that although no specific figure has been established for the number
of men, women and children who died during two years of genocide by the
Stalin regime, documented proof exists that at a very minimum 3.5 million
people perished within the administrative borders of the Ukrainian SSR. He
explained that the number grows considerably when the many Ukrainian victims
in the Kuban region and in Kazakstan are added.
Mr. Smolii stated that officially the Soviet Union hushed up the genocide
and portrayed any references to it as anti-Soviet propaganda "worthy of
incarceration in a concentration camp."
World governments ignored rumors and the world knew little about the forced
starvation and genocide of millions of Ukrainians engineered by Soviet
leaders to force the peasantry onto collective farms and under Soviet
servitude, even as reporters such as Malcolm Muggeridge of the Manchester
Guardian attempted to focus attention on the man-made tragedy.
However, as Mr. Smolii explained, others did not forget what happened,
especially the Ukrainian diaspora, whom he thanked for keeping the memory
"Ukrainians abroad consistently rang the bell," said Mr. Smolii. "Even those
who traveled across the ocean from the territories of western Ukraine, which
were under Polish rule and did not experience the Famine, felt it a matter
of honor and national dignity to let the world community know the truth
about the unparalleled Stalinist crime. They put together titanic efforts so
that all would realize: the Ukrainian Famine of 1933 stands on the level of
the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and the Jewish Holocaust."
President Kuchma, who had been expected to attend, did not show, which left
Vice Prime Minister Smolii as the ranking government representative at the
ceremony. There were few other government officials or political figures in
the crowd, except for an official entourage from the Rukh Party and
Ambassador Lev Lukianenko. The symphony hall was filled mostly with hundreds
of students of the Kyiv State Pedagogical College, who had received
The event, put together in the week before the commemoration day, left much
to be desired in terms of organization. Few members of the press were
informed that the anniversary would be commemorated. As late as November 23,
the press offices of the Presidential Administration and the Ministry of
Culture could not confirm when a Famine ceremony would take place, only that
something was being organized.
Then, after official invitations had been extended for a ceremony to be held
on November 29, the presidential decree was released and the date of the
concert was changed to coincide with the new official day of mourning.
Although not present for the concert, President Kuchma did show for another
official commemoration held earlier in the day during which the president,
along with Prime Minister Valerii Pustovoitenko and Second Vice-Chairman of
the Verkhovna Rada Viktor Medvedchuk, laid flowers at the monument to the
victims of the Great Famine, located at the foot of the belltower of the
newly rebuilt St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery.
The Rukh Party - which had attempted for over a year to have November 7,
still celebrated either officially or unofficially in most former Communist
countries as October Revolution Day, transformed into a national day of
mourning for victims of Communist terror, including those of the Great
Famine - also took part in the ceremony before the Famine monument on
The Ukrainian Weekly, December 6, 1998, No. 49, Vol. LXVI,
Roma Hadzewycz, Editor-in-chief, 2200 Route 10, Parsippany,
New Jersey. Published by the Ukrainian National Association.
There is an extensive archive of historical material about the Great
Famine on The Ukrainian Weekly website.
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