Panel 10 : "Complex Social Memory : Revolving Social Roles in Holodomor Survivor Testimony, 1986-1988"
presentationposted on 12.04.2014, 00:00 by Johnathon Vsetecka
In 1932 and 1933, Ukraine experienced a man-made famine that destroyed between three and five million people in less than two years. Scholars, members of the Ukrainian diaspora, and others now refer to the event as the Holodomor (death by starvation). The collectivization process brought upon Ukraine by the Soviet Union intended to procure grain from Ukraine's fertile soil and sell it to Western markets at an increased in price. The result was disastrous and the famine left many dead due to disease, hunger, and malnutrition. Furthermore, the famine disrupted Ukrainian social life and forced people out of their everyday routines, which forced them to adapt to their immediate situation and circumstance. These social roles become present in Holodomor survivor testimony, conducted by the U.S. Commission on the Ukrainian Famine between 1986 and 1988. This paper argues that the Holodomor disrupted the Ukrainian social milieu and in the process, the famine forced individuals to take on several social roles, which Holodomor survivors elaborate on in vivid detail in their testimonies. The survivors' memories elucidate on the disruption of social order in Ukraine between 1932-33 with great attention to the roles of teachers and children. Many survivors remember their teachers and the ways that they would become propagators of socialist education, guardian figures for their students, and the ways in which teachers became communication lines because of their ability to travel when others could not. The survivors also remember acute details about the roles of children. After their parents died, abandoned them, or separated from them, children often established their own social order where they took on the role of parents, especially to protect the younger children. The result of such social chaos is the establishment of a more complex narrative of everyday life during the famine.