What was the Holodomor, and what does the word “Holodomor” mean?
A few years after Ukraine was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union, the Communist regime of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin embarked on a campaign to break the resistance of the Ukrainian people, especially its fiercely independent farmers. Its plan: engineer and brutally enforce a man-made famine, and starve Ukrainians into submission. The result: in the land called the breadbasket of Europe, millions of men, women and children starved to death. This horrendous act of genocide against the Ukrainian people is known as the Holodomor –murder by starvation.
Other modern genocides in Ukraine
Forced deportation of Crimean Tatars, indigenous people of the Crimean peninsula in 1944
This 2019 biographical thriller was directed by Agnieszka Holland and selected to compete for the Golden Bear awards at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival. It can be streamed on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. “How ‘The New York Times’ Helped Hide Stalin’s Mass Murders in Ukraine.”
Ukrainian American Community Center collaborated with the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota and the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC) at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta to create a Holodomor Resource Guide for the Genocide Education Outreach Program.
Read more about the UACC’s efforts to educate the public about the Holodomor, “Minneapolis Ukrainian center educates teachers, public about Holodomor.”
Professionally recorded video files and written, annotated transcripts of 11 interviews with Holodomor survivors, and children and grandchildren of survivors are permanently housed at the Immigration History Research Center Archives, located at the University’s Elmer L. Andersen Library. The project was supported by a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society and administered through the Ukrainian American Community Center in Minneapolis. Read more here.
UACC Holodomor Education Committee continues collecting oral histories of the Holodomor survivors and their descendants. Here is the story of Faina Giterman.
“Before the Famine, my family had a happy life, and I was the middle one of the three children. Though our family was not well off, we did not live in poverty, and we did not starve either. My dad was a master potter, and my mom was a good seamstress who had a lot of clients. Those who lived in the villages would bring milk, sour cream, eggs, some other food items as pay, others would pay with money, of course.” Thus starts Faina’s story of her childhood in Ukraine.
In the spring of 1932, the situation with food supplies in Zhytomyr, where they lived, became much worse. Town’s grocery stores became empty. Trams stopped running. There were no horse carts either as all the horses have been eaten. Dogs have been eaten, and even cats, there was nothing to eat. In June of 1932, Faina’s mother started to swell up from hunger. Fortunately, the man from whom the family rented their house was a doctor, and he took Faina’s mom into the hospital where the thin gruel was provided at least once a day. Faina’s dad also swelled up and had to stay at the factory because he was unable to walk to their home across the town. Her older brother Siema, who was ten at that time, was running to the factory to get an occasional piece of bread that workers were getting and bring it home to share with the sisters.
Then one day, when Faina and her younger sister Annie came out outside to get some fresh air, they were taken by the Soviet authorities to the shelter by the train station and placed in the barrack with other children ages 2 to 12. They lived there for over a year surviving on thin gruel or a cup of hot water that was given to them. Their brother was visiting them from time to time bringing the news of their parents. In the spring of 1933, the sisters were told that the younger one would be taken to another shelter and separated from the family. Faina’s brother let her mother, who was still in the hospital, know about that. So her mom came the next morning even though she was barely able to walk and took them back home. Soon Faina’s dad started coming back from the factory, too.
Gradually the situation began improving, the workers were given about 200 g (7 oz) of bread daily on top of the soup they were getting in the factory diner. Faina’s father didn’t eat his bread but brought it home. It was a challenge to bring it intact riding in an overcrowded street car so nobody would steal it. That is how Faina’s family survived the Holodomor.
“My family survived because we lived in a town and had access to the factory and the hospital. The situation in the countryside was much worse. People were afraid to discuss the Famine openly. Newspapers were mum and individuals were fearful to mention it in public.”
Today, in her 90’s, Faina believes she should share her story to honor the innocent victims of the Holodomor genocide. Her children and grandchildren have taken up the mission to share her story to ensure that future generations will not forget the lessons of the past.
Holodomor Commemoration – fourth Saturday in November
On this day, Ukrainians all over the world light candles to commemorate the victims of Holodomor.
“During the Holodomor, 17 people were dying every minute, 1000 every hour, almost 2500 every day.”
Holodomor National Museum, Kyiv, Ukraine
- U.S. Holodomor Committee: Holodomor Resources
- CHGS & UACC : Bridges of Memory Community Dialogue: The Holodomor
- CHGS, HREC, UACC: In Commemoration of International Holodomor Memorial Day: Teaching a Genocide the World Forgot