Holodomor Booklet by Fr. Jeffrey Stephaniuk
Collective Farms, Common Graves:
A Famine Lament
About the Man-Made Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933
(The fourth Saturday in November in each year is declared to be “Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day”- Bill No. 40 Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan
Whatever else I may do or think in the future, I must never pretend that I haven’t seen this.”
Malcolm Muggeridge, Winter in Moscow
I have undertaken what can only be described as a daunting task, namely, to reflect as a priest on the Holodomor. Initially, I feel alone in the task. It’s as if I were the only person alive in an abandoned Ukrain- ian village near Chernihiv or near Kharkiv or thou-sands of other villages south from Kyiv to Odesa. The fields are overgrown with weeds, the entrances to di- lapidated houses are gaping and foreboding, the doors and anything wooden long since burned as firewood. The farmers are gone but the houses them- selves seem to cry out for food. The world around me has collapsed in the manner of one who has had a nervous breakdown and has the strength to control neither the muscles nor functions of the body. It is a weight, and a burden born of denial and deceit.
The weight is only compounded by the famine deni- ers, who began during the era of famine itself to dis- pute the agonizing claims of death by starvation. For example, when efforts were made by individuals such as teachers to form even the most basic humanitari- an response to the famine, those who made such at- tempts were themselves arrested and exiled for spreading rumours of a famine that did not officially ex- ist. Further, something of an admiration for Stalin was found behind Western skepticism about the famine, ex- pressed even from the pulpit.
Ian Hunter, in a biography on the journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, describes a high-ranking priest from the Church of England who praised Stalin for his “steady purpose and kindly generosity.” There’s no danger of such sermons being preached by a Ukrainian priest. Af- ter all, when the people in our congregations speak of Stalin as having died, they don’t even use the Ukrainian word ‘pomer’ which would indicate that a human has died; instead they use the word ‘zdokh’, which is the Ukrainian word used to say that an animal has died.
Yet, this weight I feel is categorically different from what Stalin had in mind with his “Dizzy With Success” article of 1930, when he called for a time out to the pace of com- munism in the Soviet Union. It was a trick, of course, to flush out the opponents of collectivization. Rather than feeling dizzy, I am feeling breathless with the burden of remembrance for the ten million lives counted as lost from famine, execution, or deportation to Siberia.
A panic attack is like this: you wake up in the middle of the night, convinced of the imminent approach of death; the heart races, the chest feels heavy, and you are certain the end of the world is near. The only remedy for this intellectual panic attack is to seek the company of others for reassurance that the rumours of famine were true, that the eye-witness accounts likewise are true and can be corroborated, and that Malcolm Muggeridge was a journalist of integrity while Walter Duranty was not.