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Holodomor 90th anniversary: Ukraine remembers victims of genocidal famine amid genocidal war

This year’s anniversary feels more profound as soldiers shield Ukraine from the threat of new genocide. Yet, growing international Holodomor recognition gives hope for historical justice
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska and Ukrainian defenders are commemorating victims of Holodomor in Kyiv near the Holodomor memorial, 25 November 2023. Source: Office of the President
Holodomor 90th anniversary: Ukraine remembers victims of genocidal famine amid genocidal war

Traditionally, the last Saturday of November every year honors the victims of the Holodomor of 1932-33. 25 November this year. On this day, Ukrainians usually join the all-Ukrainian commemorative action, The Candles of Remembrance, at 4:00 pm, Kyiv time. They put a candle near the window and join the nationwide minute of silence.

A soldier warming himself near the trench candle.

Yet, this year’s commemoration has a slightly different association – a soldier on the frontline who lits his trench candle. This candle would serve not only for commemoration but also to warm the soldier. Its fire becomes a symbol of memory, warmth, and hope.

Light a memorial candle for those killed by hunger. Send warmth, stand next to those who are currently fighting so that this never happens again,” the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory wrote, commemorating Holodomor victims on 25 November 2023.

The institute released a symbolic video about this year’s commemoration:

Facts about Holodomor

Nearly 4 million starved to death in Ukraine during the Holodomor genocide in 1932-1933. The USSR attempted to cover it up, and Russia continues to deny it.

Holodomor: Stalin’s genocidal famine of 1932-1933 | Infographic

It was not a natural or all-USSR catastrophe, as some denialists try to portray “Soviet famine.” The famine targeted specifically Ukrainian-populated areas both in the Ukrainian USSR and in some Russian regions bordering contemporary Ukraine, such as Kuban, which was populated at nearly 60% by Ukrainians before Holodomor.

The famine indeed targeted not only Ukrainians but also some other non-Russian nations of the USSR, in particular Bashkirs and Kazakhs. The genocide of these peoples by hunger is commonly referred to as the Goloshchekin Genocide.

Stalin’s genocidal Holodomor campaign of 1932-33. What we know vs the denialist lies

The famine was orchestrated to target specifically Ukrainians because of their strongest opposition to USSR authorities. Nearly 5000 peasant revolts against Soviet authorities and collectivization happened in the years before Holodomor. Ukraine joined the USSR not voluntarily but because of its occupation by Bolsheviks in 1920.

Holodomor: Stalin’s punishment for 5,000 peasant revolts

The Holodomor was an artificial, man-made famine. There was enough food harvested in Ukraine. However, it was forcefully taken from people and collective farms and directed for exports. Export plans for food in 1932-1933 were overfulfilled by 30%.

The borders of Ukraine were closed, not allowing people to flee either to Soviet Russia or other neighboring states, where there was enough food. The infamous “law on five wheatears,” with the official title “Decree on the protection of property of state enterprises, collective farms, cooperatives and strengthening of public (socialist) property,” dated 7 August 1932, allowed Soviet authorities to execute people for stealing “socialist” property, even if it was a small portion of food from a collective farm.

2023 commemoration under a massive Russian air strike

At night before the Holodomor commemoration day, Russia launched a record number of 75 Iranian-designed Shakhed drones towards Kyiv, most of which were shot down by Ukraine’s air defense. Still, at least five people were wounded.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in the morning that this is “purposeful terror. Exactly at this time,” at night before the commemoration of the Holodomor genocide.

Just today, before this day of remembrance, such a terrorist attack means that Putin is proud to emulate the greatest murderers of the 20th century. If he could arrange another Holodomor in Ukraine, he would do it.

