By DEVYN STEWART
This year marks the 85th anniversary of Holodomor and members of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Niagara Chapter hope people in the region truly understand the scope of the historic event where up to 12 million Ukrainians were killed. Member Natalie Diduch has an exhibit of Holodomor at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre.
“The world largely did not know, [Holodomor] was kept from the world purposely by the Soviet government,” said Diduch.
Her exhibit features large-scale displays with archival photographs, detailed personal accounts as well as facts and figures from Holodomor.
Diduch says Ukrainian historians will be establishing a solid number of victims based on the best information available, since most of the records were burned by the Soviets afterwards, to hopefully end the disparagement of Holodomor. The famine had been discredited for long after and only started gaining recognition sometime in the 1970s or 1980s.
During the 1930s Soviet forces communalized the villages and farms, to which all non-compliant locations not in favour of communism would be blacklisted and deprived of the now appropriated food. Diduch’s family survived the Holodomor survived primarily by her grandfather smuggling food in for her mother (who was eight years old at the time) and grandmother until they were caught. After the family was discovered by the Soviets they joined the regimes collectivization and her mother was forced to remove corpses as a job.
In the later period of the famine, her mother would roam the streets and beg for food, to which one of the only scraps of food she received was half of another small girl’s cookie. “[My mother] was told not to go down certain streets as cannibals were there,” Diduch recalled in addition to the events of her family’s plight during the time of the famine. The starvation within Ukraine lead to an outbreak of cannibalism due to people’s desire to live and some people in that time neglected their morals in order to survive.
“No, I haven’t heard of it once,” said Stuart Miller, a student at Niagara College. Miller said he has never heard of the event before and declared that an event with a death toll as high as it is should be taught in school and awareness spread so that it would never happen again.
The Holodomor is a historic event that happened between 1932 and 1933. It was perpetrated by communist Bolshevik (Soviet) forces in Ukraine and killed between 2.4 and 12 million people. The usual number cited is typically seven to 10 million dead. The famine was man-made and specifically targeted grain-producing areas in the country, inevitably leading to mass starvation.
This was only one of the several atrocities committed during the 20th century along with Pol Pot’s killing fields, Mao Zedong’s genocide, the Holocaust, Castro’s massacres, Che Guevara’s massacres, the Dresden bombings, Soviet gulags, Eisenhower’s Death Camps and the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
The Holodomor exhibit at the St. Catharines Niagara Canals Centre runs from now until the end of November.