THE LAST STAND OF THE UKRAINIAN FAMINE-GENOCIDE DENIERS
By ROMAN SERBYN
Concluding his review of Douglas Tottle's book Fraud, Famine and Fascism, Wilfred Szczesny writes: "Members of the general public who want to know about the famine, its extent and causes, and about the motives and techniques of those who would make this tragedy into something other than what it was will find Tottle's work invaluable." (The Ukrainian Canadian, April, 1988, p.24) In the era of glasnost, Szczesny could have rendered his readers no greater disservice.
For an editor-in-chief of a Ukrainian magazine to invite people to consult Tottle's tract is as appropriate as for a publisher of a Jewish periodical to recommend The Hoax of the Twentieth Century by the Holocaust denier A.R. Butz. lf in Szczesny's statement quoted above the reader substitutes "Holocaust" for "famine" and "Butz" for "Tottle", the affront to the reader's dignity in both cases will become apparent. Tottle is no more interested in discovering the truth about the forced starvation of Ukrainians than Butz about the gassing of Jews.
Tottle is a self-confessed famine-genocide denier. No longer able to negate the famine as such, Tottle questions its genocidal character. Traditional famine-denial has been updated tofamine-genocide denial, but the essence of the ideological trappings is the same. Today's famine-genocide deniers are the spiritual heirs of the first famine negators, Stalin and those who helped him carry out the most heinous of crimes against the Ukrainian nation or to deny its existence.
With his book Douglas Tottle has become a sort of guru to a strange collection of latterday famine-genocide deniers. He has inspired militant articles by Jeff Coplon ("In Search of a Soviet Holocaust", Village Voice, 12 January, 1988); Wilfred Szczesny ("Fraud, Famine and Fascism", The Ukrainian Canadian, April, 1988); and Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx ("The Ukrainian Famine: Fact or Fiction", McGill Daily, 22 November, 1988). How vile and trite is the campaign of the famine-genocide deniers should become clear from the following three examples of how Tottle practices the misdeeds of which he accuses others.
First, let us consider the photographs of the famine. Tottle latches on to them as if they were the main proof of the historicity of the tragedy and the principle argument for its classification as genocide. Tottle does this because he thinks that the photographs form a weak link in the famine-genocide story: break this link and the whole structure will collapse. Well, this is not so. The famine has a solid documentary basis (documents published in the West and in the Soviet Union) of which the photographs form a very minor (and I might add, dispensable) component. There are few photographs from the 1932-33 famine and we could hardly expect otherwise, since the totalitarian regime wanted to keep the famine hidden and took the necessary measures to ensure this.
Many more photographs have come down to us from the earlier Soviet famine of 1921-23. Some of these pictures were eventually used in connection with the second famine and this fact provided Tottle with his basic argument against the famine-genocide: photographs depicting a natural famine of 1921-22 in Russia are used as proof of man-made starvation in Ukraine in 1932-33. To make his accusation stick, Tottle resorts to a mixture of irrelevant truths, half-truths and outright lies.
Tottle constantly refers to the Russian famine of 1921-22, but never mentions the contemporaneous famine in Ukraine. Yet most of Tottle's "illustrative" material is taken from Ukraine and not Russia. On page 32, Tottle reproduces three title pages of what he describes as "publications devoted to the Russian famine of 1921-22", even though two of them deal only with Ukraine. One is Holod na Ukraini, an excellent documentary by Ivan Herasymovych based on personal observations and containing excerpts from the Soviet Ukrainian press and a number of photographs. Tottle identifies the second text (the reduced reproduction is almost illegible to the naked eye) as "Dr. Fridjof Nansen's International Committee for Russian Relief,Information No.22, Geneva, April 30, 1922", but fails to give the title of the report contained on that page. It reads: "Famine Situation in Ukrania". With the help of a magnifying glass the reader can decipher the following revealing information about the famine conditions in Ukraine, sent by Nansen's representative from Kharkiv on 22 March, 1922:
"(N)ot before the 11th of January of this year could the goubernia of Donetz stop their obligatory relief work for the Volga district and begin to take care with all their forces of their own famine problem, at a time when already more than every tenth person in the Donetz was without bread. In the beginning of March this year, you could still see, in the famine-stricken goubernia Nicolaev (Mykolaiv), placards with 'Working masses of Nikolaev (sic), to the help of the starving Volga district!' The goubernia of Nicolaev itself had at the same time 700,000 starving people, about half the population. On my way to Ukrania I sought information in Moscow about the situation from presumably well informed persons. They told me that in Ukrania the situation was very bad, about half a million people starving. In reality the number was more than six times greater."
