Derby Ukrainians mark deaths of seven million from starvation
THE 80th anniversary of "the biggest lie, the best-kept secret" was commemorated in Derby yesterday by members of the Ukrainian community.
Between 1932 and 1933, more than seven million people died from starvation in the Ukraine – three million of them children – in what has become known as Holodomor, or extermination by hunger.
The Ukrainians blame the Russians under dictator Joseph Stalin for confiscating the plentiful supply of grain and food in an act of genocide.
Joe Kupranec, vice-chairman of the Derby Ukrainian Association, said: "People had very little chance of escaping their horrific fate because travel was banned for Ukrainians, keeping them confined in a prison of starvation within their own villages. To this day, the Russian government still denies the genocide ever occurred, perpetuating the biggest lie, the best-kept secret."
Mr Kupranec says that Holodomor is remembered every year but the 80th anniversary had led to a bigger commemoration.
He said: "We held our ceremony now because it coincides with this week's Holocaust remembrance.
"It is important that the innocent victims are remembered by future generations to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.
"We want international recognition for Holodomor and for the UK Government to acknowledge the horror. It is virtually ignored by historians."
Yesterday's event at St Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church, in Dairyhouse Road, included a series of prayers and poems.
The service was conducted by the Rev Father David Senyk.
It was attended by the Mayor of Derby, Councillor Lisa Higginbottom, and Pauline Latham, MP for Mid Derbyshire.
The ceremony also included the lighting of candles by members of the congregation, representing different age groups, from teenagers to pensioners.
Mr Kupranec said: "It is increasingly difficult to find people who were alive during the famine because of how long ago it was and how young they would have been even if they had survived.
"So having a different aged person lighting each candle at the front of the church was representative of ensuring that everyone remembers Holodomor.
"We make sure that members of the Ukrainian Youth Association are taught about the genocide and there are lessons given at the annual summer camp that takes place."
Andrij Kupranec, who lit one of the candles while representing people in their 20s, said: "Holodomor is not recognised as much as the Holocaust, yet more people died."
From 3pm today, an exhibition put together by the city's Bosnian and Ukrainian associations about the Holocaust was due to be opened in honour of Holocaust Memorial Day.
The exhibition is being staged in the Bosnian Centre, in Queen Street, and is one of several events being held in Derby, including a night of music, poetry and performance at Quad, in the Market Place, from 7pm.