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Holodomor – Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933

November is an important month for the Ukrainian community, the National Holodomor Memorial Day is acknowledged, remembering the victims and raising awareness of the 1932-1933 Famine in Ukraine.


The Holodomor (manmade famine) is one of the most heinous crimes in the history of mankind, a deliberate political strategy masterminded by Josef Stalin and his totalitarian communist regime. The plan was to eliminate millions of Ukrainians in the early 1930’s by starvation.

Stalin made it clear that the time had come for a new reign of terror. The year 1930 brought the order of compulsory collectivization of all the land and the means of production. The Ukrainian people were ordered to turn over their land and animals to the collective farms or be deported. Naturally this aroused tremendous opposition.

In places where collectivization was to be implanted, many peasants killed their cattle rather than turn them over and a condition of near revolt covered most of Ukraine. Large forces of Russian units were sent to the villages to force the people into the collective farms and those who hesitated or showed any opposition were forced to be deported without their possessions.

As a fact, there was hardly in Ukraine a village in which under the instructions of Stalin, 5 to 15 percent of the population were not uprooted. In many cases Ukrainian houses and barns were actually destroyed so that there would be no trace left of the “enemies of the people”. Armed bands of Russian militia were authorized to enter homes, to pillage, to confiscate every morsel of food and destroy what could not be carried away. Travel was restricted, censorship imposed and an entire nation began to die, swollen from hunger, on streets, on country roads, in fields, in homes, by the thousands, and hundreds of thousands and then into the millions.

If these methods failed to break the opposition being the peasantry, Josef Stalin decided to stave the Ukrainian villages. In fact, during 1931 the demands for the delivery of grain reached an unprecedented height. New and extra delivery quotas were imposed upon the villages and the collective farms. All the grain was secured and sold on the foreign market at dumping prices. In the end, this method of forceful removal of grain from Ukrainian farms relinquished the need to support the population, eliminating a normal grain reserve.

Early in the autumn of 1932 there were signs of approaching famine but the Holodomor became more obvious during the winter of that year and shortly after, the beginning of 1933. Ukraine became desolate. In the spring of 1933 entire villages perished, there was no one even to bury the dead. Many bodies were hauled away on carts or thrown into ravines, without a proper burial. It is difficult to comprehend, imagine or even to estimate the actual number of casualties during this manmade famine.

The Soviet intent was to paralyze and terrorize the Ukrainian peasantry and to destroy the way of life and dignity of a country. The destruction of people and land during 1932-1933 was a result of a planned program to exterminate the Ukrainian population, orchestrated by the Soviet Union, by starving an area long known as Europe’s breadbasket.

In spite of the suffering and suppression that occurred in the early 1930’s; continuously Ukrainians in Ukraine and in the Diaspora strive to reflect on the painful memories that transpired over eighty years ago. The Remembrance of this tragedy helps us better understand the terrible period of 1932-1933 that occurred in human history. As Canadians, we are determined that the inhuman act that we know as the HOLODOMOR shall not be forgotten and that such horrors shall never be allowed to happen again.

About The Author

Peter J. Manastyrsky has written articles on political issues and a member of the Ukrainian community in Winnipeg.

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