Posted By

Holodomor – memorial bench in De Waal Park, Cape Town

December 21, 2021 | 0 Comments

On December 4, 2021 at De Waal Park a bench was unveiled dedicated to the victims of the Holodomor in Ukraine and genocides on the African continent.

The bench was initiated by a member of the Ukrainian Association of South Africa Zoia Dei whose relatives were among the 3-7 million of Ukrainians who perished in the period 1932-1933 during the man-made famine in Ukraine – called the Holodomor (translated from Ukrainian as “extermination by famine”).

The bench is decorated by the Ukrainian-born South African artist Yulia Glas, whose great-grandmother was among the Holodomor survivors.


In 1929 the Soviet Union started the policy of forced collectivization. The peasants reacted with thousands of protests, unwilling to join the collective farms. To suppress the resistance and to ensure profit from the grain sales Joseph Stalin imposed on Ukraine a plan to extract 4,2 million tonnes of food, a plan that had to be “performed fully and unquestionably, at all costs”. Throughout the Holodomor, when people were dying from starvation, the Soviet Union continued to export grain. Meanwhile, all food that security forces could find in a household was taken from the peasants. They were not allowed to travel outside their villages to prevent them from finding food in other areas.

When the police came to confiscate all the food from Yulia’s grandmother’s family, they managed to dig an under-ground shelter under their building where they hid the cow. By scarcely using milk and collecting a mountain spinach to make flour their family managed to survive.

“My great-grandmother taught us to value bread and to the end of her days she would always carry a piece of bread in her pocket”.

When the idea of the bench came up, I decided to draw the tree of life – a symbol very commonly used on Ukrainian embroidered towels that represents the connection of different generations and their embeddedness in nature.

“Before the Holodomor the tree of Ukraine was flowering, but after the famine the fears of hunger changed people’s life and character for decades.”

Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) who was born in Lviv, now Ukraine, and coined the term ‘genocide’, used Holodomor to explain the meaning of ‘genocide’.

However, for almost 70 years the Soviet Union denied Holodomor, and would prosecute those who would speak about it.


Since Ukrainian independence in 1991 Holodomor is recognised as a genocide by many countries around the world. There are millions of family stories documented explaining the food confiscation and massive death of population from hunger. The Harvard Ukrainian Institute did a detailed study, recording the anomaly of death during the Holodomor confirming it was not a natural disaster.

The bench plate reads: ‘In solidarity with all genocides in Africa’. But Zoia Dei sees it even wider. “The African continent is very scarred by violence. We can feel and understand this pain through what our families went through. And while the man-made Holodomor is in the past, we understand that access to food remains a challenge for many people and especially for children in South Africa. Thus, we’ve decided to donated funds to the project that feeds children in South Africa today.” – said Zoia Dei.

For more information about the Holodomor: https://ukrainer.net/what-is-the-holodomor/  About common lies around Holodomor: https://ukrainer.net/common-lies-about-the-holodomor/

The bench is installed by the Ukrainian Association of South Africa (NPO) with the support of the Embassy of Ukraine to South Africa.

The Ukrainian community expresses their special gratitude to Mike Bosazza, the chairman of the Friends of De Waal Park; and Dave Bryant MP. We are also grateful to Francine Higham, Councillor Ward 77, Desmond Baart from De Waal Park and Cape Town Municipality for their support of the idea.


Ukrainian Association of South Africa (NPO # 189 – 705) is a collaborative association based on rich Ukrainian cultural heritage that promotes networks between Ukrainians and South Africans for mutual development, increased awareness and inner growth of individuals and societies.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.


Unity is our Strength!