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Graphic novel raises awareness of Holodomor Famine

Author says that while the characters and story is fiction, the events surrounding the story are very much real

THUNDER BAY – Nov. 25 is internationally recognized as Holodomor Memorial Day to honour those who suffered during the Holodomor, a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians 

Local author, Adrian Lysenko, who created a graphic novel set during the Holodomor alongside artist Ivanka Theodosia Galadza, says that the Holodomor is not commonly known and that he himself would not have known about it if not for his Ukrainian family, and he believes it is something that everyone should take the time to learn about. 

“It's a genocide that happened and it was suppressed for the longest time because of disinformation. Basically, the Russian Government denied that anything was going on,” he said. 

“News organizations from the West were invited into Ukraine at the time, and they were shown these fake villages to show that everything is fine, and the West really believed that the situation there was fine, and no one was starving.” 

Lysenko and Galadza’s historical graphic novel is set in 1932, Soviet Ukraine, and the main characters are a young boy and girl who are recently orphaned who are forced navigate themselves through a horrific odyssey while searching for food and trying to survive. 

Lysenko says that while the characters and story is fiction, the events surrounding the story are very much real. 

“The illustrator and I have been working on this project for seven years, we started in 2014 when the Russian invasion of Ukraine first started and just trying to do as much research as possible,” he said. 

“...we tried to really approach this as a delicate matter in memory of those who passed away. But also, a big point of this project was to educate people and to create an awareness for people who might not be familiar with the Holodomor.” 

Lysenko says that they weren't intending for the release date to coincide with the 90th commemoration but he’s glad it does as he says it can help people realize what’s happening in Ukraine. 

“It's almost as if Putin is taking some of these things that Joseph Stalin did himself in the 1932 and 1933 and applying them today: taking children away, the weaponization of food, mainly grain,” he said. 

“So, I think it's very important in that context for people to understand the history of Ukraine, and also the geopolitical situation which is going on right now.” 

For those who wish to learn more about the Holodomor, Lysenko suggests reading Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder, Red Famine by Anne Applebaum, or visiting the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium

“If you go on their website, they have a huge list of resources as well as facts and information as well as links to testimonials from survivors actually at the Holodomor, and it's invaluable,” said Lysenko. “It was invaluable for us, and I hope if people have interest in it to check it out as well.” 

Five Stalks of Grain, written by Adrian Lysenko and illustrated by Ivanka Theodosia Galadza, is available for purchase at Entershine Bookshop in Thunder Bay or online through Chapters Indigo, Thriftbooks, and Amazon. 

Justin Hardy

About the Author: Justin Hardy

Justin Hardy is a reporter born and raised in the Northwest.
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