Seventy-eight years ago, a famine killed (according to various estimates) between seven to 10 million people in Ukraine. A memorial was put up for the victims of the Holdomor in Kiev. The gloomy atmosphere in the place provides a haunting – yet interesting backdrop for lomographs.
After studying archival documents, historians have argued that the famine was deliberately created by Stalin’s regime, including the suppression of the Ukrainian national liberation movement. This extinction in Ukraine occurred in its apogee at least three times: in 1921, 1932-33, 1946-47. According to various estimates these events claimed the lives of 10 to 15 million locals. The famine of 1932-1933, became the biggest tragedy of Ukraine in its long history.
According to historians, the famine in 1932-1933, called the “Great Famine” was artificially provoked. In the Autumn of 1931, Stalin ordered to have the rich grain fields of Ukrainian peasants be confiscated. According to the state, the delivered grain crops did not meet the standards that were set and so in 1932 the famine began and continued on until harvest time in 1933. The artificially-created famine went on mainly due to information blockade: as Ukraine was kept in isolation, no news of what was happening ever got out. The road on which the peasants tried to reach the other cities were inaccessible and hungry people were not allowed to go outside the villages. Soldiers of the OGPU (secret police forces) surrounded the human settlements and started shoveling grain and in early March 1933, deaths from starvation went up to a massive scale. Mortality rates in different regions of Ukraine ranged from 10% to 100%.
In November 2006, Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko has signed the Law on the Holodomor of 1932-1933, which the Verkhovna Rada adopted in Ukraine. To commemorate this, a memorial, called “Candle of Memory” was put up in the Park of Glory in November 22, 2008. Local artist Anatoly Gaydamak was the brains behind this project. The “Candle of Memory”, is a 32-foot concrete chapel, made in the form of a white candle with a gilded filigree flame. The edge of the candles are decorated with ornaments from the windows, which are reminiscent of Ukrainian embroidery. At the front of the memorial is a mini square surrounded by a perimeter of 24 millstones, representing the 24,000 human lives, which were lost due to the famine. In the underground memorial, situated at the museum hall is where they keep the martyrology and where you can view pictures and documentaries about the tragedy.
My personal experience of visiting the memorial was both sad and exciting at the same time. As an ethnic Ukrainian, living in Russia, I was the least bit surprised when I saw 12 of my namesakes among the victims of the famine in the martyrlogy book. All were originally from my grandfather’s village, they were my relatives.