Gender and Violence in the Oral Testimonies of Holodomor, the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33
In my presentation, I built on two important oral history projects conducted first in the late 1980s by the Harvard-based team of James Mace and secondly in the beginning of 2000s by the Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre in Toronto among members of the Ukrainian Diaspora in Northern America. My research of oral testimonies show that for many witnesses “the embeddedness in the family life” plays an important role in their recollections of the past. For many witnesses, their survival was possible only thanks to various strategies of gathering and preparing food developed by their mothers and grandmothers. In the testimonies then mothers appear as active and creative agents opposing the coercive policies of local communist but also fighting the famine through various techniques of preparing food from scarce resources.
I argue that the oral testimonies of Holodomor centered of the experience of women point to the important role of gender in conceptualizing memory and violence of famine. In a wider context, through the case study of Ukrainian famine I want to reflect on the problem of knowledge production of famines and the very often silenced position of women in ways in which we conceptualize the history of this atrocity.