Friday, June 8, 2012

Living and Dealing with Regimes

Documents from the Vatican Secret Archives 
on the Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine 
Edited by Athanasius D. McVay & Lubomyr Y. Luciuk 
The Kashtan Press, University of Toronto, 2011

Through the kindness of Rev. Peter Galadza, PhD, Kule Family Professor of Eastern Christian Liturgy at Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada, I just received a copy of this important little tome. As all of the source material is translated into English, it is destined to a broad reading audience. With notes and all not reaching 100 pages, I would think that no history professor should hesitate to put it on the reading list of any serious course in 20th Century European History.

In preparation for my own mission as Apostolic Nuncio here in Ukraine, I had read another book actually describing the drama of this famine through the eyes of a young boy who survived: "Execution by Hunger, The Hidden Holocaust, by Miron Dolot, W.W. Norton Company, New York, 1987" (Kindle Edition). For this reason, the samples of anonymous letters describing the Holodomor which reached Pope Pius XI sounded terribly familiar. More of our world needs to know and understand. I fear that without such lessons we may be all too inclined not to wish to face the reality that there are people "on top of the heap" who care little for human life or common decency and who seem to be able to surround themselves with a surplus of henchmen to carry out their diabolical designs. The expression "They will stop at nothing" takes on real content and terrible sense in the light of this act of genocide.

Why the Holodomor? In her Afterword to the book Laura Pettinaroli captures it well as being a part of Stalin's plan to obtain hard currency from the sale of grain for the industrialization of his empire. In a year of abundant harvest, all was taken for sale abroad. Nothing was left for the mouths of the peasants who had produced the bounty and so they died of starvation by the millions. That year's was not a poor harvest.

The analysis offered by the editors in their introduction to the documentation is a marvelous piece of scholarship which provides perspective on the possibilities for exercising its moral authority open to the Holy See through diplomacy. 


  1. Eccellenza
    Thank You very much for reviewing our book. There is much more where that came from. With Yr. prayers and support we can continue publishing materials from the Vatican Archives dealing with Ukraine's fascinating history.

  2. Reverend Father, Please do continue! It looks to me as though both the Archives and Ukraine are in good hands!


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