The Holodomor of 1932-1933 and Ukraine today - striking parallels. Key points from speeches at the Geneve conference


On November 25th, a public conference on the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holodomor took place at the Museum of Art and History in Geneva.

The event featured speeches by Evgeniya Filipenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, Andriy Luzhnytsky, President of the Ukrainian Society in Switzerland, Khrystyna Batruk, President of the Bogdan Gavrylyshyn Family Foundation, and Oles Ilchenko, a Ukrainian historian and writer.

The conference was primarily aimed at the Swiss population and expatriates from other countries who wanted to learn more about Ukraine, as well as Ukrainians who had the opportunity to participate in the event to commemorate the memory of their ancestors who suffered from the genocide – the Holodomor of 1932-1933.

Representatives of the local community, media, diplomats, professors, and students attended the conference.

The event began with a minute of silence and prayer.

"Russia has long been trying to eradicate the Ukrainian people, to uproot them," said Andriy Luzhnytsky, President of the Ukrainian Society in Switzerland, as he began his speech and continued: 

"This became evident when Russian forces invaded Ukrainian cities in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and later during the full-scale invasion in February 2022. Everyone must know that the first buildings destroyed during these invasions were libraries and historical archives. It was a blatant attempt to erase evidence of past sins."

He then reminded the audience that in 2017, at the Munich Security Conference, Putin stated that the collapse of the Soviet Union was one of the greatest political catastrophes of the 20th century. Unfortunately, no one from the audience stood up and said that it was not the collapse but the actual existence of the Soviet Union that was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. This statement marked the beginning of the most active rehabilitation of figures like Stalin - all those who committed the crimes we talk about today.

"There is a historian named Edwin Snorr who made a stunning documentary called 'Soviet Story,' which documented the cooperation between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union from 1930 to 1941," the speaker added. "When the NKVD taught the Nazis their methods of torture, repression, and mass killings." The world did not react as it should have and had terrible consequences. "What would have happened if our leaders had decisively opposed Moscow's genocidal policy then? What would have happened in the 1940s and throughout the 20th century?" Andriy asked and continued: "What lessons has Ukraine learned from this today?

First and foremost, Ukraine has committed to combating the use of food as a weapon of mass destruction. When we talk about weapons of mass destruction, we usually don't think about food, but it is being used in this way. Moscow is once again wielding this weapon cynically to pressure countries to stop supporting the victims of Russian aggression.

The deaths of many Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933 will not be in vain," Mr. Luzhnytsky assured. "We will never forget what was done to Ukraine and our people by the leaders in Moscow at that time. We will continue to honor the victims through our prayers, conferences like today, and by informing the world about the horrors that took place during that period."

In conclusion, the speaker expressed optimism: "I hope there is optimism in the world today. I have to constantly search for it desperately, and I do. I believe that the Holodomor is increasingly perceived not only as a story of human tragedy or the failure of world leaders to help Ukraine but as a living and powerful testimony to Ukraine's resilience. The trauma of all this still lives in the souls of Ukrainians around the world. At the same time, it is a source of endless moral strength for preserving our nation and striving for justice and dignity."

"The methods of organizing artificial famine by Russian occupiers have not changed," said Oles Ilchenko, historian and writer.

The esteemed speaker began his speech with the history of his own family, recounting how his grandmother Maria and her daughter Diana - the mother of the historian - secretly retrieved hidden food from their hiding place in their own home at night. The last thing they had left was dried cherries. They ate in secret so that no one would see, especially the communist squads who went from house to house and took everything.

"All the food in the entire village was taken away; everything was confiscated from the peasants. No one buried the bodies of people; their corpses lay near their homes. This is how Stalin sought revenge on Ukrainians for their resistance to communist rule and their unwillingness to live under totalitarian rule," emphasized Oles.

His grandmother and mother survived, but millions of other Ukrainians did not. Continuing his speech, he quoted the testimony of the famous Ukrainian writer Ivan Bahrianyi: "According to the 1927 population census, Ukraine had 32 million inhabitants. In 1939, twelve years later, it had 28 million." So, what happened to those 4 million people? Why was there no population growth? The artificial famine in Ukraine annihilated them - this was the conclusion drawn by the historian, relying on Bahrianyi's perspective.

