Bolton Town Council

At a plenary session of Bolton Council on 4 March, the Executive formally responded to Bolton Ukrainian Community’s ‘recognition and condemnation’ Holodomor petition, as was submitted to the Council on 10 December last.

‘Motions Under Standing Order No.4’ proved to be the rather non-descriptly titled yet entirely relevant agenda item.

Chairing the Council meeting, the Mayor of Bolton, Councillor Anthony Connell, invited Executive Member Councillor Nicholas Peel (Lab) to address the meeting.  In turn Councillor Peel responded as follows:
«Mr Mayor, Members of the Council,

Can I thank the Executive Member for Human Resources and Diversity for accepting and considering the petition that was brought to this –°ouncil on the 10th December, and to the Leaders of both Opposition parties for agreeing to support this motion tonight.

It was at an Area Forum back in the autumn at the Ukrainian Community Centre on Castle Street, that I was first approached by members of the Bolton Branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain.  As a ward Councillor for an area of Bolton where many Ukrainian people reside, I was asked to support their campaign to raise awareness and achieve recognition for Holodomor, and in particular to persuade the UK Government to follow the lead of the USA, Canada and Australia in recognising Holodomor as genocide.

So what is Holodomor and what has this got to do with Bolton?

Holodomor is a single word based upon two Ukrainian words, HOLOD, which means hunger or famine, and MORYTY, which means to induce suffering or to kill.  Holodomor relates to events in the 1930’s that saw more than 7 million Ukrainians systematically starved to death in the largest and most brutal of all of Stalin’s purges.  In short, foodstuffs and especially grain were confiscated from families as part of laws that forbade grain being retained for domestic use.  Chillingly, those who resisted by hiding or distributing food were executed.

It is estimated that this led to the extermination of around a quarter of the entire population of Ukraine.

An article in the Guardian in 1933 by Malcolm Muggeridge stated the following: “The population is starving.  Hunger was the word I heard the most.  Cattle and horses dead.  Fields neglected.  All grain that was produced was taken away.  Now there’s no bread at all, no bread anywhere.”

These events, Mr Mayor, were denied and covered up for decades afterwards.  But Ukraine is now an independent country and it is only since independence that records are openly available recording the events of the time.  Part of Ukraine’s development into a true democracy is the act of coming to terms with and recognising this act of ethnic cleansing.  Ukrainians throughout the world are all party to this campaign, and all they ask of us is to recognise and honour the millions who died.

Recognition of genocide is the first step to be made in the harder struggle to prevent such events occurring again – wherever in the world they occur, and sadly they still do occur.

We are asked to remember and recognise the Holodomor, to give it its rightful place in history and to help achieve international recognition for it.  Bolton MPs, Dr Brian Iddon and David Crausby have already signalled their support at the parliamentary level by backing an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons calling for its recognition.

By us sixty representatives of the people of Bolton talking about Holodomor at this Council meeting we are party to its recognition.  By us talking about it – we help to generate wider publicity for it through the Bolton News.  People all over this Borough are learning a new word, one that they have never heard before, and that is a good thing, because history continues to be our greatest teacher, and we cannot defeat man’s inhumanity to man until we first recognise it wherever we see it.

The Ukrainian community in Bolton is a part of the rich cultural make-up that is the Bolton Family.  By this Council passing the motion that is today before it, we signal not only our abhorrence to racial and ethnic discrimination but also support our fellow citizens in their campaign, by saying that campaigns against genocide should not be the responsibility of representatives of the community that suffered, but the responsibility of all who claim a place in a freedom loving society.

I therefore formally move the motion ‘That the Council supports the campaign to raise awareness of the Holodomor and for the Ukrainian Famine of 1932 – 33 to be recognised as Genocide, in order that its victims can be properly remembered and that this is never allowed to happen again.’

Councillor John Walsh, leader of the Council’s Conservative group, was subsequently invited to second the motion.  Briefly, he congratulated Councillor Peel for the concise and accurate manner in which he presented and moved the Holodomor motion.  In his opinion the greatest tragedy of modern life was that tragedies such as the Holodomor had got lost sight of.  It was crucial in his estimation that present generations did not fail to recognise genocide committed by previous generations.  In supporting the motion he concluded by inviting the Council to reflect on how Holodomor could be made more understandable and supportable within the community.

In turn The Mayor called upon Councillor Roger Hayes, leader of the Liberal-Democrat group, to further second the proposed Holodomor motion.  Councillor Hayes responded, as follows:

“Mr Mayor, fellow Members of the Council.

I am very happy to support this Motion.

Some of you will remember my former Ward colleague, Frank Harasiwka.  Frank was very proud of his Ukrainian ancestry, and it was from conversations with him that I became aware of some of what happened in Ukraine under Stalin.

Stalin may have been painted as a ‘cuddly Uncle Joe’ when he was our ally against Germany, but he probably caused far more deaths than the German Fuhrer.  Chillingly, this year Russians voted him one of the greatest Russians (even though I believe he was Georgian).

It is perhaps the way of the world that atrocities committed by your enemies become common knowledge.  Different standards seem to apply when the acts are committed by your ‘friends’ or allies.  The USSR was very successful at restricting knowledge of what had happened during the Holodomor, and it was only after Ukrainian Independence that knowledge about it became widespread.

The Holodomor (“murder by hunger”) was a deliberate act by Stalin because Ukraine opposed his forced collectivisation of farms.  In 1932 and 1933 the Russians sent activists to confiscate grain, bread and all other food they could find.  At the same time the borders with Russia were closed so that Ukrainians could not escape.

Between 7 million and 10 million people are believed to have died – a quarter of the population.  33,000 people were dying every day at the height of the famine.  Children disappeared as cannibalism spread.

Very clearly, in my mind, Stalin’s actions were deliberate and calculated and they were targeted against a nation (because the borders were closed).  Clearly this qualifies Holodomor to be recognised as Genocide.

I urge Members to support this Motion.  I hope that reference to the Holodomor in Ukraine will be added to references to other Genocides in our annual acts of remembrance.

In the absence of any further debate on the Executive’s motion, The Mayor formally put it to a vote.  At 8.45 pm Bolton Council unanimously on a cross-party basis adopted the motion as moved.

AUGB Bolton Branch


Ukrayinska Dumka


Great Britain The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain has many branches throughout the country. Select a branch below to find out more information.