February, 1929. Ninety-three years ago Joseph Stalin began a policy focused against Ukraine, requiring all landowners to transfer their farms and cattle to the State (collectivization). He then increased grain quotas so that farmers were unable to fulfill them, resulting in a mass genocide during Holodomor (1932-33), where about five million Ukrainians died of starvation, often putting one foot in front of the other until they fell where they stood.
While the famine also caused mass starvation in the grain-growing areas of Soviet Russia and Kazakhstan, political decrees and decisions were aimed mostly or only at Ukraine, causing more deaths there.
Stalin’s purge of terror is well remembered in the Ukrainian psyche, resulting in a passion for independence and a strong sense of nationalism. When my mother and I visited Ukraine in 2006, people were proud that they were again using the Ukrainian language rather than Russian. We saw the house that had been my great grandfather’s, with his initials, “AF”, in wrought iron at the peak of the house front.
I saw the graves of some of my ancestors, and met first cousins of my dad’s who never left Ukraine. Since their father married a Ukrainian woman, he stayed–and was later executed by the Soviets. It was wonderful to meet them, and fun to communicate as best we could. I know a bit of German, which these eighty-something women knew. Mom could understand and speak the language more fluently than I, and saw a picture they brought of my father playing with these women when they were children. Oh, how she longed to take that picture home–she had none of Dad as a child, since he was twelve when his family was granted exit visas.
February 2022. Today Ukraine is again being threatened by neighboring Russia and Belarus, with a possible invasion beginning within a week. I pray for these people who have suffered greatly under Communist oppression.
One man said “We’ve been under this threat for eight years. We will fight back.” May God give them hope, and be with them as they fight to retain their independence.