May 22, 1983

A worthwhile endeavor


Much has been written about the need to inform the non-Ukrainian community about the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33), unquestionably one of the greatest and least known holocausts of this century. To this end, local commemorative committees have been set up throughout the country, ceremonies have been planned, brochures and letters written. In addition, exhibits and symposia have been organized and observances have been slated for Washington.

Unfortunately, some of these events seem to be geared for internal consumption. But at least one Ukrainian community has found a way to link the Great Famine with a current and pressing social issue in the hope of bringing the Ukrainian holocaust to the attention of the general public.

A commemorative committee in the Albany, N.Y., area is planning a food-drive campaign in local parishes during the month of October, with proceeds to be donated to the hungry and poor of Albany.

This is indeed a worthwhile endeavor. Not only is it fitting tribute to the millions of Ukrainians who died in the Great Famine, but it also serves to take the famine commemoration out of a strictly Ukrainian context and give it a larger social significance. The food drive will almost certainly receive wide local publicity because it involves an important public concern. Once the food is collected, it will be donated in the name of the famine victims, thereby educating the public about the Great Famine.

Linking strictly Ukrainian issues with broader social activism is something our community has avoided of late, preferring a more parochial approach. Andrew Sorokowski, a Los Angeles community activist, has suggested that our community show that it is willing to “play a significant role in the modern world” by creating a common fund in memory of the Great Famine martyrs, with the yearly interest going to a national famine relief organization. He argues that “by showing our concern for the rest of the world, we can earn world attention and respect.”

Mr. Sorokowski has a point, and one that the astute activists in the Albany area obviously understand. Simply put, one must be an active part of the world to be noticed. Provincialism and a reluctance to get involved only serve to isolate the Ukrainian community.

World hunger, famine and poverty are clearly pressing and highly visible concerns. Finding a way of tying in our famine commemoration with these concerns is certainly an auspicious and humanitarian way of making the Great Famine better known, topical and relevant. It would also have the added benefit of garnering favorable publicity to our frequently maligned community.