Gariwo: the gardens of the Righteous

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A Genocide of Hunger

The “Grand Famine” (Holodomor in Ukrainian means “ to inflict death through hunger”), organized intentionally by the Soviet regime, struck Ukraine from 1932-1933. According to research, the regions most affected by the famine were what is today known as Poltava, Sumy, Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Kiev, and Zhytomyr, which contributed to 52.8% of the famine’s victims. In reality Holomodor affected all of Central, South, East, and North Ukraine. The population of Ukraine in 1932 was 32,680,000 people; diverse sources have estimated the number of victims with values that range from 4.5 to 6 or 7 million. Journalist Paolo Rumiz says that “almost six million died from starvation in only Ukraine” that is “25 thousand a day,” “17 a minute”, specifying that “one out of three deaths were children or babies”. Andrej Gregorovich, an Ukrainian-American, speaks of the death of 7 million Ukrainians; he mentions the statement of Stalin to Churchill, according to which the dead in four years of collectivization were 10 million; Gregorovich confirms that “prudent assessments” said the dead were around 4.8 million, while “many studies re-confirmed” the estimated number of deaths to be between 5 and 8 million. In the Black Book of Communism, Nicolas Werth talks about “over 6 million victims” (pg.147), as does Giovanni Gozzini in his volume dedicated to illustrate Gulag (the Soviet institution responsible for operating forced labor camps). Deaths from the labor camp system in the USSR “the most recent estimates, accurately conducted by official demographic sources, value that between 4 and 6 million deaths were the fruit of the famine, which was used as an instrument to normalize the structure of classes in the country” (pg.46), says the research of S.G.Wheatcroft and also citing the research gathered by A. Graziosi in Letters from Krakow. The famine in Ukraine and the North Caucaus in reports of Italian Diplomats from 1932-1933. The census of 1933 compared to the census of 1926 shows that the population of the USSR increased by 15.7%, however it fell in Ukraine by 9.9%. The archives of the era, accessible only for a small amount of time, testify to the intentional exploitation of the famine by the Soviet regime in order to damage the peasantry in the new design of “engineered socialism” (cfr. G. Gozzini, Gulag. The system of Labor Camps in the USSR, p.49). Keeping the truth secret, the soviet regime wanted to escape their rightful blame.

Today, no doubts remain that the Holomodor was an act of genocide, which resulted from political decisions of Stalin’s totalitarian regime, to suppress the Ukrainian people. Recently Ukraine has revealed numerous well-known documents from archives of ex-KGB that show the objectives and mechanisms, used by politicians, which sent millions of Ukrainians to their deaths. In many countries around the world there were undisclosed publications and research, like in the archives of Gran Bretagna, Italiy, France etc, which testify that in the case of Ukraine and neighboring regions hunger has been provoked permanently. 

Certainly the responsibility for what happened is attributed to the complex Stalinist regime with its punitive branch. Because of the fulfillment of repressive measures, such as: the introduction of enormous shares of harvested grain designated to stockpiles (requisition of the State); the seizure of all foodstuffs; rationing the sale of foodstuffs; the deployment of internal troops, and the restriction of the starving people to marry in other region of the USSR in search of food; the Ukrainian population was made prisoner in enormous ghettos, in which it was impossible to survive. By August 7th, 1932 in the USSR the property collective was dictated “sacred and secure” in a way on which whoever-including children-committed a theft or offense to “socialist property”  (such as harvesting and hiding wheat/grain for ones children who were dying of hunger), or “wasted,” would be accused and serve a sentence between ten years in labor camps and the death penalty. The shares designated for the stockpiles (for the city and exports) had absolute prices that could not be reduced for any reason; those constraints on Ukraine were unbearable (in July 1932 45% of harvested grain was demanded and gathered up, in November a second requisition was announced and in January 1933 a third). December 6, 1932, in a bulletin from the Political Office on local authority, Ukrainian villages were accused of not supplying their fixed shares and were subjected to the following sanctions: banned from all provisions (of goods and of food), forced requisitions, banned from all trade, confiscation of every financial resource; all of their available grain was ransacked, including grain for sowing.  

On December 27, 1932 the obligatory “passport” was imposed, the passport designated internal movements in order to stop desperate escapes to the zones not struck by the famine. On January 22, 1933 another bulletin, signed by Stalin at Molotov, prevented every method of transportation (by the suspension of selling train tickets and blocking streets) to the Ukrainian peasants and of the Northern Caucasus to escape from districts where there was not anything left to eat. 

A quarter of the rural population, including men, women, and children, were annihilated by hunger. Often corpses were left on the street and their relatives, also at the end of their life, did not have the strength to bury them. Although in 1933 the Soviet government exported 18 million kilograms of grain and other products, they continued to officially ignore the famine. On March 15, 1933 the distribution of grain was suspended and in April peasants took grain from army depots in villages.  The peasants’ stolen grain would help them in sowing and gathering seeds that, finally, would put an end to the nightmare. The bulletin of the Politburo on December 27, 1932 explained that the objective of the internal passport was “to liquidate the parasite of socialism and to combat the infiltration of Kulak’s in cities”, while the bulletin of January 22, 1933 signed by Stalin in Molotov, referred to “the stop of counter-revolutions” and explained that “The Central Committee and government had the task of stopping the migration of peasants in mass [to the cities in order to escape the famine] organized by the enemies of the Soviet government, by counter-revolutionaries and Polish agents, the purpose of propaganda against the kolkhosiano system in particular and the soviet government in general” (p. 152 The Black Book of Communism).

On May 6th, 1933 Stalin responding with these words to the request of writer Mihail Solohov to send foodstuffs to the exhausted population: “...the respected farmers of his district, and not only his, have led protests and sabotages, and were ready to leave workers and the Red Army without bread! The fact that one commits a silent sabotage yet appears loyal and peaceful (without bloodshed) is a fact that does not change anything about the affair, those respected farmers have searched for a way to depose Soviet power. Causing themselves war with a vengeance, dear Slovak companion!” (p. 154, The Black Book of Communism). 

The famine determined to, together with the annihilation of peasants, exterminate the Ukrainian cultural elites and religious and intellectual Ukrainians, all of the categories considered “enemies to socialism”. 

On November 29, 2006 Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenk signed a law that defines the Holomodor as an event provoked based on, and then exploited by, precise and provable political decision. The law proclaimed the fourth Saturday of November as a Day of Remembrance in order to commemorate the innocent victims.

On October 23, 2008 the European Parliament approved a resolution condemning the Holomodor as  “appalling crimes against the Ukrainian population and against humanity”. 

In the month of November 2008 the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Patriarch of Moscow defined the Holomodor as an act of genocide. In fact, the Holomodor was recognized as an act of genocide by the governments of: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Estonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungry, and the United States.

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