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Ukrainians remember Holodomor genocide in Boston amid war with Russia

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Roughly 60 Ukrainian-Americans gathered on Boston Common Saturday to remember the millions of Ukrainian people who perished 90 years ago in the Holodomor genocide.

The “mass artificial famine,” as the Holodomor was described by event organizers, was orchestrated by the Stalin regime as a way to staunch rebellion against the Soviet Union, and killed anywhere between seven to 10 million people in 1932-33.

For those who came out to mark Holodomor Remembrance Day, celebrated each year on the last Saturday of November by lighting a candle at 4 p.m., it was hard not to draw the parallels between the nearly century-old genocide and today’s Russia-Ukraine War.

“What’s going on now is in essence a continuation or a repeat or what happened in ‘32-33,” said Vsevolod Petriv, president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Boston branch.

Petriv said the tactics may be different, but Russia’s end game is the same, which is to “get rid of the Ukrainians as an ethnicity.”

“Then they used food, and now they’re using missiles and weapons,” he said.

According to the National Museum of the Holodomor-Genocide in Ukraine’s website, crops and livestock were taken away from Ukrainian farmers, who were forbidden from traveling to cities in Russia and Belarus to buy food.

Laws were imposed by the Soviet Union, including those that equated all collective property to state property, and set severe punishments for theft. Hungry farmers who collected leftover crops from the fields were imprisoned, had their property confiscated or were executed, the museum’s website states.

Roughly 22.4 million people were physically locked within the famine-ridden territory, where they began to starve to death. The Soviet Union also allegedly refused foreign aid from organizations like the International Red Cross, the website stated.

“What’s happening today is also related somehow,” said Andriy Boyko, a member of the Ukrainian Cultural Center of New England, which organized Saturday’s demonstration in Boston. “They continue to destroy our infrastructure.”

The Associated Press reported that European countries pledged Friday to send more support to mitigate the Russian military’s efforts to turn off the heat and lights.

Officials estimate roughly 50% of Ukraine’s energy facilities have been damaged in recent military strikes, according to the AP, which reported France’s foreign minister as saying that Russia was “weaponizing” the winter.

“It’s hard to live through, but Ukrainians do,” Boyko said. “All times we’re resisting for our independence.”

Petriv said part of his organization’s role is trying to get the rest of the world to recognize Holodomor as a genocide.

Ninety years later, only 16 nations, including the United States, do, and Russia still denies the events constitute a genocide.

Petriv said the Soviet Union maintained that the Holodomor was a famine, and it was illegal for Ukrainians to call it a genocide until the USSR collapsed and Ukraine gained independence in 1991.

“In Ukraine, they’re still afraid to talk,” Petriv said. “It’s been a battle just to be able to get people to recognize it.”

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 26-SATURDAY: Anton Popov hangs a banner describing the horror s of the Holodomor during Ukrainian remembrance day services on the Boston Common November 26, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Connors/Media News Group/Boston Herald)

Paul Connors/Boston Herald

Anton Popov hangs a banner describing the horrors of the Holodomor during Ukrainian remembrance day services on the Boston Common Saturday. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 26-SATURDAY: Nadia Trojan, left, of Reading, and her daughter Maria Gesnulevilius, right, of Saugas, both originally of Lviv, Ukraine, hold wheat as a symbol for those who died of the Holodomor, and Ukrainian flags during Ukrainian remembrance day services on the Boston Common November 26, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Connors/Media News Group/Boston Herald)

Paul Connors/Boston Herald

Nadia Trojan, left, of Reading, and her daughter Maria Gesnulevilius, right, of Saugas, both originally of Lviv, Ukraine, hold wheat as a symbol for those who died of the Holodomor, and Ukrainian flags during Ukrainian remembrance day services on the Boston Common Saturday. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)

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