By Caryle Murphy, Washington Post Staff Writer
The Washington Post, Washington, D.C.
Saturday, October 1, 1983
Hundreds of Ukrainian Americans are in Washington this week to
commemorate a famine in their homeland 50 years ago in which millions
died and to protest what they say is the Soviet Union's continued refusal
to acknowledge the breadth of the famine on the part of Soviet policies
played in causing it.
The gathering will be the first national commemoration of the so-called
"Great Famine" of 50 years ago, a crisis that is now a rallying point for
"We believe it was a genocide," said Andrij Bilyk, one of the spokesman
for the National Committee to Commemorate Genocide Victims in Ukraine
1932-33, a coalition of about 70 Ukrainian organizations that organized
this week's events.
"It's a very important moment in Ukrainian history--an important as the
Holocaust is in the history of the Jews," said Omeljan Pritsak, director of
the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, the largest center
for Ukrainian studies in the United States.
Last Sunday [September 25, 1983], Ukrainian churches across the country
held services inaugurating the commemoration, which also has included
nightly candlelight vigils outside the Soviet Embassy and a panel discussion
of the famine at the American Enterprise Institute. Organizers say they
expect up to 5,000 people Sunday for the final event--a march from the
Washington Monument to the Soviet Embassy.
In literature, Ukrainians have called their fertile homeland, now one of the
15 republics in the Soviet Union, "the second-largest European country."
There are hundreds of Ukrainian organizations among the estimated 1
million Ukrainian Americans and many of the younger ones still speak
the language of their parents and grandparents.
Pritsak said that demographic studies have shown that between 5 and
6 million Ukrainians died in the famine that resulted from Stalin's drive
to collectivize agriculture. In his determination to crush Ukrainian
peasant resistance to the collectivization and to break their anti-Russian
nationalistic spirit, he ordered harsh measures by government troops
Despite a drop in food production, harvests continued to be exported,
food was confiscated from granaries and homes, there was a physical
"blockade" on food imports to the Ukraine and the death penalty for
"hoarding" food, according to academicians taking part in this week's
panel at the American Enterprise Institute. New internal controls on
travel kept peasants from going to cities to search for food or from
leaving the Ukraine. Resisting peasants were deported to Siberia. The
result was widespread death by starvation.
(Click on image to enlarge it)
Although Stalin's policies affected all regions and were anti-peasant, not
specifically anti-Ukrainian, they caused the most suffering in the Ukraine
and were seen by its inhabitants as a policy of genocide to subjugate the
Ukraine to communist rule. "There is no debate that this famine was
manmade and encouraged by the authorities," said Vojtech Mastny, a
specialist in Soviet and East European affairs at Boston University. "It
was a major outrage and a major tragedy."
Soviet historical literature on the Ukrainian famine is almost nonexistent
and there is nothing that approximates admission of government errors
during that period according to James E. Mace and Robert Conquest,
two experts on the famine who took part in the AEI panel.
The only admission they have found in any Soviet publication was in
1975 when V. I. Kozlov, writing on mortality rates in various parts of
the Soviet Union in a book titled "Nationalities of the U.S.S.R.," noted
that " a crop failure in 1932 in the Ukraine probably even led to a
temporary increase in mortality."
It is this failure to speak about the famine that angers many Ukrainians
and has brought many of them to this week's commemoration.
"It's completely hushed up, it's as if nothing happened." said Jaroslawa
Francozenko of Rockville, a Kiev-born woman who was at the candlelight
vigil outside the embassy Wednesday night. She said she wants the Soviets
"just to make a mention of it."
Others, like Bilijk, however, demand more. Asked what he wants from the
Soviets, Biljyk answered with one word: "Independence."
The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., Saturday, October 1, 1983
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