On Friday, November 25, the President of Ukraine will open an exhibition at the Ukrainian House in Kyiv about the Ukrainian Genocide - the Holodomor- Famine-Terror Death for Millions, of 1932-1933 imposed on the Ukrainian nation by the Soviet government of Josef Stalin.
Part of that major exhibition will feature a series of 85 graphics, linocuts, by Mykola Mykhaylovych Bondarenko, Ukrainian graphic artist from the village of Dmytrivka in the Sumy Oblast.
The artworks answer the question as to what people, when their entire normal supply of food was stolen away by the Soviets were forced to eat in their frantic attempt to defy death by hunger. This will be the first exhibition of these artworks in Ukraine. Mr. Bondarenko, born in 1949, will be present at the Holodomor Exhibition.
Oleksander Kapitonenko, Simferopol, in a preface to a book about the Bondarenko graphics, published by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA wrote: "From early childhood, Mykola Mykhaylovych (Bondarenko) loved to listed to the old people reminiscing about village life in the olden days.
Having learned about the famine, he attempted to reproduce it graphically, but was not satisfied with the few sketches he made. The artist wished to tell about this tragedy in his own, different way.
He considered the fact, that although entire families and entire villages were annihilated by the famine, some individuals managed to survive. What was it that helped them defy death by hunger?
He went around [for five years from 1988-1993] questioning the old- timers [famine survivors in his district] who told him about their unbelievable "menu".
Thus he found the answer to his question; he decided to portray not the emaciated [dying] peasants, but rather the "food" which they were forced to ingest in order to [attempt] to survive.
At first he tried to paint several of the more common weeds which were consumed by the starving people, raw or prepared. Then he turned to producing a series of graphical depictions of other
His sketchbooks contain drawings from nature of coughgrass, clover, hemp, sweet-flag, burdock, rush (cane), nettle, thistles, lime tree and acacia buds, from which engravings have been made.
Almost each engraving depicts a window, the cross-like frame of which symbolizes the heavy cross, carried by those condemned to death. Every windowpane symbolized the hope to survive the famine.
On such a background are depicted weeds and some other plants consumed by the starving people during those horrible times. On the right windowpane is the "recipe" for preparing this ersatz food.
Several of the engravings show the self-made tools, which helped the peasants to chop, grind, sieve, squeeze, and other prepare the weeds [most of them not really digestible in natural form]. To own such tools meant risking one's life.
The most touching and alarming for the viewer are the depictions of domestic animals - a cat, or a dog, fleeing to who knows where, so that they would not be caught and eaten; carcasses of dead cows or horses, which the starved populace did not hesitate to eat, and the panicked eyes of fledgling birds in a nest, which is about to be robbed by the hand of a starving person.
Noticeable is these engravings is the absense of any accusations of those who wrote the scenario of the famine, and of those who only too eagerly helped in this criminal action.
Only the sickles and hammers on the iron rods with which the village activists [many sent to Ukraine by Stalin for this purpose] probed everywhere in, looking for hidden food of the peasants, point to the cause of the famine. [There are also two very small red stars near the bottom of each side of every graphic which gives another clue as to the perpetrators of the genocide against the Ukrainian people.]
And, also, the blood on the knife blade [found in one of the graphics] reminds the viewer that we are dealing with a horrible crime." [by Oleksander Kapitonenko, Simferopol in 2003]
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