Holodomor Survivor Accounts and Memoirs

Holodomor survivor accounts and memoirs:

“From 1 January to 22 April 1932, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine received 115 letters regarding famine conditions in Ukraine.

Among them were letters addressed to Stalin, which were returned from Moscow to Ukraine with orders to punish the writers as ‘enemies of the people.’

A. Full-length Memoirs:

~ Execution by Hunger: The Hidden Holocaust by Miron Dolot.
New York: W.W. Norton, 1985.

The author, a teen-ager during the time, presents a harrowing eyewitness account of the Holodomor as it was implemented and experienced in his village.

~ Sliding on the Snow Stone by Andy Szpuk. That Right Publishing LLC. 2011.

Particularly chapter 1, p.5-17, which recounts his childhood years during the Famine. From GoodReads reviewer ‘Pam:’ “This book is a recounting of a man’s life in Ukraine during Stalin’s genocide and his subsequent journey from the Ukraine with his father, running from both the Nazis and the Russian army, his life in between and the return to his childhood home when he was much older.”

~ The Education of a True Believer by Lev Kopelev.
New York, Harper & Row, 1980 (Originally published in the US in Russian, 1978).

From the publisher’s apt description: For Lev, a committed communist activist, “The discrepancies between that belief and what his own experience shows him culminate in a great chapter of lamentation: ‘The Last Grain Collections (1933).’ But here too, he maintains the perspective of that time: The Bolsheviks who ravage the villages are presented as colorful characters, self-sacrificing workers….But now, of course, we know where it all leads: to misery, starvation, death, the all but unbearable final scene of crying women.”

B. Survivor Accounts:

See alsoEYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS on this website for a selection of brief quotations from survivors’ testimony.

1. Audio and/or Video Accounts:

~ Clips from the Mace Collection. a joint project of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium and the Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre. 2014.

26 min. of  audio excerpts from the original taped testimony presented during the U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine investigations in 1986.  With English subtitles.

~ Share the Story 80 brief oral histories (most are less than 5 minutes) by survivors of the Holodomor currently residing in Canada.  A project to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor. 2013.

Holodomor Survivors Tell Their Stories Canadian oral history project, presenting more than 50 videotaped personal accounts. Video accounts in Ukrainian; written English transcriptions. 2008-9

~ Holodomor: 12 Holodomor survivors’ oral histories A 26+ minute production. This web page also includes links to additional Holodomor testimony. Originally released as a CD by Canad Inns, Winnipeg: www.canadinns.com.

~ Children of Holodomor Survivors Speak This oral history project “consists of interviews with children of the survivors of the Ukrainian Holodomor (genocidal famine) and is the first … to address its impact on the lives of the second generation of survivors in the diaspora.” A project of the  Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre, Toronto, 2015.

2. Written accounts:

~ U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine. Investigation of the Ukrainian Famine, 1932-1933; Report to Congress. Final Report, Appendix I Washington: U.S. GPO. 1988.

“Translations of Selected Oral Histories.” 160 pages of survivor testimony in English that appear in the original Ukrainian in the Commission’s Oral History Project

The First Interim Report  and the Second Interim Report (print only) also include the translated testimony of scores of famine survivors.

~ Oral History Project of the Commission on the Ukraine Famine by James E Mace and Leonid Heretz.
Washington: U.S. G.P.O, 1990.

3 volumes consisting of hundreds of eyewitness and survivor testimonies. In Ukrainian with brief English summaries.

~ Witness:  Memoirs of the Famine of 1933 in Ukraine, by Pavlo Makohon. Translated by Vera Moroz;  originally published inAnabasis, Toronto. 1983.    Engrossing memoir of the author as a 14 year old boy during 1933 and his efforts to survive.  Short story length.

~ “Oleksandra Radchenko:  Persecuted for her Memory,” by Volodymyr Viatrovych, in Lest we forget memory of totalitarism in Europe ; a reader for older secondary school students anywhere in Europe, ed. by Gillian Purves and Stephane Courtois. Praha: Inst. for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, 2013,  pp. 264 – 271.

The diary entries of Oleksandra Radchenko, a teacher in Kharkiv at the time, offer a very rare sense of immediacy not found in accounts based on recollection.   The primary source material is enhanced by an excellent summary of the events of the Holodomor by the author, as well as information about Radchenko’s fate upon the discovery of her diaries by the secret police.

~ The Black Deeds of the Kremlin: A White Book by Semen Pidhainy. Toronto: Ukrainian Association of Victims of Russian Communist Terror, 1953. v. 1: Book of Testimonies.

With the tragedy and privations of WWII just behind them, the recollections of these survivors and eyewitnesses are especially meaningful with regard to the unique horrors of the famine they experienced less than 20 years earlier.

~ The Ninth Circle: In Commemoration of the Victims of the Famine of 1933, by  Olexa Woropay ( or Oleksa Voropai); with a brief forward by James E. Mace. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ., Ukrainian Studies Fund, 1983.

Includes the personal recollections of the author, as well as the brief recollections of eyewitnesses, all gathered between 1934-1948.

~ The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Online A searchable database of summary transcripts of 705 interviews conducted with refugees from the USSR during the early years of the Cold War. A quick search using the terms “famine 1933” yielded more than 100 transcripts by Ukrainians who mention or describe their experiences during the famine.

~ Ukrainian Famine Memoirs  32 brief written testimonies translated from the Ukrainian; [Originally published in Holod 33: Narodna knyha-memorial (Famine 33: National Memorial Book; Kyiv:1991]. Transcribed under the auspices of the Montreal Institute For Genocide and Human Rights Studies, Concordia University (Canada).

~ The Ukrainian Holodomor. Survivor Transcripts. Three brief accounts included in a collection of materials on the Holodomor held by the Australian newspaper, The Age.  “Tanya” “Viktor” “Bozenna

~ A Candle in Remembrance: An Oral History of the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932- 1933, by V.K. Borysenko.  New York: Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, 2010.

A collection of brief testimonies resulting from recent research conducted in Ukraine. Includes an informative, well-documented introduction as well as historical and contemporary photographs.

‘Remember the peasantry’: A study of genocide, famine, and the Stalinist Holodomor in Soviet Ukraine, 1932-33, as it was remembered by post-war immigrants in Western Australia who experienced it, by Lesa Melnyczuk Morgan.ResearchOnline@ND, 2010. PhD thesis. University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, Australia.

Unlike most other accounts, excerpts of survivor memories create the narrative that makes up the main body of this thesis as it describes the early stages, execution, following events and societal effects of the Holodomor.  Also includes an excellent overview of available research and resources in English.

~ Complex Social Memory: Revolving Social Roles in Holodomor Survivor Testimony, 1986-1988 by Johnathon Vsetecka.

Award winning paper presented at the Phi Alpha Theta Regional Conference, April 12, 2014, University of Wyoming, Laramie.  Abstract.

~ Politics of perseverance : Ukrainian memories of “them” and the “other” in Holodomor survivor testimony, 1986-1988, by Johnathon Vsetecka. M.A. thesis, 2014.  Univ. of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado.

~ We’ll meet again in heaven: Germans in the Soviet Union write their Dakota relatives 1925-1937, by Ron Vossler and Joshua J. Vossler. Fargo, N.D.: Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries. 2001.  For description and to order:  https://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/nd_sd/vossler2.html

Letters written by German colonists who originally settled in southern Ukraine and Moldova in the 19th c. describe a life becoming increasingly “desperate.”  The publisher’s description concludes “…one senses imminent death, hunger, and fear… But readers will hear…the integrity of spirit of a people trying to survive in a world few of us can even imagine.”