Telling the world about the Holodomor
Telling the world about the Holodomor

Telling the world about the Holodomor

18:52, 21 August 2006
14 min. 4123

No government really listened to the horrible cries of Ukrainians in 1932-1933, no one intervened to stop the murder of millions of Ukrainians, no one was allowed by the Soviet communist government to come to the assistance of the 33,000 Ukrainians who were being starved to a terrible death every day in 1933.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in this Holodomor Roundtable.

First I wish to pay my respects and tribute to Dr. James Mace and his work regarding the Holodomor  in Soviet Ukraine.  It does not seem possible that we are having a meeting of this type in Kyiv without Jim being here and contributing.

It is very important that Jim`s work be rememembered and continued by those around this table.  Corrupt politicians and corrupt political systems that caused the human spirit to wither and crushed the life out of millions of people must always be in the forefront of our research and  memory.

Our knowledge of such inhumane and destructive people and systems in the past must always cause us to stand up and defend freedom and democracy and fight against modern politicians and political systems that crush the human spirit and destroy human lives.

I told Jim several years ago that I was not a researcher, scholar or writer. He said Morgan then your job should be to "tell the world about the Holodomor."

After some study I decided my work would be to assist in telling Ukraine and the world about the Holodomor `through the eyes of Ukrainian artists.` I have now been working on this task for ten years and expect to be doing this for many years to come.

                            PRESIDENT YUSHCHENKO

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko long has had a deep personal interest in Ukrainian history and has been one of the leading advocates of telling Ukrainians the truth about what happened here in 1932-1933 and telling the world about the Holodomor.

On several occasions before and during his presidency Yushchenko has called upon the people and government of Ukraine, and on Ukrainians and Ukrainian organizations around the world to join together in new ways to spread the word.

President Yushchenko has said the government of Ukraine should take the lead to make this happen in Ukraine and also take the lead world-wide through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ukrainian Embassies.

Most importantly, the President has said that he wants to see this happen during the 75th Memorial Commemoration of the Holodomor in the years 2007-2008 for the millions who died and the millions more who suffered great losses and in someway survived this unbelievable tragedy.


It is now August 2006, and the beginning of the 75th Memorial Commemoration of the Holodomor is just months away. Now is the time for the Government of Ukraine to finalize the development of concrete programs and actions and see that those programs are implemented in a timely and effective manner to produce concrete results.

There have been far too many starts and stops, ups and downs, backward and forward movements in the efforts of the Ukrainian government over the years and also in the last eighteen months.

I will list some of the top priorities for action as my colleagues around the world and I see them. This list is in no way exhaustive and will mainly focus on the strong leadership needed at this time from the government and people of Ukraine.


President Yushchenko has announced on several occasions he wantsthe government to build a world-class Holodomor historical and research complex in Kyiv by the fall of 2008. The President has indicated this is a top priority for him during his tenure as President.

The President in his speech to the IV World Forum of Ukrainians yesterday at the Ukrainian Palace again stated he would make sure such a monument (complex) is built.  He said the monument would be appropriate to the level of the tragedy.

The historical complex we recommend would include a research center for scholars, library, large exhibition hall, museum, monument, chapel, archive and document center, conference rooms, bookstore, family research center, memorial gallery for victims, memorial gallery for survivors, and other key facilities, such as those found in the leading historical centers around the world.

All of the people I work with internationally strongly support this concept and believe it is the number one priority in the new and expanded program to tell the world about the Holodomor.

We urge the President, Cabinet of Ministers and the Parliament to move forward rapidly with this project.  The design and implementation of the complex should meet world-class standards and be the type of institution that will support scholars, researchers, artists, students, historians, political scientists, survivors and families of victims and draw millions of visitors from around the globe.

The major concept most interested parties support is one where the Holodomor Complex would be a separate, stand-alone entity, and not one combined with another facility or organization that covers other historical, or repression events or other periods in Ukrainian history.

I believe there have been at least four competitions in Ukraine during the past six years for such a complex, and I have been told that another one is going on at the present time between the four finalists of the last competition. There also have been many discussions about where to build such a complex.

Now there is also considerable confusion about the `Institute of Memory` recently created by the Cabinet of Ministers and what exactly its agenda will be.  There is confusion about exactly how the Holodomor historical complex would interface with the `Institute of Memory.`

There is also no clear picture as to how such a complex would be paid for.  Most people I visit with who understand the Ukraine government say it is fine to make such plans but there are no funds to pay for such a complex.

