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Expressionistic portrait of a Ukrainian woman in a traditional Ukrainian costume wearing a poppy head wreth.  Her face looks sad.  She has an uneasy, questioning look in her eyes.
**click portrait to enlarge**
(oil painting on canvas, 9X12, 2008)

"Portrait of a Ukrainian Woman in a traditional Ukrainian head wreath"

I painted this portrait of a Ukrainian woman in the spring of 2008. I rarely ('not often enough' as my dad calls it) paint anything specifically Ukrainian. However, at that time I was working on organizing a commemorative event dedicated to the victims of the Ukrainian Holodomor and my native country with all of its struggles was very much on my mind. As I recollect I produced several Ukraine-related painting that spring.

If you're like most people who'd never heard the term 'Holodomor' I would like to educate you a bit on the subject. The word 'Holodomor' translates from Ukrainian as death by starvation. The term specifically refers to the Ukrainian famine/genocide of 1932-33. Perpetrated by Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Regime in order to crush Ukrainian nationalism and the resistance of Ukrainian peasants towards collective farms, this little-known genocide took the lives of millions of innocent men, women and children.

As I was working on the web site for the event I read countless survivor accounts and I just kept on crying. I read passages like the following: "People were dying all over our village. The dogs ate the ones that were not buried. If people could catch the dogs they were eaten. In the neighboring village people ate bodies that they dug up."

There were many other accounts and as I read them I kept on thinking how lucky I was to live in this time, because I don't think I would've survived in Ukraine of the 1930's. My maternal grandfather's family survived the famine because his mother's friend worked at a glue factory and was able to steal glue, which they then made into soup. My other grandfather used to recollect how 'normal' it was to see people drop dead from hunger right on the streets. In a little over a year up to 10 million people died… The Ukrainian man-made famine is a short chapter in Ukrainian history and just a page in the history of humanity, and yet I hope that it would never be forgotten.

For more information about the Holodomor please go to:

"Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you."
Aldous Huxley

"Memory feeds imagination."
Amy Tan

"History may be called, more generally still, the Message, verbal or written, which all Mankind delivers to everyman."
Thomas Carlyle