The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


His Beatitude Constantine, Metropolitian, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, USA
His Grace Stefan, Metropolitan, Ukrainian Catholic Church in the USA
Michael Sawkiw, Jr., President. Ukrainian Congress Committee of America
Washington, D.C., July 2003

Tragedy has afflicted the Ukrainian nation numerous times throughout the course of its over 1,000-year history. No one period, however, can compare to the horrific consequences of the 1932-1933 Famine-Genocide, forced upon the Ukrainian people. The death by starvation of 7 to 10 million peasants in Ukraine's black-earth soil was caused not by nature, but by deliberate grain requisition policies of the Soviet Union, introduced with an eye towards destroying resistance to collectivization as well as Ukrainian national aspirations.

The widespread starvation was unquestionably a deliberate genocide carried out against the Ukrainian populace by the Soviet regime. The borders of Ukraine were sealed, both to international relief efforts and to Ukrainians fleeing the countryside in search of food. Additionally, in the context of other events of that time, such as the destruction of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the liquidation of the Ukrainian intellectual elite, one can see that the Famine-Genocide was the horrific culmination of the genocidal policy of the Soviet Union against the Ukrainian nation.

By the Chumak Road of the Thirty Seventh
Poster by B. Boyko
Private Collection of
(Click on image to enlarge it)

Because Soviet authorities could not have done this had the world been watching diligently, they set about hiding it from the international community. Soviet denials of the Famine-Genocide managed to convince many people that there was no famine. They were not alone in their efforts, however. The Western press assisted the Soviet Union in covering up this awful episode in history. The most infamous example of this is Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty, who denied reports of famine in Ukraine as "malignant propaganda" while privately confiding that as many as ten million had starved to death.

Since regaining its independence in 1991, Ukraine has begun to freely discuss the Famine-Genocide, and on May 15, 2003, the parliament of Ukraine declared the events of 1932-1933 to be "a genocide against the Ukrainian nation." This statement corresponds to the findings of the U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine, which in 1988 concluded "Josef Stalin and those around him committed genocide against Ukrainians in 1932-1933."

We applaud these declarations and consider them vital to bringing this tragic event into the world's collective memory. That one of the most barbarous crimes of the 20th century took place on the European continent while very few took notice defies imagination. Should freedoms, such as those accorded in the United States, have been present in Ukraine during the famine-genocide, the terror committed upon the Ukrainian nation would not have transpired.

While this tragedy may be well known to Ukrainians in their native land and abroad, it is still not widely recognized worldwide. We call upon the Ukrainian American community to advocate Congress for the construction of a Famine-Genocide memorial in Washington, DC, while appealing to the United Nations General Assembly to recognize this tragedy as a genocide and to once and for all put an end to the famine deniers and historical distortion that has plagued the previous century's discourse on the subject. The global community must be aware of what happened in Ukraine during those years so that it is never allowed to happen again. This chapter of Ukrainian and world history must not be forgotten.

God has blessed us in the fulfillment of our greatest dream - the independence of our native land. In His Grace, we are bound to a sacred responsibility, in the name of all those who perished, to make it a certainty that their memory will serve to enhance Ukraine's continued progress along a democratic path. Together, ecclesiastical and community organizations must be the moral conscience of the nation - even in the most difficult of circumstances.

May God eternally embrace the victims of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide, and may God bless the United States of America and Ukraine.