Does the President have an agreement with Prime Minister Yanukovych and Speaker of the Parliament Moroz to support and pass the legislation needed to provide the necessary funds for a world-class historical complex?

The President of Ukraine needs to follow-through  immediately on his announced Holodomor program and use the full powers of his office to make a Holodomor Historical Complex in Kyiv a reality in the near future.

We feel that if such a complex is not built while Viktor Yushchenko is president there is a strong possibility one will never be built.  At least a real opportunity and many years will be lost, once again.

We call upon the President to make this project one of his top priorities today, to issue the appropriate decrees and orders, to negotiate the necessary agreements with the political leadership, and to move the building of a Holodomor Memorial Historical Complex in Kyiv forward immediately to completion.

The building of such a complex would provide important momentum and drive to all of the Holodomor commemoration efforts around the world.  We do not need more speeches, we do not need more promises, only real action is needed.


There will be many opportunities for officials of the government of Ukraine and others to give presentations about the Holodomor during 2007-2008.  Most of the research, writings and personal stories used for such presentations now comes from books published 20 years ago or more outside of Ukraine.

The personal and historical material in these books was obtained largely from sources outside the Soviet Union and from Ukrainians who left Ukraine. This work was badly needed, provided the world with real information  about the major tragedy, and will always serve as a strong basis for future scholarship.

An online briefing book needs to be developed during 2006 that outlines the basic facts and story of the history of the Holodomor written mostly by a group of researchers and scholars who have lived and worked in Ukraine most of their professional career.  This briefing book should be published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

There has been considerable research and publications about the Holodomor in Ukraine since 1988 and many personal stories have been documented from witnesses who lived in Ukraine.  This information needs to be added to the body of knowledge that was developed previously outside Ukraine and made available to the world in multiple languages.

Many times officials of the government of Ukraine give out very different and conflicting information about the Holodomor.  Officials need to be able to access the key information quickly and easily. This tragic event is also called by many different names and all of this only adds to the difficulty of telling the world about the Holodomor.


President Yushchenko has stated many times that he wants the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through their activities and their Embassies to substantially increase their work during 2007-2008 to tell the real story of the Holodomor.

The Ambassadors` and staff of the Ukrainian Embassies need additional resources and materials to assist them in their work to carry out the directive of President Yushchenko.

One idea is to take seventy or more of the political-type posters from Holodomor poster art (created mostly by Ukrainian artists living in Ukraine) and a few other important artworks and reproduce them in high quality images the size of a normal poster.

The reproduced images can be encased in very durable plastic sleeves with rings in the top two corners for easy hanging.  Each complete set can be rolled up together for easy handling and shipping.

Sets the Holodomor posters could be shipped to each Embassy with copies of a small brochure about the Exhibition posters.

This will allow each Embassy to easily hold a Holodomor Exhibition themselves and also to loan the materials to a wide variety of organizations that would like to sponsor a Holodomor exhibition during 2007-2008. This program will provide an effective tool so that many smaller Holodomor educational exhibitions can be held around the world.

Such easily usable, durable, Holodomor exhibition sets could also be made available to libraries, schools and other organizations in Ukraine and around the world. We are presently cooperating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the development of such a program. The Ministry has been supportive and encouraging regarding this approach.


It is very important that an extensive program of education and activities be developed for Ukrainian school children to tell them and involve them in understanding the historical background and what actually happened during the Holodomor.  This program should be carried out during the 75th Commemoration of the Holodomor in 2007-2008.

One of the most effective ways this has been done by other organizations around the world who have been involved in teaching young people about other tragic historical events has been through educational programs that end with children producing their own works of art about the tragic event.

All the art works are then presented in a major exhibition by the school. This event then involves the extended families of the children and others in the local community. Then the best local productions are entered into a regional contest. The winners of the regional contest are entered into a national contest. Many Holodomor exhibitions can then be held using this art work and these will significantly broaden the visibility and effectiveness of the program.

The art work related to other historical tragic events has many times been published in books and made available to the general public.  Such books are another very effective way to get the story and the message out to a larger audience.  Children`s art works are in important and effective tool for telling the story.

Some organizations have found effective ways to involve corporate sponsors in such educational and art programs.

One Ukrainian graphics artist, Mykola Bondarenko, from the Sumy Region, interviewed from 1988 to 1993 all of the people in his local district that survived the Holodomor.  He then created as series of 75 linocuts that show the various items children and their families were forced to eat in their desperate struggle to stay alive.

