Tracy Thayer

Bandera Bulletin

Nov 3, 2022

The Bandera County Library is the first library outside of Florida to host an exclusive exhibit on the Ukrainian Holodomor, a man-made famine created by the Soviet government that resulted in deaths of millions of Ukrainians between 1932-33.

The two-week exhibit contains diary entries and art produced by Ukrainians about the time period and is used as a teaching unit in Florida middle schools.

The Two Regimes exhibit started out as a project of the Holocaust Museum in Naples, Florida and recognizes the 89th anniversary of the event.

The Two Regimes Project is the result of the exhibit on the Holodomor. Found at an estate sale, the exhibit’s paintings depicting the Holodomor became the central feature of a project that finally brought the genocide to light. At the end of the Soviet era, Russian history had few references to the Holodomor. The decaying art and a manuscript by a survivor were found and are being carefully restored.

Three Ukrainian women, Olena Garcia, Olen Khrystyuk and Olena Bravo, representing Ukraine in San Antonio, spoke about the Holodomor and related their families’ experiences.

The women were passionate about the topic as they related their experiences learning about the genocide from their families.

Stalin targeted Ukraine because of their strengthening cultural autonomy and desire for independence. Known as the “breadbasket of Europe,” the Ukrainian people were denied food or any tools to produce food.

The Holodomor was literally wiped from history books in Russia to cover up the atrocity committed by the Soviets.

Until the fall of the Soviet empire, few Ukrainians even spoke about the Holodomor. The recounting of personal experiences was the only record of this genocide. Soviet penalties for disclosure of information about the Holodomor were steep.

Almost four million people died in Ukraine due to the Holodomor. The Soviets extracted 4.27 million tons of grain from Ukraine, enough to feed 10 million people for a year, and sold it to foreign countries to finance Soviet industrialization.

The rural Ukrainian farmers, which comprised 80 percent of the population, were not allowed to leave the region and anyone who took any produce from the fields was arrested or shot.

The Ukrainian women also recounted the aftereffects of the Holodomor on the psyche of the Ukrainian people. They described what Americans would call “a Depression mentality.” Many Ukrainians still keep large supplies of food even though they now live in the United States.

Olena Garcia noted the fourth Saturday in November has been recognized by the City of San Antonio as a day to remember the fallen citizens of Ukraine. On this day, Ukrainians serve meals to the elderly as recognition “no one should go hungry.”

The Two Regimes exhibit runs until October 21 at the Bandera Public Library.