Further on, the envoy continues:
"The whole of the 4 goubernias of Odessa, Nicolaev, Yekaterinioslav (Katerynoslav), and Donetz, as well as the southern parts of Krementchoug, Poltava and Kharkov, are stricken by famine. Of a total population of about 16 million in these goubernias, between four and five millions are now starving, and before the new harvest the number will perhaps have risen to between six and seven millions. Almost the whole population of Ukrania is suffering to a certain extent from lack of food and all the conveniences of life, but the above mentioned millions are literally starving to death." (p.2)
In a follow-up report, dated 13 April, 1922, and reproduced in the same document, we read:
"Five million persons are now without food and probably more than ten thousand die daily of starvation... In a word, the famine has reached such dimensions and such insignificant relief is given, that the starving population loses every hope and dies." (p.30)
What Nansen's man was describing was the first man-made famine in Ukraine which lasted from 1921 to 1923 (and not 1922) and took 1.5 to 2 million lives. In spite of the drought in its southern provinces, Ukraine had enough grain to feed its population, provided the foodstuffs were kept in the country and not exported. But during these two years Soviet authorities removed enough agricultural produce from Ukraine to feed several times the population which died from hunger. Ukrainian grain was sent to Russia both years to feed the cities and the famished population on the Volga. (A severe famine was also ravaging southern Russia, especially the Volga region.) The second year it was also sold in Western Europe. Aid offered by foreign countries was accepted immediately for the Volga region but let into Ukraine only eight months later.
Since both famines in Ukraine were manmade, it was quite legitimate to use in the film Harvest of Despair photographs from the famine of the 1920's along with those of the 1930's. The weakness of the film lies not in these photographs but in the insufficient explanation the film gave of the first famine. This shortcoming has no bearing on the authenticity of the famine-genocide of the 1930's. To suggest the opposite, as Tottle, Coplon, Xxxxxxxx and Szczesny do, is to display ignorance or lack of intellectual integrity.
Second, let us see how even the great Ukrainian historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky is made to serve the famine-genocide deniers' propaganda machine. Szczesny writes:
"Tottle cites a number of historians and other writers whose works contradict the claim that the famine was a deliberate act of genocide, including Isaac Mazepa amd M. Hrushevsky, both of whom discuss the causes of the famine with no suggestion that it was a deliberate effort to destroy the Ukrainian people."
Taken at face value, Szczesny's contention sounds serious. If Ukraine's foremost historian could analyze the famine and find no deliberate action against the Ukrainian people, then surely his findings carry more weight than the claims of lesser scholars. And yet to anyone the least familiar with contemporary Ukrainian history it sounds incredible that Hrushevsky should have written such things about the famine. What are the facts?
In 1941, Yale University Press published a translation of Michael Hrushevsky's History of Ukraine. As the Ukrainian text stopped in 1905, the editor, Professor O.J. Frederiksen of Miami University (Ohio), decided to update it. Two chapters were added. One, entitled "Ukrainian Independence", covered the period 1914-1918 and was based on Hrushevsky's other writings. The second chapter, "Recent Ukraine", brought the events up to 1940; it was written by the editor from notes provided by Dr. Luke Myshuha and had nothing to do with Hrushevsky.
In the Frederiksen/Myshuha chapter references to the 1932-33 famine are very skimpy, but there are two passages (p.566) that have some bearing on the subject. Skrypnyk, the Commissar of Education in Soviet Ukraine, is reported as having "committed suicide in 1933 in protest against Soviet policies there, and in particular against the export of foodstuffs". It is also claimed that after a year of drought and chaotic agricultural conditions, "during the winter of 1932-33 a great famine, like that of 1921-22, swept across Soviet Ukraine, again costing the lives of several million men, women and children." (My emphasis - R.S.) In the next paragraph the reader learns that "Hrushevsky was arrested in 1930 and transferred from Kiev to a town near Moscow; he died on November 26, 1934, at Kislovodsk, in the northern Caucasus."