This concept of teaching children about what children in 1932-1933 were forced to eat to try to stay alive could be developed into an effective tool for the education of children and for the creation of art works.

Some Ukrainian organizations around the world have created educational programs for children and these could be used as a guide for a new program in Ukraine.  It is also highly recommended that Ukrainian organizations around the world expand their efforts to teach children about the Holodomor.


The present 2006 program of twenty-one Holodomor Exhibitions sponsored by Ministry of Culture in Oblast Centers should be continued into 2007 and 2008.  During 2007 and 2008 the Holodomor Exhibition could be presented in around 50 of the largest cities in Ukraine that were not included in the original 21, including those in Western Ukraine.

This program should be expanded to include more educational materials, trained guides at the Exhibitions, and be held in closer cooperation with the Ministry of Education to provide for the opportunity for more school children to participate.


The major Holodomor Memorial and Educational Program sponsored by the government in 2005 should be should be continued in November 2006-2008. The program was entitled "The Swaying Bells of Memory" and included an exhibition at the Ukrainian House in Kyiv. This program, which was supported by the Presidential Administration, was a major improvement over such government-sponsored programs held in previous years.

All Ukrainian organizations around the world are encouraged to expand their Holodomor commemoration programs in 2007-2008.


Several Ukrainian groups around the world have asked the Government of Ukraine to assist them in bringing a major, world-class Holodomor Educational and Commemorative Exhibition to their city during 2007-2008.

Such requests have been received from Ukrainian leaders in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Boston (United States), Toronto, Ottawa, and Winnipeg (Canada); Paris (France); and from the leader of the Ukrainian organizations in Australia.

Ukrainian and other organizations in these major cities are prepared to assist with obtaining locations for exhibitions, local publicity and other necessary arrangements and to assist in the costs of the exhibitions.

The Government of Ukraine through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should support such a program.  Since the lead time for such events is quite long such a program would have to be approved by the government this fall to be effective.


We have been working with the Ministry of Culture for several months to create and publish a major new Holodomor historical album.

The album would tell the Holodomor story in text and through over 250 visual artworks created by Ukrainian artists. This would be the first book of this kind published about the Holodomor.

The Ministry of Culture has been very cooperative and we hope that this program will result in the new book being printed in late 2006. The work with the Ministry has been very productive and the program is moving forward.

One goal would be to distribute the books to thousands of Ukrainian schools and libraries during 2007-2008.

The goal also includes finding the funds necessary to translate the book into English and possibly other languages and have the book available for distribution around the world by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to organizations, such as the United Nations. The album also would be available to Ukrainian organizations for distribution.


The `Light A Candle" concept and activities should be continued and expanded to other cities around the world.  The thousands of candles placed on Mikhailivska Square in Kyiv in late November of 2003 under the leadership of Viktor and Kateryna Yushchenko was most effective and powerful.


The number of people alive today who actually experienced the Holodomor in 1932-1933 is rapidly declining.  Programs to take testimony from these survivors needs to better organized, funded and expanded quickly.

These are just ten ideas and programs that could assist in telling the world about the Holodomor in 2007-2008.  There are many more that could be discussed.

It is important for everyone here today to urge the President of Ukraine to move forward immediately on his announced program, especially the building of the Holodomor Historical Complex, and to do what each of you can in your own area through your own organizations to "Tell The World About the Holodomor In 2007-2008."


The artistic and educational community in Ukraine was not allowed to use their talents and skills to tell anyone about the Holodomor for 55 years.

The community since 1998 has been slow to tackle the Holodomor and the other dark moments in Ukrainian history during the past 100 years. The government should find ways to encourage the artistic and educational community to become more engaged in Ukrainian history.


Most of the real photographs used to show the Holodomor in Ukraine over the past 70 years were actually taken by international relief agencies along the Volga River in Russia in 1921-1922.

The use of such photographs to depict the Ukrainian Holodomor were first used by Nazi Germany in a major anti-Soviet campaign in 1935 and also then by American media giant Randolph Hearst in stories on the front page of several major US newspapers. The use of these Soviet Russian photographs then became quite widespread in the Ukrainian diaspora.

The Ukrainian goverment was even prepared to publish a new Holodomor stamp in November of 2003 that featured a photograph taken in Soviet Russia in 1921-1922.  Fortunately I was able to lead an effort to have the production of this stamp stopped and a newly designed stamp was then issued without the Russian photograph.

