The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


By Sutton Eaves, Network The Edmonton Journal
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Friday, June 20, 2003

EDMONTON - In the corner of an abandoned barn, his emaciated grandfather resting in the crooks of his skeletal arms, a 15-year-old boy watched the oldest member of his family die of starvation.

"The last time I brought him some milk and a piece of very poor bread he died in my hands. He took an oath from me to live and tell the whole world how Moscow destroys the Ukrainian nation," said Yar Slavutych.

Yar Slavutych, 86, survived the Ukrainian famine which killed between seven and 10 million civilians. His family's coat of arms is on the wall
CREDIT: Jason Scott, The Journal

A well-stocked kitchen is in plain view from the living room where the 86-year-old man is sitting, and it is a site the Ukrainian immigrant relishes.

Slavutych is a survivor of the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932-33, one of the most devastating famines of the 20th century, claiming between seven million and 10 million lives at the hands of the Soviet rulers.

The Soviets denied the famine until 1989, when then-president Mikhail Gorbachev spoke publicly of the tragedy.

Only last month did the Ukrainian government recognize it as a genocide. Now Canada is following suit with a parliamentary motion to acknowledge the event and designate the fourth Saturday in November as a day of remembrance. The motion passed unanimously Thursday.

Senator Raynell Andreychuk spearheaded the movement to recognize the Ukrainian genocide for its 70th anniversary.

"It's important that this crime against humanity be recognized for what it was, not only to honour the victims but to make sure nothing like this happens again," said Marco Levytsky, editor of the Ukrainian News in Edmonton.

"It was a traumatic experience. It destroyed people's will and their sense of dignity and their democratic and national consciousness."

Levytsky said it was significant that Canada was the first western country to recognize "this act of genocide," and it means people are aware of it and it's less likely to happen again. "It says to me that people are finally recognizing the fact that this is a crime against humanity and it should be recognized as such."

He said the use of food as a political weapon is still practised by countries today. "It's necessary for the world to know whenever regimes use this type of weapon they're destroying the people."

At the time of the Ukrainian famine, Josef Stalin and his Communist government enforced a policy of "collectivization," with the government controlling farm yields from Latvia to Estonia to Ukraine.

Farmers had to hand over all their grain and produce to raiding squads who, in theory, were supposed to distribute the food equally across the territories. In reality, the food was hoarded or sold to other countries for a profit. Ukrainian farmers were devastated.

"Those who worked in fields, who produced bread, died because all grain was taken from them. All animals, cows, horses, were taken from them and what was not taken was killed and eaten," said Slavutych, who lost his grandmother and youngest sister to starvation.

His father was arrested and exiled to a Siberian labour camp for not providing the required quota of grain to the government.
By Sutton Eaves, Network The Edmonton Journal
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Friday, June 20, 2003
Sutton Eaves,
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