"We see a real humanitarian and anthropological catastrophe," the speaker noted. "Because for nearly 100 years, the population of Ukraine has hardly increased, all due to the actions of the communists."

For Stalin, the existence of an independent Ukraine was a threat to his monolithic communist state, according to Mr. Oles. That's why the dictator sought to destroy Ukrainians. First and foremost, he wanted to kill peasants, transform Ukrainian workers in the major industrial cities of Ukraine into Russians, and eliminate the intelligentsia. The purpose of Stalin's actions was to prevent Ukrainian statehood. This entailed the physical destruction of Ukrainian intellectuals: writers, artists, museum workers, and priests.

The theme of the genocide of the Ukrainian people is vividly portrayed in the works of many Ukrainian writers. Literature has revealed the reasons for the Holodomor:

  • The dominance of the totalitarian Soviet regime.
  • Stalin's insatiable desire for unlimited personal power.
  • His pathological hatred for Ukrainians resulted in mass repression.

"Putin, like Stalin once did, dreams of the complete destruction of the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian people," emphasized the historian. "In Ukraine's very existence as an independent, democratic, European state, Putin sees a threat to his rule. Today, Russia is a dictatorship and a police state within a mafia. What Hitler wanted to do with Jews, Putin is trying to do with Ukraine."

The historian believes that the weak international response to Russia's aggression against Ukraine in 2014 somewhat encouraged the full-scale Russian invasion. The methods of Russian occupiers have not changed; they are still trying to organize artificial famine. There is evidence that Russia actively prepared to steal Ukrainian grain reserves and starve Ukrainians long before Putin gave the order to invade.

The looting of Ukrainian food is happening on an unprecedented scale. Russia took control of many Ukrainian agro firms less than a week after its invasion. At the height of the looting, Russia was selling grain from the occupied territories at a rate of up to twelve thousand tons per day.

"We in Ukraine understand well and must convey a simple truth to the world," the speaker emphasized, "Putin is not the sole source of evil. He is a product of Russian political culture with deep and ancient roots. Russian society is deeply sick, and this illness needs to be treated urgently."

Christopher Edwood, an American researcher of contemporary genocide in Ukraine, noted that modern Russian identity is imperial. Even if Russia loses to Ukraine tomorrow and withdraws its troops, it will remain an imperial project.

"Ukrainians have no choice: either we will win, or we will be destroyed. That's why we are grateful to everyone who is standing with us in the fight against global evil," Oles Ilchenko concluded his speech.

"Today, in Ukraine, a genocide against the Ukrainian people is taking place," said Khrystyna Bartukh, President of the Family of Bohdan Havrylyshyn Foundation.

Ms. Khrystyna began her speech with the words that the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holodomor is a very sad day, but such events are necessary for the world to remember what happened. But an even greater sadness arises from the fact that something similar is happening again, and the world remains largely indifferent.

Her entire speech was composed of evidence that in 1932-1933, and today in Ukraine, a genocide against the Ukrainian people is taking place, expanding the understanding of what "genocide" means.

"In the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide, there is a term that precisely defines what it is," the speaker said. "In the modern understanding, genocide requires the presence of genocidal intent. It can be the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. But the intent can take various forms: killing members of the group, causing serious physical or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately imposing conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the group."

Genocide is not only the act itself but also incitement to it, as well as complicity, with inaction, being considered a form of collaboration. "If you know about it and do nothing, you are complicit," emphasized Ms. Khrystyna.

She also noted that it took a long time for all the testimonies to be accepted as reality, as propaganda had muddied the waters for decades. But there is still much work ahead because only 33 countries, the European Parliament, and some other structures have recognized the Holodomor as a national tragedy and genocide. In comparison, there are more than 200 countries in the UN. So, there is much work to be done.

Furthermore, the world needs to realize that genocide is happening right now.

"I am going to give you four examples that, in my opinion, prove that genocide was not only what happened in 1932-1933 but also what is happening today," said Ms. Bartukh.

