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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

A hand-written story

Svitlana Cherniak keeps drawings made by Holodomor eyewitnesses
25 November, 2013 - 18:06
Drawings courtesy of Svitlana CHERNIAK

“There are several ways to reveal the truth about the Holodomor,” says Svitlana Cherniak, a Slavutych-based journalist, playwright, and public figure. “Naturally, it is, above all, evidence from eyewitnesses, but there is also another way – imaging. An ordinary peasant could not take photographs. And what about a drawing? To make one, it is enough to have a slip of paper and a pencil. And they did make some!” She placed on her Facebook page replicas of the drawings made by the people who went through this tragedy. Cherniak decided to use her Holodomor posts in the social networking site to support the Ukrainian Wikipedia’s ongoing campaign aimed at creating and improving thematic articles to mark the 80th anniversary of the Ukrainian people’s genocide.

Ms. Cherniak gathered materials about the Holodomor when she was working on a play. It is the local theater’s stage director who asked her to write on this topic because, Cherniak says, it was impossible to find a suitable drama about the Ukraine genocide. The play titled A Black Jackdaw Was Flying is based on the life story of her grandaunt Yevhenia. The plot consists of two parts – before the Holodomor (1928) and during the tragedy (1933). As the playwright told The Day, the action is set in an ordinary Kyiv oblast village situated along the road to the capital. Unfortunately, audiences never saw the play, for the local authorities do not exactly enthuse about the Holodomor topic. Ms. Cherniak also says it is so far impossible to publish the play and the collected materials for objective reasons, although there have been attempts to do that.

“It is very important that Ukrainians are now rediscovering their history,” Cherniak says. “I can often hear that, by touching the subject of the Holodomor, we make defeatist sentiments spread in society. I categorically disagree to this! I am convinced that we will be unable to go ahead unless we know and speak out all the truth about this tragedy and thus overcome the fear that still lives in our subconsciousness. It is difficult to assess the consequences of those events for today. For the truth is that whole family lineages died out, as did the unique customs and traditions that they used to hand over. People died for no apparent reason – they attacked nobody and no court found them guilty of any crime. Unfortunately, the state is not exactly interested in this topic today, but the inspiring fact is that initiatives about studying the Holodomor are coming out of the Ukrainian grassroots.”

Ms. Cherniak searched for materials in all kinds of places – some people furnished some evidence, something was found in old newspapers. But those who did the drawings once managed to send them abroad – this is why they have survived. Unfortunately, it is still not known who drew these pictures.

“This tragedy had a direct impact on our family that lived in the Cherkasy region, some of my ancestors died, but my grandfather and grandmother managed to survive only because granddad was the school principal,” Cherniak said to The Day. “For some reason, they told this story to me only. I was 10-12 years old at the time. I remember grandma once say to me: ‘Svitlana, don’t go over there, for there’s a woman living there, who ate her children…’ Later, I wished to study this subject and find documented proof of what they said. The collected materials confirm that everything was the way they said.”