Designed and Maintained by
UGFF - USA, Inc. 2010

                                                                                                          Paper on the Topic:
                                         The Western Ukrainian community and the Holodomor in the Ukrainian SSR 1932-1933

                                                                                                               Olena Fedchuk
                                                                                   Student in the Humanities Faculty (History)
                                                                                    National University of the Ostroh Academy
                                                                                                         Ostroh, Ukraine - 2004

1. The background to the Holodomor of 1932-33      
2. Famine and the stance of Western Ukrainian society       


The importance of this topic is clear. 20th Century Ukraine survived an immense tragedy that was organized by the soviet regime: the famine of
1932-33. Although more than 70 years have passed since that time, this problem was and will remain real as long as the Ukrainian people
remember it, until the last eye-witness dies. This is why it is critical to objectively assess the events of 1932-33, not only to provide information
about this catastrophe from all points of view, but also to ensure that the famine in Ukraine is recognized as an act of genocide.

The purpose of this study is to cast light on attitudes in the Western Ukrainian community to the artificially organized famine or Holodomor on the
territory of Soviet Ukraine in 1932-33.

To this end, two objectives have been established:

•        to show how the Holodomor affected the attitudes of the population of Western Ukraine towards the soviet regime; and
•        to place attitudes towards the Holodomor among Western Ukrainians in the context of Polish-Soviet relations.

1. The background to the Holodomor of 1932-33

The 1921 Treaty of Riga transferred 130,000 sq. km of Western Ukrainian territory to Poland, along with a population of over 10 million, which
constituted nearly 30% of the population of Poland at the time [9, p. 336]. What was unusual about the situation was that Western Ukraine forcibly
found itself part of Poland, so for the people who lived there, Poland was seen as an invader. Moreover, Polish policy towards Ukrainians was
typically vague and rife with unfair and severely discriminatory practices.

For these reasons, in the 1920’s a large portion of Western Ukrainian intelligentsia responded favorably to the policy of “ukrainianization”
announced by the Ukrainian SSR in 1923 and the blossoming of Ukrainian culture alongside the New Economic Plans in the economy. Prior to
1925, nearly 50,000 Halychans [Galicians] participated in the rebuilding of the economy and culture of the Republic [1, p. 428].

Initially the Republic responded by entrusting them with responsible posts in both the Party and state organs. Indeed, the involvement of Western
Ukrainian intelligentsia in serving the needs of the industrial and cultural managers of the Ukrainian SSR both raised its image, on one hand,
and on the other weakened the influence of the Ukrainian National Republic government in exile, leading to a huge split in the national emigrant

The bolshevik Party and the Soviet Government had a clearly defined goal in its policy towards Western Ukraine. Vladimir Lenin, and eventually
Josef Stalin and his entourage, made the point of using the occupation of Western Ukraine by Poland as one of the more effective means of
exporting the communist revolution and Russian expansion to the countries of Eastern Europe. Moscow was expanding its influence in Western
Ukraine, mostly through local communists.

The WU Communist Party boasted some 5,000 rank-and-file members and kept close contact with the CP (bolshevik) of Ukraine, the Russian
Communist Party (bolshevik) and the Comintern, blindly following Moscow’s orders. The leaders of the CPWU had even prepared a “Mobilization
Plan for underground work in case of war against the Soviet Union,” which included launching a partisan movement on Polish territory [11, p.

Yet another form of interference in the life of the country is worth mentioning. The bolsheviks selectively financed non-communist forces through
the government of the Ukrainian SSR. For instance, in 1927, the Ukrainian SSR offered to set aside US $168,100 for this purpose. This money
was to be used to do battle with Ukrainian national-democratic associations and nationalist parties by supporting organizations that were leftish
in orientation—Selrob, for instance, was given US $30,000 a year—, sovietophile student organizations, and private Ukrainian schools, who were
given US $77,100. The Taras Shevchenko Learning Society in L’viv was given US $12,000.

