In Memory of the Victims of the Famine

T. Khokhitva

(50th anniversary address, delivered at a number of Ukrainian community meetings
in southern Florida)


My fellows in grief:

We are gathered here today to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the greatest horror that has ever befallen our fatherland, Ukraine: the fiftieth anniversary of a famine, artificially created by our enemy and occupier, communist Moscow. No one knows and no one will ever find out exactly how many million children, women, old men and youths in their prime, died of starvation in 1933.

There was only one crime any of those who died, or of those who survived great suffering, had committed: THEY WERE ALL UKRAINIANS.

Let us pay our respects to their memory and observe one minute of silence.

During the years that followed the murder of our people by artificial famine, much has been written about it in the diaspora. However, for some reason, little has been written about the things that preceded it: the collectivization of the countryside and the attendant "dekulakization" campaign; the physical destruction of the best elements among our peasantry; the destruction of our strongest institutions that preserved our national culture, Orthodox faith, tradition, and customs.

This appalling murder was diabolically planned by the communist government of Moscow, then brought into being when an entire army of 25,000 bloodthirsty sadism was sent into Ukraine during the periods of grain consignment and collectivization. They controlled the local communism and Komsomol members, who, in order to demonstrate their loyalty to the Communist Party, murdered their own brothers. Once these janissaries had been exploited to the fullest to further the shameful ends of their communist rulers, they fell to the same famine that claimed their victims.

In order to grasp the details surrounding this matter more fully, I will allow myself to go further back in time to explain the significance of certain events connected with the plans of communist Moscow.

Having vanquished armed resistance and having occupied Ukraine, communist Moscow proceeded to pillage it, particularly for food. At the time, Lenin instructed Russians thus: "You want bread? Take up your weapons and go to Ukraine. There you'll find bread, butter, fat and sugar..." And so it was: an armed Russia invaded Ukraine looking for bread. Nevertheless, Ukraine began to rise from the ruins: agriculture began to develop; a policy of Ukrainianization unfolded, and placed the native language back into schools and institutions; the youth threw itself into learning; the intelligentsia fostered national consciousness, a will to live under the sun, and a sense of equality among other nations of the world, in the people.

This development made the ruling Russian elite anxious, because it feared the potentially threatening consequences. This growth had to be checked as soon as possible, the hardies brought to heel, and the people frightened and demoralized. The free Ukrainian spirit had to be broken.

Everyone knows that Moscow's actions are not only planned in advance, but also well camouflaged. Thus it was in this instance. As long as the communist rulers did not feel secure and strong enough, in the aftermath of the civil war, the Red Russian government put the so-called New Economic Policy (NEP) in place. This policy allowed all walks of society to use their own initiative. This resulted in economic growth in Ukraine, including significant development of agriculture. However, this did not last long, because already by the end of the 1920s, the communist government promulgated a law that called for the collectivization of all agriculture in the Soviet Union. The Ukrainian peasantry, particularly the middle and wealthier peasants, protested against it, since it was completely incompatible with the ways of the Ukrainian farmer. Although this protest was mostly silent, in the face of a massive terror instituted by the Communist government, nevertheless, the authorities sensed it and levelled the blame on the wealthier class of peasants, calling them kurkuli or "kulaks." They were proclaimed the enemies of Soviet rule, which in those days, was equivalent to outlawing an entire stratum of the Ukrainian peasantry.

Obviously, the plans the ruling communist elite in Moscow did not stop at the conversion of the free Ukrainian farmers into serfs of the collective farms. They were long term plans designed to industrialize the Soviet empire. In those days, as the Red Russian rulers began the conversion of their empire from agriculture to industry, they needed to buy machinery, technology and weaponry from the Western world because Russia did not have them. They paid for them in gold; in grain or in other agricultural products; in timber. To get at gold or timber, a cheap labour force is necessary to mine and smelt the former and fell the latter. The cheap labour came to be the Ukrainian farmers they tore from their beloved traditional work, and sent them to the far north to work in mines and taigas, to the Urals, Siberia or the Far East.

