Our ability to inflict incredible horror on each other is as old as man himself. However, despite being somewhat of a history buff, I have recently learned of an incident with a death toll far surpassing that of any in my memory.
It took place in 1932 in Ukraine and is called Holodomor.
For decades there was denial of this event, many attributing this incident to poor economic policies and radical food distribution changes imposed on Ukraine by the Russians. But the issue continued to generate discussion and debate and in 2003, the United Nations passed a resolution stating these deaths took place as a direct result of the actions of Russia.
In 1932, Ukrainian cities under the authority and control of Russia were slowly moving away from Russian domination with the influx of the Ukrainian rural population. By the early 1930s, it is believed Russian dictator Joseph Stalin saw this as a threat to his vision of Russian rule and the integrity of his empire.
It is said Stalin targeted the more prosperous and better educated farmers, believing they posed the greater threat to his reign. Those individuals were declared enemies of the state. They were deprived of their property and sent away: most were never heard from again.
Ukraine was losing hundreds of thousands of its best farmers and leaders but this was only the beginning. For over a year beginning in 1932 the Ukrainian population was starving, during a time where history recorded bountiful crop yields. In certain parts of Ukraine, food simply did not exist.
Ukrainian farms were turned into collectives where the vast majority of Ukrainian crops were force shipped to Russia. There was simply not enough food being distributed back to feed the Ukrainian people.
Millions perished. The early suggestion of poor planning, and food distribution policies by the Russian leadership being responsible for these deaths, has given way to most reputable scholars now recognizing this as an intentional act. Their position today is it was a crime against humanity.
An acquaintance was well aware of this horrific period in man’s history, having lost her grandmother during this time. This was several years before Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met to discuss war strategy in battling Hitler: the enemy of my enemy is my friend it would seem.
I find it impossible to understand the hatred some people exhibit. It is an emotion that can slowly consume any individual and serves no useful purpose. In their quest for power, or their hatred for those who might jeopardize their authority, leaders like Stalin made decisions that caused the death of millions. Words alone cannot capture the horror of having that many people die because of a deliberate act.
History has already recorded Stalin as a brutal dictator. A few still wish to suggest this took place because of poor distribution policies. It is estimated that up to 10 million perished while Ukrainian famers had bountiful crops. What do you believe?
Our planet should know better yet in some locations, actions such as these still exist. We have the knowledge and ability to prevent these acts yet it seems only the willingness of man is missing. History has repeatedly shown that destroying is easier than creating but must it always be this way?
Some who were killed during this ‘famine’ may have cured cancer. Some may have created new methods of energy production or maybe they could have been another Mother Theresa or Gandhi. It was only because of a casual comment by a friend, Jim Glena, that I became aware of this horrible period in mankind’s history.
I asked my brother Bill if he was aware of this tragedy, he being well aware of Thunder Bay’s large Ukrainian population. Bill advised me that his colleague at Queen’s Park, Dave Levac passed a private members bill recognizing Holodomor and the millions who perished on the last Thursday of each November. I have had the privilege of meeting Dave many times and he is a well respected MPP from Brant.
It has been estimated as many as 25,000 people per day died under this mass extermination of the Ukrainian people. Ontario is just one of many jurisdictions giving official recognition to those who died. The Ukrainian people are entitled to our respect and it’s fitting Ontario honoured them.
I believe it is impossible to know where we are travelling to, if we do not know where we have come from. As we continue our journey into the future may we never allow such a path to be travelled again.
Just a thought.