EUGENE, Ore. – The 50th anniversary of the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33) was the subject of Don Bishoff’s column in the October 28 issue of The Register-Guard here.
The article, headlined “Famine memory,” featured the recollections of a 79-year-old area woman, identified only as Elizabeth, who survived the famine. Mr. Bishoff wrote that she did not want to disclose her full name because she feared reprisals against family members still in the Soviet Union.
She described the massive starvation that resulted when the Soviet government ordered special cadres to confiscate grain and foodstuffs from farmers.
“By June (1932), two of my children died,” she said. “They used to send a wagon every day to pick up the bodies. But I wouldn’t let the wagon pick them up. I dug the hole myself and buried them.”
Elizabeth’s daughter-in-law, Ann, described instances of kidnapping and cannibalism.
“There was a lot of black market going on. The black market was children. Thieves would steal the children. They would dispose of their hands, their heads and their insides, and then they would sell the meat on the black market.”
Elizabeth said she and a remaining son, 6-year-old Sasha, stayed alive by walking to another village where other members of her family still had food. Ultimately, she returned to her own village.
By 1936, the famine had ended, Elizabeth remarried and bore two more children, one of them now Ann’s husband.
She said that in 1941, after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, she and thousands of other Ukrainians were shipped in cattle cars to Germany as forced labor. When the train made a stop near Warsaw, she said, her son wandered off and the train left without him. It wasn’t until 22 years later that she heard from him and found out that he had returned to their home town.
Elizabeth said she gave birth to twins in Germany, but they were killed in an Allied bombing raid. After the war, she spent six years in a displaced persons camp before emigrating to the United States.
Mr. Bishoff wrote that the famine and its implications were discussed by Prof. Stephen Reynolds of the University of Oregon on a special commemorative program on KWAX, the university radio station.
Prof. Reynolds, an associate professor of religious studies, said he had researched the famine as an offshoot of his religious studies. He said the tragedy, which killed some 7 million people, was “caused directly by the policies of the Soviet government itself.”
Mr. Bishoff wrote that he phoned the Soviet press office in Washington to ask about the Soviet government’s role in the famine. He said that a spokesman, Mykhailo Lysenko, told him that he didn’t have “enough information to elaborate on the question.”
PITTSBURGH – The western Pennsylvania Ukrainian community’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33) was the subject of an article by Alvin Rosensweet in the October 10 issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The article said that more than 600 Ukrainian Americans took part in a march from Flagstaff Hill to Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, where Michael Komichak, chairman of the Ukrainian Famine Committee of Western Pennsylvania, read an open letter to the Kremlin.
According to Mr. Rosensweet’s report, many of the demonstrators wore native costumes and carried signs denouncing the Soviets for engineering the famine, which killed an estimated 7 million people. Also marching in the procession were clergymen of the Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
EDMONTON – The October 24 issue of the Edmonton Journal carried a story on the unveiling here of a monument to the 7 million victims of the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33).
The article, written by staffer Tom Barrett, was headlined “Ukraine famine victims remembered in monument.” The monument, which was created by Montreal artist Ludmilla Temertli was blessed on October 25 before a crowd of some 2,000 people.
The keynote speaker was Bohdan Krawchenko, an expert on the famine, who described the famine as a genocidal Soviet assault on Ukraine, a campaign that included the deportation or execution of the Ukrainian intelligentsia, clergymen and a generation of political leaders.
Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore said the famine “inflicted a deep and lasting scar on the Ukrainian people in Edmonton and throughout the world,” and called it a reminder of the inhumanity of Soviet communism.
Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed told the Ukrainian community that other Albertans shared their grief and sorrow at the loss of loved ones and pledged that their suffering would be remembered.
After the unveiling, hundreds dined on bread, water and broth at a special dinner in memory of those who died, wrote Mr. Barrett.
Myer Horowitz, University of Alberta president, told the dinner audience of his embarrassment about learning of the famine only last year from university Chancellor Peter Savaryn.
GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – In a letter to the editor published in the October 14 issue of Newsday, Long Island’s largest newspaper, Howard O. Atkinson of Flushing wrote that Americans should be made aware of the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33).
“I think, along with many others, that the people of our nation have been denied many facts concerning the Soviet Union and that the shooting down of KAL Flight 007 was not the first or last incident to be designed by the inhabitants of the Kremlin,” he wrote.
Mr. Atkinson wrote that 7 million Ukrainian men, women and children starved to death after the Soviet regime ordered the confiscation of all grain and foodstuffs in the hands of the rural populace. He said news of the tragedy was suppressed.
“The media as well as government officials looked the other way, the same way they did a few years later, when another Holocaust was started,” he wrote.
He noted that Soviet oppression in Ukraine continues to this day.
“Thousands of Ukrainian Americans and Ukrainian Canadians are keeping their homeland alive, thousands of miles away from their native soil, because the Soviets have all but murdered a once beautiful and powerful nation,” Mr. Atkinson wrote.
ELLENVILLE, N.Y. – In a letter to the editor published in the October 20 issue of The Ellenville News, Taras Wolansky criticized an earlier letter from a reader who said that the paper’s coverage of the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33) might adversely affect peoples’ perception of the Soviet Union.
“Imagine that it was Nazi Germany that survived World War II instead of the Soviet Union, and we were cutting treaties with them,” wrote Mr. Wolansky. “Then the argument would be that we should not publicize the Jewish Holocaust, lest we make people angry at Nazi Germany.”
Citing the public outcry following the downing by the Soviets of the Korean jetliner, Mr. Wolansky concluded that “the crimes of the Soviet Union’s current leadership are more likely to inflame American opinion than anything the Soviets did half a century ago.”
BALTIMORE – In a letter to the editor published in The Sun on September 30, Wolodymyr Sushko said that the October 2 commemoration in Washington of the 50th anniversary of the Great Famine in Ukraine (1932-33) would serve as “a timely reminder to us at a time when the Soviet Russian terror threatens the Western world itself.”
Mr. Sushko, a resident of Baltimore, said that the famine, which killed an estimated 7 million people, was engineered by Moscow “to break the freedom spirit of Ukrainians and to subjugate them once and forever to Soviet Russian rule.”
He said that special brigades were established to confiscate all grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian farmers.
“In a short time, a real hell opened in Ukraine,” he wrote. “People were dying daily by the thousands.”
The Ukrainian Weekly, December 4, 1983, No. 49, Vol. LI