YOUNGSTOWN - An award-winning film detailing the pre-World War II starvation of millions of Ukrainian people while Joseph Stalin was selling tons of wheat to Western markets will be shown 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Butler Institute of American Art, 524 Wick Ave.
Harvest of Despair will provide a historical context to what is sometimes called the Ukraine holocaust.
"While some people estimate there were up to 10 million people who died, some historians estimate it was more in the range of 3 million people who died of starvation during the years between 1932 and 1933," Nick Kupensky, a Brookfield High School graduate and teacher at Bucknell University in Louisburg, Pa., said.
"Some blame a massive famine in 1932. Others blame a grain shortage caused by Soviet policies of industrialization and modernization that were strategically destructive to the people on the eastern part of the country.''
Jim Basista, representing the Carpatho Rusyn Society of Youngstown, said it is a coincidence the film is being shown at a time of unrest in modern Ukraine in which Russian is being accused of preparing to invade the country.
"We are not trying to send a political message by showing this film this weekend," Basista said. "We just happen to have it at this time. We originally were supposed to show it several weeks ago before anyone knew what was about to happen."
The Carpatho Rusyn Society is an ethnic organization that wants to preserve the Eastern European culture and heritage. There are about 1,700 members of the Carpatho Rusyn Society nationwide, and about 40 members in the Warren, Youngstown and Sharon, Pa., group.
The film probes the tragic consequences of the Ukraine's national struggle for greater cultural and political autonomy in the 1920s and 1930s.
The film includes rare archival footage as Stalin's measures unfold, eyewitness accounts of survivors, and commentary by noted journalists and public officials.
Kupensky describes one historian, Tim Snyder of Yale, who argues that the famine was more devastating than the holocaust.
"If you lived in an area affected by the famine, there was no chance of escape," he said.
Kupensky describe the area that today is the most supportive of Russia as the same area that was devastated by the famine in the early 1930s.
"Most of the ethnic Ukrainians perished during this period," he said. "After World War II, many Russians moved into the eastern portion of the country."