Minnesota’s Ukrainian community commemorates the 90th Anniversary of Holodomor 

People stand in the Capitol rotunda
Ukrainian supporters stand for a moment of silence in the State Capitol rotunda in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Members of Minnesota’s Ukrainian community and Minnesota state legislators gathered Wednesday at the State Capitol to mark the anniversary of the Holodomor, the catastrophic famine inflicted by Joseph Stalin in 1932-33.

Several million people died in that famine — labeled a genocide by Ukraine and over 30 other countries, including the United States. Holodomor translates to “death by starvation.”

A woman wearing an traditional Ukrainian shirt closes her eyes
Ukrainian American Community Center vice president and event emcee Maria Sheremeta closes her eyes in prayer in the State Capitol rotunda in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Wednesday’s event — held amid the ongoing war following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 — was dedicated to “commemoration, recognition and justice for (Holodomor) victims and descendants through education.”

Dressed in somber black robes, Father Ivan Shkumbatyuk of St. Constantine Ukrainian Catholic Church and Reverend Myron Korostil of St. Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church led prayers in English and Ukrainian. 

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A flag tucked into a brass and velvet stanchion
A Ukrainian flag is tucked into the fixtures of a stanchion in the State Capitol rotunda in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Minnesota first lady Gwen Walz read a letter on behalf of Gov. Tim Walz honoring the victims of the Holodomor.

“Minnesota is proud to be home to so many Ukrainian families,” she said. “As we remember the past today, we safeguard the future. We shine a light on one of the darkest corners of history.”

A woman with glasses speaks at a podium
Minnesota First Lady Gwen Walz reads a letter written by Gov. Tim Walz in support of the Ukrainian community as they mark the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor in the State Capitol rotunda in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Wanda Bahmet, whose mother was pregnant with her in 1933, was honored as one of the oldest surviving members of the Holodomor in Minnesota’s Ukrainian community.

Born in the city now called Dnipro, Bahmet said that her mother had originally intended to abort the pregnancy, but changed her mind after sheltering other victims of the famine in their family home.

“She decided that whatever would happen to her will happen to the child, and this is why I am alive,” she said.

A woman smiles
Wanda Bahmet, 89, sits in the State Capitol rotunda in St. Paul during an event commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor genocide on Wednesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Bahmet underscored the need for younger generations to remember the atrocities of the Holodomor famine, in hopes that such tragedies are avoided in the future.

“We have to understand that humanity should never, never forget it,” she said.

A traveling Holodomor exhibit — “Genocide Repeats, Repeats, Repeats” — will be on display at the Capitol through Nov. 21.