THE TORCH OF REMEMBRANCE IN NOTTINGHAM

04.07.08


“Everywhere the cry, we have no bread, we are waiting for death”. These are the ‘lost’ voices of Ukrainian peasants who were starved to death during the Soviet attempt to achieve collectivisation in what has become known as Holodomor – or famine genocide.

In the 75th anniversary year, these words penned by campaigning journalist Gareth Jones, who visited the Ukraine in 1932-33, epitomise what is surely during one of the greatest cover-ups of our time – the denial of Holodomor as a genocide. Writing during visits in 1932-33, he uncovered evidence that Stalin had begun a systematic attempt to implement his Five Year Plan by starving Ukrainians through the process of collectivisation.

Gareth, whose niece Margaret Sirriol Colley, lives in Nottingham, wrote for the Western Mail and Times, but at the time of his writing he faced fierce rebuke by Soviet officials and an American journalist called Walter Durranty, who denied claims there was a genocide and maintained it was simply a famine.

As a result Gareth’s reports were vilified and he was banned from Russia and on his travels through Asia he met an untimely death after he was captured by bandits, held for ransom and later killed in Inner Mongolia. The issue was never revisited, although it has remained in the psyche of the Ukrainian people.

Keep the Flame Alive, marked the 75th anniversary of Ukraine’s famine genocide at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Mansfield Road on July 4. On it’s journey through 33 countries, it stopped at Nottingham and Derby before it left the UK for Sweden.

Around 200 people gathered at the event organised by the Ukrainian World Congress and the Association of Ukrainian’s in Great Britain (AUGB) to remember the estimated seven to 10 million who died. Ukraine wants to recognise the famine as a genocide, which they believe was carefully orchestrated by Josef Stalin’s Communist Government.

Russia has continued to deny the Holodomor, although some seven to ten million people are expected to have died.

Ask anyone what the Holocaust, which claimed six million Jews and they would tell you it was a genocide, but ask about the Soviet genocide 'Holodomor' and you would be hard pushed to find someone outside the Ukrainian community who could tell you it was anything more than a famine. Historical records indicate it happened as the authorities sought to eradicate private landowners as a social class. The Soviet Union had to pay for its rapid industrialisation with grain exports at the expense of starving millions. and in their bid to force peasants to give up their private plots of land and join collective farms, millions perished, but it mentions nothing of ‘genocide’.
However, there is a growing campaign to get the famine recognised as a crime against humanity, backed by the Ukrainian World Congress, Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB), Ukraine Embassy and members of the communities across the UK. They are all convinced the famine targeted Ukrainians as an ethnic group.

This week, Ukraine announced a formal investigation to prove that the famine was an act of genocide. Now secret archives have opened up showing evidence that Stalin ordered a genocide.

Askold Lozynskyj, president of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC), visiting Nottingham reflected on the release of this information, saying: "A lot of documents were secret for many years and this allowed the Soviets to deny it ever happened.”  Within the documents, a census of 1932, shows at the time there were 31 million Ukrainians. Five years later, another census was taken recording only 26 million Ukrainians were recorded. Lozynskyj noted that “with growth Ukrainians should have numbered 36 million, but some ten million were unaccounted for.  During the same period, the other nationalities in USSR grew by 17 per cent. That is why we believe it was genocide”.

Mr Lozynskyj also said that “with the demise of the Soviet Union, the archives have opened up and reveal what we have been saying for 75 years is true and accurate, that the famine was a carefully planned attempt at genocide of the Ukrainian people and as a result some ten million perished.  A letter from Stalin dated Aug 11 1932, specifically states, “we must rid ourselves of the Ukrainian nationalists, and we must make Ukraine an exemplary Soviet Republic.”  “Six months later the government issued a decree and closed the borders of the Ukraine and the borders of only one Russian Federation the Kuban region, which is heavily populated by Ukrainians, precluding peasants from leaving those regions in search of food.”

With documents now becoming public, there is talk in Ukraine for organisers of the Holodomor being named and shamed, or brought to justice as war criminals. “We presented a document to the UN Russian Delegation and they aknowledged the document, but said ‘we need to adjourn the matter because we need instruction from Moscow’. That was almost a month ago," said Mr Lozynskyj, who is an American-Ukrainian.
Such a probe is likely to anger neighbouring Russia which insists the famine was not genocide because Russians and other ethnic groups also suffered, but the UWC  says any investigation is not aimed at present day Russia but at Josef Stalin’s now defunct Soviet Communism regime.
The emphasis is on all governments to recognise the Holodomor as genocide, not just a famine. They believe that Stalin carefully planned the demise of the Ukrainian people.

There has been increasing pressure on the UK Government to recognise it as genocide. During the visit to the UK, an EDM was signed by 35 MPs. Nottingham East MP John Heppell vowed to campaign for recognition of the Holodomor as an act of genocide. He said: “We can see that this was not just a crime against Ukraine, but a crime against humanity and I find it impossible to see that as anything other than genocide.
”We need to get MPs like myself to take this issue to Parliament. If we don’t learn from these lessons we will continue to have genocide, such as what happened in the holocaust, to Rwanda and at present Darfur. “I guarantee my full support and I will speak in the Commons about it. The idea is that this is not against Russia, but against the Soviets. It will take soft diplomacy and I will make sure we get it on the agenda.”    
So far sixteen countries have passed Parliamentary resolutions about the Holodomor; including, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Estonia, Ecuador, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Spain, Ukraine and the USA.

Gareth Jones’ voice, along with that of Malcolm Mutteridge of the Manchester Guardian, the archives and living testimonies, all bear witness to the tragedy which happened 75 years ago. These give hope for Ukraine. “We were involved in a campaign to get Durranty’s Pulitzer Prize away from him, we know he lied because he briefed the US and UK Governments so he definitely knew. He printed in the New York Times that there was not a famine, but two journalists did report that this was happening. Margaret Siriol Colley has worked tirelessly to show these journalists were telling the truth,” said Mr Lozynskyj.

Donna Richardson



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