 We recommend the President of Ukraine appoint a special internationalcommittee to investigate the issue of why there are so few real photographs of the Holodomor, to conduct research to see if there still some photographs of the Holodomor in various files and historical institutions that could be found and documented.

This committee should clearly and accurately identify the photographs that were taken in Russia in 1921-1922 and thus should not be used anymore to depict the Ukrainian Holodomor. The committee should also identify the photographs that can historically be proven, beyond a doubt, to be from the Ukrainian genocidal famine in 1932-1933.


According to Canadian scholar Roman Serbyn in 1990 the Party put out a collection of documents in Kyiv on the famine in Party archives. The collection was supposed to have been augmented with additional material and republished for the 70th memorial commemoration in  2003.

Unfortunately the publication was held up. Serban said he understands the Archives did their job and that it is now being held up the Institute of History (NAN Ukrainy).

The collection`s bibliographica reference is: "Holod 1932-1933 rokiv na Ukraini: ochyma istorykiv, movoiu dokumentiv. Kyiv, 1990."

The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NANU) should bring together other documents as well (including the new SBU documents) and publish them in a series of volumes (could probably put together 3 or more volumes) and have them out no later than late 2007 or early 2008. A summary volume featuring very key documents should be published in English.


A serious of international conferences should be called for in Kyiv in the summer or early fall of 2007 on the Holodomor (Terror-Famine-Death- Genocide.) The conferences must be planned now and invitations sent out not later than this fall.


Finally, in preparing Ukraine`s brief for the UN, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should consult historians and legal experts, especially someone well versed in the legal side of the Convention on Genocide (1948) and its application in trials since then.

The Ukrainian case must be made in the name of the Ukrainian nation within the whole USSR at that time, according to Canadian scholar Roman Serbyn.

Serbyn said, "In other words, the over 8 million Ukrainians living in Northern Caucasus (especially Kuban), and the regions of RSFSR adjacent to Ukraine and inhabited by great numbers of Ukrainians must also be included. The Convention must be interpreted in relation to the whole Ukrainian population of USSR of 1930s.


The tragedy of the Holodomor against millions of Ukrainians should be enough to cause the government of Ukraine and Ukrainian organizations around the world to be one of the leaders in the global effort to identify and support interventions to stop modern day genocides organized and carried out by corrupt political leaders and corrupt political systems.

Unfortunately this is not the case at all.

In addition to being the right thing to do if Ukrainians were effective today in the world arena about genocides this would give Ukrainians considerable more leverage and real legitimacy to tell the world about the Ukrainian genocide of 1932-1933.

We encourage the government of Ukraine and Ukrainians organizations around the globe to take the lead in speaking out strongly and clearly against modern day genocides and support strong actions by the appropriate international organizations to intervene and stop genocidal actions in a wherever they occur in a timely and effective way.

NO government or leading international political leader really listened to the horrible cries of Ukrainians in 1932-1933. The international news media was not allowed into Soviet Ukraine to report what really was going on.

NO one was allowed by the Soviet communist government to come to the assistance of the 33,000 Ukrainians who were being starved to a terrible death every day in the spring of 1933. International relief agencies were told their assistance was not needed as there was no famine, no problem.

NO government or international organization intervened to stop the murder of millions of Ukrainians.

This total lack of action by the world community was not appropriate in 1932-1933 and it is not appropriate today when a genocide occurs. The world must act quickly when genocide occurs.  Too many times action is ready to be taken only after the major portion of the killings have occurred.

Thank you very much for this opportunity. All of us need to expand our work. There is so much work to do.                


NOTE: Morgan Williams is Director, Government Affairs, Washington Office, SigmaBleyzer Private Equity Investment Group and publisher and editor of the Action Ukraine Report (AUR), Washington, D.C..

He serves as a member of the Organizational Committee for the 75th Anniversary of the Famine in Ukraine appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers; Curator & Trustee, Holodomor Education and Exhibition Collection; Chairman, Dr. James Mace Holodomor Memorial Fund of the Ukrainian Federation of America, Philadelphia. [email protected]



E. Morgan Williams, Director Government Affairs, Washington Office

SigmaBleyzer Private Equity Investment Group;

Publisher & Editor, Action Ukraine Report (AUR);

Chairman, Executive Committee, Board of Directors

Ukraine-U.S. Business Council;

P.O. Box 2607, Washington, D.C. 20013

Telephone: 202 437 4707

Mobile in Kyiv: 8 050 689 2874

E-mail: [email protected]



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