Holodomor Memorial Day
By Kim Quinn, FSWC Educator
In Ukrainian, Holodomor means “to kill by starvation.” Between 1932 and 1933, the Holodomor was a process of deliberate hunger and famine orchestrated by the Soviet Union to starve millions of Ukrainians to death. More than five million died, amounting to 10% of Ukraine’s total population. Entire communities, villages, and families were “killed by starvation.”
For years, the Soviet response to the Holodomor was total denial. Under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, it proved easier to deny the existence of tens of millions of people, than to acknowledge that a government was systematically wiping them off the map. Later, as the Soviet empire was crumbling, the official narrative became that a famine had occurred, but simply of natural causes, and that the Soviets had done everything possible to alleviate it. The truth, however, was deliberate extermination, organized and implemented by the USSR, in an attempt to eradicate Ukrainian nationalism, and to exert further domination over a people seeking independence.
A famine served the USSR agenda as it was able to both decimate Ukraine, while simultaneously appearing innocent of doing so. Famines had, after all, happened throughout history – humans had few tools to predict, or prevent them. But history had demonstrated, too, that authority was capable of weaponizing these events, or creating the circumstances to make it possible. When grain stores within the farming regions were depleted, rations for the population were reduced further, and higher grain counts were demanded. When the workers began starving on the meager rations provided, the rations continued to be reduced further, while propaganda simultaneously poured out of the government claiming that workers were hiding food stores.
Understanding and recognizing the Holodomor serves two purposes. First, it refutes the goal of the guilty, whose aim was to silence and destroy its victims; it gives a voice back to the victims, who were robbed of their lives and their justice. Second, it serves as a reminder: tyranny serves no purpose other than to sustain itself; it is not justice, nor order. As we hear stories from survivors of the latest Russian invasion of Ukraine, we’re reminded ourselves that we cannot ignore injustice, and we cannot ignore history.
Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC):
· Elementary Activities: https://education.holodomor.ca/learning-activities/elementary/
· Secondary Activities: https://education.holodomor.ca/learning-activities/secondary/
Holodomor Mobile Classroom: https://holodomortour.ca/mobile-classroom/