Survivor testimony

The Holodomor is a very sensitive subject for all survivors and witnesses. It probably constitutes one of the most painful and horrific memories these people have of their lives in Ukraine – together with the Second World War. These memories will often be deeply hidden, and will not be brought to forefront of their minds easily, or in some cases, not at all.

Many survivors also retain a deep-seated fear of the regime they grew up in. This is something individuals born in the West just cannot understand – or feel. They grew up fearing the whole regime – the secret police, arrests, camps, prison, exile to Siberia. They feared for the impact on their families if they spoke about a truth unpalatable to the Soviet regime.

There is also the issue of guilt to deal with – that the survivors couldn’t actually help anyone dying near them, not even by giving a crust of bread – they didn’t have one to give. And the risk of being informed on was always with them.

Although the regime has changed, fear is so deeply rooted that it can be difficult to persuade survivors that they now need have no fear of repercussions if they tell their stories. We are grateful to those who have found the courage and the strength to share their experiences with us.

Orphanage in Kharkiv