League of Ukrainian Canadian Women – Edmonton Holodomor essay contest. Teanna Mackney: Holodomor was a genocide of the Ukrainian people

Teanna Mackney

Holodomor, a term derived from the Ukrainian words; hunger (holod) and death (mor). It’s also known as the Great Famine or the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932-33. Holodomor was a man-made famine caused by Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union at the time. This tragic event killed millions of Ukrainians and attempted to wipe out Ukrainian culture.

This famine was started by Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin’s decision to collectivize agriculture in 1929. This forced Ukrainians to give up their crops, livestock, land, and sometimes housing for collective farming. Collectivization led to a drop in production, the disorganization of the rural economy, and food shortages. It also sparked a series of riots by unhappy farmers and other Ukrainians. Stalin said he was worried that he’d ‘lose Ukraine’ in a letter to his colleague in August 1932. The following fall, the Soviets made decisions that further worsened the famine in countryside Ukraine. The Soviet state increased Ukrainian grain harvest quotas, even though production levels were down due to collectivization. The impossibly high quotas meant grain that would have been eaten by farmers was taken and sold abroad or sent to other parts of the Soviet Union.

As a result, millions went hungry. Ukrainians were not allowed to leave to search elsewhere for food to feed themselves and their family. This man-made famine reached its peak in the winter of 1932–33 when specialized crews raided the homes of Ukrainians and took everything: crops, livestock, food in storage, even pets. If you were caught stealing or hiding food the punishment was death by being shot. Ukrainians had nothing and were left to starve, still doing the grueling work of collective farming.

Ukraine was known as the breadbasket of Europe and Ukrainians were strong in their faith and culture. This genocide was also an attack to repress the Ukrainian culture. The official policy of Ukrainization, which had encouraged the use of the Ukrainian language and promoted other elements of the culture were stopped and Russification started. Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union wanted to destabilize Ukraine and industrialize their own republic. Industrialization costs money, so they sold the yields of crops that were stolen from the Ukrainian people. But they didn’t just take crops to sell; they destroyed Ukrainians along with their culture. “I remain convinced that, for Stalin to have complete power in his hands, he found it necessary to physically destroy the second-largest Soviet republic meaning to do away with Ukraine and things Ukrainian. The calculation was very simple, very primitive: no people, therefore, no separate country, and thus no problem. Such a policy is GENOCIDE in the classic sense of the word.”

Holodomor is one of the most well-hidden secrets. Propaganda was spread throughout the rest of the world. The news showed the western parts of Ukraine that were less affected, on account of it being further away from the Russian-Ukraine border and made people outside Ukraine believe that nothing was happening. Not only was propaganda spread but for years Ukrainians were not allowed to talk about this tragic event. This genocide was officially denied by the Kremlin for over half a century. The modern-day Russian government still denies that the Holodomor was an ethnic genocide. In 1986, Ivan Drach, a Ukrainian poet was the first to speak publicly about the famine. By early 2019, 16 countries had recognized Holodomor as a genocide.

At least 5 million people perished of hunger all across the U.S.S.R, but it’s more likely Holodomor caused closer to 10 million deaths. Mass graves were dug along the countryside causing the exact number of Ukrainians that lost their lives to be unknown. “Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost — maybe even millions. I can’t give an exact figure because no one was keeping count. All we knew was that people were dying in enormous numbers” (Khrushchev, N. S. Khrushchev Remembers. The Last Testament. 1974, 108-109) On November 26th, 1998, the President of Ukraine issued a Presidential Decree establishing that the fourth Saturday in November is recognized as a National Day of Remembrance for the victims of Holodomor. Holodomor the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932-33 was a truly tragic event that can never be forgotten or denied. Millions of Ukrainians died due to this man-made famine; a genocide of Ukrainian people. The intent of this genocide was to exterminate the Ukrainian people and their culture. Millions of Ukrainians left dead and even more left with nothing but hunger due to Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union. As we know, the exact number of casualties is still left unknown, what is known is that Holodomor was truly awful and even those who survived will never be able to heal the wounds caused by this genocide on the Ukrainian people.