The situation began to change in the mid-1920s, when the Central Committee of the CP (b) of Ukraine made a decision to refuse entry to
Halychans onto the territory of the Ukrainian SSR. The reasons for this change of face were explained in a letter from the CC CP (b) U of 20
September, 1924:

“The influx of political emigrants from Halychyna, Poland, Czechoslovakia and especially Western Ukraine because of Polish terror, is growing
stronger. Our communist press in Poland and Czechoslovakia is portraying the economic situation in the Ukrainian SSR as the flourishing of the
country… This is partly strengthening our draw for political migration. However, when these political emigrants are confronted with our realities,
and compare it with the information in the communist press at home, they are deeply disillusioned.” [9, p. 337]

In 1930, the CC CP (b) U made a decision to stop financing Ukrainian institutions and organizations beyond the borders of the USSR.
Systematic reporting of events on Western Ukrainian territory in the soviet media was also stopped. Contact between academics and artists from
the two parts of Ukraine lost its meaning.

At the beginning of the 1930s, the Stalinist totalitarian regime moved into broad-based, systematic terror against its own populace. In the
Ukrainian SSR, an outright hunt began for those who had come from Western Ukraine, who began to be fired from their jobs, jailed, sent to
concentration camps, and unfairly sentenced to death [4, p. 308]. This had an immediate negative impact on the political situation in eastern
Halychyna and Volyn. Starting in the 1930s, ukrainianization was swiftly dropped, persecution began against the intelligentsia, writers and artists,
former military and students, workers—in short, anyone who had come from Western Ukraine. In 1929 came collectivization, the Year of the
Great Breakthrough, 1929, and then the particularly terrible famine or Holodomor of 1932-33. All this swiftly killed pro-soviet sentiments among a
large portion of the Western Ukrainian intelligentsia and began a reversal of attitude [13, p. 37]. This was inevitable with natives of Western
Ukraine who had actively engaged in the socio-economic and military life of Soviet Ukraine becoming the front line of the Ukrainian intelligentsia
who were caught up in the purges and persecutions.

When a refugee from the USSR, V. Yurchenko, whose real name was Yuriy Karas-Hlynskiy, published his memoirs, he raised a furore among
communist and sovietophile elements in Western Ukraine [2, p. 309]. Yurchenko had managed to escape from Solovki, prison islands on the
White Sea north of Archangelsk, and to make his way back to Halychyna. He then wrote his “Solovetski Memoirs,” which came out in print in 1931
and became an immediate bestseller. In 1932, these memoirs became the basis of a court case called the “Yurchenko affair.” The head of the
Shevchenko Society in L’viv, K. Studynskiy, decided to turn detective with the aim of proving that Yurchenko’s memoirs were the “unhealthy fruit of
an unhealthy imagination.” He started by talking to employees at the Soviet embassy in L’viv [10, p. 165].

The Yurchenko Affair resulted in Studynskiy being removed from his position as head of the Shevchenko Society and was a major failure of soviet
diplomacy in Poland. It seriously damaged the position of sovietophile elements in Western Ukraine, as it became clear that with the Soviet
Union’s politics growing more and more totalitarian, defending the “fatherland of workers” with a clear conscience became a real exercise in the
impossible. The price of compromising with the bolsheviks in order to get funding in support of Ukrainian science and culture in Western
Ukraine became much to high, especially as the Ukrainian SSR began to shut down the “ukrainianization project.” Indeed, ukrainianization within
the Ukrainian SSR suddenly provided the excuse on which stalinism formulated the myths of “nationalism” and “national-deviationism” that
made it possible to “grab” and “neutralize” the huge army of “Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists.” [1, p. 68]

2. Famine and the stance of Western Ukrainian society
The psychological fracture at the beginning of the 1930s between Western Ukrainian society and the USSR caused the collapse of Moscow’s
efforts. The Holodomor of 1932-33 in Soviet Ukraine had a particularly shocking effect on Western Ukrainians. Information about the real state of
affairs in the Ukrainian countryside the collectivization was carried by refugees from the Soviet Union who fled across the Polish border in the
hundreds. Some of these refugees were sent back after being interrogated by Polish authorities. To avoid this kind of situation, Soviet authorities
began to increase the number of soldiers along the border with Poland and began to help residents in border areas with foodstuffs [7, p. 410]
Still, the Western Ukrainian press was able to print many eye-witness accounts of the tragedy.

