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Ukrainian Voice | 16Jan2012 | Cheryl A. Madden

Woonsocket premiere's Genocide Revealed
"So much evil directed against the Ukrainian people"

A Review of the Documentary Genocide Revealed
By Cheryl A. Madden, Order of Princess Olha

In his poem, “The Cross,” the poet Mykola Rudenko wrote of Ukraine:
Mother of mine, you have been a milking cow.
You have such a gentle nature that even the loafer will milk you,
And then the same lazy hand will rake your manger bare.

Woonsocket, R.I.:  Director Yurij Luhovy’s documentary Genocide Revealed, through use of primary source interviews with Holodomor survivors and explanatory commentary by historians dispassionately addresses many controversial points of the Holodomor.  Well-paced topic development explains contributing historical factors dated from the Soviet takeover enlightens viewers unfamiliar with Soviet history and the Stalinist Famine. Discussion of newly released documentation sparks the interest of those possessing previous knowledge. A director dealing with such dire subject matter might have chosen to employ even greater shock value, and yet by doing so, such a film would have risked losing the audience to mere sensations of horror.  Luhovy chose a higher road, and created Genocide Revealed, a documentary that, thus far, has won a dozen film awards internationally.

Recently, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Michael in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, celebrated a Holodomor Panakhyda.

Following the memorial service officiated by Father Anthony Perkins, the event culminated with the Rhode Island debut of the feature documentary Genocide Revealed. The evening was opened by Cheryl A. Madden, followed by director/producer Yurij Luhovy. He explained that, whereas the earlier film Harvest of Despair demonstrated that a famine took place in Ukraine during 1932-1933, Genocide Revealed shows that the Holodomor was an act of genocide. Those who deny the genocidal nature of the Holodomor oft-maintain that Stalin’s concurrent policy of forced industrialization necessitated the extraordinarily high quotas of grain repeatedly expropriated from Ukraine. In the film, a Holodomor survivor counters this point by asking why the Communist cadres sent into the countryside expropriated every item of nutritional value -- not merely the grain, but also meats, fats, and vegetables. Those Communists [the so-called “25,000ers”] charged to find any hidden stocks of food, taunted the villagers, “Why are you still alive?” Their acts of carrying off all livestock fodder and seed grain confirms the government’s intention that the villagers not survive.

The film describes how designated Socialist property, all livestock and food products came under the possession of the Soviet government. Starving people were shot, if caught trying to gather even just a few ears of corn or grain from the fields or from stockpiles of grain left to rot due to the lack of sufficient means to transport it to trains or ships for export.  Carbolic acid poured onto any dead animals prevented the starving people from eating this carrion.

Survivors in the film recount how desperate fathers kissed the boots of Soviet officials in hopes of mercy. Weeping mothers begged for food to feed their children. These innocent children perished of hunger. After her own starvation dried her breast milk, one mother remembered of her infant son she could no longer feed, “I held him and sang until he died in my arms.” Survivors recalled their elementary school age classmates dying of hunger in their classrooms or schoolyards. Yes, even starving children were required to attend school. There was no mercy. All food was taken; the borders sealed to prevent the peasants from traveling to bordering Russia or Belarus where there was food available; internal passports were denied to the peasantry; those persons who did slip across the border and acquired food were arrested upon their return trip, and the food taken from them.

The government decreed that these persons were to be charged as speculators and either shot, or sent to the labor camps of the Gulag, or “returned to their domiciles” to starve there with their families and neighbors. There, they perished horribly -- as Stalin intended.

Luhovy’s film technique of altering still photographs from the Holodomor into negative images depersonalizes and yet universalizes their tragic content, thereby enhancing their significance and increasing the empathetic reaction of the viewer to those images. He tried to recreate with sound and picture the impression that the soul is leaving the body.

Historical film footage showing many of the aspects of the Holodomor provides visual proof of the deliberate nature of the Holodomor. It is troubling to watch these film clips of Stalin, Kaganovich, Molotov and the other Communist figures, as they went about the functions of government or conducting their personal lives fully aware, but uncaring, of the suffering they caused and exacerbated that killed 5-12 million of their own people.  By 1932, 127 districts of Ukraine had reported to the highest level of Soviet government that they were facing extermination by famine. Nonetheless, Stalin and the Soviet hierarchy, “criminals on a global scale,” allowed their own people to perish by the starvation death and related diseases at the rate of 25,000 per day.

