Ukraine: Holodomor

Global Voices Online
Sunday, November 25, 2007

Last year's Holodomor memorial at Sofiyivska Sq. in Kyiv (Nov. 25, 2006) - by Veronica Khokhlova

This year, Nov. 24 was the day to remember the victims of the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine - Holodomor - and here is a selection of posts by Ukrainian bloggers.

LJ user diana-ledi (UKR):

[...] Shall I tell you about my grandfather, the first one in the village to join [Komsomol] - and the first head of the first [collective farm]? When it became clear that the famine was inevitable, here is what he did! One evening, he locked himself in with the agronomist and spent a long time calculating something. They discovered that sowing winter crop grain not as thickly could be the way out. No one would notice, and the grain that remained would help people survive winter. And that was what they did. But they did not distribute what remained among the houses, the way people were expecting. Because my grandfather knew that not every mother would tear a piece of bread from herself and give it to her children. Some [mothers] would hide [bread] even from their kids - my wise grandfather knew this.

And he came up with a dining hall, where every villager could get just one plate of that [soup] a day, with a few drops of oil floating in it and, sometimes, a few tiny bits of fried lard. And one piece of bread made of [seed coverings and small pieces of stem or leaves that have been separated from the seeds] - black bread of the hungry year. But thanks to that dining hall not a single person in the village died that winter. Think of it - not a single person! While whole villages were dying out all around, no one did in ours! They were swelling from hunger, yes, but they weren't dying. And every day, my grandfather would ride around the village [...], entering each house, checking whether they were alive, whether they were strong enough to survive - or perhaps they needed to be rescued by then. The weakest ones were given a little bag with "additional food allowance." Others were saying: "Move on, Anriyovych. We are holding on." When I was listening to this stories, I couldn't believe people were saying that. "They were," my grandmother would reply. "Because they knew that the family of the head [of the collective farm] was the hungriest of all at that time. My children and I swelled the most then."

And when spring came, someone from the rescued villagers reported my grandfather [to the regime] - for the thinned out winter crops. This is how my grandfather ended up in Siberia for the first time. Had he known that this would be how it would all end? Of course.

Or, perhaps, shall I tell you about my other grandfather? That one was a [kulak], the rich one. He escaped the purges miraculously, giving away his wealth to the [collective farm] in time and promptly joining the ranks of the Communist Party. And when the most horrible winter of the 1930s began, he left his family and went to his relatives at the rich farmsteads. My grandmother, surrounded by a crowd of hungry children, was sentenced "for a wheat spike," as they used to say then. For some grains in her pocket that she had collected from the road. Five kids were left on their own. One was 14, the oldest - 16. The aunts didn't desert them, came over and took them in ... the oldest two. Because these ones had grown up already and would be able to work around the household. "What about the younger ones?" I'd ask, horrified. "The younger ones were left behind - because the aunts had small kids of their own," they'd explain to me calmly. [...]

My father (aged 12) spent that whole winter feeding his little brother and sister (aged 4 and 6). What was he giving them? Here, listen: frozen vegetables found miraculously in other people's gardens; cats who were so trusting at first that they would jump into your arms; crusts of bread that he earned or asked people to give him. And as spring grew closer and there was no more of that "food" left, he discovered a hiding place inside the house. My grandfather was wild and ruthless - but in love with agronomy, and he had hidden some [high quality grains]. They were cooking it and eating - and survived thanks to that. When they were almost done with it, grandfather showed up at the house. He beat the children to near death, especially the oldest one, my father. Battered, my father ran to the train station, jumped into the freight train - and off he was to Tashkent. [...]


In 500 days (from April 1932 to November 1933), nearly 10 million people died of starvation in Ukraine. In spring 1933, 17 people were dying every minute, and 25,000 were dying every day...

... The regions that were hit the hardest are today's Poltava, Sumy, Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr and Kyiv oblasts. Here, death rates were 8-9 times the average... [...]

LJ user otets-lisiy (UKR):

What do I know about Holodomor? I myself am from Cherkasy region, and it was my grandmother and grandfather who told me about this horror.

My grandmother told me how from her family of nine children only five survived. She told me how they ate [ocheret - reed] and rotten potatoes. How the Commies were taking away all wheat and farm animals, and how at night they gathered wheat spikes at the field and some of them survived thanks to that. She told me about the village cannibals and one person who ate her own child. She told me about the man who had lost his mind and was chasing them around with an ax, and how she had barely managed to escape...

It's a sad date today. Eternal memory...

LJ user alenka14 (RUS):

I talked to my grandmother about Holodomor today. She was 7 in 1932-33. She remembers a lot from that time. Even 75 years later she can't think about that time without tears. When I was little and refused to behave, refused to eat, she would tell me stories from that time, when there was no food and it was called 'holodomor.' I thought of her stories as some kind of a fairy tale then. My grandmother has also survived the war, was captured, but she can't talk about Holodomor without tears in her eyes. [...]

LJ user fantasma_ (UKR):

My great-grandmother used to call the famine of 1933 "holodovka" [starvation, hunger strike], when I was still 4 or 5 years old. I only remember bits from those stories, as I didn't really undestand what she was tlling me about... "the man lying just off the road was dead" ... "the post-war holodovka wasn't as terrible as the one in the 1930s." I only understood what she meant by this when I accidentally recalled these story bits in the 11th grade when we were studying the 20th century... [...]

LJ user essy-aka-tigra (RUS):

I've written about Holodomor before, more than once. I'm okay with having opposing views on politics with [the people I know online and offline] - it's not something that would keep me from staying in touch with them. But I can never remain calm when I think of Holodomor.

There's such a thing as ethnographic expeditions. Ordinary stuff for history students. A gang of young students arrives in a village and walks around the houses with tape recorders.

Old men and women spoke calmly about [raskulachivaniye - persecution of kulaks, collectivization], about the war, about DneproGES [Dnipro Hydroelectric Station] construction. No big deal, they were saying, it was tough, but it was a long time ago, and tears and grief tend to get erased from memory.

But as soon as you asked them a question about the Holodomor of 1932-33, these ancient men and women, who had seen lots of horrors, began to cry. Just cry. Some refused to talk - they had no energy to tell anything about it.

I've seen it. I grew up in a village, my ancestors are village people, too. I've read and heard about it since childhood.

I don't give a damn about bills and resolutions. I just know what the truth is. [...]

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