By Lavinia DeCastro, Courier-Post Staff
CourierPostOnLine.com, A Member of the Gannett Group
Serving Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties Since 1875
Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Monday, November 17, 2003
It has been called one of the 20th century's most atrocious acts of
genocide, yet the man-made famine that killed as many as 7 million
Ukrainians is rarely mentioned in history books.
"The Russians have suppressed this," said Adelaide Petruncio of
Oaklyn. "To this day they won't admit that they caused it."
The parishioners at St. Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church are not
about to let those who died in the winter of 1932-33 fade from memory.
They have erected a Mohyla - a monument in the form of a cross
sitting on a mound - in memory of those who perished as a result of
soviet leader Joseph Stalin's collectivization efforts.
"November is always the month we celebrate the famine," said the Rev.
John Ciurpita, adding that November also is the month in which
Ukrainians celebrate their fallen heroes. "We've always, every year,
had some sort of celebration here at the parish."
The policy of all-out collectivization instituted by Stalin in 1929
to finance industrialization had a disastrous effect on agricultural
productivity. Nevertheless, in 1932 Stalin raised Ukraine's grain
procurement quotas by 44 percent.
Soviet law required that no grain from a collective farm could be
given to the members of the farmer's family until the government
quota was met.
The policy caused millions to starve in a region so fertile it was
known as the "breadbasket of Europe."
St. Michael's parishioners chose a Mohyla because ancient Ukrainians
buried important leaders in mounds that can be found throughout
Ukraine, Ciurpita said.
"We wanted to keep it Ukrainian," said Olga Prychka of Stratford,
vice president of the Committee to Aid Ukraine.
Members of the committee collect money to send to various
organizations that serve needy children in Ukraine.
Following the Sunday morning service, Archbishop Stefan Soroka, the
Ukrainian archbishop of Philadelphia and metropolitan of the
Ukrainian Catholic Church of America, blessed the site.
Children dressed in traditional Ukrainian clothes placed flowers at
the base of the monument.
The ceremony coincided with the church's 80th anniversary.
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