November is an important month. Solemn Genocidal Famine Remembrance Day was observed by Ukrainian-Americans recognizing and acknowledging the unforgotten abuse of human rights that occurred during the period of 1932-33 in Ukraine, the Holodomor (man-made famine), one of the many heinous crimes in the history of mankind.
On Saturday, November 16, 2019, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was filled with members of the Ukrainian Community and concerned citizens of New York and neighboring states to commemorate the 86th anniversary of the Genocidal man-made Famine known as the Holodomor. St. Patrick’s is one of the largest cathedrals in the New York Metropolitan area and is utilized annually to host the thousands of people who attend the yearly Requiem Service.
The event began with the solemn procession of Ukrainian American Veterans carrying flags. Entering between the columns of flags proudly held by the veterans was Nadia Severyn, a survivor of the Holodomor, flanked by honorary escorts. Following, were the students of the School of Ukrainian Studies from New York City.
The children filed forward, and solemnly placed single ears of wheat atop those already placed next to the symbolic loaf of bread and lit candle located on a table before the altar. Entering last were the students of the Saint George Academy who slowly made their way to the front and somberly stood holding a poignant black banner commemorating the genocide.
As everyone found their places the service began with His Eminence Antony, Metropolitan and Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora stepping up to the podium. Vladyka Antony commented on the gravity of the Holodomor, emphasizing that it was murder by starvation:
…This famine which over seven to ten million people died from hunger and starvation began as a genocidal attack on Ukrainian intellectuals, professionals, defiant laborers, the church and lead to farmers whose only “crimes” were simple traditions of hard work, self-sufficiency.
Holodomor of 1932-33, a tragedy beyond tragedies, a monstrosity made even more monstrous, by the simple fact that this event was not the consequence of some natural disaster.
Millions of people perished in this famine, caused not by a war but by ruthless decree. Travel was restricted, censorship imposed, and an entire nation began to die-swollen from hunger, on streets, on country roads, in fields, in homes, in the thousands, and hundreds of thousands, and millions, in one of the most beautiful countries in Europe.
This horror is only a painful and ever fading remembrance in the minds of eye-witnesses and survivors. The Holodomor is a memory whose agony long since has been dulled by many years of obsessive remembering. For many Ukrainians it is very disturbing, very frightening once we start reflecting the facts, what happened in Ukraine.
This Holodomor occurred 86 years ago, Ukraine’s border has shifted, but the people have not changed; courage and spirituality have survived. What really can be done now after so many years? What can we, Americans of Ukrainian descent can do to commemorate this sacrifice, to somehow give meaning and dignity to those millions who suffered and died. As a society we can focus on the stories being shared by those who survived. We must be aware that such an atrocity must never be allowed to happen in any segment of the world. The victims of such atrocities as the Holodomor must be memorialized.
…This horrific event was perpetrated by evil individuals who saw Ukrainians as a threat to the totalitarian regime of the time, and therefore, decided they needed to be exterminated. However, while the plan was to destroy and weaken Ukrainians, today it strengthens us in unity, common cause and a desire to not only remember those who lost their lives, but to ensure that such an atrocity is never repeated upon any nation…
His Eminence was joined by Metropolitan Boryz Gudziak of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, PA; Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA; Bishop Paul Chomnycky and Bishop-emeritus Basil Losten of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, CT, along with the clergy and faithful from numerous Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic parishes. The prayers were accentuated by the hymns sung by the “Dumka” Ukrainian Choir, under the direction of Vasyl Hrechynsky.
Joining the faithful were various diplomats, and members from various Ukrainian organizations. Guest speakers included Andriy Futey, President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America; His Excellency Volodymyr Yelchenko, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, and Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations; Senator and Minority Leader of the US Senate Charles Schumer.
The participants sat quietly contemplating the words spoken by everyone who came up to the podium. Tears rolled down their cheeks as they heard retellings of horrific stories, details of how lives were lost to such cruelty and inhumanity. While we would hope history would not repeat itself, today we find Russia once again behaving with aggression towards its peaceful neighbor, Ukraine.
The Memorial Service concluded with Metropolitan Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia expressing his sincere gratitude to all the hierarchs, clergy, diplomats and guests who attended the prayer service to commemorate the Holodomor, as well as to the “Dumka” Choir for adding a sense of otherworldly beauty to such a solemn event.
As the service concluded, those present exited through the large doors, taking with them the somber mood and the realization of what they had just been commemorating. Spreading out through the streets of New York, Ukrainian descendants along with non-Ukrainian neighbors mulled over what they had heard, mumbling together in the little groups, shaking their heads in astonishment that such things could happen, and then walking off to their own homes to share what they learned tonight with their families and friends. While 10 million people lost their lives, they will not be forgotten, and their sacrifice has served to not only strengthen Ukrainian resolution, but, the resolution of the entire world to be vigilant and to intervene if such hostility should ever resurface against any nation.
Ukrainians and Americans, people of diverse background must stand together, determined that inhuman acts throughout the world should not occur as the Holodomor of 1932-33. That senseless man-made famines shall not be forgotten and that such horrors shall never be allowed to happen again.
Once again, this year marks the 86th anniversary of one of the saddest and most tragic of chronicles in the history of the Ukrainian nation and of all the genocides that have happened in the world during the twentieth century. November is an important month for Ukrainians in the United States of America, Diaspora and in Ukraine, highlighting the awareness, honoring victims of the Holodomor-the brutal artificial famine imposed by Josef Stalin and Russia from 1932-33.
Photos by Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan