Knyzhka Corner: Holodomor in Ukraine – The Genocidal Famine 1932-1933

In this edition of Knyzka Corner, we will be discussing Valentina Kuryliw’s Holodomor in Ukraine – The Genocidal Famine 1932-1933.

Holodomor in Ukraine provides, “Learning Materials for Teachers and Students,” but any reader would learn a great deal from this resource, which is a thorough examination of the Holodomor in Ukraine during the years 1932-1933. It does not pretend to be “a narrative or a comprehensive account of all aspects of the Holodomor,” but it does provide a great deal of detail about causes, events, timelines, and the results of this horrific episode in Ukrainian history.

Valentina Kuryliw originally created this resource for her workshop, “The Unknown Genocide: The Holodomor in Ukraine 1932-33,” which she presented at the Ontario History and Social Studies Teachers’ Association Conference in 2008. It includes materials for teachers to use in their classrooms such as: primary resources, lesson plans, background information, timelines, and learning activities. Taking a cross-curricular approach, Kuryliw has developed a very useful resource which can be used across Canada and the United States at a variety of grade levels.

The resource is divided into four sections: introduction, learning resources, learning activities, and appendix.  Each section is full of information essential to a broader understanding of the Holodomor. The Introduction gives readers a definition of the term “Holodomor,” as well as asking the important question, “Why Study the Holodomor?”  This section calls on readers to examine the impact of genocide on the past, the present and future generations. She presents ten reasons to study the Holodomor which include: preventing future genocides, reducing prejudice and bullying, re-examining media coverage, and understanding totalitarian communist regimes. She concludes the chapter by explaining how the topic of the Holodomor meets the expectations of programs of study for several Canadian provinces.

In the subsequent three chapters, Kuryliw goes into great detail about the causes, events, media coverage, and effects of the Holodomor. In the “Learning Resources” section, readers will find insightful articles on Ukraine’s history as well as the Holodomor including:  background information, events, implementation, causes, media coverage, and current status. There are timelines, details about individuals and related issues, as well as quotations, eyewitness accounts, primary documents, and a glossary. In the “Learning Activities” section, teachers will find detailed learning activities with a decidedly cross-curricular approach. There are activities for art appreciation, short story analysis, book reviews, jigsaw, media literacy, and writing.  The final section, “Appendix,” is filled with resources and supplementary materials which will be very useful for students, teachers, researchers, and readers interested in learning more about Ukraine during the years of the Holodomor.

For Kuryliw, this book was a very personal creation.  She dedicates it to the memory of her parents who survived the horrors of the Holodomor. She has created an important addition to the historical record about the Holodomor in Ukraine from 1932 to 1933. The historical analysis is detailed and insightful.  The writer has obviously done a great deal of research about this topic.  The graphic elements – maps, photographs, paintings, diagrams, text boxes, quotations, teacher tips – are very well laid out and easy to follow. The primary documents and first person accounts of the Holodomor are very revealing. The writings of the disgraced journalist Walter Duranty of The New York Times reveal the wholesale cover-up of the Holodomor by the Soviet regime, “There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from disease due to malnutrition.” (p. 27) This resource deals with important historical issues such as human rights, freedom, and media responsibility while providing a very readable analysis for all readers of the events and outcomes of the Holodomor in Ukraine during the years 1932 and 1933.

Valentina Kuryliw is an educator and advocate for human rights. She is the daughter of Holodomor survivors, who has worked for over a decade to include the Holodomor in curricula across Canada. She taught Ukrainian school for many years, and fostered a love of Ukrainian history in her students. She has published a text for teachers in Ukraine to promote critical and historical thinking skills entitled Metodyka vykladanna istorii (Methodology for Teaching History). She has contributed to the Holodomor Mobile Classroom, organized the Holodomor Education Conference held in Winnipeg in 2017, and worked as the Director of Education at the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) of the University of Alberta. Kuryliw is a resident of Toronto, Ontario.

Holodomor in Ukraine is available from CIUS Press here.

– Review by Myra Junyk



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