Now let us see how Tottle reconstructs these references:
"However, A History of Ukraine by Mikhail (sic) Hrushevsky - described by the Nationalists themselves as 'Ukraine's leading historian' - states: 'Again a year of drought coincided with chaotic agricultural conditions; and during the winter of 1932-33 a great famine, like that of 1921-1922, swept across Soviet Ukraine...' Indeed, nowhere does History of Ukraine claim a deliberate, man-made famine against Ukrainians and more space is actually devoted to the famine of 1921-22." (p.91)
Tottle then adds laconically that Hrushevsky's history was published posthumously in 1941 and that it was updated to 1940 based on notes by Dr. Luke Myshuha. Tottle does not deem it necessary to mention the work of Professor Frederiksen, or to specify when and where Hrushevsky died, although these facts are essential to appreciate the reference to the famine. He does, however, go out of his way to point out that Myshuha was "editor-in-chief of Svoboda", and that he had "visited Berlin in 1939, speaking over Nazi radio in Ukrainian," (p. 92) information quite irrelevant to the analysis of the famine, but necessary to make the perfidious famine-Nazi link which I shall discuss further on.
Here again we have a mixture of irrelevant truths, misleading half-truths, and lies. The comments by Myshuha/Frederiksen on the famine are deformed (damaging reference to Skrypnyk's suicide to protest the export of grain while several million starved is left out), and even though Tottle does not actually attribute them to Hrushevsky, he words his statement in such a way as to create that impression. Whether Szczesny was privy to Tottle's ruse or was duped by the insinuation, the result is the same; a lie about Hrushevsky's alleged denial of the famine-genocide.
Third, a few words are in order on the subliminal Nazification of the Ukrainian famine-genocide. If there is one common denominator to all the famine-genocide denial literature, it is the effort to tie the Ukrainian famine to the Nazis and sandwich between them that part of the Ukrainian diaspora which defends the right of the Ukrainian nation to exist as a sovereign state. Genocide deniers would be happiest if they could blame the famine on the Nazis and the "Ukrainian collaborators" as Stalin pinned Katyn on the Germans. But since this can not be done, they try the next best thing: link with Nazis those who speak out about the famine (including famine survivors and descendants of famine victims).
On the cover of Tottle's book one can see a photograph of a woman with an undernourished child, and looming over the photograph a hand with a paintbrush. The brush is about to be dipped into oilpaint profusely pouring out of a tube marked with a swastika. What a disgusting spectacle, and yet how descriptive of the author and the book! Isn't Tottle getting ready to apply Nazi colours to the famine victims?
When one checks the book's table of contents one notices that only one chapter is classified as "famine", the other nine deal with "fraud" and "Fascism". In fact, at least ten times as much space is devoted to the task of making the famine-Fascism connection as is given to the study of the famine. Unabashed, the author admits that he "does not attempt to study the famine in any detailed way". (p.1) He is more interested in the "Nazi and fascist connections" and the "coverups of wartime collaboration" (p.3). Both topics, even if they had been objectively treated, are completely irrelevant to the study of the famine and can neither prove nor disprove the existence of the famine or define the nature of the tragedy. (Many of Tottle's attacks on the various segments of the Ukrainian diaspora constitute hate literature and should be dealt with in our courts of law.)
The attempt to hush up serious examination and legitimate condemnation of the famine-genocide, or to dismiss it as Nazi-related propaganda, makes the writings of Tottle and the other famine-genocide deniers particularly repugnant. They have the impudence to desecrate the memory of millions of innocent people deliberately starved to death by criminals who have never even been punished for their diabolical act. Perhaps it was people like the famine-genocide deniers that Oleksandr Dovzhenko had in mind when he made this entry in his diary written on the German front on May 4, 1942:
"If all the heroism of the sons of Ukraine in the Fatherland war, all the sacrifices and suffering of (its) people, and all (their) victorious energy after the war, cunning hands and pens of certain clever fellows throw into a common...pot, and on account of Ukrainians, these same hands thrust artificially created Hitlerite Petliurivshchyna and anti-Semitism with all the consequences of slaughter-houses, it would be better for me to die and no longer witness human baseness, bottomless hate, and fathomless eternal lies which entangle us. (Dnipro, 1988, No.10, p.89)
In his review of Tottle's book Szczesny writes: "The theory of the big lie is that the bigger the lie and the more often it is repeated, the more it will be believed." (p.22) Szczesny should have added that in order to render their own lie more credible, the hoaxsters accuse their opponents of the deception they themselves practice, while presenting their own fabrication as a corrective to their opponents' alleged lie. Need we be reminded that the real hoax is not the Holocaust but what Butz has to say about it and the great fraud is not the famine-genocide but Tottle's treatment of it?
