Genocide of Ukrainians: deprived of childhood

16 November 2022

The Holodomor genocide of 1932-1933 is still deeply etched in our history. The criminal policy of the totalitarian regime directly affected the most vulnerable population – children. Catastrophically high child mortality, a sharp decline in the birth rate, homelessness, and physical and mental trauma of those who survived this genocide is far from a complete list of the consequences of the genocide.
For totalitarian regimes, human life has no value. Millions of victims in the USSR were considered by communist ideologues and the ruling elite as payment for the construction of a “new world”. For the communist regime of the USSR, children were a kind of raw material from which a “Soviet man” could be created. Similarly, modern Russian officials declare the necessity to “correct” Ukrainian children, the need to love the “new homeland”. Russification and assimilation are joint actions of the totalitarian communist and modern Putin regimes.
The terrible genocidal living conditions created in 1932-1933 led to the catastrophic mortality of Ukrainian children. Conducted by Prof. V. Serhiychuk’s analysis of the mortality of individual annual age groups in different regions of the Ukrainian SSR testified to the massive losses of children as a result of the Holodomor genocide. It reflected in the number of students in the post-Holodomor period – on average, only 30-40% of all children born in those years sat down at school desks.
During the famine of 1932-1933, children had the least chance of survival. After all, for proper growth and development, the child’s body needs a sufficient amount of food. A lack of nutrients can cause irreparable damage to a child’s physical and mental development, reduce the body’s resistance to diseases and lead to death.
The lack of opportunities to feed their children forced many mothers to take a desperate step – to bring them to the nearest cities and leave them at train stations, at the entrances of houses, on the thresholds of hospitals, orphanages, in markets… It led to a mass number of homeless children that crowded all cities and towns of the UkrSSR.
Since 1932, the so-called “receivers-distributors”, whose task was to “collect” homeless children, carry out their “disinfection treatment”, provide new clothes and ensure their transition to institutions of care. The police and the State Political Administration were engaged in catching children.
Since 1932, the so-called “receivers-distributors”, whose task was to “collect” homeless children, carry out their “disinfection treatment”, provide new clothes and ensure their transition to institutions of care. The police and the State Political Administration were engaged in catching children.
However, keeping children in such institutions was not a condition for their survival. On the contrary, the cynicism of the “Soviet authorities” appeared in a concentrated form in the orphanages, which, under the slogan of “fighting homelessness”, actually did not provide these children with food and did not create any conditions for life, often only postponing their starvation.
At the end of May 1933, overcrowded shelters in the Kharkiv region contained 24,500 children. In addition to them, another 27,800 homeless children in need of support were collected in the region. In Zaporizhzhia, only from May 1932 to November 1933, 788 children under the age of 8 died in the “Baby House”. And in Kyiv, 15 babies aged from 1 to 8 months died in one day (April 7, 1933) in one orphanage #15.
In Mykolaiv, in the “Chervonnye Sonechko” orphanage, the birth certificates contain the marks “foundling” and “pupil (pupil) of the orphanage”. In numerous records of death, dystrophy was indicated as its cause. Some children were born so frail that they lived only a few days, and the records about them contain only surnames, without names and even gender, as if they did not exist…
No less cynical on the part of the “Soviet authorities” was the concern for village orphans, whose parents died of starvation – they were given “under patronage” to peasants (collective farmers and sole proprietors), who themselves were often deprived of the means of subsistence, deliberately transferring responsibility for life and the fate of these children on other disadvantaged. Food on the edge of survival, disease, rags instead of clothes, orphans’ poor living conditions: all these attributes of orphanages of the 1930s combined with the widespread declaration of the “Soviet government’s” concern for children, with the “Bolshevik upbringing” of a new, “communist” person.
A separate category of children during the Holodomor was the so-called “kulaks” children. These “class enemies of the people” were deported with whole families, creating even separate barracks for children in the places of destination. Among the 31,655 “Kulak families” deported in 1931 (a total of 131,909 people), there were 45,858 children. There were also children’s concentration camps in the UkrSSR – under the guise of an orphanage in the village of Lychanka, Myrhorod district, such a concentration camp existed from 1930 to 1934. Children of “Kulaks” were publicly branded and restricted in their right to education, free choice of work or place of residence.
In addition to physical extermination, the Holodomor caused irreparable losses to a whole generation of Ukrainian children. They had permanent moral and psychological traumas that later affected their life path. The mental breakdown the Holodomor victims suffered, left an imprint on the following generations.
The current crime of genocide has a different character. However, an identical aim is the destruction of the Ukrainian nation. One of the characteristics of this crime is the forcible transfer of children from one human group to another. During the current stage of the war, the Russian occupiers forcibly deported thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia (according to the official statistics of the Russian Federation – up to 300 thousand, which, however, may be an exaggeration). The forced removal of the population is accompanied by humiliating procedures, the so-called “filtration”, due to which many Ukrainian citizens end up in special “camps,” and their fate is now unknown.
As in the years of the Holodomor genocide, the Russians’ care for deported Ukrainian children looks cynical now – first, they were deprived of housing, their lives were crippled, and the most precious thing was taken away from many of them – their parents were killed, and then they “generously” take care of them.
According to the children’s fund UNICEF, at the beginning of this summer, two of three Ukrainian children had to leave their homes due to Russian aggression. Of all 7.5 million Ukrainian children, about 5.2 million needed humanitarian assistance – 3 million within the country and more than 2.2 million abroad.
According to the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, as of the beginning of October 2022, the total number of children affected by the war is 1,200: 416 children died, and about 784 were injured. At the same time, there is no information about dead and injured children from the temporarily occupied territories. 231 children are considered missing. According to the National Information Bureau, 7,552 children deported to Russia have been identified, of which only 55 have been returned.
About 2,500 educational institutions were damaged by Russian shelling, of which 289 were completely destroyed. On the 1st of September, 506,000 Ukrainian children started the school year in European Union schools. At the beginning of September, more than 16,000 Ukrainian teachers continued to stay there.
Millions of Ukrainian families have experienced and continue to experience Russia’s genocidal policy. Many Ukrainian children cannot wait for their parents, and thousands of children found themselves in the occupation under threat to their lives and health. In the occupied territories, students driven behind school desks are exposed to senseless anti-Ukrainian propaganda to deprive them of their roots and identity, raising them as obedient slaves of the totalitarian system, dissolving them in the stinking swamp of “Russian measure”. The same fate awaits Ukrainian children deported to Russia.
Children are the future of the nation. For Ukraine as a democratic state, the life and health of every Ukrainian child are an undeniable value. Therefore, the primary tasks of the state are the care of all children who have lost their parents, the return of all deported children, and the mental de-occupation of children who grew up in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

Maria Bachynska,
PhD in Economics,
Senior Research Fellow
Holodomor Research Institute
The National Museum of the Holodomor-Genocide

Illustration – Nina Marchenko “Children of the Holodomor”.