One famous Western Ukrainian political and community leader, Maria Rudnytska, commented at this time: “Throughout 1932, persistent rumor
circulated in L’viv that there was a famine in Soviet Ukraine. But nobody at that point understood how serious and threatening the situation really
was. When word came through of Skrypnyk’s suicide, we began to realize that on the other side of the Zbruch something truly awful was taking
place. This was what finally got the Ukrainian community on this side to actively speak out against this deadly threat to the Ukrainian people.” [11,
pp 405-406]

In fact, the death of Mykola Skrypnyk on 7 July 1933 shocked the Western Ukrainian community. Accusations from the bolshevik leadership that
he was trying to get Les’ Kurbas into the party, that he wanted to import 1,500 teachers from Western Ukraine into the Ukrainian SSR who had
been “prepared for shipment by western imperialists,” and so on, were striking in their absurdity.

As a consequence of the famine and persecutions in the Ukrainian SSR, the number of sovietophiles dropped steeply and people began to
leave the Communist Party of Western Ukraine in droves. In a short time, the Party’s membership was down to 2,600. The arrest in Soviet
Ukraine of the CPWU leadership demoralized the organization. Notably, between 1933 and 1938, the number of members of the CP (b) U
shrank by 2,681, that is, nearly in half.

The suicide of M. Stronskiy, secretary at the Soviet consulate in L’viv, was also widely publicized. After all, Stronskiy had been a senior officer with
the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen and the Ukrainian Halych Army. [1, p. 196] The reasons for his 2 August 1933 death were widely debated in the
Ukrainian press. The paper Dilo declared that the death of M. Stronskiy was connected to the “anti-Ukrainian terror on the other side of the
Zbruch.” It noted the impact of the suicides of writer Mykola Khvyloviy, Skrypnyk and Stronskiy on Halychans: “We know the power of this
demonstrative act of theirs. The shots that killed Khvyloviy and Skrypnyk put paid to the remains of Halychan sovietophilia…All the most honest
individuals began to flee the bolshevik camp…admissions, repentances, anti-bolshevik revelations began to rain down, and pro-soviet
publications died a quick death…” [2, p. 197] After Stronskiy’s suicide, Western Ukrainian academics in the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences—
K. Studynskiy, F. Kolessa, V. Shchurat and M. Vozniak—delivered a letter to the Soviet consulate in L’viv announcing that they were turning down
their titles as academicians. [1, p. 198]

On 22 September 1933, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (bolshevik) of Ukraine agreed to “publish the resolution
withdrawing the title of academician from Vozniak, Kolessa, Studynskiy, and Shchurat on behalf of the RNK simultaneously with the publication of
the resolution of the Presidium of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences on this matter.” [1, p. 201] On 4 October 1933, a session of the AUAS
Presidium removed their titles “as enemies of the working masses of Ukraine.” The paper Dilo noted that the AUAS resolution “formally cut the
last cultural tie with Halychyna, which became impossible because of the all-powerful control of the GPU [the precursor to the NKVD] over all the
spiritual life of Greater Ukraine.” [1, p. 205]

Information about the persecutions and famine in the Ukrainian SSR raised many questions. Assurances from staff at the USSR consulate in L’
viv that these were “fantasies of the bourgeois media,” did little to calm the Western Ukrainian community. In addition to the press and diplomatic
channels, information about the famine in Soviet Ukraine was coming to Western Ukraine through Ukrainian emigrant organizations from
several western countries that were doing what they could to get the attention of both their communities and their governments to the tragic
events unfolding in Ukraine.

For instance, the Ukrainian Canadian community sent an appeal to the President of the United States to provide assistance to those suffering
from the famine, while the former Ukrainian Hetman, Pavlo Skoropadskiy, called on western governments not to recognize the USSR. [3, p. 89] In
Western Ukraine, UNDO, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, and parties of a social-democratic and liberal-democratic orientation all
condemned the genocide of Bolshevik Moscow against the Ukrainian people. 7, p. 106] A 24 June 1933 “Resolution of the Central Committee of
UNDO about the situation in Soviet Ukraine” declared: “The communists’ state policy has led to a situation where masses of Ukrainians are
dying of hunger. The Central Committee of the Ukrainian National-Democratic Union utterly condemns this usurpist policy of the communists
against Ukraine, which has been calculated to lead to the physical and psychological destruction of the Ukrainian nation.” [8, p. 107]

On 16 July 1933, at the initiative of the Ukrainian Parliamentary Representation (UPR), the faction of Ukrainian deputies in the Polish Sejm, an
advisory session of representatives of different political forces was called to discuss the famine in Soviet Ukraine. After some preparatory work,
the UPR called a second session on 25 July 1933 in which representatives of 44 political, scientific, cultural, educational and economic
organizations and societies took part. [11, p. 408] At this session, the Ukrainian Civic Committee for the Salvation of Ukraine (CCSU) was formed
and became the center of all activities tied to the Holodomor. The Committee was chaired by D. Levytskiy, the head of UNDO and the UPR, while
practical work was carried out by the Action Committee headed by V. Mudriy, M. Rydnytska, V. Doroshenko, and Z. Pelenskiy. The Action
Committee set up a network of subcommittees for the Salvation of Ukraine on Western Ukrainian territory. The only groups that did not join the
CCSU were Halychan radicals and the social-democrats. They set up their own committee called the Joint Committee of Ukrainian Social-
Radical and Social-Democratic Parties. [3, p. 96]

The first step taken by the CCSU was an appeal to the Ukrainian population to that was signed by 44 regional organizations in Eastern
Halychyna. Even before it appeared in the local press, the Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Andrey Sheptytskiy issued an
appeal on 24 July 1933, called “Ukraine is in its death throes.” [8, p. 96] In this appeal, he challenged “Christians all over the world, all those who
believe in God, but especially all workers and peasants…to join in the voice of protest and pain and spread it as far as possible to all the
countries of the world.” The appeal by Metropolitan Sheptytskiy was welcomed positively and received support from many European countries. [8,
p. 98]

Moved by Sheptytskiy’s appeal, the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal T. Innitzer, called on the European community to help Soviet Russia (the
USSR), where millions of people were dying of hunger and where there were known instances of cannibalism. Soviet diplomats cynically
responded: “In Russia, we have neither cannibals nor cardinals.” [1, p. 335] The International Coordinating Committee for Help to the Hungry,
established in Vienna, collected a substantial number of donations, but efforts to hand these over to official representatives of Moscow hit a
stone wall.

In L’viv, the Action Committee prepared a series of instructions about how to set up local civic subcommittees, how to organize protest actions,
how to work with refugees from the Ukrainian SSR, how to collect cash donations, grain and clothing, and information on the activities of local
committees. The CCSU issued two brochures at this time: 1) “Evil times in Ukraine” by V. Mudriy analyzed the economic and domestic policy of
Moscow that had led to the catastrophe in Ukraine; 2) “An act of salvation for Greater Ukraine” by A. Zhuk talked about the activities of the civic
committees. [11, p. 407]