However, the main export the Soviet rulers counted on to trade with the Western nations was groin. Thus, the struggle for control of production between the farmers and the state was the fiercest of all. This struggle was related to collectivization and to the "liquidation of the kulak as a class." It was groin that decided the prestige of the new communist empire before the Western world, and thus the struggle over it was to the death: either we seize the grain from the farmer and we fortify our position, or the farmer will overcome and we will perish.

Throughout the 1920s, every peasant dispensed with his land as he chose. If he chose to sell his grain in the fall, he did. If he chose to sell his grain in winter, so he did. If he wanted to hold out until spring in order to raise the price of it, he could. However, in 1929, the government issued a law requiring every farmer to sell their grain to the authorities immediately after the harvest. Every farmer had to sell them a quantity of grain pre-set by the government. The wealthier farms were required to sell progressively greater quantities. In 1930, this resulted in a situation wherein the government demanded more grain than had been harvested. When the wealthier peasants were unable to hand over the norm, they were declared "enemies of the state;' and fines were levied on them that exceeded the value of their estates.

Obviously, no one could pay these fines, and so their farms were sold by auction to cover the costs. Everything was sold: the houses, all barns and other structures, machines, combines, horses, cows, sheep, farm implements, and so forth. These assets were ostensibly "bought" by the collective farms, but actually, this was mere robbery, because the former owner received no payment whatsoever for his property. It was simply recorded that the collective farm obtained such and such an item or estate for such and such a price. During such a "sale;' rural activists (communists and Komsomol members) took everything from the farmer: flour, grains, potatoes, beans, peas, and even baked bread, clothing and shoes. Such was communist morality.

This was the procedure of state grain consignment and collectivization. Some of the middle-income peasantry and rural craftsmen, such as blacksmiths and tanners, who rebelled most openly against the slavery of the collective farm, were deported out of the district, or even province, and their property was seized by the collective farm. Such was the terror of communist arbitrary rule.

In this fashion, the prosperous peasantry was destroyed; the middle income peasant was annihilated and coerced onto the collective farms. These collectives were run, by and large, by incompetent, but Party faithful, paupers. Could one expect any production from an untried and unheard of collective system of agriculture that was directed not by the skill and knowledge of a farmer, but by a Party directive? The ensuing events proved similar to the Biblical story about the thin and fat cows. "Seven thin cows were grazing by the sea, when seven fattened cows came out of the waters. The thin cows threw themselves upon the fattened, and ate them, and yet they did not still their hunger." And so it was in our country: the poor fell on the rich and ate them, and did not still their hunger. These poor peasants were herded into collective farms by the authorities after being deprived of all other means of survival.

Perhaps for the benefit of the "human eye" abroad, the "liquidation of the kulak as a class" was announced. This was a program that was to degrade the wealthy to the position of the poor and middle-income peasant, and to render him incapable of gaining wealth again. The wealthier farmers were to be degraded by nationalizing their assets as property of a collective farm, and then forcing them to work on it, a socialist enterprise, and not a capitalistic-landowning one.

In practice however, this was not a degradation, but simply the physical ruination of the ablest workers of the soil. It was a simple destruction of these workers and their families. How else are we to describe the groundless arrests; the absurd false accusations; the wholesale expulsions of families from their homes, children, elderly and the infirm included; the deportation of the virtually naked, unshod, and hungry to the distant north to the taiga and tundra?

Thus, since the most productive farmers were liquidated, the collective farm did not acquit itself well in the role of producer of grain. Not only did the yields of the harvest diminish because of incompetent agricultural practices, but there were also shortages of labour in agriculture because of the deportation of the "kurkuli" and their families. The boastful communist clique of the Soviet Union, obviously, paid no mind to this, and continued to demand grain from Ukrainian farmers in quantities it was impossible for them to produce. Then, the authorities instituted the cruellest of measures: the forcible collection of grain, not only from those remaining peasants who were not members of collective farms, but even from those who were. This banditry was so barbaric that words fail to describe its inhumanity. Those who carried it out were more akin to beasts than to people.

