The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)

U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Bob Schaffer
of Colorado, October 28, 2002



Mr. SCHAFFER: Mr. Speaker, as Co-Chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, I rise today to commemorate those innocent victims murdered by the Soviet regime during the Ukrainian Famine. Mr. Speaker, I also call the attention of the House to the famine presently being waged against the people of Zambia, Zimbabwe and South-central Africa.

This year, on November 23, the world observes the 69th anniversary of Ukraine's Great Famine -- an unspeakable event. By presidential decree, every fourth Saturday in November is a national day of remembrance for famine and genocide victims throughout Ukraine. History has not witnessed a greater moral injustice. This was genocide unlike any other example in the history of human civilization.

At the time of the Great Ukrainian Famine, playwright George Bernard Shaw and his friend, Lady Astor, had a rare visit with Josef Stalin. "When are you going to stop killing people?" Lady Astor brazenly asked of Comrade Stalin. His terse reply: "When it is no longer necessary."

Stalin's favorite killing tool was mass starvation, a tactic he used ruthlessly against his own people. "The collectivization program in Ukraine resulted in a famine which cost not less than 3,000,000 lives in 1932. It was a Stalin-made famine," reported Time Magazine in its January 1, 1940, issue. We know now, the more realistic estimate is more than twice that originally reported by Time.

The Ukrainian Famine of 1921 - 1923 was a human tragedy perpetrated by the Soviet regime in an attempt to destroy Ukraine and its culture and leave behind an amorphous mass of people that could be restructured and redefined to serve the Soviet Union. It began as a process of assimilation, but soon turned to the collectivization and then subjugation of Ukrainian peasants, their lands, and their livelihoods. Most paid the ultimate price for their heritage, culture and orientation toward independence.

Bolshevik partisans confiscated grain from Ukrainian peasants and subsequently exported the stolen food to foreign nations and other regions of the Soviet empire. Those who protested were imprisoned, deported, or often killed on the spot. This grain, belonging to Ukraine, would have saved thousands of Ukrainian lives. Instead, it was callously shipped off for purposes of generating state profit, sometimes left to rot on the docks, or shipped to meet the needs of Russia's population. Once the famine ended, Ukraine's population was further decimated by a series of epidemics.

The Commission on the Ukraine Famine, appointed by Congress in 1986, researched and documented this terrible event. The commission confirmed these horrible events and verified the cruelty with which the atrocity was executed. The deliberate mass starvation did indeed constitute an act of genocide against Ukrainians. The commission's findings are recorded in the Congressional Record for posterity, as is the graphic and sobering testimony of genocide survivors.

Mr. Speaker, Members of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus have, in prior years, risen here on the House floor in observance of the Ukrainian Famine and in solidarity with the survivors of this terrible tragedy. We have taken great efforts to ensure this House never forgets. In fact, we honor the lives of the victims by rededicating ourselves to summoning the strength and courage of our own nation and the conscientious voices of its leaders in the Congress to stand in firm contradiction to any new tyrant who would contemplate such devastation through intentional famine.

Today's observance compels me to also speak out against one such example of starvation currently taking place in south-central Africa. Mr. Speaker, America must be unambiguous in its opposition to the deliberate famine presently being orchestrated there by an alliance of clearly defined conspirators.

As in Ukraine seventy 70 years ago, Southern Africa's famine has less to do with drought and everything to do with pure politics. Today, nearly 13 million people in Southern Africa face a similar starvation.

"We're staring catastrophe in the face - unless we get food aid fast to millions of people whose lives are in the balance because they are starving," said James Morris, the UN's special envoy to the region.

Officials blame environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace that have pressured African countries like Zambia to halt shipments of food aid from the United States and other nations willing and able to relieve the famine and save precious lives. The groups oppose so-called genetically modified (GM) foods. Extremist groups have put their ideology - opposing the importation of all such hybrid agricultural products - ahead of the lives of starving people.

"It's very disturbing to me that some groups have chosen a famine to make a political point," says Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). "The lives of 13 million people are at risk."

Natsios said the U.S. is ready to supply more than 75 percent of all the food coming into starving Southern Africa. "If they don't get food from us they're not going to get it," he said.

This year, for example, Zimbabwe has refused to accept U.S. corn, convinced by radical groups that GM grain might somehow "contaminate" native crops. Some of this life-saving corn was grown in my own state of Colorado. Adding more disinformation, Friends of the Earth claims "the U.S. is disposing of its rejected food on Africa," in a news release last month.

Just as in Stalin's days, truth has seldom been an ally of the Left. Natsios, who says the U.S. has been supplying GM foods to the region for the past seven years, also says it is the same food sold and consumed in the United States. "I've never seen, in my 30 years of public service, such disinformation and intellectual dishonesty," he said.

As for problems with modified crops -- there are none. Concerned about the lives of millions of people desperately in need, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report at the end of the summer assuring GM foods are perfectly safe. "Southern African countries should consider accepting GM food aid in the face of the humanitarian crisis facing the region," urged WHO Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Like the notorious 1932-1933 mass starvation in Ukraine, famine is not always borne of a natural disaster. However, famine can become an effective ideological weapon.

Stalin himself would have been proud of the sordid partnership forged by radical environmentalists and African tyrants. What are a few million lives worth to this axis of hunger when there are political statements to be made?

Mr. Speaker, I urge the House to speak in strenuous objection to this African tragedy unfolding before our very eyes. The extreme human price paid for the lessons of the Great Ukrainian Famine should not be dismissed now to the complacency of an overwhelmed world. To permit this new festering scourge is to insult the memory of those poor Ukrainians who have perished while trivializing the dignity of their survivors whose lives command us to respond with immediate courage.