Students promote genocide awareness

Members of the University of Saskatchewan Ukrainian Students Association marked Holomodor Awareness Week with several activities on campus.
On Sunday, Nov. 18 they held a Wheat Sheaf Making and Distributing event in the STM Student Lounge. Wednesday, Nov. 21 saw USUSA members creating awareness in the Arts Tunnel with their “Holodomor-in-a-Box” interactive learning experience. A vigil commemorating Holomodor vicitms was planned for Thursday, Nov. 22 in the STM Chapel.
Each event was designed to bring awareness and education on the topic of the Holodomor, a genocide of the Ukrainian people which occurred between 1932-1933 and was caused by the leaders of the Soviet Union. Millions of families were starved and murdered. 
The state kept information about the genocide hidden, and any family in Ukraine who spoke of it to media or anyone was imprisoned, deported or murdered. The USUSA invites the community to learn about what happened during this dark period in Ukraine.

The Holodomor: It was a Genocide
By Sam Campling

Many are unaware of what occurred in Ukraine from the late 1920s to the mid-1930s. It was strategically covered up.  Over a decade of persecution, executions, imprisonment, deportations and death were blanketed by the Soviet regime determined to protect its totalitarian power and authority. 85 years have passed since the genocide of the Ukrainian people known as the Holodomor, and it is time for the world to acknowledge and recognize the deliberate and calculated starvation of the Ukrainian people simply because they were Ukrainian.

In 1932-1933, the Ukrainian peasants were subjected to famine as part of a genocidal policy, the intent of which was to ensure that Soviet Ukraine remained dominated by Soviet Russia. Joseph Stalin first ordered the collectivization of agriculture, confiscating the property of independent farmers and forcing them onto collective farms. This was followed by setting unattainable quotas for grain and confiscating all food products during searches. Guards in watch towers ensured no family consumed their own harvested grain, nor left in search of food. There was, in fact, a law authored by Stalin himself that carried a death sentence or 10 years’ imprisonment for the misappropriation of collective farm property.  

Although estimates of human losses due to the Holodomor vary,  millions of lives were lost. In many regions of Ukraine, an alarming two-thirds of the children did not return to school in September of 1933.\

The genocidal policy of the Communist regime began in the late 1920s to break the Ukrainian national revival that was rekindling Ukrainian aspirations for independence. The Soviet Union could not remain intact without Ukraine and with a four pronged attack, as described by legal scholar and author of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Raphael Lemkin, Stalin liquidated the intelligentia from Ukraine, attacked the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, starved the farmers and resettled empty Ukrainian villages with non-Ukrainians. Stalin considered this genocide a “lesson”.

Millions of lives were lost. Millions of people with traditions,  familial memories and recipes that should have been passed down through generations were gone in less than a year. The next part of Stalin’s plan could play out. Denial. Depriving the grieving survivors of the chance to mourn their loved ones, and the opportunity to let the world know of these horrific events. An entire chapter of a nation’s history eradicated.

Without this horrific genocide being discussed as just that, a genocide, the Ukrainian people will never be able to heal. It is important to remember the Holodomor and the people scarred by the “secret genocide”. It is important to heed the lessons learned.

This genocide happened 85 years ago, and yet it remains relevant to global events today.  Stalin may no longer be in power, but Russian President Putin continues to wage war against the Ukrainian people knowing that without Ukraine, there can never be a resurrection of the Soviet Union.

Still fighting for a voice, Ukrainians must confront their trauma, whether they were directly affected by the Holodomor or simply inherited historical wounds. The consequences of the Holodomor will always continue to shape the nation, but with the support of the international community, the acknowledgement and recognition of historical fact will help the Ukrainian people begin a new chapter in an independent, democratic, European state.

Sam Campling is a third-year English major at the University of Saskatchewan with an interest in Ukrainian studies. She is currently serving as Vice President of Communications on the University of Saskatchewan Ukrainian Students Association executive. A member of the Ukrainian-Canadian community, she lives in Saskatoon.