An Appeal of Bishop Mykola Bychok to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

November 9, 2023

“Holodomor is not just a painful wound. It is a black hole in our history that could irreversibly swallow not only Ukraine but also any hope for life.” Bishop Mykola Bychok delivered a speech at the meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Once again, he used the opportunity to tell those present the truth about the pain and suffering of the Ukrainian people.

An Appeal of Bishop Mykola Bychok to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference


of Bishop Mykola Bychok, Eparch of Melbourne

to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

(9 November 2023)

Dear Brother Bishops,

Thank you for the unique opportunity to convey the truth once again about the war in Ukraine at the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Australia. Today is the 623rd day of the war.

For more than a year and a half, russia has been committing genocide against the Ukrainian nation, as it did during the Holodomor of 1932–33. With only one difference: the first genocide was due to famine, and today it is due to war crimes against humanity. And all because unpunished evil is repeated.

This year marks 90 years since the Soviet communist regime of 1932–33 destroyed the Ukrainian nation with hunger, despite Ukraine being known as the “breadbasket of Europe”. Holodomor is not just a painful wound. It is a black hole in our history that could irreversibly swallow not only Ukraine, but also any hope for life. The Ukrainian people experienced the greatest genocide in its history, namely the extermination of a significant part of the population in terms of number and importance.

Given the scale, cruelty and cynicism of the Holodomor, not many countries in the world have analogues of similar crimes in their history. The Holodomor was caused artificially, without the elements of nature, without drought, without foreign invasion, and as a result, millions of human lives were condemned to torture until death. The Soviet government confiscated and exported large amounts of grain and other agricultural produce. State distilleries were operating at full capacity during this period, processing valuable grain into alcohol bound for export. Fines were imposed on individual farmers and whole villages for not fulfilling inflated grain procurement quotas, enabling Soviet authorities to confiscate in addition to grain, all other foodstuffs in people’s homes. The genocide by starvation was directed primarily against the Ukrainian peasantry as the nucleus of the Ukrainian nation, which had been striving for independence as a state.

Ukrainians still need time to fully understand these tragic events, to investigate them and convey the truth to the whole world. We still do not know the full scale of this tragedy, but we know for sure that the famine was organized by Stalin as a genocide, which was deliberately aimed at exterminating the Ukrainian people. This crime of Stalinism, unprecedented in the scope of execution, caused the heaviest losses to Ukraine and cost the nation millions of human lives. At its height, the Holodomor in Ukraine took the lives of approximately 25,000 to 30,000 people per day.

The historical fact of the Holodomor of 1932–33 in Ukraine was officially recognized by more than 70 countries of the world, and by 32 countries as an act of genocide. It is worth noting that on the 28th of October 2003, Australia was one of the first countries in the world to recognize the Holodomor as a genocide of Ukrainians. The United Nations recognized the Holodomor as a crime against humanity. The European Parliament recognized the Holodomor as a terrible crime against the people of Ukraine and humanity.

Recognizing the Holodomor as genocide is, first of all, establishing the truth, historical and legal justice, recognizing and condemning at the world level the fact that the Russian communist totalitarian regime purposefully committed the greatest crime — the genocide of the Ukrainian nation. And the whole world should know and understand the criminal essence of Moscow, which it tries to cover up with falsification of history and various political lies.

The Holodomor of 1932–33 is our common memory and common pain. There is not a single family in Ukraine that was not affected by this tragedy. Millions of our relatives, fellow villagers, countrymen tortured by hunger are not just victims of the injustice of the regime. This is the extermination of the bearers of our Ukrainian tradition, culture, and spiritual values. In 1932–33, Ukraine lost approximately 7–10 million people. A third of them were children.

Russia denies and does not recognize the Holodomor as genocide, because denial of genocide is one of the signs of genocide. A country that committed this genocide cannot recognize and accept it. Ukraine was occupied by the Soviet Union, so the trauma remained unspoken publicly, and lived only in family traditions.

Ukraine’s gaining of independence created the conditions for the restoration of historical justice and truth. Over the past 30 years, dozens of Holodomor monuments have been opened around the world. In 2008, the national museum of Holodomor-Genocide was built in the city of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, to never lose the memory of this crime. The Holodomor monument consists of a 32-meter-high “Remembrance Candle” chapel. On this candle there are carved windows-crosses, which symbolize the souls of Ukrainians who died during the famine. And not far from this candle, in the central part of the square, there is a statue of a thin girl, scrunched up by hunger, holding five ears of wheat to her chest. This is a reminder of the cruel law of the “five ears of wheat”. This is what the peasants called the USSR resolution of the 7th of August 1932 “On the protection of the property of state enterprises, collective farms and cooperatives and the strengthening of socialist property”, according to which collective farm property was equated with state property and declared inviolable. Hungry peasants, who were collecting ears of wheat left in the field after the harvest, were shot for stealing state property.

In Ukraine, the Holodomor of 1932–33 was recognized as a genocide of the Ukrainian people, and the fourth Saturday of November was established as a Memorial Day for the victims of the Holodomor. This year, Memorial Day falls on the 25th of November. I invite you to join our remembrance in prayer for the victims of the Holodomor in Ukraine on this day.

In conclusion, on behalf of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, I thank the Australian Conference of Catholic Bishops for the fraternal visit to Ukraine this year of three bishops from Australia. This trip was a special sign of hope and support for our wounded people from the Catholic Church of Australia. I sincerely express my gratitude to all dioceses and eparchies for your generous donations for humanitarian aid to Ukrainians, which were sent to the Patriarchal Foundation “Mudra Sprava” (The Wise Action). This winter will be a big challenge for Ukrainians. Russia will make every effort to use missiles to destroy the next 50 % of Ukraine’s energy system, which they failed to destroy last winter. Humanitarian organizations are already sounding the alarm that 18 million people will need humanitarian aid this winter, which is currently half of Ukraine’s population. Before the war, there were only about 3 million people requiring humanitarian assistance. This is the genocide of this war, the purpose of which is the destruction of the Ukrainian people. I know that some dioceses plan to continue the Advent Appeal. I will be very grateful for this continuing good deed of collecting humanitarian aid for Ukrainians.

I ask you to pray and fast for peace in Ukraine as you have done until now and for peace in the Holy Land.

May God bless the Australian nation and Ukraine!

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