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Ukrainians Around World Commemorate Holodomor Victims on its 85th Anniversary

Today Ukrainians around the world commemorate victims of an artificial famine of 1932-1933 known as the Holodomor, the result of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s order to force peasant households into collective farms.

The exact number of Ukrainians who perished during the Holodomor genocide is unknown but scholars say at least 3.9 million people were starved to death in Ukraine as the Soviet government seized their property and crops, closed off the borders and denied any outside aid.

Besides Ukraine, millions of people in other agricultural regions of the Soviet Union were subjected to collectivization and starvation. Of all ethnic groups, Kazakhstan saw the highest death ratio: an estimated 38 percent of the ethnic Kazakh population died during the 1931-1933 famine, according to a Harvard University study published in 2001.

'Hunger for Truth' shows the power of the truth in the face of disinformation. The feature length documentary tells the story of Rhea Clyman, a young Canadian reporter who traversed the starving Soviet heartland when Stalin's great famine was ravaging Ukraine. The film compares this tragic history with President Putin's campaign of disinformation during Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine, by focusing on a Ukrainian POW in this forgotten war.

For decades, Soviet propaganda silenced the Holodomor horrors until 2015, when the famine was recognized by Ukraine and 15 other countries as a genocide. Since then, Ukrainians around the world mark the Holodomor Remembrance Day every year on the fourth Saturday of November.

In a statement released on Nov. 23, Heather Nauert, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State, described Holodomor as “catastrophic man-made famine” and “one of the most atrocious acts of the 20th century and a brutal reminder of the crimes of communism.”

“The Soviet Union’s barbaric seizure of Ukrainian land and crops was undertaken with the deliberate political goal of subjugating the Ukrainian people and nation,” the statement read.

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution recognizing Holodomor as an act of genocide against Ukrainians by Stalin and his administration.

Read more: Honest History Episode 7: Holodomor was genocide unleashed against Ukraine

In his statement on Nov. 24, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko reminded of other crimes of the Soviet regime against Ukrainians.

“The Holodomors of 1921-1922, 1932-1933, and 1946-1947, political repressions, deportations are far from a complete list of crimes committed by the totalitarian communist regime on Ukrainian land,” he said.

“In order to preserve Ukraine, we must always remember this.”

Remembering the tragedies and the victims of the past is important today, Poroshenko said, as Ukraine is fighting off the Kremlin aggression and defending its territories in the Donbas and Crimea, which have been occupied by Russia since 2014. Over 10,300 Ukrainian citizens have been killed in Russia’s war against Ukraine in the Donbas.

In a statement delivered to the Permanent Council of Vienna on Nov. 22, Lane Darnell Bahl, a political counselor of the U.S. mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said that “today, once again, Ukrainians are dying as a result of cold-blooded policies directed by the Kremlin against the very fabric of Ukraine’s national existence.

“Russia seeks a Ukrainian vassal state, deprived of sovereignty, beholden to Moscow, and held captive within its sphere of influence,” she said. “It wants to prevent Ukrainians from choosing their own future, but the Kremlin is again on the wrong side of history.”

2018 Remembrance Day

A candlelight vigil will take place at the Holodomor Victims Memorial national museum in Kyiv at 4 p.m. Kyiv time on Nov.25.

Until Dec. 10, Lavra Art Gallery in Kyiv is running an exhibition dedicated to the life and work of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones who first reported on the Soviet famine of 1932-1933 to the Western world.

An English-language documentary ‘Hunger for Truth’ about Canadian journalist Rhea Clyman, who also was one of few Western journalists who exposed Holodomor, will premiere in Kyiv on Nov. 26.

Read more: US hosts a crescendo of Holodomor events throughout November

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