Thus it was that, in late 1932 and early 1933, the rural population had no food left at all. It was winter time, and all of the cats and dogs in the villages had been eaten. Some tried to catch wild birds or boars; others tried eating bare cobs of corn; still others tried boiling rotted briars (nettles and pigweed, but this could save no one. People began swelling up and dying of hunger. There were even instances of cannibalism. Whoever could still move fled to the cities to try to find any sort of food. However, entry or exit from the city, (by peasants in particular) was strictly controlled by the police. They allowed no food to be taken out of the city. Many rural mothers would take their children to the city and leave them in the streets, with the hope that someone would find them and not allow them to die...

The horror of the famine shook everyone, but the communist government not only failed to come to the aid of the dying Ukrainian peasants, in fact, it did just the opposite: it prohibited all cities to provide assistance to the rural population. The city, they claimed, had a certain allotment of food that was to be dispensed to workers and functionaries according to ration cards. Party and government officials were fed in canteens that were closed to the public.

The bodies of those who died in the famine lay in houses and in the village streets for weeks. The bodies found in the cities were regularly picked up by trucks that went about their rounds and then drove their cargo out of city limits and dumped it in mass pits.

In order to conceal this horror from the eyes of the outside world, the government severely punished those who dared to speak of it. And yet, the West did know about the famine, and silently continued its bloody trade with cannibals. This we know from local sources, who bear witness to the fact that there were a few humane people who tried to tell the world the truth about the famine in Ukraine. However, "the satiated did not believe the starving."

In his book, The Second Worm War, (vol. 4, chap. 25) Winston Churchill wrote that, in a conversation with Stalin, on 15 August 1942, he asked the latter if he could compare the losses sustained in the war to those sustained in the famine associated with collectivization in 1932-33. Stalin replied: "It truly was a horror. It lasted for years. However, it had been absolutely necessary in order that new machines appear in our factories, and new tractors appear in our fields." Stalin's reply to Churchill proves irrefutably that the famine in Ukraine of 1932-33 was a consciously perpetrated genocide.

Also, it is obvious that the West knew about the events that ensued as a result of communist rule in Ukraine. The world knew and remained silent. Why? It was not an elemental famine, it was the mass murder of millions of innocent people. Can it be that throughout the entire world of the powerful there was not a single person with a humane heart? Where were the Christian, and other Churches and religious organizations whose main tenets include humane morality and brotherly love? Nobody expected any kind of military intervention on the part of the West, and yet common sense would dictate that such events should have elicited some kind of reservations to the modern idea of Marxist communism among people of sound mind. And yet, this did not occur. In the West, for 60 years nobody wanted to either see or hear about the terrible truth about the system that threatened and still threatens, not only the Western world, but the entire human civilization, as it plays with nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, our people died in terrible anguish. No one conducted services for the dead, they were simply thrown into collective pits, worse than if they had been cattle. Millions of corpses covered not only the lands of Ukraine, but also the furthest reaches of the Soviet empire. None of them moved the heartless devils. They triumphed and celebrated their conquest of the Ukrainian worker.

Nobody knows the real reason that led the communist clique in the Soviet Union Of the day to perpetrate such an unparalleled crime. It is a crime that even today, the rulers fear speaking of out loud. At the time, the Russian communist clique blamed Ukrainian nationalism for the opposition to grain consignments and collectivization. And yet, it was conceived of by the same communists who sought to justify the annihilation of the Ukrainian intelligentsia, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and all Ukrainian nationally conscious elements.

When I speak of these things here in North America, then Americans and Canadians simply shrug their shoulders, unable to believe that such a thing could have occurred in this twentieth century -- the age of such advancement in human civilization, such development in human thought. They cannot believe, because an individual from the West cannot grasp how it could be that six or seven million people died in peacetime. Perhaps they cannot conceive of it because they have not lived through it themselves.

However, we will not sink into despair, because evil cannot always overcome, and in some matters, even the mightiest Red Russian rulers are weak." They can abase the body, deaden it with the most horrifying tortures, but they cannot kill the spirit of the people. It lives and will always live.

The spirit of millions of our martyred brothers and sisters remains with us, awakens our conscience, calls upon us not to fall into apathy and not to give in to despair.

Their shadows beg us to pass their memory on to our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, in order that they carry the memory of that great misfortune to our heirs. Let the memory be carried on until our land is flee, and a majestic monument with bloody words of warning upon it is erected. Let these words of warning be such that never again could anything of such nature happen anywhere.

February 1983