Then, delivering a speech about Holodomor recognition, Zelenskyy stressed that perpetrators of those crimes were not punished at their time the same way leaders of the Nazi regime were. That is why unpunished evil continues itself in contemporary Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The ideologues, organizers, and perpetrators of those crimes have not been held accountable or punished fairly during their lifetime. But this does not mean that we should forgive and forget. Today, the names and biographies of all the perpetrators must be brought to justice. And they bear the punishment of shame, the stigma of their role in world history, the truth that everyone on the planet should know. The truth that today is the least that can be done to honor the millions of victims,” Zelenskyy said.

He began his speech by speaking about the cold of late November, which, regardless of the weather and our location, fills people’s hearts in remembrance of those dark days and crimes that are unforgiven:

With coldness in our hearts, we are all united by a tragic date – the fourth Saturday of November. The Holodomor Remembrance Day. When we feel great pain and anger at the same time, as it is impossible to forget, understand, and especially forgive the horrific crimes of genocide that the Ukrainian people experienced in the XX century.

Grain from Ukraine summit on the Holodomor anniversary and military ships to protect Ukraine’s grain corridor from Russia

On the day of the Holodomor commemoration on 25 November 2023, several European parliamentary speakers and representatives from other countries visited the summit Grain from Ukraine in Kyiv to discuss further export of food from Ukraine to the world by sea lanes. Russia tried to cut them numerous times: first by controlling the sea terrain and after losing this control in 2023 by targeting Ukraine’s port infrastructure and grain terminals with air strikes.

Despite Russian attacks, on 13 November 2023, the 100th ship with food products from Ukraine departed from Ukraine’s Odesa seaports through the Ukrainian grain corridor. Further protection from the sky and sea is needed to ensure stable trade at the necessary volume.

Russia’s “unprecedented” Ukrainian grain theft premeditated war crime, legal report suggests

In particular, speakers and representatives of the parliaments of Belgium, Ireland, Finland, the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, and other countries participated in the Grain from Ukraine summit. Also, they took part in a special meeting of Ukraine’s Parliament on 25 November 2023.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, answering the questions at the summit, said that Ukraine considers the creation of a grain corridor without Russia one of the biggest achievements of the year and is also working to ensure the safety of ships traveling through this corridor.

Zelenskyy also said they have agreed with partners to provide military ships that will patrol Ukraine’s sea trade line, strengthening world food security.

“We agreed with our partners that we will accompany the [trade] ships at sea to guarantee their safety. We already have specific agreements on receiving [military] ships. This is a matter of the near future,” Zelenskyy said.

32 countries recognized Holodomor as genocide

Today, 32 countries have officially recognized Holodomor as genocide. In 1993, Estonia and Australia were the first to recognize it officially. Then Canada, Hungary, Vatican City, Lithuania, Georgia, and Poland followed. After them, Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico. Portugal and the United States of America.

The new wave of Holodomor recognition happened after the beginning of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Brazil, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, Iceland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, as well as The European Union and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recognized Holodomor as genocide in the last two years. Also, 55 states signed the Ukraine-initiated Declaration commemorating the tragic 90th anniversary of the Holodomor in the United Nations in 2023.

Many leaders and ambassadors of European countries honored the memory of millions of victims of the Holodomor of 1932-1933 this year.

Today, we remember the millions of children, women & men starved to death during the Holodomor genocide. 90 years later, Russia is again weaponising food as it pursues with its aggression of Ukraine. We must do everything to stop the atrocities. We continue to Stand With Ukraine,wrote President of European Parliament Roberta Metsola.

US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said in her video message that In memory of the millions of innocent Ukrainians who died during the Holodomor, the US stands with Ukraine “today and every day.”

Russia’s war with its gravest imaginable crimes isn’t the first attempt to erase Ukrainian nation from the face of Earth,” she highlighted.

President of the Republic of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs also honored Holodomor’s victims near the memorial in Kyiv.

Russia again is committing full-scale genocide in Ukraine. We must defeat Stalin’s successors in order to avoid such tragedies in the future,” he stressed.

Ambassadors of Germany, the UK, France, and other countries also paid tribute to Holodomor victims in Kyiv.

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