Memory Studies Association Annual Conference “Convergences”: ‘Unburied Memories: Making Meaning of Trauma in Holodomor Survivor Literature’

‘Unburied Memories: Making Meaning of Trauma in Holodomor Survivor Literature’ will be presented at the Memory Studies Association Annual Conference with the theme “Convergences” in July 2021 in Warsaw, Poland.


Cultural trauma is a process in which “members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways” (Alexander et al. 2004). However, it is unclear what form this process takes and how it might look to an outside observer. When World War II ended, Ukrainians within the displaced persons camps of Germany diverged, some moving to new homelands, while others were repatriated to the Soviet Union. Those who formed diaspora communities in the West brought with them memories of the Holodomor, a series of persecutory measures instigated by Josef Stalin against the people of Ukraine in the late 1920s and early 1930s, culminating in the deaths of millions, largely due to starvation. The cultural trauma processes between those who migrated and those who returned to their homeland varied greatly; while some diaspora communities have progressed through several stages of a trauma process, those within Ukraine were silenced and have since struggled to progress beyond its initial stages. This chapter contrasts the cultural trauma processes of the Ukrainian diaspora against those within Ukraine, in order to determine: (1) factors that allow communities to process trauma; and (2) those that inhibit this process. Drawing on eyewitness testimonies and second generation documentation of the Holodomor, as well as policy development and contemporary discourse on the recent Maidan protests, this chapter describes how the two groups have converged ideologically, despite their differences in progression, and what this tells us about how trauma is processed at a collective level.

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