Memorial complex in Commemoration of Famine’s Victims in Ukraine is one of the most impressive places in Kiev. It is devoted to the national tragedy of Ukraine , which occurred in the early XX century: famine of 1932-33. In the world it is known as Holodomor. That was not the only famine Ukraine experienced: another ones happened in 1921-22 and in 1946-47. The memorial complex stands as a reminder of that brutal time.
Cause of this famine was different from the other ones. Usually famine begins due to lack of food, bad harvest or natural disasters. Meanwhile, in this case it was created artificially – deliberately provoked by men. Ukraine, as other Soviet republics, underwent painful process of collectivization, which included confiscation of private property, exile and persecution of the landowners. Government “nationalized” all lands and started imports of the crops. In 1932 government forcefully collected all harvest from the population. They took not only the reserves necessary for export, but also food from homes, which were totally useless for sale. They isolated villages, forbade people to leave places of residence. Women and men were banned to move to the cities, purchase products or collect crops from the collective fields. While sparrows could peck wheat from the meadows, humans risked to 10 years of imprisonment or execution on the place for the same reason. The latter punishment was a quick relief for the people left without food: hunger took their lives slowly, with torture.
Unimaginable human tragedy raged in Ukraine in 1932-1933. Barns, shelves, storages were empty. There was nothing to eat in the homes: no bread, no vegetables, no pets… Both children and adults suffered from hunger and died. Cases of cannibalism: many people could not bear hunger and killed their family members: to give nutrition to others. There was nothing else to eat. Indeed, it was a very difficult choice and a huge moral challenge. Not everyone could stand it, some of them went insane… Corpses were everywhere: on the streets, in homes, yards, parks… Attenuated people could not bury all dead. Some victims were buried alive… Some people ate dead bodies. Government “compensated” labor for the collection of corpses – paid 100 grams of bread for each body. It was very hard to find exact number of the dead women and men from Spring 1932 to July 1933, estimated number varies from 7 to 10 millions. It is also unknown what happened to the property of the deceased. It is noteworthy that world press published materials about Holodomor, but real actions for its suspension have not been made.
Now Holodomor is considered as genocide against Ukrainian people. Soviet historiography avoided notion of it in the publications or textbooks. Talking about it was prohibited. Many materials about this affair were preserved by oral tradition, stories told from generation to generation; securely preserved photos and documents… Active research of this issue started after the collapse of Soviet Union. Now there is Educational website with facts and histories about Holodomor, its victims. In this way any person from any part of the world can learn about it.
In November 2008 new memorial complex opened in Kiev, which was devoted to Holodomor. It reminds visitors terrible tragedies of 1930s. The complex consists of several monuments. In particular:
2 statues of Angels of Sorrows. They protect souls of famine victims. There are also 24 millstones in the park, which have dual symbolic meaning: on one hand, they symbolize food and life. On the other hand they remind visitors about horrific statistics: during Holodomor period approximately 24.000 people died in a day.
Statue of a small girl known as “Bitter Memory of Childhood” (Sculptor – Peter Drozdowski). The girl is very skinny, undernourished, with sorrowful eyes. She holds several wheatears. She represents all children dead during Holodomor.
Ukrainian people commemorate famine victims annually, on last Saturday of November.
A huge, 30-meter long, candle-shaped monument is another part of the memorial. It is known as Candle of Remembrance. It embodies death and life simultaneously. Crosses of various sizes are depicted on the monument. They symbolize spirits of the famine victims. Overall they form decoration of Ukrainian folk embroidery.
Storks, which aspire from the base of the monument to the heaven express rebirth of Ukrainian Nation.
Several steps lead the visitors to the underground “Hall of Memory”. It is the space where visitor can get information and see exhibitions. Short documentary films tell stories about horrific facts into several languages. They talk about inhuman policy of Soviet government, their cynical attitude to the citizens, ignorant approach to the people. As the film states, Holodomor was part of Stalin’s plan – to make Ukrainian people obey.
In the center of the hall there is “Eternal fire” – candles burning for the souls of famine victims. Huge volumes of the books are placed around them. Anyone can open them and read names of the victims of 1932-1933. The data is sorted according to regions and villages. It contains only names, age and date of death. This is very basic information fill several thick volumes. It makes approximate imagination of enormous scale of Holodomor.
Hall of Memory also includes exhibition of home decorations and various agricultural tools necessary for cultivation of wheat. And – most importantly – there are many kinds of bread: wealth of Ukraine and reason of death for millions of people!… Indeed, it is impossible to leave the place without emotions!