Documents on the famine published recently in the West (M. Carynnyk, et al, The Foreign Office and the Famine, Kingston, Ont., 1988, and others), and in the Soviet press (isn't it about time that the 'UC' reprinted some of them?) leave no room for doubt that the famine in Ukraine was man-made. As Yuri Shcherbak, the author of a novel on Chornobyl states, "the famine of 1932-33 was in no way a natural disaster. There was no drought, no hurricane as its origin... The Ukrainian harvest of 1932 while not a record one was totally adequate. Yet there was an unusual famine. From the beginning to the end it was organized from the top.... Peasants, packed on train rooftops, tried to flee the famished regions. But on the border between Russia and Ukraine... units of border guards were stationed..." (Sobesednik, Moscow, 1988, No.49)
Is it legitimate to call this famine genocide?
Ten years ago few people outside the Ukrainian diaspora would have ventured such an opinion: in the West because of what was thought to be a lack of reliable evidence (diplomatic archives were closed and testimony from "refugees" was viewed with suspicion), and in the Soviet Union because the very subject was taboo. All this has radically changed in the last few years.
Taking advantage of glasnost, Ukrainians began to speak openly about the crime of the "33rd", calling it "man-made famine", "artificial famine", "extermination by starvation (holodomor). Although they use the more familiar traditional expressions, in their minds these terms are synonymous with genocide". What else is the deliberate starvation of millions of people, if not genocide? Occasionally, one even comes across the words "holocaust" and "genocide" as when Wasyl Pakharenko answered those who do not recognize the specificity of the Ukrainian famine. "The uniqueness of our (Ukrainian) tragedy lies in this that in Ukraine, the social-class genocide coincided with the cultural-national (genocide)." (Molod' Cherkashchyny, Cherkassy, 1988, No.30)
The notion that the famine was genocide is also gaining acceptance in the West. Michael R. Marrus, professor of history at the University of Toronto, and the author of The Holocaust in History, in his forward to The Foreign Office and the Famine (cited above), comes to the conclusion that the evidence presented by the British documents suggests that there was a genocidal attack upon Ukrainians. Leo Kuper, professor emeritus at the UCLA and author of Genocide, a pioneer work on the subject, writes in his latest work The Prevention of Genocideabout the "many millions who died in the Soviet manmade (sic) famine of 1932-33". Kuper accepts the argument that "this artificially induced famine was in fact an act of genocide, designed...to undermine the social basis of a Ukrainian national renaissance." (p.50)
In the light of all the evidence we now possess on the famine, how bleak and ignoble appear the statements of genocide deniers of the Stalin era (unscrupulous journalists like Walter Duranty of the New York Times, credulous and dishonest intellectuals like the British writer Bernard Shaw, the French politician Edouard Herriot). It took fifty years to debunk their big lie; how long will it take the defenders of truth to dispose of the big lie promoted by Tottle and his supporters? The challenge is before the Ukrainian community. Will The Ukrainian Canadian, for one, have the courage to take it up and make the last stand of the famine-genocide deniers a short one?
Roman Serbyn is a professor of history at the University of Quebec at Montreal.
DENIED, DEFILED, OR IGNORED --
THE UKRAINIAN FAMINE OF 1932-33
FIFTY YEARS LATER
by Orysia Tracz
You know how a wound sometimes still hurts even though you thought it had healed long ago? The scar may be barely visible, but it tingles, burns, and smarts at the oddest moments. I have a scar like that on my soul, and ten years later it still aches.
None of my relatives died in the Great Famine in Ukraine during 1932/33. The millions who starved in that genocide by famine lived in central and eastern Ukraine, under Soviet rule; my parents and their families were in western Ukraine, under Polish rule. Yet when the 50th anniversary of that nightmare was marked in 1983, I mourned as if the dead were my own.