Kaganovich targeted the Kuban; Molotov worked his evil in Ukraine; the Politburo decreed the suspension of all trade of provisions to Ukraine. Certificates of death were altered to erase hunger as the cause of death or, in 1933, destroyed by Stalin’s order. Still-alive victims were taken to the burial pits for premature internment, so the burial parties would not have to return to the same house. “The wolves came and dragged the corpses around.”

Daily, Stalin followed the progress of the Holodomor. He deprived the victims of foreign assistance from the International Red Cross, the League of Nations, and the Ecumenical Council of Churches by denying a state of famine existed in the Soviet Union. In their turn, Stalin’s cohorts and underlings vied with each other to “up the ante” by increasing the already impossibly high quotas, thereby demonstrating their Communist fervor in hopes of personal aggrandizement or professional promotion.  However, fearing Ukrainian Communists working in the Holodomor-afflicted areas might suffer lapses of political obedience or even join in the numerous village protests, a massive purge of Party ranks took place. In Ukraine, Russian cadres replaced those of Ukrainian ethnicity. By the end of the Purges of the 1930’s, few Party functionaries in a position to know the hidden responsibilities and the deliberate mechanics employed by the genocidaires of the Holodomor still survived. Indeed, “dead men tell no tales.”

Archival film footage with signs posted on the doors of empty cottages belonging to Ukrainian victims of the Holodomor read, “All are dead.” Russians relocated to repopulate the decimated areas leading to the present state of markedly increased russification of Eastern Ukraine.  To eliminate the stench and contagion from the decaying bodies of famine victims, many homes were razed and burned.  Depopulated in their entirety, it is now impossible to tell exactly where many villages were located or how many persons once lived there.

Arrest, deportation, imprisonment, and execution during the time of the Holodomor and in following years until the 1980’s, decimated the Ukrainian intelligentsia and cultural elite. The OGPU falsified charges in show trials. The peasant-base in the villages, who had for centuries “kept the home-fires burning,” and who held the oral histories and folklore were targeted for destruction.

As Ivan Drach points out, Ukraine had its own system of government lost to Soviet dominion only a few years earlier. Ukraine was “a state within a state” in the Soviet Union, and as such posed a viable political threat to Stalin’s increasing hegemony.

The film addresses how thousands of peasant and women’s revolts over widespread areas fought against forced collectivization, and the destruction of churches, against which “repression was continuous.”  Already deprived of their weaponry and armed only with pitchforks or whatever weapons they could devise, the people fought a lost battle against well-armed Soviet forces. They preferred meeting their deaths in battle, rather than to die slowly, as starvation takes several weeks to kill. The madness of extreme hunger led to cannibalism, of course, because in the dire need for sustenance negates prohibitive social mores.

Prof. Wolodymyr Serhijchuk, historian, points to the great percentage of ethnic Ukrainians in geographic areas outside of Ukraine-proper also targeted for destruction: the Northern Caucasus, the Kuban, Lower and Middle Volga, and Kazakhstan. Ukrainians came to populate these regions due to earlier crisis-generated migrations. At the time of the Holodomor, in Kazakhstan, there lived approximately 850,000 persons claiming Ukrainian ethnicity. The sad history of genocidal events too often has proved the truism, “Forewarned is forearmed.”

Luhovy’s methodical presentation of facts resulted in a teaching tool that builds the viewer’s comprehension. As such, it is highly suitable for the task of educating persons “outside the choir” of Ukrainian ethnicity about this too-long hidden genocide. After all, in the 20th century alone, not only Adolph Hitler, but Chairman Mao as well, learned from Stalin’s success in perpetrating the Holodomor many methods of how to conduct and conceal heinous acts of ethnic and cultural genocide. Therefore, be it ever so painful a topic to explore, it is necessary to build an understanding of the methods and results of genocide.

Interviews are conducted in Ukrainian, dubbed in English by Jill Hennessy and Lubomyr Mykytiuk. The multi-award winning documentary is narrated by Graham Greene.

To arrange a showing or to financially support the making of an Educational Version of Genocide Revealed:
call Yurij Luhovy (514)481-5871
email: [email protected]
or write to
MML. Inc.
2330 Beaconsfield Ave
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
H4A 2G8