There is no lack of images that come to mind when remembering the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932-1933. Known as the Holodmor, or “Murder by Hunger,” the state-imposed famine on Ukraine was a hell on earth. By some accounts, 17 Ukrainians died every minute, 1000 Ukrainians died every hour, and 25,000 Ukrainians died every day — and this in a country that today is one of the biggest agricultural exporters in the world. But there is now a new image — a memorial that was dedicated in Washington D.C. on November 7th. Designed by Larysa Kurylas, it depicts Ukraine’s plentiful wheat slowly disappearing into nothingness, symbolic of the millions of Ukrainians’ lives that have disappeared forever.
It joins other monuments around the American capital dedicated to the memory of victims of communism, the Holocaust, World Wars, those honoring former U.S. Presidents, and even Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. Only two monuments are opened every year by the U.S. National Park Service in Washington, and the location of this memorial, only a block from the central train station and three blocks from the Capitol building, will remind millions of visitors of the horrors experienced by the Ukrainian people.
An estimated 5000 people gathered on a cloudy Washington day to open the memorial in a ceremony attended by various American and Ukrainian dignitaries and heads of Churches. Among them, Maryna Poroshenko, First Lady of Ukraine, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), a co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, who sponsored the bill to dedicate federal land for a National Holodomor Memorial, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), also a co-chair of the Ukraine Caucus, Patriarch Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyivan Patriarchate, Metropolitan Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, Holodomor survivors, representatives of the White House and other organizations, and various politicians.
The commemoration, at times, took on a character more reminiscent of a political rally than a memorial. While Ukrainians the world over mourn the loss of their countrymen during the genocide eight decades ago, recent Russian aggression in Ukraine is a constant reminder of how some things haven’t changed since then. Hence, the reiterated litanies at the commemoration: “never again” and “never forget.”
Indeed, monuments like the one unveiled in Washington will be a durable way of keeping the Holodmor’s memory alive. After it being denied for decades, now there is a permanent marker to revere the suffering of countless victims — and Ukraine’s eventual victory — in the heart of the capital of the free world.
By Julian Hayda