It would have been painful enough just remembering such an event, and honouring the millions of innocent dead who starved while there was plenty of food around -- unavailable just to them. What made the 50th commemoration of the Great Famine such an ugly experience was the deafening silence and disbelief of the majority of the Canadian media and the reaction of a certain segment of society. The various editors, columnists, and producers did not believe -- or did not want to believe -- that the famine actually happened, that it was deliberately orchestrated to forcibly starve the Ukrainian population so adamant in remaining Ukrainian and non- Communist, and so resistant to Stalin's collectivization. Not only did they not believe, they stonewalled and tried to ignore the event itself and its anniversary. For the media, Ukrainian issues were not "politically correct" in 1983. Simultaneously, the pro-Soviet segment in Canada did all it could not only to deny that the famine happened and was man-made, but to vilify and defame the Ukrainian survivors and their community for even daring to bring it up. Often, this was the group the media believed. The campaign, bolstered by the Soviet embassy, was so malicious that a decade later remembering those events still hits a raw nerve.
While other tragedies of human history and of our own inhumanity to each other in this century were covered often by the print and electronic media, the Famine did not count. Because of Soviet disinformation, with a few exceptions it had been ignored for those fifty years. The fear of that Soviet system was so pervasive and so paralyzing, that some survivors of the Famine -- even those with no family at all left in Ukraine -- still refused to have their experiences recorded fifty years later in Canada. On this gruesome anniversary, the Ukrainian community in most Canadian cities fought an uphill battle in getting the newspapers and television stations, especially the CBC, to inform the public about this almost unknown genocide. "Too academic," "too historical," not newsworthy enough," "we can't mark every anniversary that comes along" and "that issue has been well-covered in the past" were the replies of a Winnipeg Free Press city editor to inquiries why events related to the anniversary were not reported. Only one letter to the editor was printed at the time, even though many had been sent in. It took a whole month of inquiries at first, then downright badgering by angry individuals before the Winnipeg Free Press printed three articles about the Famine [April 9, 1983]. Ironically, after all that, one of the articles carried the headline "Famine in Stalin's Russia [sic]." A separate box carried the statement:
Few events of such enormity have attracted so little public clamor or more press apathy that the government-programmed famine which led to the extermination in 1932-33 of 8 million people in Ukraine. The Free Press was a party to this apathy -- in the years immediately after the famine and in efforts this year to publicize its 50th anniversary. Editors took for granted it was a matter best left to history books and academics, ignoring much significant new research on the subject. Readers have noted the shortcomings. These pages acknowledge it.
Communists, Marxist-Leninists, and Soviet sympathizers whipped themselves into a frenzy of denial of the Famine and vicious attacks on Ukrainians who spoke about it. Their line: it never happened, no one ever died, well, maybe a few thousand, no, a few million did die, but that was because of the drought, no, because of the social conditions, it was the fault of the kulaks, well, they had to die to save the new ideal system, they were enemies of the state anyway, well maybe some did die, they deserved it, it was a hoax perpetrated by fascists. It was especially painful to read and listen to protests from Ukrainian Communists. When members of the community presented a brief to the Winnipeg School Division #1 School Board to have information about the Famine included in the division's curriculum along with that about other genocides, one school board member protested. Mary Kardash (Labour Election Committee), questioned the authenticity of the presentation, and moved that this be discussed at a later meeting to get the "true facts" [sic] and "other points of view" about the Famine. The Ukrainian Communist presentation to the school board argued that "history should be taught in an objective manner" and, therefore, the Famine should not be taught as a deliberate act of the Soviet Union [try teaching the Holocaust without mentioning the Third Reich, or effect without cause]. But those presenting the five briefs opposing "the unsubstantiated charge of genocide" could not keep their stories straight: the arguments went from no famine at all (just a hoax), to the admission that between 3,500,000 to 5 million perished. William Ross, former head of the Communist Party in Winnipeg, wrote that they "...did not deny that a famine occurred... What they rejected was the unsubstantiated charge that it was a `definite act of genocide deliberately created to annihilate the Ukrainian people.' " Similar battles took place in other cities. In Edmonton there was a prolonged battle over a monument to the victims of the famine.
Objectivity, credibility, and fairness were a primary concern to those on the receiving end of Famine information. And the idea that the Famine happened and its story must be told was not a welcome one. The Manitoba Department of Education finally included the Famine in a world issues course, part of a grade 12 social studies curriculum. But the course "would not favour either side of the issue. The curriculum would be designed to teach that a famine did occur in Ukraine in 1932-33 and that millions of people perished. The reason the famine occurred will be open to discussion." [emphasis o.t.] Would the reasons for the Holocaust be "open to discussion"?! An editorial in the Winnipeg Free Press [December 19, 1993] cautioned that the curriculum program should strive for objectivity and scholarship and not be designed to serve the interests of any political group.
