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Diaspora Reactions

Research continues to produce new insights on the activities of the Ukrainian diaspora worldwide in the 1930s to raise awareness of the Holodomor.

Ukraine’s Famine as Reflected on the Pages of Dnipro, 1931–40

Dnipro (Chicago, Philadelphia, Trenton, NJ; 1921-1926, 1928-1950) was a Ukrainian-language newspaper of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States. In the period 1931-40 it was published in Philadelphia as a biweekly. Its intended primary audience was the Ukrainian immigrant community in the US, and the range of topics covered included news from Ukraine, faith, church and community events and affairs, literature, and letters from readers. 

The following selection of excerpts from Dnipro gives some sense of what Ukrainians abroad knew about the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine at the time and about the larger socio-political context in which it occurred. In 1933, virtually every issue included more than one mention of the famine as well as related stories about Soviet economic and demographic policies, political purges, the war on religion and church, reversal of the Ukrainianization policy, and escapes from the Soviet Union.

Ukrains’kyi Holos

Ukrains’kyi Holos was a diaspora newspaper serving the Ukrainian-Canadian community, and was first published in 1910 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Listed below are issues from 1934 and 1935 that feature information and photographs related to the Holodomor. Though the photographs are not attributed in the paper, they are now known to have been taken by the Austrian engineer Alexander Wienerberger and smuggled out of the Soviet Union. The materials shed light on the degree to which the Famine was an issue of importance among the Ukrainian diaspora already in the 1930s.

Olgerd Bochkovsky, Édouard Herriot, and the Holodomor

Olgerd Bochkovsky (1885–1939) was a Ukrainian sociologist and leader in the Ukrainian community in Czechoslovakia who headed a committee formed by émigrés to secure aid for the starving during the Famine in Ukraine of 1932-33. 

Reproduced here are four texts by or about Olgerd Bochkovsky, from the publication Olgerd Ipolyt Bochkovsky: Vybrani pratsi ta dokumenty, Tom 1 (Kyiv: Ukraina Moderna and Dukh i Litera, 2018).

Born in south-central Ukraine to a family with Polish and Lithuanian roots, Bochkovsky was a good student and became proficient in many languages. He began his postsecondary studies in St. Petersburg, Russia, and after the Revolution of 1905, completed a degree in philosophy at Charles University in 1909. A frequent contributor to the Ukrainian and Czech press on nationalities issues, Bochkovsky became a member of the diplomatic mission of the Ukrainian People’s Republic to Czechoslovakia in 1918. From 1922 to 1935 he taught at the Ukrainian Husbandry Academy in Poděbrady and later worked at the Ukrainian Technical and Husbandry Institute in Prague.

In mid-1933, Bochkovsky became the head of a famine committee in Czechoslovakia dedicated to helping the starving in Ukraine.  Not long after, Édouard Herriot, the three-time French prime minister and long-time mayor of Lyon, went on a high-profile tour of the USSR at the invitation of Soviet authorities. The French politician’s first stop was in Ukraine, where he attended official, stage-managed meetings and was taken to view Potemkin-style villages. While in Kyiv and in Kharkiv, Herriot praised conditions in the Soviet Union, making no reference to famine. 

In response, Bochkovsky sent an open letter to Herriot’s mailing address in Lyon that respectfully suggested that Herriot had “fatally erred” in his assessment of Soviet social development and had failed to see “the horror of the current state of Ukraine.” Herriot continued to lavish praise on the Soviet Union upon his return to France, going so far as to claim that the campaign around “la pretendue famine de la Ukraine” had been orchestrated by Berlin and calling those raising the alarm bells nothing more than agents of or sell-outs to Hitler. Bochkovsky, a dedicated social democrat, believed that people concerned about the assault on European values represented by Nazi Germany should also be critical of the USSR. He penned a response stating he had misjudged Herriot’s earlier comments about the Soviet Union as the polite and politic reaction of a visitor and suggested that the former prime minister had moved from being a Sovietophile to maniacal in his support of the USSR. Bochkovsky wrote in conclusion that he found it pointless to engage in polemics with people who resort to shameful insinuation and suggested that their words should be noted down for eternal public disgrace.