Examples of genocide today:

  • First and foremost, it is the abduction of children. Over 20,000 children were kidnapped and sent to Russian families or camps where they were deprived of their parental nationality language and told they had become Russians. This is genocide. Fortunately, the international community has finally awakened: the ICC has accused Putin and his accomplices of committing another war crime," emphasized Ms. Khrystyna.
  • Genocide is not only hunger but also the theft of Ukrainian grain to sell it, hindering Ukrainian grain supplies to African and Asian countries. Ukraine has done a lot to ensure supplies despite experiencing one of the worst tragedies in human history.
  • Genocide is when Ukrainian fields are mined, affecting not only the present but also the future. Today, Ukraine is the most mined country in the world.
  • There are also signs of cultural genocide - we all know about the deliberately bombed churches, libraries, and theaters. "Since Russia captured Ukraine in the 18th century," said the speaker, "cultural genocide has been ongoing. During this time, 134 decrees were issued banning the Ukrainian language. Yet it exists, stronger than ever. But genocide is evident."

Ms. Bartukh reminded that there are clear parallels between past and present times. In 1932-1933, the world remained silent; journalists argued whether it was happening, and many tried to legitimize what was inhumane and amoral.

"This time, the world is less silent but still quite silent. In 1994, Ukraine was guaranteed that its sovereignty would be protected by three parties that signed the agreement: the US, the UK, and Russia. Not only did Russia violate it, but others did not protect Ukraine properly. They did a lot, and we are grateful to them... But should they have thought about it in 2014, when Russia first invaded our country?" Ms. Khrystyna questioned.

Furthermore, she asked, "Is it complicity when we do nothing? Is it complicity when we hide behind arguments?"

She also emphasized that the world must accurately name things: in Ukraine, there is a war unleashed by Russia. Ukraine is the victim. "Inflation, grain shortages in the world - it's not because of the 'war in Ukraine,' it's because Russia invaded Ukraine. Not only is it Russia's war with Ukraine, but it's also Russia's war with the world," emphasized Ms. Khrystyna. "It's time to wake up so we don't find ourselves in the same situation in 90 years."

The speaker believes that much of what happened in Europe in the decades before the full-scale invasion is a result of Russian money and propaganda, but change is necessary. Every individual can make a small contribution to stop all of this.

"There was genocide, and there is genocide," concluded the speaker. "Now you can easily find statements from the Russian elite and ordinary people that Ukraine and Ukrainians need to be destroyed. This is part of their national intent - to destroy another nation. And in the 21st century, we cannot allow it."

"We make a lot of efforts every day to prevent Russia from violating international law, and we will continue to do so until the aggressor country is condemned for its actions and deprived of its rights," said Yevgeniya Filipenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations.

The main messages of Ms. Permanent Representative included the following:

Ukraine has always been Europe's breadbasket and has consistently maintained a reputation as a guarantor of food security. Under any circumstances, even after Russian attacks on Ukrainian grain depots and fields, Ukraine has rallied the international community to ensure that Ukrainian grain and other food products reach those in need. "In other words, we are trying to do everything so that the world can live without hunger," she emphasized.

One of the urgent needs is Russia's removal from participation in the European Security Council. The speaker reminded us that Russia's membership in the UNSC is illegal since it was taken from the Soviet Union. "If you look at UN documents," Yevgeniya emphasized, "you will see that this seat officially belongs to the USSR, not Russia. We raise the question of how Russia managed to occupy this seat. Note that here in Geneva, we have excluded the aggressor country from leadership positions in international organizations. Nearly 30 positions were blocked for representatives of the Russian government."

Ms. Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN shared that when Russia organized a concert to commemorate the anniversary of Rachmaninoff, she invited one pianist to perform. After verifying his background, it turned out that at the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, he gave an interview to Russian television where he stated that Russia was treating Ukrainians very leniently, that Kyiv should be bombed, and cities should be disconnected from electricity.

"This person was invited to perform a concert in the Human Rights Council hall," she emphasized. "When we found out about this, together with partners from other countries, leaders, and UN staff, we wrote a joint protest letter. And we succeeded in having him replaced."

The issue of cultural isolation is very acute, according to Ms. Yevgeniya, as Russia is still a member of many organizations. "But we are doing everything possible to remove them from there," Yevgeniya explained. "Not all cases allow us to do this due to procedures; unfortunately, not all organizations have exclusion procedures. So there is a lot of work to be done."

The situation is further complicated because events in the Middle East have diverted attention from Ukraine.

"But we make a lot of efforts every day to prevent Russia from violating international law, and we will continue to do so until the aggressor country is condemned for its actions and deprived of its rights," concluded the speaker.


The Geneva representation of the Ukrainian Society in Switzerland organized the public conference.


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