Gathering at FL capitol recognizes 90 years since Stalin’s starvation of Ukraine

A group gathered at the Florida Capitol Monday to honor the millions killed in a Soviet-sponsored famine in the 1930s.
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 7:14 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - High atop the Florida Capitol, a crowd gathered to mark 90 years since one of humanity’s lowest moments- the Soviet-sponsored famine that killed millions in Ukraine.

The mass starvation, known as the Holodomor, began in November 1932 and lasted most of 1933. Nine decades later, the current war in Ukraine has Ukrainians in Tallahassee and abroad seeing history repeat itself.

The event Monday took place at the art gallery on the Capitol’s 22nd floor, currently hosting the ‘Two Regimes’ exhibition. As WCTV shared in March, the exhibit features paintings discovered at a Madison County estate sale in 2000.

Nadia Werbitzsky painted the works inspired by her mother’s memoir of surviving both Stalin’s famine and Hitler’s Holocaust.

Lucianne Vanilar is Werbitzsky’s daughter. She flew in from West Virginia to attend Monday’s ceremony, coming face-to-face with her mother’s artwork for the first time in 22 years.

“I’m going to go around and put my hands on and touch each one of my mother’s paintings,” she said.

Vanilar said she was moved to see the impact the collection has had on the North Florida community. A partnership with Leon County Schools has introduced the Holodomor to classrooms across the district.

“This is a section of history that has been absolutely suppressed, not only suppressed in this country, but in Ukraine and the former Soviet Union as well,” she said.

The event features several presentations from recently relocated Ukrainians, now calling Tallahassee their home.

WCTV has followed Leonid Makrov’s journey from the moment bombs started to fall outside his apartment in Ukraine. He said Ukrainians have long passed on stories of the Holodomor.

“Everybody has a story to share about [how] their grandparents...experienced this famine,” he said.

He took his mother to visit the exhibit over the summer. He said she didn’t speak English, so he would translate the writings in real-time. That became a difficult task to do.

“I got almost instantly emotional because it so much reminds what’s happening now in Ukraine,” he said.

For Vanilar, the Russian invasion put a family story into context.

“I’m looking out this beautiful window at the top of the Capitol, and I’m seeing this peaceful sky,” she said. “Now my grandmother when I was little used to say ‘peaceful sky’ as a blessing. And I didn’t quite understand what that meant.”

“But when the bombings started in Ukraine, and we’re watching the news reports and all of this shelling and the air raids, and then I look out and see this peaceful sky here, I understand what it means to have a peaceful sky... So I want to wish everyone a peaceful sky.”