Holodomor survivor remembers horrors of forced famine in Ukraine: ‘Children were starving’

98-year-old Luba Semaniuk commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor with hundreds of other Ukrainians. Joanne Roberts has the story.

The horrors of the Holodomor are still with Luba Semaniuk 90 years later.

Semaniuk was seven years old when the Soviet Regime ordered food seizures in the early 1930s aimed at starving Ukrainian peasantry, resulting in the deaths of millions.

“I don’t remember very much but I do remember some,” Semaniuk told CityNews. “A lot of people were starving. Children were starving and we were starving, too.

“I’ve seen the children, old people… They was eating leaves and everything, fallen (from the tree). I can’t even say it because I feel very sorry for everything.”

Canada recognizes the 1932-33 Holodomor as an act of genocide against Ukrainians. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) says the forced famine was perpetrated by Joseph Stalin to eradicate cultural independence and land freedom for Ukrainians.

Luba Semaniuk was seven years old in 1932 when the Holodomor began in Ukraine. (Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

“In an attempt to destroy the Ukrainian nation, the Communist regime turned food into a weapon,” the UCC said in a news release. “All grain and food was confiscated, Ukraine’s borders sealed. Any resistance was brutally crushed. The Ukrainian people starved.”

Semaniuk was living with her parents and younger sister at the time near the city of Zaporizhzhia in eastern Ukraine. She remembers going to school hungry.

The now 98-year-old also remembers making a grim discovery one day.

“We have nothing but sometimes mama made something and she sent me to next door neighbour,” Semaniuk recalled. “She said ‘I make some kind of soup, take them because (the neighbour) has two children.’ I went, I knocked on the door, nobody answer. And they have underground living there. Mom and two boys. I went in the house, I call her name, I put the soup on the table, and they’re sleeping.

“And I went home and I say to mama, ‘they’re sleeping.’ (She said) that’s impossible. She went, she called the neighbour, and there was children and her – both was dead.”

WATCH: Holodomor survivor Luba Semaniuk shares a message in Ukrainian to the people in Ukraine

Semaniuk says she feels sorry for everyone suffering during that time.

“I want the whole wide world know what … Holodomor means,” she said. “Our people were starving and I hope never happen that again for nobody.

“It was very, very hard time to even explain what we had. I hope it never happen that again because it’s unbelievable what happened… and especially for the children, small children was… you can’t even explain. It’s very hard.”

Saturday was Holodomor Memorial Day, with hundreds of Ukrainians in Winnipeg gathering at city hall to commemorate the famine’s 90th anniversary. The event began with a prayer service followed by a ceremony featuring speakers and young artists from the Ukrainian community.

The UCC says it will continue to mark the day for years to come to make sure the past is not forgotten, and for future generations to hear and learn about this dark chapter in history.

“I think about what I remember,” said Semaniuk. “But I think the whole wide world would know what (the Soviets) did to us and how it was… I’m still survive. I’m old lady but I’m still survive for everything. And I do thank you for Canada to take (and) accept us.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today