Profiles in Courage

Survivors of the 1933 Famine - Genocide in Soviet Ukraine residing in Toronto. 

Maria Boshyk - Kyiv Province 

  • nine years old at the time of the Famine lost her mother and brother  Maria witnessed the death of half her village of 2,000 - a great majority of them children and young people. 
  • She was saved by a kind physician who placed her older sister and herself into a hospital. 
Benjamin Chmilenko - Sumy Province 
  • ten years old at the time of the Famine  lost grandfather  Out of 60 families in the khutir (farming community) where his family lived, 20% perished. 
  • He survived because his father successfully hid a bag of rye in a collaborator's yard whose property was not searched. Also, his family lived near a river and his father was an expert fisherman. Fishing was strictly forbidden but Benjamin and his father chose fishing times carefully and managed to evade the authorities. 
Pavlo Makohon - Dnipropetrovsk Province 
  • fourteen years old at the time of the Famine  out of a family of eight - five died of starvation: grandmother, three brothers and a sister.  "I witnessed my entire village become hell on earth." Out of 2,500, about 1,800 died of starvation. 
  • He survived by escaping to the city. There he met a boy who also escaped and whose entire village, Holodajivka, perished. This boy told Pavlo that if he wished to survived, he must learn how to steal food at the bazaar. Pavlo learned to steal. Having left his mother still alive, Pavlo returned with a bag of food and found his mother dying. He managed to revive her and save her from starvation. She lived to be 92 years old. ("Witness")
Valentyna Podasz - Dnipropetrovsk Province 
  • four years old at the time of the Famine  lost older sister, grandmother and two uncles  Her mother's entire village of Preobrazhenka (population 2,500) perished. It was blockaded.  She survived because her father worked at the railroad station and received 500 grams of bread per day which saved the family for about half a year. Later, a Jewish friend of the family secretly gave them potato and cucumber peelings, which saved them from starvation. 
      "The 1933 Famine-Genocide in Soviet  Ukraine was deliberately created by Stalin, his emissary Lazar Kaganovich and the Communist party to break the backbone of the Ukrainian nation - its farmers. Over 7 million perished. We must not remain silent. our youg people and future generations should be taught about this unprcedented covered-up genocide. I pray to God that it will not happen again anywhere in the world." 
      Valentyna Podasz interviewed on CTV, Toronto, October 4, 1998

Agnes Starostenko and George Starostenko - Dnipropetrovsk Province 
  • Agnes was 13 years old at the time of the Famine  George was 22 years old at the time of the Famine  Agnes' father died as a result of this Famine  Her village consisted of 3,000 households; an estimated two-thirds of the population were starved to death during the Famine. 
  • Agnes survived by doing menial work for food in less affected areas.