"Campaigners and agitators who seek modern redress for past wrongs or who seek to unite straying members of an ethnic group by the remembrance of past horrors are entitled to do that, but that is not the business of history and should not be asked of the history teacher... [The course should be used to illustrate] what sources of historical information consist of and how they can be evaluated for usefulness and trustworthiness."
Would such an attitude be expressed if the course were one on the Holocaust? Now such comments seem bitterly tragicomic, but at the time they meant that these emotional Ukrainians are just trying to get back at the Russians, this whole famine story is a lot of bull, needs to be taken with a mountain of salt, and we're better off believing the Soviets anyway. Neither the educational nor the journalistic sector remembered its professional ethics, and did not bother to verify for itself the mounds of scholarly, documentary material -- much of it from non- Ukrainian sources, since these were perceived to be more credible -- presented by the community. Survivors' testimony was considered tainted, based on emotion, unreliable. What is survivors' testimony supposed to be, if not primary material? Not when it came from Ukrainians.
At McGill University's McLennon Library, the photo and book exhibit "The 1933 Man-Made Famine in Ukraine -- The Forgotten Holocaust" was in danger of being closed down because the library administration considered the exhibit "too political" [would a Holocaust exhibit be so labeled?]. The exhibit was held in conjunction with a Famine symposium held at the University of Quebec at Montreal (March 25-26, 1983). Because "it was impossible to repudiate the academically-oriented content of the exhibit" and most of the books were from the library's own collection, it continued for the contracted run (March 13-27).
Letters to the editor in Winnipeg papers were equally cruel, and at times pathetically comical in their logic. J. Goray reacted to a positive review of Robert Conquest's Harvest of Sorrow by Tom Oleson in the Winnipeg Free Press:
... It is obvious that Mr. Oleson's lack of factual information...led him to rely on the discredited Robert Conquest.... [Walter Duranty and others] maintained the famine was grossly exaggerated, while others such as William Randolph Hearst, Malcolm Muggeridge, Robert Conquest, Victor Krawchenko and other falsificators of history adopted a hostile, anti-Soviet policy of slander and vilification. In any case, millions of people from all over the world visited the Soviet Union including the Ukraine during the time of the `famine' and it would have been impossible to conceal such an apocalyptic event as the death by starvation of seven million people had there been such a catastrophe.
However, Alexander Basilevsky, another apologist, did acknowledge that the Famine occurred, because of "a sad combination of amateurishly bad planning on the part of the Soviet government, sabotage by many wealthy peasants and a serious drought (which also affected the Canadian and American prairies)." [This writer's inquiries into the precipitation figures for the 1930s in Ukraine showed that 1932-33 had the highest rainfall for the decade.]
The producers of CBC Television news in Winnipeg had a strange way of showing the "true facts." Because they could not bring themselves to accept that this genocide had occurred, it was deemed necessary to present "both sides." We saw the spectacle of supposedly-qualified academics discussing whether survivors really lived through what they had lived through. I could only imagine a panel discussion on CBC between Holocaust survivors and revisionists on whether the Holocaust actually happened, and both side being treated with equal respect by the moderators and the producers. The producers never even thought that some of the differences between the two genocides were that Hitler and his system were defeated, there was no cover-up or denial of what happened [that could be taken seriously], and the Nazis no longer existed to instill terror into the survivors, while Stalin's empire and terror continued, the frigid fear gripping survivors and their relatives across the ocean. Holocaust survivors were able to meet, reminisce and testify about their experience. Famine survivors looked over their shoulders, whispered if they dared, some went mad, and all still were not believed.
To my horror, an appalling comparison surfaced: this famine "hoax" was perpetrated to diminish the number of those exterminated in the Holocaust of World War II. Did anyone really believe that any people wanted to compete over how many more millions died in one genocide over another? A Canadian poet of Ukrainian background wrote:
When in the breadbasket
starved to death
the world was silent
as it was
when your people
in the horrors of Dachau
as Nazi soldiers
drank "to life"
in brassy cabarets
When the King of Aryans
unfurled his Master Plan
were targeted for extinction
and so our parents fled
the haunting sirens
the hideous war
leaving their loved ones
your died in Treblinka
mine lived a hell
in the Siberian snows
wage a paper war
the battle lines are drawn
armed with statistics
was it the famine
that had more dead:
whose trauma was greater?
