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Saturday, 13 October 2012

Ukraine - Day 3.

If you don't know what a Holodomor is, please read on.


Today was a very sobering day on our tour.

We woke to a thick fog covering Kiev. We climbed into the van and my sister Lily asked Nilla if we could see something to do with the Holodomor. 

What was the Holodomor? It's a man induced famine. Very short version - Ukraine was a great supply of food for the communists, but the Ukrainians hated the Bolsheviks and the communists and were a thorn in Stalin's side. They caused trouble and Stalin decided to put Ukraine in it's place. He decreed that all Ukrainians would supply an unachievable quota of grain. When they didn't meet their quota then all their grain would be taken, and livestock would be taken as a fine for failing to meet their quota. Stalin ordered that every skerrick of food to be taken, down to the last bean. The bottom line is, Stalin's actions caused up to 10 million Ukrainians to starve to death. The true number will never be known. Babies, children, old people, there was no discrimination here.  

If you read anything this year , please take five minutes and read the listed web page: This must never be let to happen again.

Nilla took us to the Holodomor memorial. It was eerie visiting this site in the fog.

 As you walk down the path to the memorial it is flanked by two stone angels keeping watch over the souls of the dead.

 The path leading up to the memorial represents a plowed and empty wheat field.

This statue represents the law of five. If anyone, small children included, stole anything, including food to stay alive, they were sent to Siberia or executed. Would you steal five potatoes to feed your child? This girl is shown holding five ears of wheat. People visiting here place small offerings at her feet.

 Close up of the above statue.
If this doesn't bring a tear to your eye I don't know what will.

The golden storks represent Ukraine's struggle against oppression and famine over the years and breaking free from that oppression. The lower storks are trapped while the stork at the top is flying free. 

At the memorial there was hauntingly sad music playing through loudspeakers which added to the sombre mood of the place. I really don't know how to describe how I felt being there except for one word. Sad. Nilla arranged a tour of the museum located underneath the memorial for us later in the afternoon. She also organised an English speaking guide to show us through and explain everything to us. This was a very moving visit as our grandparents, father, and aunties and uncles suffered through this time.

I now have a much greater insight into my father's life.

At one stage we spoke to Nilla about our father's constant writing and lobbying against the communists which was part of the reason he could never return home. She turned to us and said "Your father was a hero." Talk about bring a lump to your throat. She told us that people like our father played a huge part in the overthrow of communism and  fall of the USSR, returning Ukraine to the Ukrainian people.

We then visited Kiev Pechersk Lavra, Kiev Monastery of Caves. The Monastery was very impressive but to be honest we were all keen to get back to the holodomor Museum for our tour.

Now we went back to the Holodomor Museum. 

 A sunlight shot of the Holodomor statue.

One of the many displays in the museum.

 This container holds a grain of wheat for every life lost.

 These books hold the names of the dead, and there are about ten of them. There are names being added to the lists every day as more people are confirmed.

 Soldiers guarding grain while...

 ...people starved to death and fell where they stood.

The back door to the museum. The bell is there to ring for the departed.

The museum had exhibits showing all sorts of items from the era, lots of photographs, and audio visual presentations that were very stirring. It was a very long and exhausting day.

In our short time in Ukraine I have found that people our age don't smile. I guess, understandably their parents never smiled so they haven't learned how. Fortunately the younger generation, around nineteen and twenty years old have a different outlook and are smiling and laughing. It will take many decades for this country to recover, but having been here I'm sure it is happening and it has started already.

We made our way to an authentic Ukrainian restaurant for dinner. It was nice but our mood was a little down after today's visit and it probably wasn't as enjoyable as it could have been.

Tomorrow we have arranged a visit to an outdoor museum which replicates village life in Ukraine. I hope the sun is shining.

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