29 October 1933 was declared a national day of mourning and protest in Western Ukraine. All community organizations in both the cities and
countryside of Western Ukraine held meetings and public rallies of the Ukrainian population. On this day, donations were also collected to help
those suffering from famine in Ukraine. One of the main objectives of the CCSU was to organize international help for those dying of hunger.
At the beginning of September 1933, Maria Rudnytska and Z. Pelenskiy were sent to Geneva. Their tasks were: 1) to establish contact with
Ukrainian committees to help the hungry in Prague, Berlin, Vienna, Brussels and Paris; 2) to participate in the Congress of Nationalists which
was to take place in Switzerland; 3) to interest international humanitarian organizations in the famine in Ukraine; 4) to get the famine in Ukraine
on the agenda of the next session of the League of Nations. [11, p. 411]

Rudnytska remembers how they began their work by visiting the editorial offices of well-known Swiss papers and handing them materials on the
famine. Swiss newspapers began to print this information just before the League of Nations session. When this happened, the USSR began to
manipulate the situation with lies and blackmail. First, it denied categorically that there was any famine in Ukraine, declaring all information in the
western press slander and malicious anti-soviet propaganda, adding for good measure that those publishing the articles were agents of
fascism. It is worth noting that even many years later, V. Molotov, one of Josef Stalin’s close advisors, categorically denied the existence of a
famine in 1933, saying that those people who talked about one were “unaware and enemies of communism.” [13, p. 423]

However, all the efforts of the Halychyna representatives to get the issue of the Holodomor on the agenda of the League of Nations session were
in vain. Eventually, Rudnytska confirmed: “Only the governments of countries who were members of the League had the right to put something
on the agenda. To imagine that, given the international situation at the time, any country might be interested in getting into a scrap with the Soviet
Union and to take on itself the role of the champion of the rights of the starving was worse than hopeless. Ukrainians themselves had no
opportunity to get the League of Nations to worry about the tragic situation in Ukraine, because we had no legal basis on which to do so.” [11, p.
424] The Western delegation was supported by the representative of the Ukrainian National Republic in exile.

The leadership of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists sent a written protest against Moscow’s artificially organized famine. But the protest
did not end there. An OUN conference 3 June 1933 in Berlin adopted a resolution to assassinate the Soviet consul in L’viv. M. Lemyk, a graduate
of the L’viv Academic Gymnasia was given responsibility for carrying this out. The then territorial leader of OUN, Stepan Bandera, told a Polish
court in the summer of 1936, “I personally passed this order on to Lemyk and gave him both the rationale and the instructions. We knew that the
bolsheviks would present such a murder in a false light, so we decided that Lemyk would turn himself in to the police rather than shoot at them,
so that he would have an opportunity to make a court case out of it.” [10, p. 137]

The Lemyk court case was indeed sensational. Many journalists came to L’viv, including the TASS correspondent and representatives of the
Soviet consulate in Warsaw. All the Ukrainian lawyers in L’viv, led by K. Levytskiy, agreed to defend Lemyk in court. But the Polish judge rejected
this option because Poland and the USSR had just finished signing a mutual non-aggression pact. Polish authorities thought this might spoil
Polish-Soviet interstate relations. In the end, only V. Starosolskiy, S. Shukhevych and S. Biliak were allowed to defend Lemyk. He would have
been sentenced to death, except that he was not yet 21. Instead, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. [3, p. 134] Notably, this act raised
enormous sympathy for OUN among many in the Ukrainian community, especially the young. The Organization’s membership grew substantial
following the Holodomor in the Ukrainian SSR and the mass persecutions by Polish authorities on Western Ukrainian territory, which were
subjected to repeated efforts at “pacification.”

USSR papers reported quite widely on the Lemyk court case. The assassination of the representative of the Soviet consulate 21 October 1933 in
L’viv was seen only in the context of an “unbridled anti-soviet campaign in Western Ukraine.” The Soviet Ambassador in Warsaw, V. Antonov-
Ovsienko, wrote in his diary 27 November 1933: “Despite our precautions, unbridled anti-soviet provocations have going on in Halychyna that
have created the conditions for an assassination attempt on our consulate in L’viv.” Still, neither the soviet press nor in the communiqués of
soviet diplomats was anything said about the fact that the reason for these provocations was the famine and persecutions in the Ukrainian SSR.

