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HOLODOMOR EXHIBIT AT THE UNITED NATIONS
As an unprecedented event, the exhibition HOLODOMOR: The Great Man-Made Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933 opened in the Visitors' Lobby of the United Nations in New York City on November 10, 2003. Among the hundreds of people who came to the opening were numerous United Nations dignitaries, members of the Ukrainian diplomatic corps, civic leaders, researchers and scholars. The exhibit was one in a series of events during a week-long commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of Ukraine's greatest tragedy.
The literal definition of the word HOLODOMOR is "murder by hunger." Seven to ten million men, women and children in Ukraine were starved to death through an artificially created famine by the Soviet government in order to achieve a political purpose.
The HOLODOMOR exhibition was organized by The Ukrainian Museum in New York City at the request of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations.
With photographs, documents and publications the exhibit examines the political and social climate of Ukraine in the decade preceding the Famine and the events, which led to the genocide. It also addresses the aftermath of this tragedy, the meager attention of the world press to the Famine, the cover-up and the consistent denial of the Soviets as to its existence. The efforts of the Ukrainian community to provide relief to the victims, as well as the attempts to spread the truth about HOLODOMOR to the rest of the world are discussed.
The central focus of the exhibit is the devastation wrought by the Famine in terms of human despair, suffering and painful death. The words of the survivors, witnesses and chroniclers of the Famine bring out the full horror of this heinous and monumental crime and are presented to the exhibition viewer. One could only wonder how it remained largely unknown within the international community for the past seventy years.
The exhibit is largely based on Harvard University's catalog of its 1983 exhibition, Famine in the Soviet Ukraine 1932-1933 and on photographs and documents recently made available from Ukraine's newly released Central Government Archives. The archival documents were made public by the Ukrainian government after the breakup of the Soviet Union. They contain a storehouse of information about the Famine. The actions of government officials that had a bearing on the Famine are evident in their letters, telegrams, notes, charts, and photos. The officials' cold analysis concerning the scope of the human devastation is clearly stated. This documentation presents a horrifying record of one of the darkest chapters in the history of Ukraine under Soviet domination. The exhibit informs one that the most striking documents were found in the record of the government health authority and in the photos held by the Central Government Video-Photo-Audio Archives.
The exhibition organizers also utilized as sources the archives of the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, and the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Notwithstanding, the Ukrainian Museum's own archival collection of photographs and memoirs, especially those of Vadym Pavlovsky, who was a Famine witness and a chronicler of the tragedy, as well as copies of relevant newspapers donated by Mykola Panchenko, proved invaluable. The exhibition organizers also looked to various books and newspapers for photographic material and other information on the Famine in public and private libraries.
The exhibition is presented in chronological order on panels, on which the events of the decade preceding the Famine are discussed. The viewer is also informed about the development of a cultural renaissance, which bloomed in Ukraine in the 1920s. Literature, cinema, theater, and visual arts flourished but for a brief period, as did independent farming and private enterprise, under the Bolshevik government's New Economic Policy.
Stalin's ascent to power in 1928 ended this independent cultural and political life in Ukraine. His five-year plan proposing the collectivization of farmland was the harbinger of the terrible disaster to come. Those opposing him soon found themselves enveloped in a reign of terror. The exhibition panels discuss the collectivization of individually owned lands, the forced seizure of grains, food and personal possessions. It shows the purges of Ukraine's intelligentsia and clergy through mass arrests, deportations to Arctic labor camps, executions, as well as the deliberate destruction of centuries-old churches and cultural institution. In other words the aim was to achieve the obliteration of total national consciousness.
Photographs of the 1932-1933 Great Famine portray the skeletal bodies, the sunken eyes, and the unbelievable stacks of corpses, carted for burial.
A panel discusses the perfidy of Walter Duranty, a special correspondent to the New York Times in Moscow, who wrote articles in 1933 that there was no such famine although privately confiding to colleagues that people in Ukraine were dying from starvation. This coincided with the Soviet government's denial of the existence of the Famine. The Soviets blamed the weather for a poor harvest, while shipping thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain to the west for profit.
The reproductions of front pages of several Hearst newspapers in the United States, which reported about the Famine, are displayed on panels, as are the pages of the Christian Science Monitor from Boston and England's Manchester Guardian.
The exhibit presents documents of resolutions, issued by various governments - the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine ( 2003), United States (1933 and 2003), Canada, Australia and Argentina (2003). They show the tragedy of the HOLDOMOR, and condemn the Stalinist policy, while honoring the memory of the victims of the Famine.
Simultaneous with the opening of the exhibition, the Ukrainian Mission to the UN presented, as an official document of the United Nations General Assembly, a Joint Statement/Declaration on the 70th Anniversary of HOLODOMOR. It was cosponsored by 50 member nations of the United Nations.
Valeriy Kuchynsky, Ukraine's Ambassador to the UN said: "The declaration is unique in that it is the first of its kind within the United Nations to publicly condemn the Soviet totalitarian regime for the murder of millions of innocent victims. We are convinced that exposing violations of human rights, preserving historical records and restoring the dignity of victims by recognizing their suffering, will help the international community avoid similar catastrophes in the future."
The Ukrainian Museum also published a brochure, which accompanied the exhibit. In photos and brief text in the English language, the brochure captures the essence of the exhibit..
The fact that the HOLODOMOR exhibition was mounted at the United Nations is a great victory for justice. The enormous Visitors' Lobby is a thoroughfare for thousands of people each day-those who have business to attend to and visitors from every corner of the globe. People pass by and stop by the exhibition panels but for a moment, intending to move on. But few do. Most stay and become absorbed in panel after panel, and read about the horrible crime that was not recognized nor acknowledged by much of the world for such a long time.
Organizing the HOLODOMOR exhibition was an important project for the Ukrainian Museum. It was in keeping with the Museum's mission-to preserve the cultural and historical heritage of Ukrainian Americans and share it with the public. It was also in keeping with the Museum's agenda of engaging in cooperative endeavors with the cultural and artistic communities in Ukraine, through the cooperation and with the endorsement and support of the government of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Museum has been a viable member of the greater Ukrainian community and a respected participant in the prestigious circle of New York's cultural institutions for 27 years. Its successes and accomplishments are underwritten by the generous support of its members and friends.
Published in The Ukrainian Weekly November 30, 2003.
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