Why all this now
when Sabbath candles glow
and bread is plenty?
© Chrystyna Hnatiw 1988
[Chrystya Hnatiw in Land of Silent Sundays (Toronto: Williams-Wallace, 1988). Reprinted by permission of the author]
But the Ukrainian community was not competing for statistics. It was struggling just to get the genocide accepted as a fact of history. God knows, we had our own millions who perished at the hands of both Hitler and Stalin during World War II. Were it not for glastnost and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian survivors and their community would still be hitting a brick wall trying to have the Famine acknowledged. In 1990 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine issued a statement admitting that the Famine was man-made by Stalin's Soviet government. But Lazar Kaganovich, the orchestrator of the Famine, continued to live the life of a privileged Party pensioner in Moscow -- with no regrets -- until his death in 1991. The Ukrainian Canadian Communist community was really at a loss when its own publication, the Ukrainian Canadian, published the Party's statement on the Famine [April 1990]. Some members could not handle the admission -- and especially a poignant painting about the famine on the cover of that issue -- and called for the dismissal of the editors. "Reading about all the attrocities ... during the Stalin era is painful enough; do we have to stare at that horrible image on the front cover?..." "Offensive"... "We need to apologize to no one..." "Concentrate on Canadian issues..."
On the 60th commemoration of this genocide by famine, there is only deafening silence from those experts, academics, and authors who were so hysterical and defamatory in their attacks and denials. After this, how suspect is their other academic work? There are enough scholarly works available to the public documenting the Famine; readers can judge for themselves Robert Conquest's, James Mace's and Malcolm Muggeridge's credentials and compare them to Walter Duranty's. As skulls continue to emerge from the Ukrainian soil, both from the Famine and the mass executions of the later 1930s, there is no more need for the "other point of view," "both sides," "objectivity," "pursuing the truth," "evaluating for ... trustworthiness," and "non-political investigations." As volumes upon volumes of testimony are being collected in Ukraine from survivors who only now can speak openly after six decades of fear, as official documents of the time appear, as the burial mounds and crosses are only now being raised over the mass graves of whole villages, I wonder what the consciences of our other Canadian revisionists are telling them. They knew, dammit, they knew all along. For this I cannot forgive and I will not forget. I cannot dwell on this, though, for life goes on. Yet when similar issues of Ukrainian history and experience surface in the media and Ukrainian credibility is questioned, I can only hope that that the media do their job honestly, and that truth will triumph, as it did in this case. But it would have been better if the hungry years of 1932/33 had not happened at all.
|In 1929-1932 the Soviet Communist Party under Stalin's leadership... struck a double blow at the peasantry of the USSR as a whole: dekulakization and collectivization. Dekulakization meant the killing, or deportation to the Arctic with their families, of millions of peasants... Collectivization meant the effective abolition of private property in land, and the concentration of the remaining peasantry in "collective farms" under Party control. These two measures resulted in millions of deaths...|
Then in 1932-3 came what may be described as a terror famine inflicted on the collectivized peasants of the Ukraine and the largely Ukrainian Kuban (together with the Don and Volga areas) by the methods of setting for them grain quotas far above the possible, removing every handful of food, and preventing help from outside -- even from other areas of the USSR -- from reaching the starving. This action, even more destructive of life than those of 1929- 32, was accompanied by a wide- ranging attack on all Ukrainian cultural and intellectual centres and leaders, and on the Ukrainian churches. The supposed contumaciousness of the Ukrainian peasants in not surrendering grain they did not have was explicitly blamed on nationalism... The Ukrainian peasant thus suffered in double guise -- as a peasant and as a Ukrainian...
The total [conservative] peasant dead as a result of the dekulakization and famine [were] about 14.5 million... seven million plus from dekulakization and about seven million plus in the famine...
[There was] ... the ability of Stalin and the Soviet authorities to conceal or confuse the facts. Moveover, they were abetted by many Westerners who for one reason or another wished to be deceived. And even when the facts, or some of them, percolated in a general way into the Western mind, there were Soviet formulae which tended to justify or at least excuse them...
Conquest, Robert. The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press in association with the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1986.
(reprinted by permission)
Copyright © 1993-1999 Orysia Tracz