Ukrainians in the U.K. demand recognition of Genocide of ‘32-’33

Articles, Ukrainian Weekly


Published in the Ukrainian Weekly. Download the PDF of this article (starts on page 2).

By Christina Maria Paschyn
December 2, 2007

LONDON – Margaret Siriol Colley was only eight years old when she first heard about the Holodomor, the Soviet-engineered famine that killed 7 to 10 million Ukrainians from 1932 to 1933.  It was August 1933, and her Welsh uncle Gareth Jones had just returned from Ukraine with a story to tell – one that Colley said at the time she could barely comprehend:

“He [Jones] came in and showed me some photos of starving children.  And they had very fat children.  I couldn’t understand at the age of eight why these children had such fat tummies, but they were starving. Most fat children were healthy.”

Gareth Jones went on to publicize the famine in numerous Western newspapers, including the New York Evening Post.  But his articles were denounced by journalists subservient to Stalin, like the infamous New York Times foreign correspondent Walter Duranty.

Two years earlier Duranty had admitted to a US embassy official in Berlin that his dispatches always reflected the official opinion of the Soviet government and not his own, according to state department memos obtained by historian Leonard Leshuk.  Yet despite his lack of journalistic objectivity, Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Soviet Union in 1932.  Jones, on the other hand, was murdered in Inner Mongolia under mysterious circumstances in 1935.

Colley, who is now 82, is convinced that her uncle was killed in part because of his investigations into the Great Famine.  And she has devoted her retirement to making sure that he did not die in vain:

“I feel that Britain and Wales should accept that the Holodomor was a genocide.”

Her message touched a crowd of English Ukrainians who had gathered last Friday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor.  Huddled together in front of a bronze statue of St. Volodymyr in London’s Holland Park, the group also demanded the British government to acknowledge that the Holodomor was an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

“The Ukrainian community in the UK have been campaigning for the recognition of the genocide for over 50 years and nobody’s been listening,” said social worker Myron Sozanskyj, who organized the event.  He cited a recent letter by UK parliament member Geoff Hoon, who wrote “the Government does not judge that the evidence is sufficiently unequivocal to persuade us that the famine should be categorised as genocide as defined by the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide.”

House of Commons member John Grogan, who attended the commemoration service, criticized the government’s position:

“Obviously there’s an academic debate, it’s not just the British government – the scholars who have argued fiercely over this – but I do think it meets the criteria that the United Nations have set down, and I hope we will recognize this.”

Scholars have questioned whether the Holodomor was a deliberate attempt to destroy the Ukrainian nation since it occurred during a larger famine that affected other territories of the Soviet Union.  However, recently declassified Soviet archives show that the Kremlin did target Ukraine specifically, as only regions outside of it were allowed access to humanitarian aid.

Several international parliaments have recognized the famine as genocide, including the U.S. House of Representatives in 2003.

Steve Komarnyckyj, who runs the Holodomor recognition campaign Web site, , denied the debate was even an issue.

“We can show that Stalin and Kaganovich wanted to strike a blow at the Ukrainian nation…it is clear that it is genocide.  That is beyond all reasonable doubt,” he said. “I believe that they [the UK government] don’t want to antagonize relations with Russia following the [Alexander] Litvinenko incident.”

Nevertheless, Grogan said he would sponsor a new motion to recognize the Holodomor as genocide next year.

Colley hopes the British government will finally relent.  She showed her commitment to the cause by marching along side the English Ukrainian diaspora members, as they processed on the streets of central London holding candles, banners and Ukrainian flags.  It also was Colley’s way of ensuring that at least one victim of the Holodomor was honored that day: her uncle.

“To my grandparents it [Jones’ murder] was a great tragedy.  My grandmother kept all his papers, his articles, his diaries….in order that something one day was done about this.”

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