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The Horrors of Holodomor: Ukrainian Genocide

Ukraine suffered one of the most devastating events referred to as Holodomor. “Holodomor,” a name that means “murder through starvation.” Ukrainians believed that it was a genocide, it was planned to starve them out.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin introduced an agricultural collectivization program in 1928. His government forced farmers to give up their private land, equipment and livestock, and joined state owned, factory-like collective farms. Although he knew about the incoming famine two years before it started, he kept moving farmers into the city.

When Holodomor began in 1929, Stalin exported almost two million tons of food out of the Ukraine. Then, he barred the people from moving to any other part of the country. People then had no food and no escape.

An armed guard stands in front of the grain warehouse, ready to shoot anyone who tries to steal the food inside. USSR. Circa 1934. (ATI)

Ukrainians did everything just to survive. Men became thieves, women prostitutes and worst some turned to cannibalism.

During the Holodomor, authorities arrested thousands of Ukrainians and convicted them for eating their neighbors’ flesh. The Soviet government put up signs reminding the survivors: “To eat your own children is a barbarian act.”

A starving mother holds her child at the height of Holodomor. USSR. Circa 1933. (ATI)

Stalin government denied the actuality of Ukraine famine as Ukrainian genocide.

On November 28, 2006, the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament of Ukraine) passed a decree defining the Holodomor as a deliberate Act of Genocide. Although the Russian government continues to call Ukraine’s depiction of the famine a “one-sided falsification of history,” it is recognized as genocide by approximately two dozen nations, and is now the focus of considerable international research and documentation.

Here are accounts of some witnesses and survivors of Holodomor:

“Please return the grain that you have confiscated from me. If you don’t return it I’ll die. I’m 78 years old and I’m incapable of searching for food by myself.”  (From a petition to the authorities by I.A. Rylov)

“I saw the ravages of the famine of 1932-1933 in the Ukraine: hordes of families in rags begging at the railway stations, the women lifting up to the compartment window their starving brats, which, with drumstick limbs, big cadaverous heads and puffed bellies, looked like embryos out of alcohol bottles …” (as remembered by Arthur Kaestler, a famous British novelist, journalist, and critic)

“I still get nauseous when I remember the burial hole that all the dead livestock was thrown into. I still remember people screaming by that hole. Driven to madness by hunger people were ripping the meat of the dead animals. The stronger ones were getting bigger pieces. People ate dogs, cats, just about anything to survive.” (as remembered by Vasil Boroznyak)

A woman walks by two starving peasants, dying on the streets. At this point, the sight of dying men has become so commonplace that it no longer warrants a second glance. Kharkiv, Ukraine. 1932. (ATI)

“People were dying all over our village. The dogs ate the ones that were not buried. If people could catch the dogs they were eaten. In the neighbouring village people ate bodies that they dug up.” (as remembered by Motrya Mostova)

My father, mother, and grandfather all died in the space of two weeks, and I was left all alone in the house. I was twelve years old; what was I to do? There was nothing to eat anywhere. In the morning I would leave the house and walk from garden to garden, grazing until evening: I eat greenery, search carefully for common sheep sorrel because it is hard to find; I wasn’t the only one looking for it. I eat the leaves of linden trees: they’re bitter, but eat them. Look for pigweed and eat it. In a word: I lived like a goat. (Eyewitness Testimony of Liuba Andriivna Chervatiuk)

In the spring and summer of 1933 people picked leaves from linden trees, dried and pounded them, and baked a kind of pancake. After the snow melted, we looked for last year’s rotten potatoes in the fields. There was absolutely nothing. My sisters Hania and Tania and my brother Tymofii died of starvation.

It reached the point that people became cannibals. One unfortunate man (I won’t say who, because his daughter is still alive) noticed a little girl from the neighborhood, who went into a garden to eat some sorrel. He caught her, strangled her, and ate her.

Those who went to work on the collective farm received 100 grams of bread. Those who didn’t, died. (Eyewitness Testimony of Kseniia Oleksiivna Holovashchenko)


Holodomor  MIGS Famine Genocide  ATI

Further Readings

Execution by Hunger
The Harvest of Sorrow

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The Horrors of Holodomor: Ukrainian Genocide


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