As the 90th year of the human-engineered forced famine perpetrated upon Ukrainians approaches its yearly marker, a number of projects are underway that are bringing to light, educating and raising awareness about the Kremlin’s genocidal act.
Millions of Ukrainians were starved to death in 1932 and 1933 under the directives of then-Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his henchmen, and more than two dozen countries have designated it as an act of genocide, the Canada-based Holodomor Research and Educational Consortium (HREC) says.
The US is not one of them, although 23 out of 50 US states have either issued proclamations or resolutions in that vein, the Kyiv-based state Holodomor Museum says on its website. And last year the European Parliament, consisting of 27 countries, recognized Stalin’s policies directed at Ukrainians as an act of genocide.
A billionaire Canadian-American family, the World Ukrainian Congress, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Ukraine and others are planning commemorative events, some of which are in concert with each other.
Free, interactive, online course
In November 2021, Paul and Helen Baszucki, the parents of billionaire Roblox coding game co-founder David Baszucki, donated $700,000 to the HREC at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies to support efforts to raise public awareness of the Holodomor (a term which in Ukrainian means death by famine and refers to the millions of Ukrainians who were starved to death in from 1932 to 1934).
The Baszucki funding is supporting development by HREC of a new online course on the Holodomor to be made available to anyone in the world via the Coursea platform.
Additionally, HREC is working with the Washington-based public relations firm Xenophon Strategies, which in the coming weeks will be rolling out a plan for promoting Holodomor awareness, leading up to the communities’ solemn 90th anniversary commemorations in November, said Marta Baziuk who is the executive director of HREC.
Washington-based public relations firm Xenophon Strategies is scheduled to promote the roll out of a free “massive open online-course (MOOC)” on the subject matter funded by the Baszuckis, said Marta Baziuk, executive director of HREC in Canada. By next year, it will “be a first-rate course consisting of visual and audio components.”
The donation is the biggest commitment of this scale intended to promote awareness of “this crime,” Baziuk said, while adding that the project is being finalized in tandem with the University of Alberta’s Ukrainian Studies Department.
Canada has designated the Holodomor as a genocidal act and the Toronto-based Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Center has published 21 interviews with descendants of survivors translated into English.
“We continue to interview descendants of [Holodomor] survivors and are developing projects that will engage youth in documenting their invaluable family histories,” said Irka Mycak, who chairs the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) National Holodomor Awareness Committee.
Donated money from the Baszuckis who are of Ukrainian stock and trace their roots to the first immigrants who settled the western Canadian prairie provinces in the late 1800s, have already produced a French documentary film on the subject matter.
Called, Seeds of Hunger, the French co-producer says it will be screened at Ukrainian film festivals: in Kyiv and in the southwestern city of Chernivtsi in June.
In France, it won two awards at film festivals. One in 2022, at the Pessac History Film Festival, and this year at the Grand Prix of the International Documentary Festival known as FIPADAC.
“There have been screenings in Paris (Centre G. Pompidou, Forum des Images, Cinéma le Balzac) and one in the European Parliament, in the presence of European deputies and the Ukrainian deputy minister in charge of agriculture, Markiyan Dmytrasevych,” Mycak said. “We are now working on organizing another screening in the French Parliament.”
Reflecting on his family’s donation, Paul Baszucki said: “The Baszucki family is proud to support the work of HREC. It is our hope that by promoting greater understanding and public awareness of this genocidal famine, we can ensure that the history is widely known and help prevent future genocides.”
His son, David Baszucki, along with his spouse, have a made a point of donating millions of dollars to causes devoted to mental health research, Forbes magazine reported in May 2022.
Contributing to efforts for awareness-raising events in North America, together with Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and Kyiv-based National Institute of National Remembrance is Olya Soroka, from Chicago.
As a descendant of Holodomor survivors, she chairs the Holodomor Descendants Network as part of the Ukrainian World Congress, an international umbrella group advocating for Ukrainians worldwide.
“Our obligation as children and grandchildren of people who survived is to tell the story and make sure the world never forgets the atrocities committed toward Ukrainians,” Soroka told Kyiv Post.
The current war that Kremlin autocrat Vladimir Putin is waging against Ukraine mirrors the practices of the Kremlin dating to the 1700s “when Empress Catherine destroyed the Cossacks” up to today, through Moscow’s blockade of Ukrainian grain shipments that have contributed to worldwide spikes in food prices, she said.
There is evidence that Russia “has burned and mined agricultural fields, blocked Ukrainian grain [shipments]… extending famine beyond Ukraine’s borders,” Soroka said.
Thus, her network is gathering “testimonials and capturing family accounts of the Holodomor experience” to also “fight disinformation” and hopefully prevent “Putin from doing the same thing, trying to subjugate the Ukrainian nation, the same as Stalin’s totalitarian, Communist regime did.”
Soroka’s efforts this year will culminate on Nov. 3-5 in Washington, D.C. when an international Holodomor commemoration that will be held jointly organized by the Kyiv-based Holodomor Museum and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America’s Holodomor Awareness subcommittee.
A Polish-Jew in Lviv had a huge impact on international law, all the way up to the UN, by coining the term “genocide.”
Lawyer Raphael Lemkin was born in modern-day Belarus but began his studies in Lviv in 1919 when it was under Polish rule. He assisted a U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials of German Nazi war criminals after World War II.
“With his particular brand of perseverance, Lemkin managed to include the word ‘genocide’ in the indictment against the Nazi war criminals. This was the first instance of the charge of genocide in international law,” the nonprofit Ukrainian Jewish Encounter group says.
After completing his studies before the start of WWII, Lemkin would write how the Soviet-inflicted Holodomor was a component of genocide between 1926 and 1946.
He also tried getting the UN, created in the wake of WWII to prevent future wars and genocidal acts, to ensure that such crimes did not occur any more.
However, the Soviet Union, as a member of the UN’s Security Council, would water down Lemkin’s definition of genocide in the 1948 Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of Genocide.
Candle in Windows
US academician James Earnest Mace would be one of the first American researchers to take a scientific approach to documenting the millions of lives that the Kremlin destroyed in its ethnic cleansing campaign.
The Oklahoman of Cherokee Indian ancestry researched the manmade famine but was shunned in the 1980s through the 1990s by his peers and fellow professors who examined Ukraine through a Moscow prism.
Russia still denies committing genocide toward Ukrainians in the early 1930s and also now, in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine in war that is entering its 10th year.
In Kyiv, Mace lectured at the Kyiv-Mohyla National Academy and wrote columns for the Den (Day) newspaper.
Pictured in 1982 (from left) is Ukrainian historian Lyubomyr Haida, Bohdan Nahaylo, currently the chief editor of the Kyiv Post, and James Earnest Mace: Courtesy of Bohdan Nahaylo
He first started the tradition of symbolically honoring Holodmor victims by placing a candle in a window while urging the nation to do the same while addressing the Ukrainian parliament and “believed that this human action would be a call of generations, a tribute to the memory of the dead,” the Holodomor Museum writes.
It was Mace who started the all-Ukrainian tradition of symbolically honoring the Holodomor victims with a candle in the window. He believed that this human action would be a call of generations, a tribute to the memory of the dead.
A Ukrainian documentary about his life says Mace moved to Kyiv in 1993 and died prematurely in Ukraine at the age of 52.
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