| Zuzak Letters |
North Jersey Record | 09Nov21013 | Christopher Maag
Ukrainians mark 1930s wave of Soviet-era famines
When the hunger began, Peter Velechko ate grain meant for horses. When
the horses died, he ate horse meat. When the meat was gone, he clawed
the farmers’ fields with his hands and ate the seeds. When the seeds
were gone, he found the holes of field mice and ate their stores of
When the hunger lifted in 1933, Velechko looked like a skeleton. But he
“Even if the grain was bad, we ate it,” said Velechko, 89, a survivor
of the Holodomor, the famine forced upon Ukraine by the Soviet Union in
1932 and 1933.
“Everything we ate was illegal. If they found us, they would have shot
us,” Velechko said. “But nobody in my family died.”
Velechko was one of a handful of people with memories of that awful
time who gathered Saturday night to commemorate the 80th anniversary of
the Holodomor at the Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Ascension Cathedral in
Clifton. The ceremony was led by Patriarch Filaret, worldwide leader of
the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Nearly 4 million people died of starvation during the Holodomor,
according to new research by the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.
“These people were deliberately starved,” said Olena Lenczuk, a member
of the church who helped organize the event. “We want the world to
remember the fact that the Soviets took the bread away.”
For decades, the Holodomor has been a matter of international dispute,
as the Soviet Union maintained that the process of forcing peasants to
live and work on collectivized farms accidentally resulted in a famine
that killed millions of people across the Soviet Union, not just in
This remains the official position of the Russian government. In August
2012, the Voice of Russia, the government’s official media company,
published a story admitting the starvation was “a terrible tragedy” but
accusing those who label it an intentional genocide as advancing
“Russophobic historical myths.”
But scholars say there is little doubt that Soviet dictator Josef
Stalin was responsible for it.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, documents were discovered
proving that Stalin knew about the famine and ordered government
officials to steal food from Ukraine’s peasants, said Gennadi
Poberezny, chief cartographer with the Harvard Ukrainian Research
Institute’s Holodomor Atlas Project. It was an orchestrated attempt to
starve Ukraine into accepting farm collectivization and Communist rule,
said Poberezny, who is using newly available data to map the scale of
the mass starvation.
“There used to be lots of disagreement among scholars, but in recent
years we’ve uncovered archival documents proving Stalin ordered it,”
said Douglas Irvin-Erickson, a researcher with the Center for the Study
of Genocide, Conflict Resolution and Human Rights at Rutgers
University, Newark. “There’s no question. Stalin knew.”
During Saturday night’s ceremony, Patriarch Filaret walked across the
asphalt driveway of the Orthodox church swinging a metal thurible that
emitted incense smoke and jangled with the sounds of small bells. He
turned to face a stone memorial to the Holodomor, built in front of the
church. Between the patriarch and the stone sat a round loaf of knotted
bread, in memory of the hunger.
After a prayer, the patriarch led the crowd of about 400 people in a
series of mournful hymns. As they sang a refrain of repeated
“hallelujahs,” church member Mikola Stafak pulled hard on the clapper
of a large bell.
People jumped. The soothing sound of a crowd singing in harmony was
drowned out by the bell’s harsh clang.
“People dug up corpses and ate them. When they ran out of energy to
dig, there was cannibalism,” said Victor Rud, an attorney in Ridgewood
whose father survived the Holodomor. “The suffering was horrible.”
The 80th anniversary comes at a difficult time for relations between
Ukraine and Russia.
At the end of November, the Ukrainian parliament is scheduled to vote
on whether to join the European Union. At an international gathering in
Yalta in September, Sergei Glazyev, an aide to Russian President
Vladimir Putin, threatened to impose steep tariffs on any goods
imported from Ukraine into Russia if Ukraine joins the rest of Europe.
Instead, Russian leaders want Ukraine to join the proposed Eurasian
Union, a Russia-led economic association of former Soviet states.
“This year’s Holomodor ceremonies have a direct bearing on the European
Union decision,” said Harvard’s Poberezny. “It has direct impact in
Ukrainian politics now.”
At the Clifton ceremony, survivors of the Holodomor were focused less
on such geopolitical issues, and more on making sure their near-death
experience is not forgotten.
“I want the whole world to know what the Communists did,” Velechko
said. “We cannot let it happen again.”
Email: [email protected]
10Nov2013 at 3:06pm
STALIN was responsible for Holodomor.. Then who killed the 3-5 million
Ukranian's when the FIRST Holodomor took place from 1921-1923 BEFORE
STALIN took power? The answer is Jewish Bolshevik's Leon Bronstein
Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin. Hanging 200,000 holy men of the Orthodox
christian church to ceilings and trees. Remember that Bolshevism came
from Karl Marx who was also Jewish who said the Scottish Highlanders
were ''Racial Trash'' and should be killed in a ''holocaust'' humainly
with GAS !! These were HIS words back in 1856 !! STALIN was responsible
?? SOMETHING SMELLS FISHY HERE !!
Dmytro Ivanovych Lenczuk:
10Nov2913 at 4$)pm
hat's so fishy, Paul? Lenin, Stalin, and Trostky were communists who
hated Ukraine as a nation. Of all the nationalities within the Soviet
Union, Ukrainians were the most rebellious and adamant for their
independence. Furthermore, they (Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky) were Russian
imperialists of the same tradition of the Russian czars before them,
who held Ukrainians as serfs for centuries prior. Like ideologies beget
11Nov2013 at 7:57am
Also - why fishy? Stalin was in power in the 1930’s, Lenin was gone.
Stalin had a controlling power like no other, learning from his
predecessors, bolshevik and tsars alike. Stalin took manipulation and
terror to a whole new level that had decades of lasting effects. The
later maniacal beasts of history followed his ruthless blueprints.