Uncovering a Secret Famine: New Kibel Exhibit and Talk Series Examines Loss, Truth and Remembrance in the Era of “Fake News”

By Maggie Haslam / Jan 31, 2020 / Updated May 4, 2020

Photo courtesy of Anice Hoachlander.
Image Caption
Photo courtesy of Anice Hoachlander.

Imagine living in the agricultural epicenter of Europe, yet being so hungry you must eat dried nettle leaves to survive. This was the reality for millions of Ukrainians in 1932, the victims of one the worst manufactured famines in human history. Called Holodomor, which loosely translates to “death by starvation” in Ukrainian, Stalin’s year-long campaign to starve Ukrainian wheat farmers into submission resulted in nearly four million deaths and was kept quiet for nearly half a century, proclaimed “fake news” by the Soviet regime. But today, millions of people are learning about this secret famine, from efforts by journalists, historians and designers like ARCH Alumnus Larysa Kurylas (B.ARCH ’80), the architect behind the United States’ Holodomor memorial in Washington, D.C.

This semester, a new exhibit and talk series examines how we memorialize tragedy and the process of making a lasting monument to truth and remembrance. “Making the Holodomor Memorial: Contexts & Questions” will share Kurylas’ improbable journey in realizing Holodomor and the rewards and challenges of capturing the spirit of Ukraine’s famine in built form. A March 2nd gallery talk will offer unique insight into the design and process of building the memorial in downtown Washington, D.C.

The exhibit precedes a spring symposium, “The Politics of Memory & Place,” taking place on Wednesday, April 1st, with The Atlantic columnist and author of Red Famine, Anne Applebaum; President of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation and Washington Post columnist Roger Lewis; Director of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Design Competition and architect Paul Spreiregen; Associate Regional Director for Lands and Planning Peter May; and faculty from the University of Maryland History Department. Together, they will discuss the stories and politics behind Washington, D.C.’s memorials.

“Making the Holodomor Memorial: Contexts & Questions” opens February 12, 2020, at the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation’s Kibel Gallery. The exhibit was designed and curated by Professor of Architecture Ronit Eisenbach with the assistance of students from the architecture program. “Making the Holodomor Memorial” is a partnership of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, the Embassy of Ukraine, Forrester Construction, Hartman-Cox Architects, the Kibel Foundation, the Nathan and Jeanette Miller Center for Historical Studies, the Washington Group Cultural Fund, the Philip Merrill School of Journalism and UMD’s art history and history departments. Learn more about the exhibit and surrounding events here. All events are free and open to the public.