*** DEBUG END ***

Ukrainians remember victims of Great Famine

01 December 2023

Gareth Vaughan Jones Estate

Report by the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones in the Evening Standard, 31 March 1933

Report by the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones in the Evening Standard, 31 March 1933

CHURCHES in Ukraine have marked the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor, or Great Famine, in which millions of people died when the Soviet regime seized food crops in an attempt to enforce collectivisation.

“Everyone in Ukraine today remembers with pain all the innocent victims of this artificial hunger, deliberately planned and organised to exterminate our people,” the Primate of the Ukrainian independent Orthodox Church (OCU), Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), said.

“Even now, the direct successors of the Soviet regime, the Kremlin power and its subordinates, are continuing the same policy of destroying Ukraine. In the bloody war they started, in the occupied territories, with the prisoners and wounded, they use the same anti-human torture of hunger and cold, trying to wipe us off the face of the earth and take what does not belong to them.”

The message was published for last weekend’s nationwide Day of Remembrance for victims of the 1932-33 famine. An ecumenical service was held in the Pechersk-Lavra Monastery, attended by President Zelensky and overseas politicians and diplomats.

Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops said that “killing by starvation” had been chosen as a “weapon of mass destruction” to erase the country’s “language, culture, and memory” and to “sink its people and land into the abyss”.

They said that their own Church had urged Christians worldwide, in a 1933 letter, to protest against the Soviet-imposed famine. They were now calling on the international community to support Ukraine, as “the same enemy” used grain-supply disruptions as “a weapon to enslave nations”.

“The genocide of Ukrainians was not an accidental deviation from Moscow’s historical tradition — on the contrary, it was the bloodiest embodiment of a centuries-old ideology of Russian imperialism, which eternally burns with hatred for Ukraine, despises neighbouring nations, and greedily encroaches on the world’s space,” the bishops said in an anniversary declaration.

“The empire failed to kill Ukraine 90 years ago. But the descendants of those killers, driven by evil, envy, and hatred, have decided to complete what their predecessors failed to do. Russia’s unprovoked, cynical, genocidal war against Ukraine has the same goal that the Kremlin set during the Holodomor: the liquidation of the Ukrainian people, the destruction of their freedom and future, the absorption of their children by a soulless totalitarian system, oppressed by age-old demons, unrepentant and boundless in its cruelty.”

About four million people died, according to official Ukrainian data, in the 22-month Holodomor, which followed the Soviet government’s confiscation of crops and humanitarian aid from areas resisting its agricultural plans.

The outrage, acknowledged by Moscow only in 1990, was accompanied by the closure of most Ukrainian churches, and has been recognised as genocide, so far by 34 UN member-countries, including the UK, the United States, and the Holy See.

In a televised weekend address, President Zelensky said that Soviet rulers had suppressed knowledge of the Holodomor, and not bothered to count starvation victims. He was grateful to governments, he said, who had recognised the genocide, placing it beyond any statute of limitations.

The current war had shown “in real time what Russia, calling itself the Soviet Union’s successor, is capable of”, the Ukrainian President said, as Moscow’s forces again inflicted “famine, cold, and terror” by targeting Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure.

The Pope told pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, on Sunday, that the “genocide committed by the Soviet regime” had inflicted an “unbearable wound”, which was being made “even more painful by the cruelty of the war”.

The leader of Ukraine’s Moscow-linked Orthodox Church (the UOC), Metropolitan Onufriy (Berezovsky), also deplored the famine as “a purposeful mockery of the Ukrainian people by the godless Bolshevik government”, recalling in a weekend statement how the atrocity had been followed by “an active struggle against the holy Church, with mass persecution and brutal repressions and murders of clergy and believers”.

In Russia, however, the predominant Orthodox Church made no mention of the Holodomor anniversary on its main Moscow Patriarchate website, concentrating instead on an address by President Putin to this week’s meeting of the World Russian People’s Council, in which he thanked its chairman, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, for supporting Russia’s “fight for world freedom” against “Western racists and colonialists” with their “cruel scheme of total depersonalisation, disunity, suppression and exploitation”.

“Our country is now at the forefront of creating a more equitable world order . . . as Russophobia and other forms of racism and neo-Nazism become almost the official ideology of the Western ruling elites,” President Putin told the mostly Orthodox audience on Tuesday.

“People of all nationalities living today, even born in the 21st century, are still paying for past miscalculations, for indulging in separatist illusions and ambitions, for central government weakness, for seeking an artificial, violent division of our great Russian nation, the triune people of Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians.”

In his reply, Patriarch Kirill thanked President Putin for his “wise, patriotic, approachable leadership” in making Russia “a truly modern, scientifically and technologically developed, spiritually rich multinational state, where the interests of individual peoples and ethnic groups are so harmoniously combined with national interests”.

A resolution marking the Holodomor anniversary, signed by 55 UN member states, including the European Union, paid tribute to “millions of people of other nationalities” who had also died from “starvation and repression” in other parts of the Soviet Union.

It called for efforts to prevent the use of civilian hunger “as a method of warfare, in particular by disrupting production and supply chains that increases global food insecurity”.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available


Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)