Ukrainian Community of Los Angeles, CA Honors the Memory of the Fallen Victims of HOLODOMOR
Ukrainian Community of Los Angeles, CA Honors the Memory of the Fallen Victims of HOLODOMOR

The Holodomor, which translates to "death by hunger" in Ukrainian, was a man-made famine instituted by Soviet Russia as a form of genocide against the Ukrainian people. Approximately 10 million innocent souls were lost to a long, painful, and lingering death through starvation.

This tragic chapter in world history, is commemorated annually on the last Saturday of the month of November.  This year’s commemoration fell on the 25th of the month, and once again on this day, millions of Ukrainians from all over the world joined in prayer as they lit “Candles of Remembrance” at 4 PM Kyiv/Eastern European Standard Time, 9 AM (Eastern Standard Time).  Placing lit candles in their windows, or in their prayer corners, everyone joined together for a moment of silence, followed by prayers for the peaceful repose of those who had lost their lives during the Holodomor.

With the current attempt at genocide in Ukraine by the Russian forces, this year’s tragic anniversary felt even more profound.  As the Ukrainians throughout the world lit candles, the innocent internally displaced people in Ukraine also lit their candles, as well as the soldiers defending Ukraine’s freedom.  While the candle served as a memorial for most, for the soldiers in the trenches, the lit flame not only commemorated those who had died, but, also bestowed warmth and hope to those who actively defend the nation from another genocide.  The lit candle this year was a flame of commemoration, warmth from the cold, and a light of hope.

Light a memorial candle for those killed by hunger. Send warmth, stand next to those who are currently fighting so that this never happens again,” the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory wrote, commemorating Holodomor victims on 25 November 2023.

Ninety years ago, millions perished in Ukraine in a man-made famine under Josef Stalin, a genocide against the Ukrainian nation.

Ukraine is known as the breadbasket of Europe for its abundant wheat crops, a product of its rich, black topsoil. But under Soviet rule it lost around 10 million citizens during the 1932-1933 famine, with some researchers stating that the figure goes even higher.

While some historians argue the famine was planned and exacerbated by Stalin to quash an independence movement, others suggest it was a result of rapid Soviet industrialization and the collectivization of agriculture.

Ukraine officially recognizes the Holodomor as genocide, as do several Western nations, a label that Moscow vehemently rejects.

Earlier in the day, the Ukrainian Community had gathered at the Ukrainian Holodomor and the Armenian Genocide Memorials, in downtown Los Angeles, CA, where the children, dressed in their vyshyvanky, laid flowers and wreaths to remember and bring awareness to the historic tragedy.  In the afternoon, the Ukrainian community of Los Angeles, gathered at Our Lady of Angeles Roman-Catholic Church for a formal commemorative event, which included a Memorial Service and lectures presented by various scholars.  Hundreds of people filled the church to pray, remember, and learn about the horror that befell Ukraine 90 years before.

His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA presided over the Memorial Panakhyda, commemorating the lives of the innocent victims of the Holodomor.  In his introductory remarks, prior to the service, His Eminence stated:

“We have gathered here today in this beautiful cathedral to bow our heads in prayer with grief and sorrow in memory of almost 10 million men, women and children who died from starvation as human sacrifices during 1932 and 1933, in great pain and suffering, on the rich black earth of our ancestral homeland; land which provided a bumper harvest that year. There exists no language in this world, which could describe the horrible, inhumane, unnatural sufferings of starving people.  There are no shades of colors that could depict the picture of the suffering Ukraine who has drunk the cup of world sorrow to the last drop.”

His Eminence called upon those gathered to hear the ringing of human voices of those who starved to death. The hierarch prayerfully, yet powerfully, exclaimed that the world needs to hear the number – 10 million human lives destroyed! Moreover, the archbishop continued: “…we cannot force the memory of those millions who died out of our minds. We must seriously take our responsibility to correct the history books and educational materials to keep the flame of memory alive about our brothers and sisters in Christ who perished only because they were willing to stand up for their rights to own their own small part of God’s green Earth, rather than to submit to the collective farm policy of Josef Stalin.  We must continue to work tirelessly to make sure that finally there is a proper memorial built in Kyiv and the capitol of our nation - United States of America, a memorial worthy of the sacrifice of so many millions… I call upon you to continue your work, regardless of what some might say. Remember - if we force the memory of those millions who died out of our minds because it makes us, or perhaps someone else, uncomfortable, then we fail them.”

