25 Feb 2022

Photography:

Holodomor

If you need a place where to meditate or focus on what is happening to the people of Ukraine, you can walk over to the southwestern corner of North Capitol and F Streets NW, where the Holodomor Genocide Awareness memorial is located.

All photos by María Helena Carey

As of this morning, there were a few bouquets let behind, adorning the memorial, all of them bearing the national colors of Ukraine, blue and gold. The colors of the Ukranian flag symbolize blue skies over a field of golden wheat, as Ukraine has been referred to as “the breadbasket of Europe.”

A ribbon bearing the national colors of Ukraine, tied around the dash that separates the years the Holodomor genocide spanned, 1932 to 1933. (MHC)

The Holodomor memorial marks the systematic starvation of the Ukrainian people by Stalin and Soviet Russia during the years 1932 to 1933, when the country had recently been annexed to the Soviet Union. Holodomor means “murder by starvation” in Ukranian.

The caption, both in English an Ukrainian (MHC)

From the site, which is maintained by the U.S. Committee for Ukranian Holomodor-Genocide Awareness, we learn the following,

Stalin orchestrated the Holodomor on the heels of his policy of collectivization. Under this policy, all privately owned land was expropriated, and farmers were forced into collective farms. More than one million farmers who resisted collectivization were removed from their homes, stripped of their possessions, and executed or exiled to distant labor camps. The government imposed exorbitant grain quotas on the collective farms and confiscated all foodstuffs to ensure that nothing would be left to feed the people. Armed units surrounded the stricken territories, preventing people from leaving in search of food. Those who tried to flee were forced back to their homes, where they inevitably died. Those who attempted to hide grain or other food were executed. Withholding or stealing grain, considered the “property” of the Soviet Union, became a crime punishable by death.

The deceptively simple design of the monument is a field of wheat– a national symbol of the country. As you walk along, the wheat stops looking lush and recesses, becoming a faint print– a symbol of the starvation that killed almost 4 million ethnic Ukrainians in a year. (MHC)
A detail of the wheat, with a few tokens left in the distance. (MHC)

Though the murder famine is a painful chapter in the lives of Ukrainian people, there is active disinformation denying this terrible tragedy ever happened– most notably, New York Times’ reporter Walter Duranty’s, whose Pulitzer-prize winning reportage in the 1930s turned out to be Stalinist propaganda.


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