The Michigan Governor’s Genocide Studies Council will pursue developing a curriculum to educate students about the genocide through starvation of the Ukrainian population in the early 1930s.
Council Coordinator Judith Kovach said it will embark on developing lessons about the Ukrainian genocide once the council approves curricula for the Holocaust and the Armenia Genocide at its Jan. 9 meeting at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills.
“It will happen,” Kovach said.
Inclusion of the Ukrainian genocide, known as the “Holodomor,” in school lessons has been pushed recently by local Ukrainian-Americans as part of an overall national effort over the past 15 years to bring more attention to it. Establishment of a Holodomor memorial, advocated by U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, was dedicated in Washington, D.C., in 2015. Last month, the Michigan lawmakers last month passed a resolution recognizing the Holodomor introduced by state Sen. Steve Bieda of Warren and state reps. Patrick Green of Warren and Martin Howrylak. Other states have recognized it.
“That is wonderful,” said Marie Zarycky of Warren, one of Ukrainian activists, of Kovach’s comments. “It is important because we don’t want this to happen again. We have to call attention to all wrongdoing against humanity, and we have to name them.”
Kovach, a psychologist, agreed.
“We want the curriculum to help children not be bystanders but stand up to genocide,” she said. “It goes beyond a history lesson and really teaches children how to use this information for moral development.”
The Holodomor resulted in the death by famine of 3 million to 5 million Ukrainians under Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin to break the resistance to Soviet totalitarian rule and destroy Ukraine as a nation.
Zarycky, a member of the Holodomor Remembrance Committee of the Detroit Regional Council of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, and other metro-Detroit activists have been pushing for the inclusion and attending meetings of the council, which was created by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2016. They have been somewhat frustrated by the council’s response and noted that all 15 council members are associated with the Holocaust or Armenian genocide.
But Kovach said the council wants to first approve the curricula for the Holocaust and Armenian genocide before working on the Holodomor’s lesson plan. She noted the council’s members are volunteers and have limited time to devote.
Education about the extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II and Armenian Genocide from 1915 to 1917 was required in Michigan schools beginning in September under a new state law though a formal lesson plan wasn’t approved, Kovach explained.
She said the council ultimately wants to develop curriculum for not only the Holodomor but for genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia. The council has a termination date of next August, but Kovach said members plan to continue through another mechanism, perhaps as a nonprofit organization.
Vera Andrushkiw, president of the Detroit Regional Council of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, said the Holodomor didn’t get a great deal of attention in the years immediate following because Stalin and Russia was a crucial U.S. ally during World War II and Ukraine remained part of the Soviet Union until its dismantling.
“There was an in-born fear in people living in the Ukraine,” she said. “They refused to talk about it.”
She noted that while the Holocaust has been the subject of many books and films, the Holodomor has not, although a movie called, “Bitter Harvest,” and a book called, “Red Famine Stalin’s War on Ukraine” by Anne Applebaum, were released this year.
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