Ukraine churches remember Moscow's campaign of 'death by hunger'

People visit a monument to Holodomor victims in Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov. 25, 2023, during a ceremony commemorating the famine of 1932-33, in which millions died of hunger. The ceremony took place the same day Russia launched its most intense drone attack on Ukraine since the beginning of its full-scale invasion on the country in 2022. (OSV News photo/Sofiia Gatilova, Reuters)

(OSV News) ─ Ukrainian church leaders have joined anniversary commemorations of the 1932-1933 Holodomor, or Great Famine, in which millions died in a disaster deliberately engineered by Soviet Union rulers.

"Ninety years ago, Ukrainians were killed in cold blood under the direct order and elaborate plan of (Josef) Stalin's totalitarian communist regime, which aimed to destroy our people and their identity, forever ending their hopes of freedom," said the country's Greek Catholic bishops.

"The genocide of Ukrainians was not an accidental deviation from Moscow's historical tradition -- on the contrary, it was the bloodiest embodiment of a centuries-old ideology of Russian imperialism, which eternally burns with hatred for Ukraine, despises neighboring nations and greedily encroaches on the world's space."

The declaration, issued ahead of Nov. 25 commemorations, said "killing by starvation" had been chosen as a "weapon of mass destruction" to ensure long-term domination, while erasing Ukraine's "language, culture and memory" and "sinking its people and land into the abyss."

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Roman Catholic bishops described the Holodomor as the Ukrainian people's "great historical tragedy," adding that it had inflicted a "slow and terrible death on millions of innocent people" in one of the world's richest territories.

"Recognizing the horrors of the 'harvest of death' that claimed the lives of millions, we, as the Church and people, have become stronger and better understand the dimensions of the evil we can face. The current war for the independence of our Motherland is a continuation of that ancient struggle. The Russian authorities employ the same forms of intimidation and destruction against Ukraine," the bishops said in a statement dated Nov. 19.

"May this National Day of Remembrance serve all of us in uniting against all forms of visible and invisible evil. Let us pray for those who today suffer from hunger -- our defenders on the front line, internally displaced persons affected by the war, and those enduring years within it," the Roman Catholic bishops wrote.

Around 4 million people perished, according to official Ukrainian data, in the 22-month Holodomor, which followed the Soviet government's confiscation of crops and blocking of humanitarian aid to areas resisting agricultural collectivization.
The outrage, acknowledged by Moscow only in 1990, was accompanied by the closure of most Ukrainian churches, and has been recognized as genocide so far by over 30 countries, including the United States and Holy See.

The pope said after his Nov. 26 Angelus prayer the "genocide perpetrated by the Soviet regime" had inflicted a "lacerating wound," which had been made "even more painful due to the cruelty of the war."

Meanwhile, the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, told a Nov. 23 memorial service in Rome's Sant'Andrea della Valle Basilica that memory of the Holodomor was matched by "human and Christian sympathy" for the "countless people" who had died in the "merciless ongoing war" facing Ukraine, adding that the "seeds of death" were always sown when "a person claims to be master of history and tries to take the place of God."

The Nov. 25 anniversary was marked across Ukraine by Masses and liturgies, and by an ecumenical service in Kyiv's historic Pechersk-Lavra Monastery, attended by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other foreign politicians and diplomats.

In a televised address, Zelensky said Soviet rulers had not bothered to count starvation victims, later suppressing knowledge of the Holodomor.

The Holodomor claimed the lives of at least 3.5 million people due to the policies of the Soviet Union in one of Europe's most fertile countries as the Soviet Union exported vast quantities of grain while confiscating grain and food in Ukraine.

The current war had shown "in real time what Russia, calling itself the Soviet Union's successor, is capable of," the president added, as Moscow's forces again inflicted "famine, cold and terror" by targeting Ukraine's civilian infrastructure and grain exports.

The commemorations were marred by mass Russian drone attacks on Kyiv, which damaged the capital's Greek Catholic patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection and adjoining buildings.

"We ask for a more active dissemination of truth about the war in Ukraine, so the enemy's false propaganda does not find a place in people's hearts," the Greek Catholic bishops said in their statement.

"The empire failed to kill Ukraine 90 years ago. But the descendants of the killers, driven by evil, envy and hatred, have decided to complete what their predecessors failed to do. Russia's unprovoked, cynical, genocidal war against Ukraine has the same goal that the Kremlin set during the Holodomor: the liquidation of the Ukrainian people, the destruction of their freedom and future, the absorption of their children by a soulless totalitarian system, oppressed by age-old demons, unrepentant, boundless in its cruelty," they emphasized.

A resolution marking the Holodomor anniversary, signed by 55 U.N. members, including the U.S. and European Union, also paid tribute to "millions of people of other nationalities who died of starvation and political repression in other parts of the Soviet Union."
It called for efforts "to prevent the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, in particular by disrupting production and supply chains that increases global food insecurity, especially for the most vulnerable."

In a statement issued Nov. 25, U.S. President Joe Biden highlighted Stalin's seizure of Ukraine's grain to suppress its national identity.

"Today, Ukraine's agricultural infrastructure is once more being deliberately targeted - this time by Vladimir Putin as part of his drive for conquest and power," Biden said, comparing Russia's actions in Ukraine to Holodomor famine.

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Jonathan Luxmoore writes for OSV News from Oxford, England.


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