Restoring and Saving 1983 Symposium Famine Archives Completed

Director Yurij Luhovy in studio working on the 1983 International Symposium restoration Famine archive project

Anna Barabash, Montreal.

Safeguarding archives and oral history is a critical phase of historical data-preservation for a community and future generations. With 2018 marking the 85th anniversary of the Famine Genocide worldwide, a major project was undertaken by Yurij and Zorianna Luhovy and their team, that of restoring and safeguarding unique historical material that filmed the First International Conference on the 1933 Famine in Ukraine, held at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQàM) in the early 1980’s.

The 1983 International Symposium, organized by Prof. Roman Serbyn and Dr. Bohdan Krawchenko, was co-sponsored by the Interuniversity Centre of European Studies (ICES), which includes four Montreal universities: University of Montreal, McGill University, Concordia University and UQàM, together with the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta.

The 1983 Symposium was filmed by a crew from University of Concordia, which included Peter Blysczak and his team, directed by Yurij Luhovy.

The restoration project is a unique record of the early work conducted in the diaspora on the 1932-1933 Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine, during a time when the Soviet Union was still denying the famine, archives in the Soviet Union were not accessible, and survivors were afraid to talk.

The UQàM Symposium conference speakers were filmed on U-MATIC ¾” videotape. This format, now discontinued, had the community risk losing these historic archives, which were in a very fragile state, in danger of disintegrating and disappearing.

Yurij Luhovy, director of the project, explained: “the restoration work entailed transferring the fourteen one-hour U-MATIC tapes. Because the tapes were extremely brittle with the passing of time, each tape required constant attention to avoid breaking. The accumulation of magnetic oxide particles required cleaning the heads every few minutes. Once successfully transferred to DVD, each shot had to be color corrected which had faded with time, thereby enhancing the original as much as possible, to keep the quality of the original taping. Editing was required, prolonging the work. The restoration process was time consuming, requiring a great deal of patience. I began in May 2018 and completed the project end of December, assisted by Andriy Kostiv and Zorianna Hrycenko.”

The two-day International Symposium on March 25-26 1983, included 20 renowned participants, held at Université du Québec à Montréal and filmed. Successful mainstream media coverage, as well as a book and photo exhibit at McGill University Library, was organized by Zorianna Hrycenko, bringing the public’s attention to the 1933 Famine.

Regarding the Symposium, Prof. Roman Serbyn stated, “the uniqueness of the conference lay in the fact that it examined not only Stalin’s starvation of the Ukrainian farmers but also the destruction of the Ukrainian national elites, the Ukrainian church, language, culture – all the qualities that made Ukrainians a nation.”

Among the prominent presenters and their topics delivered in English, French or Ukrainian were: Dr. James Mace, Harvard University, “The Man-Made Famine of 1933 in Soviet Ukraine”; Prof. Vsevelod Isajiw, University of Toronto, “The Consequences of the Famine on the Structure of the Ukrainian Society”, Dr. Nina Strokata-Karavanska, “Malnutrition: A Social Policy for Over Sixty Years”; Prof. Bohdan Bociurkiw, Carlton University, “Destruction of the “Ukrainian Church” , Prof. Yuri Shevelov, Columbia University“, La Montée et la chute de la politique d’ukrainisation”, Prof. Frank Chalk and Prof. Jonassohn, Concordia University, “Conceptualizing Genocide and Ethnocide”, Marco Carynnyk, Toronto, “Oral History”, Dr. Bohdan Krawchenko, University of Alberta, “Le Parti Communiste d’Ukraine et la famine”, Prof. Roman Serbyn, Université du Québec à Montréal, “La famine de 1921: un modèle pour 1933?” and others. The papers provide knowledge about the early contributions in Holodomor studies.

In the introduction to the 1983 Symposium, Prof. Russell Breen, Vice-Rector Academics of Montreal Concordia University stated “the theme, indeed a challenging one, the 1933 little known though, man-made event, stands as a further example of man’s inhumanity throughout history.” “Your task, to attempt an understanding of this important event in the highest spirit of scholarly inquiry and with sensitivity and intellectual rigor it requires, I am confident you will perform the task well.” Prof. Michel Grenon, Director of ICES stated in 1983, “… scholars must eventually come to terms with the obscurity which still shrouds this event. In other words, how can a historical fact of such magnitude be obfuscated?”

Yurij Luhovy stated, “had it not been for the far-sighted decision to film this Symposium in the 1980’s, there would not have been a lasting record of the proceedings over three decades later.”

Having completed restoring proceedings of the 1983 Symposium, work continues to safeguard a second public panel presentation, held the next day in Montreal on the Holodomor, as well as, safeguarding early interviews conducted with famine survivors in Montreal and ten additional survivors in Toronto. Eye-witness testimonies were filmed with the assistance of Volodymyr Hayduk. Oral history helps reconstruct the past, enriches historical knowledge, and brings to life the voices and experiences of those that lived through the genocide. It safeguards historical memory for future generations.

The restoration project on the First International Symposium was made possible with support from the Ukrainian National Federation Montreal Branch; La Caisse Populaire Desjardins Ukrainienne de Montréal; Holodomor Research and Education Consortium of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta; Shevchenko Foundation Ukrainian War Veterans’ Fund; Ukrainica Research Institute, BCU Foundation and others.

The entire restoration project consists of three components: the 1983 International Symposium, the public panel on the Holodomor, and interviews conducted in Montreal and Toronto with Famine-Genocide survivors to be put on-line with links to other sites on the Famine-Genocide. For further information call 514 481 5871 or see website: