Holodomor Evidence

The Holodomor Was Considered Genocide Before “Genocide” Was Officially A Crime

Frank Sysyn

For decades, the Soviet Union denied and hid Holodomor evidence that showed the genocide was a deliberate, man-made famine that killed millions in Ukraine in 1932-33. In recent years, it has become clear that a Holodomor genocide thesis had already emerged by the late 1930s, well before the international push to make “genocide” a crime after WWII.

Recognizing the Truth Behind the Holodomor in the 1980s

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the wider scholarly community, as well as the public, began to recognize the truth behind the Holodomor, due in large part to the genocide’s commemorations of its 50th anniversary.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, as researchers and historians for the first time gained access to archival documents that confirmed what truly happened, there were detractors who questioned why the Ukrainian community’s attention, or even fixation, was on this event.

Some commentators saw the Holodomor’s depiction as a man-made famine and as a genocidal act as a way to win victim status for Ukrainians.

Some suggested that the large number of victims, which is in the millions, was claimed as an attempt to equate the genocide with the Holocaust.

Some saw it as propaganda of emigres in the Cold War.

However, research into the famine has shown us otherwise.

Pre-WWII Evidence Shows Holodomor Genocide Thesis

As the study of the Holodomor has expanded in recent decades, the degree to which Ukrainians in the 1930s in Western Ukraine, in the European centers of the Ukrainian emigration, and in the Ukrainian diaspora communities in North and South America saw it as a genocidal act that was spurred as an anti-Ukrainian movement has become more clear.

Thus, long before the term “genocide” was coined or given legal status after WWII, the genocide thesis for the Ukrainian Famine had emerged and figures of six or more million victims were already quoted.

To ensure that the public and world leaders would know about the Holodomor, even as it took place, Ukrainians abroad attempted to share information through the media and international organizations.

It was a difficult task given Soviet denials, but research reveals early examples of the attempts of members of the Ukrainian diaspora community to convince Western societies and leaders of the genocidal nature of the Holodomor and the criminal nature of the Soviet regime.

Published on July 19, 1935, in the Passaic, NJ Herald-News, and later reprinted in the Ukrainian-American diaspora newspaper, Svoboda, under the subheading, “Soviet Russia’s Crime against the Ukraine,” this article demonstrates how the famine had become a central topic for Ukrainians in the United States.

A 1935 edition of the Ukrainian-American newspaper Svoboda provides evidence that the Holodomor was considered a deliberate act of genocide before “genocide” was officially given international legal status after WWII.

Ukrainian-Americans Have Been Shining A Light on Holodomor Evidence for Decades

Lesio Sysyn, the author and my relative, like much of the Ukrainian-American community, originated in Western Ukraine, and already saw the Famine as a planned anti-Ukrainian action that should concern all Ukrainians and a wider public.

Sysyn (1895-1987), who closely followed the news of Ukraine, was born in the village of Mshanets in the Staryi Sambir County of Habsburg Galicia.

The village pastor Father Mykhailo Zubrytsky had a great influence in instilling a love of learning and Ukrainian patriotism in him. In 1913, he left Galicia for the United States and ultimately settled in Garfield, New Jersey.

In the 1920s, he led the movement to form Holy Ascension Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Passaic, New Jersey.

He remained dedicated to the cause of Ukrainian independence throughout his long life and was a supporter of the Organization for the Rebirth of Ukraine. He was a frequent contributor to the Ukrainian American press, with numerous articles on community and political issues published in Svoboda.

In the 1940s, he assisted in establishing the branch of the Ukrainian Congress Committee in Passaic. He maintained a lifelong dedication to informing the world community about the Famine.

A frequent speaker at community events, he introduced the memorial commemoration in Passaic on the 30th anniversary of the Great Famine on December 1, 1963 (Ukraïns’ke pravoslavne slovo February 1964, vol.15, no.2).

He took great pride in the building of the new Holy Ascension church in Clifton, constructed by the well-known architect Jaroslav Sichynsky. He kept a lively interest in contemporary Ukraine, condemning those who wanted to come to an accommodation with Soviet Ukraine (Novyi shliakh 6:1966,15) and supporting the work of Smoloskyp.

Holy Ascension Cathedral in Clifton, NJ, constructed by the well-known architect Jaroslav Sichynsky

Sysyn was present to speak at the 60th anniversary of his parish in 1985, and to call its members to remain loyal to its Ukrainian identity, but he did not live to see Ukraine’s independence.

Sysyn’s publication of an expansive discussion on Ukraine in a major New Jersey newspaper was seen as a success by the Ukrainian community and ensured its reprinting in the New Jersey Ukrainian daily Svoboda. His writings demonstrate that he followed events in Ukraine closely.

Still, the detailed discussion of events in Soviet Ukraine and in the Western press in the text and the level of its English raised the possibility that this may have been a text prepared by one of the Ukrainian political factions and distributed to its members.

One would have to find other copies of this text to prove such a hypothesis.

Despite the Soviet cover up, Sysyn had succeeded in reaching one public, albeit in a regional newspaper in an area with large Eastern European immigrant communities and he was able to reveal the truth behind what occurred.

Frank Sysyn is a professor of history at the University of Alberta.

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