Life in Ukraine. Live, @ first hand.

The Tragedy of Holodomor Is Coming Alive on the Screen

Life, Love and Death in George Mendeluk’s “Bitter Harvest” (2016)

There are moments in our history that many of us are eager to forget – whether consciously or subconsciously – because the burden of remembering them seems too heavy to bear, because this burden can easily crash the notion of humanity that we as humankind have come to cherish over the centuries. But remembering is vital in our struggle to stay human. And here art comes to our aid transforming raw pain and suffering into memory and experience that find their place in our hearts and become an integral part of who we are. “Bitter Harvest” belongs to such works of art. It is the first feature film about Holodomor (the Ukrainian word which means death by starvation), the artificial famine of 1930’s that took millions of innocent lives. This heartfelt narrative tells a story of events that even now are little known outside of Ukraine.

The film is entirely unique and there are at least three major reasons that make it worth watching as soon as it appears in January 2017:

1. The film itself is deeply authentic. It was shot on location in Ukraine, and features Pyrohiv, an amazing outdoor Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine. Essentially, the production team have a very strong connection with Ukraine: producer Ian Ihnatowycz, director George Mendeluk and scriptwriter Richard Bachynsky-Hoover (also the author of the original story) are all descendants of the Ukrainian immigrant families. They have done everything possible to stay true to the historic details and to convey on the screen the unbroken spirit and the will to live of the Ukrainian nation. Apart from that, Ukrainian actors Ostap Stupka and Alexander Pecheritsyia have been cast for the movie.

“Being a son and grandson of Ukrainians, who fled from the communist regime in 40’s and I have long puzzled about an informational vacuum about Holodomor in the West. Although the actual number of death is uncertain, even a conservative estimates indicate about 6 million Ukrainians died of famine. All they were innocent children, women and men, and, in all conscience, I just couldn’t leave this period of Ukraine’s history in shadows” (producer Ian Ihnatowycz)

2.  The film revolves around a poignant and dramatic love story of Yuri (Max Irons) and Natalka (Samantha Barks). These two young lovers with their zest for life, strong will, resilience and determination represent the fight of the whole nation against Stalin’s genocidal rule. And yet, thanks to the masterful and mature acting of Max Irons and Samantha Barks, they are not just symbols but seem to be flesh and blood and bones. When we look at them we remember that there are always real people with their hopes and dreams behind any statistics no matter how big and appalling the numbers are.


“It is a beautiful love story, which like ‘Dr. Zhivago’ in its time, is set against tragic events.” (Meyers Media’s Lawrence Meyers.)

3. There is a dark irony in the immediate relevance that the film has acquired today. While it was being shot the well-being of the Ukrainian nation was put at stake again by the invasion of Russia. And again, unfortunately, the world knows deplorably little about this tragedy which is developing in the very heart of Europe taking away human lives on the daily basis. History must not repeat itself. Remembering is crucial, knowing is vital.


“Like all Ukrainians, my family suffered enormously. There isn’t a Ukrainian alive who doesn’t know about the persecution, executions, and starvation. Given the importance of what happened, and that few outside Ukraine knew about it because it had been covered up, the story of this genocide needed to be told. It’s relevant today.” (producer Ian Ihnatowycz

We will be looking forward to the release of “Bitter Harvest” in February 2017 and we hope that it will light the candles of commemoration and compassion but also of hope and understanding all over the world.


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