Archbishop Daniel concluded: “Someone once said that - A nation who forgets its past shall have no future.  This is most true today, as we look at our ancestral motherland.  We apprehensively look at the constant political struggles there, we see how our neighbors constantly undermine our authority and threaten our independence.  

It is for these reasons that we in the Diaspora, being loyal to our Motherland, should strengthen the relations between ourselves.  We should become an effective welding factor for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine who continue the fight for the future of our nation and its independence.  Our daily efforts here should be geared toward positive steps for our people in Ukraine to move ahead, but also never forget their tragic past, especially the Famine of 1932-33.

As we complete this yearlong commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the Genocidal Famine, a horror unequaled in our nation or the world, let us not be indifferent.  Let those horrible years be both a reminder to us all and a warning as we look toward building a future for our nation.  WE MUST NEVER FORGET!”

A beautiful choir comprised of cantors and members of various Orthodox and Catholic parishes in the greater Los Angeles, CA area and under the skillful direction of Maestro Greg Hallick, chanted responses to the memorial service led by the Archbishop Daniel and Very Rev. Fr. Vasile Sauciur of St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Pro-Cathedral in Los Angeles, CA; Rev. Fr. Volodymyr Kotyk of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic parish in Los Angeles, CA; Rev. Fr. Myroslav Mykytyuk of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Los Angeles, CA and Deacon Pavlo Vysotsky of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial-Church in South Bound Brook, NJ.

The commemorative program was organized by the Southern California Holodomor Genocide Committee under the leadership of Dr. Olga Popel, who serves as a president of the local Holodomor Committee.

Among the speakers of the formal program were Victoria MaIko, PhD, California State University, Fresno - "The Holodomor as Genocide in Light of the U.N. Convention" and Mayhill Fowler, Ph.D., Stetson University, Deland, FL - "Against Empire: Ukrainian Theatrical Resistance, 19th-21st Centuries".

The day concluded with a screening of the documentary "Black Raven" (2022), featuring the witnesses of Joseph Stalin's Holodomor Genocide of Ukrainians in 1932-1933. Each individual interviewed had persevered through unspeakable horrors. Each had confronted death and struggled to survive to keep Ukraine's history and culture alive. This documentary exposes the secret that murdered millions. Director: George Wyhinny. Writers: Luba Keske, George Wyhinny.

Additionally, participants of the commemorative program were able to view an exhibit of HOLODOMOR art presented by Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak, who is a Ukrainian-American artist born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Ukrainian immigrant parents displaced by World War II.

Pani Bodnar-Balahutrak received a Bachelor of Science degree from Kent State University (1973) and a Master of Fine Arts degree from George Washington University (1977). She visited Ukraine for the first time in 1991 on an IREX grant. The artist focuses on the human condition in her work and, to that end, addresses how her Ukrainian and American bicultural background informs that experience. She has exhibited widely, nationally, and internationally. Her work is found in numerous public and private collections, including at Oxford University, the Barrett Collection, Dallas, and the Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas. She resides in Houston, Texas, where she is a studio faculty at the Glassell School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

As the prayer service concluded, Archbishop Daniel offered gratitude to His Eminence Most Reverend José H. Gomez - the Archbishop of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest Catholic community, for his permission to utilize the Our Lady of Angeles Cathedral, which resulted in greater attention being brought to the event. Vladyka Daniel expressed gratitude to the local Ukrainian clergy and the entire Ukrainian community for such a strong and positive witness in commemorating the 10 million innocents – modern day martyrs – who died without reason.

Ukrainian Community of Los Angeles, CA Honors the Memory of the Fallen Victims of HOLODOMOR

Photos by Subdeacon Maksym Zhuravchyk

(52 images)

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