Ukrainian News | 28Dec2009 | Victor Glasko

Ukraine honours the world’s first Holodomor film

By Victor E. Glasko

    Following the laying of flowers at the Holodomor memorial on St. Michael’s Plaza by the country’s officials, the First National Television Company of Ukraine televised the official opening of the day long ceremonies commemorating the victims of Ukraine’s Holodomors on Nov. 28, 2009. The title of the program was “Today is the Day of the Commemoration of the Victims of the Holodomors”. This program differed from all previous such nationwide telecasts, a tradition started by the presidential administration of Viktor Yushchenko, in that, along side the live telecast of the solemn Requiem Service held in Kyiv’s historic St. Sofia Cathedral and the recorded Kyiv performance of Hector Berlioz’s “Requiem”, the film “The Unknown Holocaust” was shown -- the first documentary film in the world about the Holodomors of Ukraine.

    The documentary is significant in that it was produced in three languages -- Ukrainian, French and English -- and financed outside of Ukraine by the Quebec government educational network, Radio-Quebec, in Montréal in 1983 when the Soviet Union still existed. The chief people involved in the film’s production were Francophone director Claude Caron, Czech executive producer Karel Ludvik, and only one Ukrainian -- researcher consultant and host Taras Hukalo. As a result “The Unknown Holocaust” became an international effort thus diffusing the Holodomor deniers argument that the Holodomors were nothing but a Ukrainian diaspora fabrication. This documentary became the first in the world to label the Holodomors as a genocide. Official documents featured in the film disclosed up to 10 million victims in the Holodomor of 1932-1933. “The Unknown Holocaust” made mention of additional Holodomors -- 1921, 1946, and in 1964 -- and concluded that food was used as a weapon of destruction of the nation even in times of peace. In the film’s production, Radio Québec showed great courage in 1983 and in doing so became the first television network and government organization in the world to recognize the Holodomors of Ukraine.

    On the occasion of the 18th anniversary of the Independence of Ukraine, President Victor Yushchenko issued Decree #623/2009 dated August 18, 2009 -- honouring foreign citizens with “state awards of Ukraine for their significant contribution to enhancement of the international standing of Ukraine, popularisation of its historical heritage and modern achievements”. As a Ukrainian community leader, Hukalo became one of the recipients of “the Order of Merit, III Class” national award of Ukraine. At this time, work is in progress to also honour Caron, Ludvik and Radio Québec for their exemplary efforts on behalf of the Ukrainian people.

    In September of this year [2009], at Montréal’s Ukrainian Festival, Hukalo also received a certificate of honour (a hramota) from the festival committee for his long time and varied work for the good of the Ukrainian community.

    The telecast on Ukraine’s First National Television Station, consisted of three chapters. The first part was the live telecast of the official national opening of the solemn ceremonies of the day of commemoration of the victims of the Holodomors of Ukraine, in front of the gates of the iconostas in Kyiv’s St. Sofiya Cathedral, with the Requiem Mass, “service and prayer for those who perished of starvation involving the leaders of religious organizations of Ukraine and high officials of the nation”. Leading the Requiem Mass was the Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchy Filaret. Also partaking in the prayer service were Bishop Mikhayil -- Bishop Fastivskyj of the Vicary of the Kyiv Eparchy of the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Liubomyr Huzar of the Kyiv-Halytskyj Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, and representatives of other Christian Churches of Ukraine and the Director of the spiritual leadership of the Muslims of Ukraine. In the front row were President Viktor Yushchenko and family. On either side and behind were survivors of the Holodomors, representatives of various government offices, members of parliament, cabinet ministers and members of the Presidential Secretariat: Secretary of the Counsel on National Security and Defense of Ukraine Raisa Bohatyryova, Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko, Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Vasyunyk, Minister of Culture and Tourism Ukraine Vasyl Vovkun, the First Assistant to the Head of the Presidential Secretariat of Ukraine Yuriy Yekhanurov, and others. In the closing minutes of the Requiem Mass, representatives of various Ukrainian Christian denominations, as well as the representative of the Muslims of Ukraine, delivered individual memorial prayers. The requiem concluded with the singing of the prayer hymn of Ukraine -- “Almighty One and Only God...”

    The second portion of the program was the pre-recorded telecast of Hector Berloiz’s “Requiem” performed in Kyiv by the Kyiv Symphony and Choir (director, Roger McMurrin), the Choir “Dumka/Thought” (director, Yevhen Savchuk), and the Platon Majboroda Choir of the National Radio Company of Ukraine (artistic director, Viktor Ckoromnyj).

    The third chapter of this telecast was introduced with a narrative including upward scrolling white type on a stark black background:

    “The film “The Unknown Holocaust” became the first documentary production in history regarding the Holodomor of 1932-33 in Ukraine. In Canada, for the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy, consultant Hukalo, director Caron, and executive producer Ludvik compiled information and completed the film. April 1983 the documentary premiered on the public television network Radio-Québec, which also financed its production. Not all appearing in the film agreed to speak facing camera due to fear of reprisals against family who, at that time, were living in the Soviet Union.”

    This flowed into this year’s interview of Hukalo in the vicinity of the monuments of the new Holodomors Memorial in Kyiv on the topic of the film he helped produce 26 years ago -- “The Unknown Holocaust -- Ukraine 1933, 10 million victims”, which was shown next.

    In his interview Hukalo remembered known British journalist and one of the film’s witnesses, Malcolm Muggeridge, whose family (on his wife’s side) were involved in the establishment of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Malcolm became interested in communism and believed what Stalin said about the Soviet system. Thinking that the Soviet Union was a utopia, he decided to move to Moscow in 1932. However, on his arrival he heard rumors of the Holodomor in Ukraine and the Kuban region. Malcolm determined to personally verify the truth of the matter, but, when he tried to purchase a train ticket to Ukraine he found that foreigners, including foreign journalists, were forbidden to travel to those regions of the Soviet Union, excepting those who were willing lackeys of Stalin and ready to tell lies. In the end, his secretary was able to get him a ticket. In November of 2008, on the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor of 1932-33, Muggeridge was awarded the Ukrainian Order of Merit posthumously by Ukraine for his work on behalf of the people of Ukraine.

    At the conclusion of Hukalo’s commentary, prior to the airing of the film, the narrator reminded the audience that, “we have no right to forget about them (the victims of the Holodomors) as well as to forget that food can be used as a weapon to destroy people."

                “May their Memory be eternal. Have mercy on us oh God, do not allow a repeat of these tragedies upon anyone.”