Sixty-Two Linocuts by Mykola Bondarenko Depicting What Starvation People Were Forced to Eat during the Man-made Ukraine Famine
GRAPHIC ARTIST MYKOLA BONDARENKO
Mykola Mykhaylovych Bondarenko was born in 1949 in the village of Dmytrivka in the Sumy region. His professional studies were completed in 1972 at the Kharkiv School of Art. After graduating, the artist moved to the village of Uspenky where he taught drawing and worked as an interior designer. Currently, the artist works as a graphic designer, with his primary media being the linocut, both black and white and color.
The artist’s works gave been exhibited in Ukraine, Russia, Poland and Slovakia and he has taken part in joint exhibits in Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Bulgaria and Latvia. The themes of Bondarenko’s works are varied: portraits, landscapes, illustrations to literary works. Cycles of works include “Ukraine 1933: A Cookbook’, “Slovo o Polku lhorevim” (Epic of lhor’s Campaign), “Shevchenkiana”, “Khata Moya, Bila Khata” (My House, White House). The artist is currently working on a series entitled “Znyshchenyj Khram” (The Ruined id Temple) and is continuing work on his portrait series of the citizens of the Sumy region.
UKRAINE 1933: A COOKBOOK
From early childhood, Mykola Mykhaylovych (Bondarenko) loved to listen to the old people reminiscing about village life in the olden days. Having learned about the famine, he attempted to reproduce it graphically, but was not satisfied with the few sketches he made. The artist wished to tell about this tragedy in his own, different way. He considered the fact, that although entire families and entire villages were annihilated by the famine, some individuals managed to survive.
What was it that helped them defy death by hunger while next to them their relatives and friends perished? He went around questioning the old-timers who told him about their unbelievable "menu". Thus he found the answer to his question; he decided to portray not the emaciated peasants, but rather the "food" which they were forced to ingest in order to survive.
At first he tried to paint several more common weeds which were consumed by the starving people, raw or prepared. Then he turned to producing a series of graphical depictions of other vegetation. His sketchbooks contain drawings from nature of cough-grass, clover, hemp, sweet-flag, burdock, rush (cane), nettle, thistles, lime tree and acacia buds, from which fifty engravings have been made.
Almost each engraving depicts a window, the cross-like frame of which symbolizes the heavy cross, carried by those condemned to death. Every windowpane symbolizes the hope to survive the famine. On such a background are depicted weeds and some other plants consumed by the starving people during those horrible times. On the right windowpane is the "recipe" for preparing this ersatz food.
Several of the engravings show the self-made tools, which helped the peasants to chop, grind, sieve, squeeze, and otherwise prepare the weeds. To own such tools meant risking one's life. The most touching and alarming for the viewer are the depictions of domestic animals – cat, or a dog, fleeing to who knows where, so that they would not be caught and eaten; carcasses of dead cows or horses, which the starved populace did not hesitate to eat; and the panicked eyes of fledgling birds in a nest, which is about to be robbed by the hand of a starving person.
Noticeable in these engravings is the absence of any accusations of those who wrote the scenario of the famine, and of those who only too eagerly helped in this criminal action. Only the sickles and hammers on the iron rods with which the village activists probed everywhere, looking for hidden grain of the peasants, point to the cause of the famine. And, also, the blood on the knife blade reminds the viewer that we are dealing with a horrible crime.
Oleksander KAPITONENKO, Simferopol.
"UKRAINE 1933: A COOKBOOK"
Sixty-Two Linocuts by Mykola Bondarenko
Depicting What Starvation People Were Forced to Eat during the Man-made Ukraine Famine
2003 Printed by the Historical and Educational Complex of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, South Brook, New Jersey. In remembrance of the millions of Ukrainians who perished during the Great Famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933.