Mass arrests and the Holodomor raised a number of painful issues in Western Ukraine and had a negative impact on the attitude of most locals
to the USSR. Yet the information about the situation in Soviet Ukraine that got through to Western Ukraine was in bits and pieces and therefore
somewhat exaggerated. This led to the rise of ideological myths and endless rumors, especially about the fate of the western Ukrainian
intelligentsia in Soviet Ukraine.

Western Ukrainian communities knew little about the real purpose of the resolution passed by the Central Committee of the All-Union
Communist Party (b) of 24 January 1933, which ultimately included the Ukrainian SSR into the unitary state known as the USSR. To carry out this
policy, Pavel Postyshev, a trusted acolyte of Josef Stalin’s, came to Soviet Ukraine. According to official data, Moscow sent, along with him, 30
political “commissars” to every county of the Ukrainian SSR, which added up to an army of 15,000. [9, p. 237] The Great Stalinist Terror in Soviet
Ukraine was, in fact, a mere extension of the Great Terror Famine.


The artificial famine in the Ukrainian SSR in 1932-33 can be interpreted as a form of genocide intended to destroy the Ukrainian nation.
Ukrainian researchers have been able to show that more than 5 million people died of starvation in the Ukrainian SSR at this time. In 1988, the
Holodomor was recognized by the US Congress and the International Bar Association as a genocidal act, thanks to the efforts of the Ukrainian-
American community.

At the time, the US Congress also set up a commission to study the reasons for and the consequences of the Holodomor of 1932-33. Over the
course of four years, the commission interviewed over 600 eye-witnesses, it studied and analyzed an enormous number of documents and
materials, and it prepared a summation. All the materials were eventually handed over to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which had not even
officially acknowledged the Holodomor as an act of genocide at that point, and no one ever saw the US commission’s documents again.
One important challenge today is to recreate the proper history of the events of those years of the Holodomor on Ukrainian soil in 1932-33. This
should be the achievement of a new generation of Ukrainians, who need to know as much as possible about our history, about the events of this
particular period, and especially about the criminal essence of the totalitarian regime of Josef Stalin.


1.        Danylenko, V., Documents of Soviet Special Services on the Famines in Ukraine (1921-23, 1932-33, 1946-47), Pamyat Stolit, 2003, Nº3
2.        Danylenko, V., Kasyanov, G., Kulchytskiy, S., Stalinism in Ukraine: The 1920s and 1930s, Kyiv, Lybid, 1991
3.        Drach, Ivan, The hard lessons of being Ukrainian: The Famine of 1933, Suchasnist, 1993, Nº11
4.        The Famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine Through the eyes of historians and the language of documents, Kyiv, 1990
5.        The Famine of 1933 in Ukraine: Testimony about Moscow’s destruction of Ukrainian peasants, Dnipropetrovsk, Munich, 1993, 223 pp
6.        Hetmanchuk, M., “Ukrainianization in the 1920s: Experience and lessons learned,” The Ukrainian National Idea and The Process of            
     Establishing Statehood in Ukraine, L’viv, Spodom, 1998
7.        Kulchytskiy, S., 1933: A tragedy of famine, Kyiv, 1989
8.        Kulchytskiy, S., Ukraine Between the Two Wars (1921–1939), Kyiv, Alternatyvy, 1999
9.        Rubliov, O., Chechenko, Y., The Land of Stalin and the Fate of the Western Ukrainian Intelligentsia (1920–1950), Kyiv, Naukova Dumka,
10.      Rudnytska, M., Articles. Letters. Documents, L’viv, Misioner, 1991
11.      Solovey, D., Ukraine’s Golgotha, Drohobych, Renaissance, 1993, 280 pp, taken from Yarmus, S., The Famine in Ukraine (1932-33):
     Why?, Winnipeg, 1983
12.      Yefymenko H., The change of vectors in Moscow’s national policy during the famine of 1933, UIZh, 2003, Nº5, pp 25-47